Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The rest of the Story!!!!

While researching our route home from our vacation, I saw "The Wilds" in Ohio and since I have always wanted to do a "safari" kind of thing we decided to make our stop (we try to not drive more than 6-8 hours, including stops, a day) near there, in Zanesville, Ohio.  The campground "Wolfies" wasn't anything to write home about, but it had good sized, easy pull thru sites, so it was adequate.  

The next day we drove out to "The Wilds".  It was a pretty, scenic drive making one wonder, where on earth with all these hills, trees, etc. could they put a "safari type park"???  I never realized that Ohio was so hilly and scenic.  Our GPS told us to take certain roads, but we'd find big (or little) signs that said "The Wilds" this way with arrows etc., so on the way there, we followed the signs.  Suddenly there it was, all spread out before us.  

Turned out we should have followed the GPS, LOL and we did so on the way back.  We were kind of wishing there had been a closer campground to "The Wilds", but on second thought, our truck wouldn't have liked trying to nagivate the small country, hilly roads and the tons of trees and low power lines over the roads.  So, you're probably thinking by now, get on with it, what about "The Wilds", was it worth it, was it any good????  

Here is what the literature says about "The Wilds":  "The Wilds is a private, non-profit conservation center located on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed mine land in rural southeastern Ohio. It was created as the conservation center of the future by a group of civic leaders, political leaders and zoo professionals who believed that a serious scientific approach was required to find solutions to environmental concerns."

The land was originally a completely depleted strip mined area, so there is hardly any top soil left.  Part of The Wilds plan is to renew the land.  There are many government agencies using part of it to try to save different species of plant as well as wild life.  As an example, the American Elm has been nearly depleted by some little beetle.  The Forestry Dept has been working with this and has planted some new Elms there which, so far, appear to be immune or resistant to this destructive beetle.  

This is a place devoted to conservation, most of these animals are so endangered as to be nearly extinct in the wild, so it wasn't quite like a well stocked zoo or an actual African safari with only African animals or anything, but it was extremely well done.

There were many ways to enjoy "The Wilds".  

Wilds Animal Encounter (shorter for younger children/families)

Safari Transport Pass (closed air conditioned bus)

Open-Air Safari (open air, like a very long jeep, with a roof)

Sunset Safari Tour (expensive, LOL, includes a buffet type meal)

Wildside Tour (in the back of a truck, more personalized and expensive)

There were also Horseback Safari Tours, Zipline Safari Tours, Mountain Biking, Birding Tours, Fishing Tours, a lodge, camping yurts and more.  

We chose to take the Open-Air Safari, which is a 2 1/2 hour tour in a vehicle that looks and rides kind of like a very long jeep with a roof over it.  Unfortunately, for my back, it was a rather rough ride, over unpaved roads, but well worth every second of it.  The driver is also the guide and explains what the Wilds is, how it came about, how it works, what the animals are and other information to make the experience complete.  Ours was a young woman and she was great, she was humorous and informative.  She would stop wherever we saw animals and we couldn't have asked for a better experience.  Check these photos out to see what we saw.  Warning, this is a rather photo heavy post, but I hope you enjoy it.  

The sign when you first arrive:  

You arrive at a parking lot and take a bus up to the introductory building where you "choose your adventure" and get your tickets etc.  (If you go, be sure to use the facilities in the building, especially if you have children with you.  There are only 2 stops in the 2 1/2 hour trip and the first is porta potties, LOL.  

So, you board your transport and away you go.  There are many Sally Ports (double gated areas keeping the wild areas separate from "The Wilds" areas.  Funny thing is, as we pulled up to the first gate, there was a white tailed deer right there by the fence grazing, LOL.  Our guide told us the wild animals tend to stick around the perimeter of "The Wilds" as it is a safe place to be.  The Wilds is divided into different areas with gates between the areas but Sally Ports (double gates) between the outside and the inside (so to speak).  The entire perimeter is double fenced with high and electric fences to protect both the wild population of animals as well as the animals within "The Wilds".   

