Years later, she and Ralph decided to raise alpacas in the mountains, where they could find a “rural, more placid and slow-pace life,” Rachelle explained. After boarding a few alpacas for a couple of years, they finally found their place in Grassy Creek. “We just fell in love with people in this town,” Rachelle said, explaining that she and Ralph felt welcome and at home in the beautiful West Jefferson area. They own approximately 18 acres, mostly wooded with two of them cleared for the barn and the alpacas, of which there are now 15. All different ages, sizes and colors, there is one word that must be used to describe them all: cute. (I must have said it at least 75 times during my five-hour visit to their farm in May. You just can’t help it.)
The Bridges welcome year-round visitors to their farm to meet the alpacas and browse in their shop – just give them a call to check first! They’ve participated in the High Country Farm Tour in the past and are really looking forward to it again this year – for their tours they set up with educational displays, allowing visitors to see before-and-after shearing photos, learn about the shearing process, touch different types of fleece, watch regional artists working with the fleece, browse for gifts or souvenirs and, of course, meet the alpacas – including their newest addition, Fellaman, just born in May!
"These animals, we love like our children."
Beyond that, the cute factor just has to be re-emphasized. And the fun factor. “Introducing the alpacas to people is fun,” Ralph said. “Like watching you meet your first alpacas today, that was fun!” Fun indeed. I could have spent hours with these adorable creatures – especially Smudge, who immediately took a liking to me and showed it with kisses and some heavy ear breathing. But I won't take it too personally - Rachelle says that Smudge "gives kisses to babies, old folks and everyone in between!"