a: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
b: the encountering of risks <the spirit of adventure>
c: an exciting or remarkable experience <an adventure in exotic dining>
I’ve had a rough couple of days. Hell, it’s been a fucking rough year. So, after getting the luxury of sleeping an extra 7 minutes later than normal, I decided that I deserved a little bit of a mental break. The kids and I took the day off from school and I decided we needed an adventure.
I had never been to The Yellow River Game Ranch, even though I’ve lived just up the street from it for the past 10 years. It seemed like a good day to get out and get some sun and escape for just a bit. The kids were very excited and I was, too! Adventure! New things! The nervousness of it possibly sucking!
First let me say that I was incredibly disappointed.
YRGR is basically a petting zoo geared towards children. However, the place is falling apart. My first impression of the place was the deteriorating steps leading up to the gift shop/ticket building. The wood had soft spots that bow when a child walks on it (and of course when Mom walks on it). Every sign in the gift shop is basically don’t touch, don’t play, you break you buy, cash only. There is even a sign outside that says “FEATHERS FOUND ON THE TRAIL ARE NOT FREE”. Nice, right?
The customer service was awful. I have never been here before, so I didn’t know what to expect. The person who rang us up for our admission (there are no tickets, by the way, which is a surprise for a ‘touristy’ thing) was completely disinterested in telling me anything about the place. My instructions were basically “go outside”. Oookay. You had the option of buying food to feed the animals–a cup of corn was $1, an apple was 75 cents. Peanuts were out since both kids have nut allergies. Graham crackers were also available which I thought was strange as that is not what I’d think farm or wild animals should be eating. I asked her what I should buy and she said it didn’t matter. I bought a bag of corn for each of us. At this point, I still thought we were going to have a good time.
Everything was great until three seconds after I snapped that picture. Then it was screams of terror because of the ever terrifying roosters and ducks that were aggressively descending upon us for food:
As an FYI, I didn’t know which pens you could go into and which ones you couldn’t. So there was no petting at the petting zoo. When there is a path and there are signs that say “Stay on the Path” I am going to stay on the path. I’m toting two little kids. I was also wearing sandals. There were no signs that I saw that said “Open this gate to pet the animals”. It was frustrating, to say the least. Corn doesn’t feed every animal of course, but I had no idea what to feed the other animals. This is why you need staff that knows how to talk, or at the very least, doesn’t have such disdain for people. Or maybe a brochure? A map? There were some signs but not for every animal. It was not consistent or clear in any way.
So. Many. Fucking. Chickens. And ducks with the weird red faces.
I had to carry Robin for more than half of our walk because her screams were making my ears bleed. This was basically my daughter and me for the rest of the day at the ranch:
The first big animal we came upon were black bear. I was surprised; I didn’t notice black bears on their website (they are listed) probably because I wasn’t expecting black bears at a petting zoo. Their enclosure appeared to be all concrete floors behind metal fencing:
This made me feel uncomfortable not only for myself but for the bear. This is a petting zoo where children go. I am 100% sure that they are not all well behaved little angels. It would take nothing to throw an apple right at that bear’s head. I would be horrified if we experienced a tragedy like what happened in San Francisco.
The worst part was that I really didn’t get a chance to take as many pictures as I wanted. The use of my arms was limited (see face hugger picture above) so I didn’t get pictures of what I considered some of the worst conditions. I didn’t go to the ranch with the mindset that I needed to document anything–I wanted to have fun with my kids. I don’t have a fancy dslr camera like so many bloggers. My camera is a decidedly non-fancy point and shoot that is actually already broken a little bit.
They do have some deer as well; I assume whitetail deer. The sign only read “deer”. I was concerned about how they looked:
My concern is that the deer has mange; other deer didn’t seem to have the same condition. Otherwise, she looked healthy to me; I am absolutely not an expert. The deer below looks very similar, but it’s very hard to tell. The deer above doesn’t look like any hair is growing back, but I could have just seen it at the worst possible time.
Another annoyance, albeit a minor one in retrospect, was the lack of information and simply labeling about the animals. Some areas weren’t labeled, or had more than one type of animal in the enclosure. No information telling you where the animal is from, what they do, what they eat, pet peeves…this place is not educational. It’s a display case, and a poor one at that.
I did get some pictures that were exceptionally nice looking:
Unfortunately, the part of the ranch that I felt was the worst was where I could only get few or no pictures at all. (face hugger) They have displays of large cats that I didn’t get a picture of. The bobcat cage–and that’s what they were, cages, smelled so strongly of cat urine. An outside cage; not a room, but an open air cage. There was a sign on one of the big cat cages that said to stay back because “If I Bite You, They Kill Me”. It’s really disturbing and sad. My house cat has more room to roam than three bobcats. No wild animal should live like this. No animal should live like this. There were cougars, or at least, a cage labeled cougars. A fox cage made entirely of wire with no shade save an igloo-style dog house.
There were coyotes; I think there were more than two but I only saw two. One was sleeping, the other pacing around his cage with a very uncomfortable nervous energy. Just non-stop.
There isn’t much left to say about this place. The kids were hot and sweaty; we couldn’t find a decent bench to sit on until near the very end of the trail. There is a play ground there, but based on the completely dilapidated nature of the rest of the ranch I was not interested.
It’s 24 acres of land that could be very much improved and enhanced. The game ranch has always been touted as such a landmark in this area; I’m sure it was much better say, 20 years ago. Even ten years ago. I’m happy the kids are young enough that they didn’t necessarily understand my concerns, but they knowledgeable enough to know that wild animals should have more space to run in a place that is more like their habitat and not just a cage on a concrete slab.
I will have to work harder to find better ways to expose my kids to other kinds of animals. The experience has been really disturbing me and weighs on my mind. I think I need a day out to get over my day out.