Sanctuary Road Trip 2021: Days 2-6

Sanctuary Road Trip Day 2: October 15, 2021

This past Friday (one week ago), I did relatively little driving, as I spent a good portion of the day volunteering at Woodstock Sanctuary in High Falls, VT. It’s an amazing place that obviously has much better funding than some other, smaller sanctuaries, and is able to provide ample housing for the animals and for its staff and interns alike. I was greeted by the very friendly and super knowledgeable Volunteer Manager, Sean, and then worked alongside two couples — I felt a bit like a third wheel although it honestly didn’t bother me that much — who were also vegan and passionate about animals. It’s honestly a wonderful thing to be among like-minded individuals, as I sometimes feel uncomfortable when around non-vegans, especially when discussing food. 

We all spent several hours mucking out the very large, exceedingly messy cow barn. Even with 5-6 people working, it still took a while. Thankfully, though, I was able to interact directly with the cows, which made me so happy. I truly do love all animals, although there’s a special place in my vegan heart for cows (and steers, technically the term for all males): seeing them reminds me why I’m vegan, despite not really needing a reminder. Cows and steers are so intelligent and full of personality, and they’re loving and deserving of love. I’ll make it a point to rescue cows and/or steers, even at the beginning of my sanctuary when it’ll (most likely) be small. I was able to get up close and personal with some of them, who can certainly be intimidating at 2,000+ lbs. They also have massive poops, in case you were wondering.

How can you not fall in love with this face?

I stuck around Woodstock for a little while, not wanting to leave my new animal friends (and the humans weren’t so bad too). I bought a few things from the shop, and was even given a 20% discount for volunteering (and a couple of volunteer shirts). After that, I’d originally planned to pick up dinner somewhere, but I just decided to go back to the Airbnb immediately; I’d brought a change of clothes, though I really felt like showering, and I knew I had one of those Asian noodle bowls that I enjoy. I ended up relaxing at that Airbnb for the rest of the night, eating and writing and watching TV (Family Guy, mostly). Unfortunately, the host had his music fairly loud at times, though it stopped by the time I wanted to go to bed. 

Sanctuary Road Trip Day 3: October 16, 2021

Day 3 involved a lot of driving, and I gave myself plenty of time to get to Catskill Sanctuary (in Saugerties, NY) in time for my 11 a.m. tour. I’d actually decided to try Walmart again, in the hopes of finally finding a phone holder that worked. I settled on a $5 suction thing that’s actually the best yet, despite the fact that when attached, my phone is facing slightly away from me so I’m unable to lock it with my face — at least it doesn’t fall off *knock on wood*. 

I was, of course, early for the tour, as to be on time is to be late, at least for me. I checked in for the tour and greeted some of the free-ranging goats and sheep; they had separate family and non-family/regular tours, although someone there ended up being kids on my tour. (I’m wondering if my future animal sanctuary will ever allow kids on tours, seeing as I’m not too fond of them). Even though the tour was about 90 minutes long, we still didn’t get to see the whole property and meet all of the animals; Catskill is probably about the same size and has about the same number of animals (300-ish), and, like Woodstock, has enough funding for paid staff, internships, and numerous, high-end buildings. And, again, I ended up buying a few things from the store, including a snack for the road. 

Very friendly goat!

The drive to the next Airbnb (a vegan one, actually) involved a total of 4 stops: first, to use bathroom and to get some reprieve from the pouring rain; then, to get gas; third, to use the bathroom again and to order my dinner; and finally, to pick up my dinner at a restaurant called Thai Elephant with vegan options. I’m glad I broke up the 4.5+ hour drive, and by the time I arrived at the B&B I was ready to crash (and to eat). I only wish I’d spent more than one night in the lovely Cobblestone Acres, located in Dundee, NY, only about 25 minutes from Farm Sanctuary. One of the women who lives there had already started a fire in the suite where I was staying, which was nice because the weather had gotten chilly and rainy (thankfully, I was prepared). 

Sanctuary Road Trip Days 4-5: October 17 & 18, 2021​

Saturday, I was able to sleep in a bit, although I was awoken by the beautiful sunset outside (not a bad thing). My tour at Farm Sanctuary wasn’t until 1 p.m., so I had a few hours to waste. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at doing that, especially when I have various devices and methods of watching videos, blogging, going on social media, etc. I ended up watching Farm Sanctuary’s 35th anniversary special — you can find it on YouTube, and probably elsewhere — that had aired just a week prior. It featured interviews with founder Gene Baur, Executive Director Megan Watkins, as well as vegan activists and celebs such as Maggie Baird (Finneas & Billie Eilish’s mother), Ellen DeGeneres (who’s un-cancelled, I guess), and dynamite vegan couple Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix.

As the aforementioned video was well-made and featured such high-profile speakers, I knew that this particular sanctuary would have excellent funding and therefore equally impressive facilities. And, of course, I was right. It’s overwhelming when you arrive at Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen campus — they have another facility out west in Acton, CA — as it seems much fancier than some of the smaller sanctuaries I’ve visited. FS has about 800 animals, many of whom I didn’t get to meet or even see, as there’s only so much you can see in an hour-long tour. Also, masks were required for the entire time, and not just in the visitor center; they’re obviously much more official and careful than some of the others I visited, which is fair because, considering the number of people who visit the sanctuary on a regular basis, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious. And, even though time spent with the animals was relatively limited, I still made some friends.  

