One of the perks of being a reporter for Sky-Hi News is getting out of the office to explore some of Grand’s finest destinations. On Tuesday, July 12, I headed to Winding River Resort in Grand Lake, to meet some families on an excursion.
Winding River is nestled at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park along the North Fork of the Colorado River. As I drove down the winding park road, my first sight upon arriving at Winding River was a group of equestrians setting off on an excursion. They walked past the flowing Colorado River and into the trees.
At Winding River, I parked near a paddock full of horses ready for their next riders. There I encountered a large group of families, children chatting and pointing at the herd. In addition to horses, Winding River has a petting zoo that sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, miniature ponies, miniature donkeys, and rabbits call home. Families were here to explore the petting zoo, thanks to the Grand County Library District’s “Oceans of Possibility” summer reading program.
The event was hosted by Granby Library Branch Manager Michelle Grant and Chris Newell, GCLD Director of Public Services. Across Grand County, children involved in the Oceans of Possible program got outdoors to enjoy field trips, hiking adventures and educational shows. The Winding River excursion was one of the library’s most popular events this summer.
Newell told me that 85 children had registered to visit Winding River. Since “Oceans of Possible” is the theme of the library’s reading program, resort manager Nick Hanson explained to the children that Grand Lake has a distant but integral connection to the vast ocean more than 1,000 miles away. of Winding River.
“The Colorado River begins… at Rocky Mountain National Park. This is called the North Fork of the Colorado River, which empties into Shadow Mountain Reservoir, which empties into Lake Granby. Does anyone know where the Colorado River ends? Hanson asked the crowd, pointing behind him to where the North Fork flowed.
“The ocean!” cried a child.
“That’s right, the Pacific Ocean,” Hanson replied. “This water flows from here to the Pacific Ocean, and the headwaters are 10 miles north of here.”
Michelle Grant explained to the group how the East Troublesome Fire of 2020 impacted the station. Although the structures at the Winding River Ranch wedding venue were destroyed, the fire bypassed the complex, leaving all but one of the buildings unscathed. The group could see the destruction of fire on the black hills around us; I marveled that the quaint Red Stable, Quaint Cabins, and Petting Zoo remained safe during East Troublesome.
Then our group headed to the petting zoo. Children were running around, picking grass to feed the animals. Goats and lambs poked their faces through the fence to munch on snacks. The children petted the miniature horse and donkey, then visited a mare with her young foal. Some have ventured inside the barn to discover antique sleighs and horse-drawn carriages (some are over 100 years old); others went splashing in the waters of the Colorado River which flows behind the petting zoo.
Wes House met with the families and gave them intriguing facts about the animals. Our group learned that some wild goats can climb trees and walk on ledges not much wider than a tightrope, that geese are loyal and mate for life, and that pigs are considered the 4th animal smartest on the planet, after chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants. (man’s best friend, the dog, didn’t make the cut).
Perhaps for their propensity to get muddy and smelly, pigs aren’t always common in petting zoos, but they were here in Winding River, adding a touch of authenticity to the farm. A child exclaimed that he hoped pigs were there.
Other children were drawn to the farrier, Nathan Forsythe, shoeing horses beside the barn, with Hanson at his side. Forsythe, owner of Forsythe Hoof Care, said he has been shoeing horses with Winding River for a decade.
Hanson told the kids that if they tried to pick up a horse’s hoof, they probably couldn’t do it. Forsythe made the intricate work easy, cradling each leg as he removed the old shoe, cleaned and filed the hoof, then nailed the new shoe. The horses stood patiently throughout.
“It really comes down to him being confident when he’s out there; he also has a relationship with the horse because he’s been here 10 years,” Hanson said. “They know what he’s doing to them, they know they’re going to get new shoes today.”
Some families commented on how healthy and happy the horses looked.
“Shoes are an important part of being a happy horse… To do that, you need to take care of them,” Hanson told the families. “To be a horse guy… they work really hard for about three months. But then they can come to my house for eight months. They rest and do nothing. We give them lots of hay every day.
After the horseshoe, I spoke with Wes House, who co-owns the resort with his wife, Marcia. House has worked on the resort property (formerly a cattle ranch) since the 1960s. He seemed in his element on the outside, surrounded by animals.
House told me that the resort, and petting zoo called Grandpa and Grandma’s Animal Farm, is “one hundred percent family friendly. The animal farm is open to our guests, or anyone not staying here…who wants to come in and walk around.
Winding River is open seven days a week, Memorial Day through October 1. They have about 45 head of horses, which House says takes riders every day for one to two hours. “We also do wagon rides and hay rides,” House said. Guests can enjoy hiking, fishing and cart meals on site.
As the group from the library headed to the playground or the picnic area for lunch, I told House I had to drive back to the office, even though part of me wished I could stay. . I imagined exploring the North Fork, maybe even saddled up for a ride through Rocky Mountain National Park. House smiled, perhaps thinking of how lucky he was to spend the rest of the day at Winding River, helping guests feel welcome, teaching them to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a Grand Lake trip. .
“Sounds good,” he said. “I’ll just stay here.”