Revel in the Rhythm of the Season

Autumn is a time to enjoy the brilliant colors of changing leaves, the fragrance of pumpkin spice wafting in the air, the sweep of gorgeous vistas, and the sounds of animals scurrying about gathering and preparing for the winter to come. Here at Merck Forest, Fern and Arch, our draft horses, have been enjoying the beautiful weather because it brings fewer flies and cooler temps. They have recently been helping haul the last loads of our second-cutting hay, which is now neatly stacked in the barn for the long winter ahead.

Some wonder why we use horses when a tractor would be so much quicker? Good question. Historically, draft horses were born and bred to work and are very relational animals by nature. Working with them is an experience that few have the privilege of knowing. Though a tractor is considered to be “more efficient” in today’s world, selectively using horse power not only leaves a lower carbon footprint, but also gives us the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and nature that surrounds us.

Taking in the view.

Fern and Arch love being worked. You can tell by the sounds they make and the spring in their steps as they plod along with a full wagon of contented visitors. They have such pleasant personalities and work well as a team, although Fern is definitely more of a go-getter and is quicker to respond to commands. Arch, on the other hand, is a bit of a slacker and will hold back to let Fern take the lead. He thinks he’s being a gentleman by allowing the lady ahead start, but in reality, he is just being lazy.

Farm Manager Dylan Durkee introduces a visitor to the team.

Don’t take me wrong, we love Arch. He is such a sweet guy and he loves attention. When you visit them, you will notice that Arch tends to be the more sociable of the pair, and he always welcomes a gentle pat on the head. Even though they are undeniably massive in size and strength, they are really just gentle giants.

Now that fall is upon us, Fern and Arch have started growing thicker coats in preparation for the colder weather to come. In the excitement and anticipation of the winter activities and projects going forward, such as sleigh rides and even small-scale logging, we will be tuning up the sleigh and shining up the jingle bells. Foliage season is a beautiful time of year to visit, but winter can be just as awe-inspiring. The warmth of a wool blanket spread across your lap, Fern and Arch pulling you over hill and dale, the sound of sleigh runners slicing through the snow, chains rattling and bells jingling – what more could you want? So venture up the mountain, say hello to Fern and Arch and revel in the rhythm of the season that surrounds you.

Assistant Visitor Center Manager Katie Connor is our principal drover … and now, a blogger!