Hooray! A full day away from the campground. Took KatieBug to a doggy day care so we could spend the day visiting the Wildlife Safari Animal Sanctuary in Winston, have lunch and visit a winery. We took our kids to an open concept wildlife park in TX when they were very young and I have always wanted to return. This was an adventure I was looking forward to enjoying.
The two hour drive through experience had excellent photo opportunities. Yes, it is like a zoo and not nearly as thrilling as our wild things meet-ups in Canada but I can’t seem to pass up close encounters with four legged furry creatures or two legged feathered creatures. Some of the animals are endangered, some are lifelong residents due to injuries and a few are in breeding programs for zoos. The San Diego Zoo had recently picked up a baby boy cheetah born to one of the safari’s females in the breeding program. The ambassador cheetah we saw at Henry’s Winery Crawfish Boil was from Wildlife Safari.
There were docents at several enclosures where the animals were not able to roam freely, either being a danger to other animals or others being a danger to them. Elephants, lions, tigers, bears and gibbons all had their own space. Bears and tigers had what appeared to be prison guard towers at their cattle guard entrances. The elephants were behind a huge bar and resting in the shade, lions and tigers were behind chain link and sitting in shade so getting a good shot was impossible. All others were inside chain link along with us.
The hippo’s refused to pose.
The bears were cooling off in their pond but came out to investigate the passerby’s. The electrical wiring set up was similar to what we saw in Lake Louise Canada to discourage them from entering the soft side tent campground.
The endangered White Handed White Cheeked Gibbons swung lazily around their huge exercise area, their loud hooting conversations echoing throughout the sanctuary.
A large lively Bison heard provided us with many entertaining moments. Along with wallowing in the dust to deter biting flies and remove tufts of molted fur and stubbornly blocking the cars from passing by on the roadway, they would teasingly fake charge at other curious smaller animals keeping them at bay from feeders until they had their fill.
The giraffe stood in the road for a while before curiosity brought him over to peer at us through our open sun roof. Big brown eyes and a long tongue advancing towards our open roof a bit too fast for comfort, we closed up, he walked off to greet the car behind us.
Lots of exotic species, deer and antelope from India and Africa, some recognizable, some unknown to us. The color detailed animal brochure was extra so we used the newspaper guide and drive through map, looking up on the internet those that weren’t in the “free” guides.
Indian Axis and White Fallow Deer,
Several species of Oryx,
Damara Zebra and Watusi Cattle,
Muntjac and a South American Guanaco,
Our windows being rolled down seem to invite them close enough to hear their breathing…and to get a whiff of their pungent wildness.
A lazy endangered Southern White Rhino (square lipped rhinoceros) had nestled himself into a shaded mud puddle on the hill and had no intention of leaving his cool spot to investigate the cars. I was a bit surprised that he was unrestrained, having heard that they were aggressive. After reading about them, they are actually the most social of the species.
A Yak wandered by the Rhino, neither paying attention to one another.
The feeding zoo was amusing both for John doing the feeding, and me snapping pictures. Deer pushed their wet noses up against the windows until we rolled them down, then came at us from all directions to munch on the dried veggie nuggets that were included in the Groupon deal.
Up came the windows as soon as we saw the Ostrich running towards us. He looked to be on a mission and I know they can be determined to find something to peck if they think you have food. Further on, a gathering of turkey’s and an Egyptian Duck.
Splendid looking African Crown Crane wandering around the lion enclosure outside the cages along with a funny fat black with white speckles chicken looking bird that waddled towards us to check us out.
Our last Safari stop was a walk through the Village. Petting zoo, camel rides, train ride, picnic area, children’s jungle gym play area, arachnid display, flamingo’s, a rescued tortoise, a sweet abandoned deer that had so many physical disabilities it could not be released, an albino peacock, a restaurant and a nice clean restroom.
Armed with a Groupon to Noah’s Ark, we stopped for lunch at the gigantic ark shaped structure across the entrance from the Wildlife Safari.
Upon entering, volumes of religious books greeted us; animal paintings covered the walls, some with lifelike heads protruding into the room. On the left, a small comfy room with sofa’s and Noah wall art, a fake mechanical Santa dressed as Noah telling the story of Noah and the Ark and displays of religious timelines. Inside the rest of the building is a religious trail, not exactly sure what it represented but we did not want to pay to discover.
The owner and operator, a friendly elder lady and the only employee, waited on us, cooked the burgers, took our money and cleared the tables. She was also the sales person for the religious wares and the ark tour tickets. She was older than John and I, neither of us imagining we could keep up with this spunky slight built entrepreneur. After lunch we went in search of the celebrated fermented grape.
Our 11th winery stop this season, Wild Rose, was up another winding gravel road and down into a valley that ran along a creek. The tasting room, a large metal building, was banked by their grape vines and stretched out along the valley floor.
Tasting was gratis and we brought home another nice smooth red. The daughter of the original owners told us the story of the free salt shakers.
After her parents passed on, each of the children took what they wanted from the estate. The son thought it would be a nice gesture to give each visitor a set of salt shakers from their mother’s enormous collection and all agreed. Set by set the shakers became part of each family who enjoyed Wild Rose wine.
Overcast morning arrives, perfect weather for the start of clean up from our 150 Christian campers that occupied our campground for the last 5 days.
This group was our first taste of an unwelcome situation at our campground. Not from our campers but from drunk vagrants sleeping on unimproved BLM property.
I happened upon them while taking a walk with KatieBug on the upper trail. John was repairing a bridge rail about 500 yards back and I walked on enjoying the cool forest. I spotted a tent pitched off the trail and a drunk stumbled onto the trail asking where he could get spare food for he and his friend. After answering, I turned to walk back to the bridge and heard the deep throated barks of large dogs coming from the forest. I quickly walked back towards the bridge, met up with John and we both headed to LilyPad to call the Sheriff. Along with being publicly drunk and having loose dogs, they had made a campfire on the ground during our fire ban, a big no-no during dry season in this part of the country.
One of our camper dads marched across the street wearing a scowl and looking for action when he banged on our door. We had already called the Sheriff’s office and were waiting for them to arrive. The camper dad told us the men had come down looking for food and used foul language to frighten the kids away from the pavilion. Not accepting our apology or our answer of “Sheriff’s on his way”, he stomped down the road to Mill Pond and demanded Toby go and confront the men. We are here to inform, not to enforce, was Toby’s reply…same answer he got from us.
The Sheriff and 3 BLM Rangers arrived and moved the men and their wares into town 45 minutes away. Thinking all was settled, we took the cart back up the trail before dusk and low and behold, another drunken vagrant had set up camp in the same spot. Another trek up the mountain for the sheriff, he gave our newest arrival instructions to stay away from the campground and next morning be gone before noon. To our surprise and relief, he obliged and our nighttime returned to a peaceful quiet.
The bulbs I planted are beginning to bloom adding a nice touch of color to our entrance drive. My herbs are filling out nicely and we use them to perk up flavors on many of our meals.
Plans were arranged for a post 4th of July Ice cream social at our pad with a few BLM hosts tonight after chores. Sort of a “Host Warming Gift” to our neighbors who, after a week of boon docking, were finally able to move into Mill Pond after Toby moved out. A few more hours of cleaning at Lone Pine and we will be ready for our next group of campers.
Another week of same old, same old…long haul to town for supplies, deserted as a ghost town between groups, clean up after the groups leave then hang around until it is time to do it all again. As the weeks pass, “tiny” living and being completely isolated is slowly making me lose the ability to control a full blown, hysterical state of uncontrollably shrieking “what was I thinking!?” Danger Will Robinson, impending explosion.