New calf friend!

I’d originally planned on having lunch after that, although I instead decided to drive to my next Airbnb, subsisting on various snacks. I probably just stopped to use the bathroom and pick up some food — honestly, at this point, I’m starting to get the days and drives mixed up a bit, so forgive me if I can’t recall specific details. Although, now that I think of it, I’d picked up dinner from a fully-vegan place in Syracuse (about halfway between the two locations): mozzarella sticks and a chicken bacon with friends. Anyway, I arrived at the Airbnb in Redwood, NY (half of a duplex) a little past 6 p.m. feeling extremely hungry. The host made herself at the available, although the only time I talked to her was when I asked where to park the car. The place was spacious, and even though there was no cable or Roku, I found other ways to distract myself (including by eating that rather large meal).

I left the following morning at about 9:15 a.m., having slept on a pull-out twin bed that I carried into the living/TV room (all by myself!). I made by way to the next sanctuary: Garnsey’s Feral Acres, a relatively new one that is home to 58 residents on 158 acres. I met Jeff Garnsey, who’s one-half of the husband and wife team who started and are now running the sanctuary. He actually does all of the animal care himself, which is a lot, albeit doable. I was most stricken by the 7 cows/steers, all of whom were quite friendly — although, to be honest, it’s a bit intimidating when a large steer is running towards you, even if all he wants is a snack and some affection. 

My happy place: surrounded by cows

I also got to meet pigs, donkeys, a bunch of indoor/outdoor cats, and even a friendly squirrel! (See my Instagram & Facebook for more pictures). Jeff was also kind enough to provide me with a vegan lunch (made by his wife), as well as a 2022 calendar and a t-shirt. It was good for me to visit a smaller sanctuary, especially after previously visiting the ginormous sanctuaries that had been around for decades. I think Garnsey’s is very similar in style and size to what I’d like, although I wouldn’t need that many acres. I loved the variety of animals, with a special focus on two of my favorite species: cows and pigs. 

After that, I drove up to Amsterdam, NY, only stopping to use the bathroom and get gas. I was set to meet the owners of another rescue, Schoharie Creek Sanctuary, which has only been in existence since May of this year. It was quite cold though, so I was happy to be prepared with a coat and, of course, farm-approved boots. I met the owners, Phil & Lauren, who currently have 10 cows and 5 ducks — 3 of the cows were rescued recently, so I felt special getting to meet them before they were announced to the public. Phil & Lauren were very helpful in providing me with cow-specific and sanctuary-related information, although undoubtedly starting and maintaining a sanctuary is a learning experience. 

Licked by a friendly calf!

By the time I left that sanctuary, it was already after 6pm, and I was hungry. With no real vegan options in the area, I settled on the closest Walmart — yes, Walmart, again — to pick up soda and one of my favorite frozen pizzas (Daiya brand). Then, I went to my final Airbnb, an old house in Amsterdam, NY. The host unfortunately wasn’t there, but was very receptive to messages and ensured that I arrived okay. She hadn’t turned on any lights, though, so by the time I arrived at the house, I couldn’t really see all that well, but I was greeted by two very friendly cats. It was a cold night, so the host had started heating up the place. I was bummed that the hot water only came on in the shower for a couple minutes, so I just shut it off before I’d finished washing my hair (oh well). I fed the cats (and myself), and they joined me in the guest room and at one point were both on my lap. I left the door open so they could come in and out of the room, which they did. 

Sanctuary Road Trip Days : October 19, 2021​

On the last day of my sanctuary road trip, I woke up reasonably early and fed the cats before looking for something for myself — there was nothing (not a veg-friendly Airbnb, which was unfortunate but oh well). I needed to get up and moving early, as I needed to drive nearly three hours to the final sanctuary of my tour: Vine in Springfield, VT. Fortunately, the drive was fairly easy, and it was actually quite picturesque as New York turned into Vermont (not that NY was ugly, especially in that part of the state). 

I was greeted at Vine by staff member Anna, who showed me around the main part of the sanctuary (it’s quite large, and there was another section of the sanctuary I didn’t get to see, which was fine). Like Catskill, Vine has free-ranging animals, including cows, chickens, goats, and alpacas. Sanctuary ambassadors Sir Isaac Mooten, a very friendly steer, licked me, and Dominic, a curious alpaca, gave me a kiss. 

Sir Isaac Mooten!

Even though I was pretty hungry, there weren’t any good vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants nearby, and I used Happy Cow and asked Anna from Vine. She recommended I search in either Brattleboro, VT or in Springfield, MA, the latter of which made more sense because it was halfway between there and home. Plus, I preferred to break up the drive, especially since it was my last leg. I ended up at Garden of Eat’n in Springfield, MA, and I also needed to fill up on gas, so it was convenient that there was a gas station right across the street — where I could park while ordering and eating the food, too. The restaurant is all-vegan and appeared to be black-owned, with so-called regulars. Even though the food was pricey and difficult to eat in the car (even while idle), it was pretty tasty. 

I arrived home shortly before 5 p.m., and was exhausted and excited to see our two dogs, Zuzu and Cooper. Ever since I got back, I’ve been enthusiastically planning and prepping to start my own animal sanctuary. Stay tuned for more information on that front!