Swaggerjack recently took a trip out west to beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico in support of the Racquetball World Championships. Being only a short 4-hour drive from our favorite alligator farm, naturally we made the short road-trip to Alamosa, Colorado for an action and fun-packed trip to Colorado Gators. Along the way, there were many beautiful sites to see, such as desert, desert, rocks, and some more desert! Seriously though, the drive is full of many beautiful rock formations and you may even be lucky enough to spot an elk! Swaggerjack truly feels at home with a long empty highway laid out before them, surrounded by America’s beauty.
We are fortunate enough to have become close friends with the Young family, owners of the farm, who welcome us with open arms and gators in need of check-ups every trip. For those who have not visited the farm, it is really a treat and worth the drive! Even if you have visited the farm, they are ever-changing and expanding, recently redesigning their gift shop and introducing new animals and displays constantly. Colorado Gators is the only establishment in America that offers a legitimate hands-on alligator handling class. For a low fee, you will start with small (1’-4’) gators and work your way up as far as you are comfortable, getting professional guidance on how to properly handle and interact with these prehistoric beasts. Students who listen are rarely injured, and those injured aren’t typically that severe.
The number one thing to do while alligator wrestling is to “not hesitate!” Jay Young or Josh Stokely will drill this into your head during their World’s Only Alligator Handling Class at the family farm, Colorado Gators, in Mosca, Colorado. We warmed up by having a little bit of fun while searching for any gators in need of medication. At the end of breeding season, it’s crucial to inspect alligators for any wounds sustained over the season.
Unfortunately, even following all their directions, accidents can still happen. Our camerawoman, Stefanie, received her very first alligator bite on this recent trip. She has been handling gators since 2008, and was moving this gator to shore for medication when this happened:
That wasn’t the end of the gator shenanigans, however; Josh Stokely was ready to do a world’s first- the world’s first alligator hand-stand! He was reasonably nervous, but after carefully selecting his gator and getting her onshore, he tackled the feat! Check out the video and pictures below:
We had a great visit to the farm! The gift shop had been recently renovated and looked better than ever! There were new animals to enjoy, as well as old favorites to marvel at and admire how much they’ve grown. Thanks again to the Young family for such great hospitality, and for sharing your wonderful farm with the public! For more information, please visit http://www.GatorFarm.com/
After some fun-packed days in Colorado, it was time to head back to New Mexico to enjoy the art, culture, and food of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We dined on amazing Elk tenderloin and Ahi Tuna at the famous Coyote Café, fine Mexican at the Thunderbird Cafe, and visited a friend’s jewelry store, the Anasazi Gallery.
The image below stopped me in my tracks;it really makes you think about the treatment of the Native Americans and the impact corporations have had on our country.
Gatorfest 2010 and 2011 DVD’s are available! Each video featuring up to an hour of heart-thumping close calls with the living dinosaurs we call alligators! Only $25 gets the DVD shipped to your door and you can enjoy following the one-of-a-kind event and listening to amazing local rock artists! Check out the trailers below and visit www.SwaggerjackProductions.com for purchasing info!!
Colorado Gators is a unique, family-centered reptile and fish farm hidden in Mosca, Colorado, about 17 miles north of Alamosa. Established as a public attraction in 1987, Colorado Gators welcomes visitors to check out their snakes, tortoises, lizards, crocodiles, and of course, alligators. It started as just a fish farm in the 70’s, but owners soon realized they needed something to do with the leftover tilapia. Baby alligators were the answer. The alligators began to attract locals, then locals started to bring in rescues. Before long, the farm was home to many critters of the strange and unusual, as well as venomous and deadly ones. This farm hosts the annual Gatorfest, a gator wrestling competition between amateurs every August. This contest draws a lot of visitors and helps get the farm through each winter.
Below is a feeding session for one of the older alligators at the farm, Elvis. He weighs over 500 pounds and is near 11 feet long. He is as aggressive as he is massive, and farm owner Jay Young was ready with dinner. As a starter, Elvis was offered a catfish grown in one of the tilapia bins. Coming up for the main entrée was a large slab of fresh meat for him to enjoy.
It wouldn’t be fair to feed just one of the hundreds of alligators at the farm, especially after such an unseasonably warm week. So next, we moved to a larger area of the swamp to feed the 7-10’ gators fresh meat.
