We traveled to see Kevin's brother and his family for a long weekend that I had off from work. They live in a rural area of East Tennessee not too far from Gatlinburg. We had discussed what kind of activities we would do on our way back from his brother's house. We had thrown around the idea of going to Dollywood (a themepark) and decided that maybe the Knoxville zoo would be fun and something we hadn't done before. So we headed West toward Knoxville.
Not too far outside of Knoxville, I started watching the exit signs for a place for lunch so we wouldn't have to spend money on food at the zoo. Then a sign caught my eye, it read, "Zoo and Camel rides 3.2 miles". I knew this was not The Zoo, but it did raise some curiosity. We passed this exit because there was nowhere to eat, but the thought of that sign kept coming back to me. I told Kevin I had seen the sign and because the sign didn't say the actual name of the place (unless its name was "zoo and camel rides") I was left to "Bing" the question "Exit 402, zoo and camel rides". I got a hit.
Apparently, the true name of this destination was "Circle G Ranch" and they had a good website (which is always a good sign, right?) and described their operation/facilities (you can see the website here http://ridecamels.com ) as feeding animals from the comfort of your car, riding camels, and petting zoo. I told Kevin of these various activities and I think his exact words were
"Let's do it!"
I was still skeptical since I had never heard of the place, much less any reviews good or bad. We were committed now though, so we drove on back to Exit 402 forgetting our initial plan of the "real" zoo.
As we exited and began our 3.2 mile trek to Zoo and Camel Rides our first ominous sign was seen
Yes, those are bungee cords holding, (mostly holding) the sign to 2 rusty posts. Despite the appearance of the literal (and figurative) sign, we did indeed turn right as directed. We were committed...
We continued on a narrow, windy road wondering what we were getting ourselves into.
When we arrived at the Circle G Ranch you could see the wild animals roaming in a small cleared off pasture with a gravel drive that encircled it. This gravel drive was maybe the size of 2 running tracks.
Things were not looking good for the Stanfield's fly by the seat of your pants decision. I even believe that at this point I turned to Kevin and said, "Do you want to go to the 'real' Zoo". He said, "no, this will be fine, we have already made the decision".
We pulled up to the check-in and waited to be helped in our adventure into the Circle G Ranch. Sitting waiting for the employee to come check us in I noticed and snapped a picture of a couple of things.
Warning signs, lots of warning signs and...
a sign made out of deceased animals' bones. I couldn't help but wonder where all those bones came from, maybe a Halloween clearance buy, maybe.
Then our very gracious greeter came to check us in and even allowed me to snap his picture.
He gave us some very important rules, like don't feed the camel with the purple halter, the pigs, or the donkey with your hands...oh, and if you are feeding any of the "Big" birds do it like this (I didn't get a picture of the demonstration to share with you all, so should you find yourself at the Circle G Ranch please pay attention, as this summary is not comprehensive). This nice gentleman also made us aware that the actual gravel trail went way back into the woods beyond the ranch and that it could take around an hour or more to complete, at this point I started patting myself on the back for a good decision. Now we weren't worried about getting our money's worth, but whether we had enough gas...
And so the Safari began...
It started out very cute
and then we realized that some of these wild animals were...wild
Yes, that is a Zebra...in East TN
They even had this Quartet that was serenading Kevin
(Kevin's face is so funny in this picture)
We continued on through the park and saw some awesome animals.
occassionally cleaning snot from the lense of the camera
It is well known that Chevy hoods are natural habitats
look at these 2 wild animals!
3 day old camel, too cute!
The kids had a blast, they got to feed the animals...
Lincoln, tries hard to hide his excitement...
but he really did have a blast!
Clara, liked it too, but apparently her olfactory senses are very sensitive
So what started with a trip to the zoo, became an awesome, fun trip to "the zoo and camel rides" at Circle G Ranch. I recommend it to anyone in or traveling through the Knoxville area. It was a lot of fun and the employees are very gracious and accommodating.
Thanks for a fun, unplanned day Circle G Ranch