When looking for socially distant activities to partake in this winter, many snow lovers may find their number of options reduced as COVID-19 threatens to keep ski areas closed until positive case numbers come down. However, a new business in Taos County brings an unusual winter activity for those looking to do something a little different: goat hikes.
The Little Goat House, located in Tres Piedras, provides intimate hiking and snowshoeing with the accompaniment of two dwarf Nigeran goats, David Lynch and John Waters. Named after the acclaimed oddball directors, the two goats bring their own uniqueness to what would otherwise be a normal guided hiking or snowshoeing experience.
Founded by Tanya Savas, the Little Goat House got its start in Spokane, Washington, as an Airbnb. Savas owned a house and would rent out a part of it through Airbnb Experiences, providing a place to stay and a unique animal experience unlike many others. After deciding it was time to leave Spokane, Savas found herself in Santa Fe looking for a home when she stumbled upon the property in Tres Piedras that she lives on today. She moved into the property in May.
Savas offers two different "goat hikes." One is an hour-long hike into the Carson National Forest, and is accessible to all ages and types of hikers. With the Little Goat House nestled right next to the edge of the Carson, this hike is a more forested and leisurely hike.
The second experience is a hike in the Tres Piedras Crags, and is for the more experienced hikers. Savas said David and John love to scramble on the rocks, so the crags hike offers the experience of climbing alongside the goats.
The goat snowshoeing meanwhile is the same Carson National Forest hike, but during snowy winter months (this experience is BYO snowshoes). Along with facilitating hiking experiences, Savas hosts campers through Hipcamp - a site that allows private landowners to host camping experiences.
So far, Savas has had success throughout the summer via word of mouth advertising, as well as using Instagram to help gain public awareness. She says that guests have been fantastic, and that the love for her goats has been overwhelming. "A lot of people will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes of the hike just being like, 'oh my god! Goats!'" joked Savas. She encourages people to take pictures, stop when needed, and just generally enjoy the company of the goats. "Stop whenever you want, take as many pictures as you want," she said. Savas also said that she can even teach hikers how to pick up the goats and hold them.
In terms of training the goats, Savas said it took some time. After some trial and error, she eventually trained the goats to follow her consistently, without harnesses or leashes. "They're as smart as dogs," she said. "The goats know the drill, they're very intelligent." They even live like dogs, spending the night inside the house in an extra large dog crate. "Ideally we would have a barn," she said, but for now they sleep in their sunroom. The setup isn't permanent though, and she mentioned that she and her partner Paul Gruber are in the process of constructing an outdoor home for them.
Unfortunately due to COVID, her business is on hold until the state starts to reopen. Savas suggested that people can still support her business by buying gift certificates or booking a hike for a date after the shutdown. Overall, she isn't extremely worried, as her business model allows for small, socially distant groups.
Savas said she is grateful to the local community that has embraced her and her goats thus far. "I'm so thankful and so appreciative for the welcome we've gotten from the community in Taos and the greater community in New Mexico," she said.
Find out more at thelittlegoathouse.com.