Not only will Colorado Gators welcome you to check out all of their pets and let you feed them, but for a small fee, they’ll teach you how to handle an alligator! After signing a page-long waiver proclaiming that if you get bit, you deserved it and will not whine, your instructor takes you to the smallest gator pit on the farm where you learn the basics. I have been fortunate enough to of taken this class as well as multiple refreshers, so this visit I was able to play with some nice medium-sized alligators.
A major factor in handling the gators is inspecting them for wounds. Any time an aggressive animal like this is contained with other animals like itself, there are bound to be fights. Whether it’s over food, a warm basking spot, or during mating season, gators will find a reason to fight each other. When we handle them, we examine them head to tail for wounds and check their basic signs of health. Cuts and gashes are cleaned, sanitized, then coated with Neosporin to aid healing. The petroleum jelly in Neosporin acts as a barrier to the water, thus helping the wound stay clean longer and heal faster. We also check to make sure their eyes look healthy and that their behavior is normal. If an alligator doesn’t try to bite you, you may be dealing with a sick gator. Luckily for me, the gators I grabbed were feisty and healthy, bearing only a few minor scrapes we were able to easily clean and treat.
The farm genuinely cares about its pets and does not harvest any alligators for skin or meat. They offer much more to see than just reptiles as well; there are rabbits, emus, ostriches, donkeys, horses, goats, geese, peacocks, and more! They are open daily until 5pm and feature special events frequently, be sure to check the events calendar on their page for your next trip to the San Luis Valley! www.GatorFarm.com
Even Luche Libre wrestlers are welcome on the farm!
San Luis Valley is North America’s highest Alpine Valley and is home to many attractions, including the Great National Sand Dunes State Park. Massive sand dunes have been created over centuries and centuries of winds blowing through this dusty valley and accumulating sand at the base of the north-east surrounding mountains. These are some of the largest sand dunes in the Americas and starting at 7,500 feet above sea level, they are also some of the most challenging dunes to climb. For every step forward, you slide a few feet back. The sand is constantly moving under your feet and a river of flowing sand falls behind any progress you make up the dune. The view from the top is spectacular and well worth the climb. Not to mention, it’s amazingly fun to run full speed down the dune and have a sandy crash at the bottom. During this time of year, the dunes are usually surrounded by dry creek beds, but due to early warm weather, we were able to wade through the rising creek water, freshly melted from snow in the mountains.
In the main parking lot, we could see reflections of the sun shining on several dozen cars and the ant-trails of crowds making their way up the dunes. Watching the tourists climb up is reminiscent of movies showing the middle-eastern deserts with social castaways roaming through. Climbing the dunes definitely leaves me wishing for a camel!
We weren’t satisfied with the main parking lot -touristy areas, so we ventured to the back 4×4 roads that swirl around the base of dunes following them back to the mountains. This road, as one may assume, is primarily sand and not recommended for everyday vehicles, or drivers for that matter. After a few minutes of winding closer to the dunes, there is a pull-out area with a sign and a gate warning drivers that they are about to enter the “Point of No Return.” Now this is the part of the dunes we want to explore!
There is no camping allowed beyond this point and due to the difficult terrain, it becomes secluded quite quickly. Typically, only locals travel back here mainly due to simple local knowledge and the $400 minimum wrecker fee if your vehicle gets stuck. The Swaggerjack crew drives a 4×4 Toyota Tundra and has yet to find a road we could not handle. Along the rugged, desolate road were many trees and wild brush, as well as several families of wild deer. Being a state park, the area is also a wildlife preserve and you can tell just how comfortable the deer are here. It was early afternoon and hot for this area and time of year, so the deer were laying in the shade relaxing. They looked at us, acknowledged us, and went back to peacefully resting. I was even able to step out of the truck at one point and take a few steps for a better camera angle. One deer was caught in the midst of moistening his nose, so he seems to be sticking out his tongue. There were several babies as well, including one who was particularly camera-friendly.
Once we drove as far as the road would allow, we started to enjoy the dunes. We played in the sand, climbed them, waded in the rising creek and enjoyed the warm weather. There was one mission involved with this trip to the dunes; Oh Long Johnson. South Park had just aired its newest episode the night before and Swaggerjack was ready to make its own spinoff. Please enjoy the video below!