Sydney’s first 4th grade field trip of the year was to visit an old historic ranch in Estes Park named MacGregor Ranch. When I first heard about this trip I was super excited to go along for myself. I have always found these glimpses into our history fascinating. So when the chaperone list came along I was quick to reply as a Yes, Please! The Ranch itself was homesteaded in 1873 during the time when you were given the land by the government only after you promised to work it for several years first. The stories of the MacGregor family were very interesting. The last MacGregor was a single woman who worked the ranch almost solely by herself. At that time it was near impossible to hire men to work for you if you were a woman. She had numerous offers to sell the land for huge profits but always said no. She was a lawyer by degree and loved education. She envisioned children visiting the ranch for years to come and learn how a real ranch works. So she developed a trust for her beloved land and because of this we are now able to share this property with her.
Upon arrival we were broken up into groups. There were several volunteers dressed in their old clothing and ready to take us on several different tours of the area. Our first tour was a nature walk. The ranch is home to a few endangered animals therefor the National Park has cameras on the property so that they might keep an eye on the animals. We saw their homes and were able to enjoy the amazing views.
Next we toured the small house in the background of the above picture. It was the original home on the property. They have now converted it into a nature museum with stuffed versions of the various animals living in the area. As we were exiting the home a tractor pulled up and was ready to give us a tour of the ranch property. Our guide is the actual rancher for the property today. The ranch still grows its own feed and raises cattle. As was obvious by the ever present cow patties. Their was a river running along the property with all sorts of dams built in. When it was time to irrigate the fields they would simply place boards in the dam and flood the fields. They still irrigate this way today. She said it may be old style but it works great. There was a huge beaver dam in the river which I couldn’t get a good picture of. SEveral times a day the rancher would ride out to the dam and take out some of the logs. It is illegal to block the flow of water in Colorado as it is needed down stream. If the dam is on your property its your responsibility to make sure it still flows water.
Next up was the barn tour. The barn was recently reinforced with Beetle Kill wood from the ranch property. She said they were losing a staggering number of trees every year to the pine bark beetle. But, the wood was going to good use. They are however required to remove all bark and take to the city dump to be incinerated which I found interesting. Inside the kids learned how to use a pulley system from which they would have used to stack the hay bales in the top of the barn.
Outside the barn was the original chicken coop still in use. I thought the structure was really cool. They have a problem with wildlife stealing their chickens so they have to protect them while still going them an outdoor space.
I think you can tell what this is all about.
Time for a potty break. The girls weren’t too excited about this part. Its part of the experience I say.
Last on our stop was the MacGregor House. The MacGregors never threw anything away so it was full of everything they owned down to their toothbrush. In the laundry room the guide showed us how they did their laundry with an old handcrank washer. Guess where the washer was made? Fort Wayne, IN, an old GE appliance.
Here’s the gang in my group standing next to this pile of dead things. Apparently back in the day it was a contest to see who could get the tallest pile of antlers. A very cool place.