My mother’s birthday was coming up, and I wasn’t sure what to get her. So I decided to take her hiking with goats.
You’re probably thinking, what? Hiking with goats? That was my initial reaction, too, when I first heard about Central Mass Goat Rental, a Lunenburg business that lets you take to the trails with friendly farm animals at your side. During the warm weather months, these grazing goats are sent out to eat invasive plants and clear unwanted brush and weeds from various properties. But from November through May, the goats are at home in their barn, and their owners, Seth and Tammy Hebert, find that letting them stroll along the nearby trails is a great way for them to stretch their legs.
The Heberts started hosting goat hikes in the early winter of 2019.
“We decided to open up the hikes to the public because it is therapeutic physically, and the goats are great entertainment,” said Tammy, who calls herself the “Goat Momma” of the operation. “The goats also need the exercise during their down time from doing the goat rental during the summer months.”
I booked a hike for me and my mother on a Saturday in November. And I must admit, I had no idea what to expect.
“Do you think the goats will be on, like, a leash?” I asked my mother.
“Probably not,” she said.
Ma turned out to be right, as usual. We arrived at the Heberts’ home in Lunenburg, where they keep their 22 goats and one black sheep named Chewy, who also likes to hike.
Anywhere from 6 to 16 goats will go on the hikes. It all depends on their mood. “The goats choose if they want to hike,” she explained.
When it’s time for one to start, they come running into a fenced in area if they want to come along.
The day my mother and I went, Tammy’s husband Seth led us on the hike through conservation land.
The goats were energetic and playful, but extremely well-behaved. They stuck to the leaf-covered trails and were open to being petted along the way. The Heberts say that goats have a natural instinct to follow the leader, which makes them perfect hiking companions.
“We have one goat named Monica that joins every hike and tends to hang out in the back of the group every time,” she said. “She wants to make sure no one is left behind.”
The hike itself was relatively easy. It lasted about an hour, the terrain wasn’t difficult, and we stopped at intervals along the way.
We wore masks and the trails were wide enough to allow for everyone to stay far apart. It was a perfect pandemic-friendly activity for these times.
The Heberts welcome people of all ages to hike with their goats. You can even take your baby if you have a backpack baby carrier.
Bring a bottle of water, dress for the weather, and wear hiking boots, as parts of the trails can be rocky.
The Heberts host hikes from now to next June. Hikes are held throughout the winter depending on the weather and the condition of the trails.
“For winter hikers, we just ask that you have good boots with crampons if they have them,” she said.
Due to COVID-19, the Heberts are currently limiting the hikes to small groups of Massachusetts residents. Each hike costs $35 per adult, $10 per child (under the age of 15 years old), and children ages 5 years and under are free. You’ll also be asked to sign a waiver before embarking on the hike.