This is the first animal we saw and I thought, yeah, it's going to be this way, the animals will be there, but at a distance that you can barely see and was slightly disappointed, until . . . down the road a bit and around the corner and right there in front of us:  

(Of course there are some places they aren't as close to the road, but they are wild animals, no one can control where they are located.  As the day got hotter, they tended to be further away in shadier areas).

A bit of educational lore, this is "the FaceBook" of the One horned Rhinos.  Apparently the Rhinos get together, face their hind ends together and all take a collective . . . hmmm, not sure how to put this politely, but this is their social interaction place to see and be seen (or actually to smell and be smelled. . . ).  So there are these huge dung heaps placed here and there and not just a bit here and there, but an actual gathering place.  Surprisingly, it didn't smell particularly.  
Just around another curve in the road we saw these rhinos.  These two were very friendly towards each other and one even came up to sniff our transport and walked so closely along the side that I could have touched it's back, if that had been allowed. 

They were also affectionate with one another, these two looked like they were kissing:  

The animals are kept in the pastures with other animals they get along with, which is why there are many gates separating the different pastures.  

The next several pictures are of animals that get along with one another and were right there along side the rhinos. 

First was a male camel (darker color), and then some female camels with some kind of donkeys.  I apparently didn't make it home with my brochure that gave the names of the animals :-(  .  

Up, over, and around the bend, we had our first stop.  There was a huge lake (there are more than a hundred lakes in this place, it is huge) and there was a walking path you could take down (and I mean DOWN hill) to the lake and back (UP HILL) and there were animals across the lake we saw later while driving.  

My back was acting up enough that we didn't even try to take the hike down to the lake and back.  There were water birds there and huge bluegill and catfish that you could feed.  The people and kids that went said it was so much fun.  

Then back in the "bus" and away we went:  around the next bend and over the next hill we came upon 3 giraffes.  These are 2 different species of the 3 species they have at "The Wilds".  

Once again, these animals were no more than 30 feet from our transport.  

Just down the road from the Giraffes, a small herd of wild horses (I mean the original wild horses, not the kind we call mustangs) came wandering up.  These horses have completely flat backs unlike the slightly curved backs of domesticated horses and have never been able to be tamed or domesticated. There are very few of them left in the wild though, they only exist in places like "The Wilds".  There were two colts with this herd.  

We drove on, seeing other animals from a distance as the day got hotter.  We made our second stop of the trip at the medium sized carnivore exhibit.  There were some Cheetahs as well as a pretty dog type carnivore that looked like a cross between a wolf and a fox.  It's a Dhole and our guide said we were lucky to see one out, as they are almost never out and she's only seen them twice this whole summer.  

The cheetahs were lounging in the shade.  Most of them were fairly young ones, actually born there at "The Wilds".  

There were restrooms and food and drinks available as well as a path to walk up on a kind of board walk to see the animals.  I hate to see them enclosed, but the enclosures are very large and this is the only way they can be here and they certainly have more room and natural environment than most zoos.  

Back on our bus and away we went.  By this time it was past noon, it was getting quite hot and the animals were more amongst the trees and shade platforms, but we still got some interesting unexpected pictures.  

I can't remember what this funny creature is called, but there are very few of them left in the wild and they are quite docile.  The staff compare them to guinea pigs, LOL.  She said they aren't usually so close to the road.  

There were some antelope type animals at a distance and a herd of zebras and white rhinos that we couldn't get close to.  

We also saw some wild cows that, from a distance, look, act, and sound like normal cows (kind of like Guernseys, I think), LOL.  

The bull has been locked up all summer and was just that week let loose with the cows and our guide was thrilled.  She said she's only seen him one time and to have them so close and actually moving around was a real treat.  
The thing that tickled me was that from a distance they just looked like brown cows and a dark brown bull, but when we came at them at the "watering hole" we came up on the bull from the back and he looks like he's wearing pantaloons or Mr. C thought a tuxedo backwards, LOL, you see what you think:  

We were all so excited watching these special cows that we almost missed this, coming to get a drink:  

And, so, the saga continued, watching the zebra and the cows getting drinks and cooling off in the water hole, right beside the road.  It was fantastic.  

