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

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