Here I am, outside of Alamosa, Colorado, 7500 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. There's snow on the majestic peaks, the temperature is hovers around 30 degrees, and we turn in at a sign that leads to...wait a minute, am I hallucinating? It's an alligator farm. I wouldn't even blink if I were in the Louisiana bayou or the Florida swamps, but...Colorado?!?
In the main building, where I pay a very reasonable $3 entry fee, an unflappable reptile-lover named Monica tells us how this alligator anomaly came to be.
The main purpose was to see if they could raise alligators just using the geothermal waters. But then, people started stopping by to see the gators. Monica tells me that they have 124, and many of them came from people who bought cute, little pint-size gators as pets and then freaked when they grew up and they didn't know what to do with them.
At this point, I am croaking to see the big, man-chomping gators, but you have to be patient when you visit the Colorado Alligator Farm. First, Monica introduces me to a peacock:
Then I meet some long, slithery things that crawl on their bellies. "Boots" is eleven feet long and weighs over 100 pounds.
Monica gleefully tells me that for $89 I can buy one, or, if I'm feeling less flush, for $35 I can get a corn snake. Snakes, shmakes. "Where are the big gators?" I want to know. Monica first introduces me to the alligator babies, who are in a tank. They are about two-and-a-half to three feet long.
This is getting stranger and stranger. But finally, Monica opens the door that leads outside. My pulse quickens. The wind is howling. I stand five feet from a deep, dark blue pool of water. And I hear another sound, under the wind.
There are 85 of these big mothers thrashing around in the warm water. Monica cheerily tells me that when that when an alligator closes his jaws, it has the force of 3500 pounds behind its bite.
I inch closer to the edge of the water, and there they are, about ten feet long and weighing in at around 600 pounds. They look like their Disneyland counterparts, except their teeth are bigger.
I joke with Monica, asking her if she ever jumps into the water with the alligators. Can you believe it? She says that she does, whenever the alligators have special needs. Of course, I want to know what she wears when she goes in the water:
Before I leave, Monica hands me a baby gator. She puts duct tape around his snout so he doesn't eat my cheeks, and then I cuddle with the sweet little reptile, who seems very happy, in spite of the fact that I haven't volunteered to be his next meal.
At the Colorado Alligator Farm, this is Judie Fein, still in one piece, for The Savvy Traveler.
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