But as the Bull entered the water, the zebra got a bit worried and decided it had had enough to drink and beat a retreat.  

This was the end of our tour and we headed back to the "gift shop" and "little eatery".  

However, one final little bit of fun, as we were waiting to exit the bus, one of the horseback safari guides was "advertising" and brought his horse up where I could pet her.  She sure was pretty.  I love horses, even if I am allergic to them, and it was a great end to a fantastic day.  

So, was "The Wilds" worth it?  It was $30.00 each for our particular "safari", and yes, in my opinion, it was well worth it and I would do it again.  I wish I could be a part of an organization like this or live on a hillside overlooking "The Wilds".  

The next day, our final day of actual vacation, we went to see Cowboys and Aliens. . . Harrison Ford, how could we resist. . . ??? . . . The special effects were fantastic, and I suppose the movie was fantastic, too, but I don't like scary and this was EXTREMELY SCARY!!!!!  (which also must mean it was very good and well done or I wouldn't have been so scared, LOL).  I don't think we'll be buying this one on DVD though, as I sure don't want to see it again (sorry folks, I'll admit I'm a chicken s--t).  

We still had fun though, and a wonderful vacation, over all, just having some quiet time to ourselves, even though I never did get around to any claying on this trip.  

So the next day we headed for home and had an almost uneventful trip. . . if we only didn't have to go through Indianapolis. . . wouldn't you know it, a stupid street sweeper pulls out of the construction area on our left going about 10 mph, RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.  I wouldn't have pulled in front of something our size even in a zippy little sports car, let alone going 10 mph!!!  We were glad to get home and the rest of the week will be spent cleaning out the trailer and getting it ready for winter.  THEN, it's back to my clay table, hooray!!!

Hope you enjoyed our vacation.  I know strangers might not care, but this is one way I can share it with my family and friends all in one fell swoop.  Hope you are having a great summer, it sure has been a fast one.  Smiles, Sue C

The middle of the story.

So, on with the saga of our vacation, although I'll tell you ahead of time, there are only two mentions of polymer clay in this post, LOL.  I was just too busy with the grands.  However, the one thing I asked B to plan for was for us to visit the Charlottesville Saturday Farmer's Market to meet another polymer clay artist.  B suggested we meet somewhere and just her and Mr. C and I go, because she didn't think we could find parking for the truck down there and the whole family couldn't fit into one car.  I thought that was odd, but okay, we took her word for it.  I wish I had taken more pictures down there, as she was sooooo correct.  We met B at the Wood Grill Buffet for breakfast and then she drove us down to the Farmer's Market.  Oh my. . . the Farmer's Market is held in Downtown Charlottesville and it a very "old" town with tiny, winding, hilly streets.  I don't think our truck would have even fit down most of the streets, let alone in the parking garage or lot.  This also changed another of our plans as we had originally planned to take the grands to Winnie the Pooh movie and McD's, but it happened that Winnie the Pooh was only playing at the downtown theatre.  Due to my back injury earlier in the year, we can't just park far away and walk, as I'm still only able to walk about 12 minutes without assistance (yes, I'm extremely frustrated and discouraged by this).
Available at Amazon.com

Anyway, we finally found a parking spot in the lot right beside the market and fortunately the space I wanted to go was right next to the parking lot.  I wanted to meet the author of a polymer clay book I have:  The Polymer Clay Cookbook.
The book and authors are about miniature polymer clay food.  I  first heard about this book in an interview at Polymer Clay Central.  I also found the book and on reading it, found that the authors live in Charlottesville and have a space at the Farmer's market.  So I took my book to be autographed and got a picture with the lovely Susan Partain (Jessica wasn't there, as she had just gotten married the week before, Congratulations, Jessica).

