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Shearing alpacas and sharing hospitality at Paca Pride

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Photo courtesy of Paca Pride
Photo courtesy of Paca Pride

Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Paca Pride Guest Ranch in Granite Falls guarantees an inclusive stay for everyone. The property offers yurts, guest rooms, tent camping, RV spots, and tiny homes, with plans for future expansion — plus a whole pride of alpacas.

This Gay-owned business was started by David Capocci, his husband Glenn Pudlow, and Capocci's business partner Tim Leingang when the trio wanted to move out of Seattle due to rapid urbanization.

"It was 2004: George Bush and wars and everybody ... waiting for the economy to tank..." Capocci said. "We were just enjoying Capitol Hill, but we also saw the writing on the wall about where Seattle was going to go... It [was] ready to burst forth with a lot of growth... And we said, 'How can we not live through the growing pains of such a thing happening?'"

It was also an election year, when many Democrats urged people to move out of their "blue bubbles" to make changes to areas considered "red." Around the same time, Capocci and Leingang lost their jobs at a major insurance corporation.

"This was the universe saying, 'Do something out of your bubble...'" Capocci said of his job loss. "Because, during all that time, we were coming up here already... The Mountain Loop Scenic Byway is known for its hiking trails and scenic attractions, and of course... about 14 miles further up the road from us, Triangle Recreation Campground...

"So, we started... going up there on the weekends during the summertime... It started our love of yurt camping, because that's what we would put up from March through October, and it also started our love of the mountain... It was just hikers and campers that came out here, but it was a very underserved marketplace in terms of different accommodation offerings."

What followed the trio's decision to move off Capitol Hill was the purchase of the acreage in 2005, the building of a log home in 2007, and finally opening to the public in 2010.

Photo courtesy of Paca Pride  

As the name states, the alpacas are the main attraction at Paca Pride.

The alpacas at the ranch are all male, because females are seen as more desirable to breeders, which leads to male alpacas not having as many options for homes.

The alpacas at the ranch are sheared during mid- to late June for their fibers and turned into a variety of products, ranging from socks to blankets.

So, if you're not in the mood for a chaotic party-filled Pride, watch the boys get sheared at the ranch.

Changing perspectives
Moving from a "gayborhood" to the countryside is a big cultural adjustment, but the three men found a way to become a touchstone in the community.

"Imagine three Gay guys leave their Democratic blue bubble of Capitol Hill and come out here to the Mountain Loop Highway just outside Granite Falls in a very red, very rural, logging-truck and gravel-truck-driver land," Capocci said. "They aren't expecting that kind of thing. And so, we thought [about being] a change agent to bring forth and manifest the change we wanted to see in the world through hospitality."

With their hospitable attitudes and caring attitude, the trio began to see the perspectives of their neighbors change.

"We saw a lot of tolerance, but we also really saw the town of Granite Falls come of age," Capocci said. "Because of our representation here and the visibility we have, we have changed quite a few perceptions about the Gay community... So whenever on the Facebook group [for the city and county]..., somebody says something in response to a comment I left on an issue and [makes] some sort of slur toward Gay people, half the town [turns] out and [comments], 'You got to ratchet yourself in here. We really value this community member.'"

Photo courtesy of Paca Pride  

Along with the lives of the locals, Paca Pride has also changed those of some of its guests.

"We've had experiences where families come out and stay and they go and we think they had a good time, but we [don't] hear much about it," Capocci said. "But then the family returns next year, maybe a year afterward. And the mom [comes] up to me... She comes through the door, and she starts crying. Like, 'What's going on Mom? Is everything okay?'

"She says, 'I wanted to share with you the impact you had on us from our previous stay.' And I was like, 'Wait a second. What do you mean?' [She says], 'Because you're just living authentically and representing who you are, you provided such a role model and positive example. My child had the courage to come out to us when they got home from that trip and let us know that they were either Gay or Lesbian or Transgender'...

"We're just beside ourselves to see that... we could create that experience and... that inspiration and make that courage happen among... kids who are looking for those positive role models that they may not see in real life."

While the ranch is Gay-owned, Capocci stressed that it is a space for everyone no matter their sexuality, gender, religion, or race.

"Accessibility out here at the National Forest is rather white-bread," Capocci said. "BIPOC folk maybe don't come in as much as they could. Because feeling safe and feeling welcome is a huge part of what we're trying to do. [We want to] establish that sacred space and hold space for those folks with that dilemma."

For more information on Paca Pride's accommodations and farming practices, go to https://pacaprideguestranch.com