The very tiny non edible food charms, bracelets, necklaces etc. were amazing in their very realistic detail.  It was a real treat to meet Susan and see these delectable creations.

I wish I had taken pictures of her booth and creations, but didn't think I should do that.

She did autograph my book, though, with a very nice caption.  Thanks, Susan.  

We spent the rest of the day with the family at their lovely home, just hanging out and enjoying the grands.

We read books, I got lessons in Pokemon cards and games, as well as all the funny sounds the Pokemon video creatures make.

We all shucked Illinois sweet corn for a steak and corn cook out, while B took pictures,  
and just generally had a calm time of sharing time together and fun.

The  next day we picked the grands up and took them to see the Smurfs (rather than Winnie the Pooh, due to parking and walking problems as it was only at the downtown theatre).  I hadn't really wanted to see the Smurfs, but the grands did, so that is where we went.  So we picked them up, went to McDonald's for lunch and then off to the theatre.  What a fiasco. . . first of all, we were there for the 2:30 matinee and they tried to charge us about $65.00.  When we questioned it we were told that adults were $11 plus $3.50 for the glasses.  WHAT???  $11.00 for a matinee???  To make matters even worse, their computers and credit card ability were both down.  We don't usually carry much cash and so we honestly didn't have enough cash to do this.  Plus, we (Mr. C and I) both have an eye problem that we can't see 3-D with or without the glasses, so we don't like to pay extra for that, anyway.  So we knew we would have to figure out something else.  I went closer to check the prices out and asked the "kid" again, "Your sign says adults for the matinee are only $5.50, where are you getting the $11.00?"  He said the matinee price is from 4-5????  since when????  So, since the 4:45 showing was less and not 3-D to boot, we got tickets for that.  It was really hard to convince the kids we would be back, but had to find something to do until then.  A very nice young lady behind us suggested we go to the putt putt golf place and told us how to get there, LOL.  Instead we went to Michaels, because we were looking for some glue to fix the vinyl floor in the trailer that we had accidently made a small rip in.  We were trying to find glue with a long curved tip (some glue company used to make something like that) but of course we didn't find it, so we got something else.  We also got the kids some play doh type stuff and coloring stuff that was on sale.  By the time we were done there it was time to head back to the movie.  Surprisingly it was a really cute movie and we all enjoyed it immensely, except for the youngest, J wanting drinks and popcorn, which we refuse to volunteer to be fleeced by the prices at the theatres for their food and drinks.  Then we grabbed "Pizza Pizza" (Little Caesars) from right next door and headed back to the campground where the grands spent the night with us.  We happen to like Little Caesars and don't get it very often as there isn't one at home anymore.

So we ate Pizza and bread sticks and watched 2 movies in the trailer with popcorn, which pleased them all.  Then it was bedtime and "we all went to sleep and didn't get up until the next morning" (which is from a song, bet you can't guess what song it is, LOLOL).

Then we played in the creek, K really enjoyed walking Snuffles and Snuffy enjoyed it too.

We drove around the whole campground to check it out.

The next two pictures are very special pictures, as at least one of them will make it into my "next" book I am writing.  My friend Deborah S. from FaceBook and Polymer Clay friend might know what I'm hinting at, but I haven't told anyone else yet.

So I have to say, Thanks, A, I really needed this picture!!!!

We finally decided the playground closest to us was the best, so we went there to play,

and played in the creek for awhile (again) played play doh, blew bubbles and when B and M finally came out we all went swimming and then had a cookout with wonderful giant marshmallow s'mores.

The next few days were filled with fun with the "family", although they went much too quickly and we soon had to say good bye and head for home.  We spent another day hanging out at the family's house, took them for one last meal at the Wood Grill Buffet (which obviously we thought was an excellent buffet) and said our good byes.  We went back to the trailer, packed it all up and the next morning headed west.

That's enough for one post, so I'll finish the saga in the next post.  Smiles, Sue C