Friday, August 7, 2009

Train ride and the Wilds

We're taking a little vacation this week.
Since they were little boys my three sons have loved trains and we've taken rides on scenic lines in Byesville and at Dennison, Ohio.
Thursday we departed a restored depot in the downtown Elkins, W.Va., historic district on a four-hour, 46-mile round trip ride on the New Tygart Flyer.
The air-conditioned streamliner twisted and climbed along the cascading Shaver's Fork of the Cheat River. The ride featured two separate mountain grades, a spectacular "S" curve tunnel - with just a 2 inch clearance on either side of the train - and mile after mile of unspoiled mountain wilderness.
We had a buffet cold-cut lunch on the train. Our cars were furnished with tables and chairs. There were flush-toilet restrooms aboard.
The boys liked the ride.
I was a little disappointed with the train route itself - a lot of woods, and little narration and interaction. While there were a few children aboard, a majority of the riders were "older."
The highlight was unboarding the train at the the inspirational "High Falls of Cheat," an 18-foot high, 150-foot wide waterfall in one of the most remote and pristine setttings in the eastern United States.
We spent about 45 minutes here and then headed back down the track.

Today we took an Open-Air Safari at the Wilds near Cumberland, Ohio, and I loved it but the boys said they liked the train ride better.
The Wilds is one of the largest and most innovative wildlife conservation centers in the world, and it's in our backyard!
Located on nearly 10,000 acres, it is home to rare and endangered species from around the world living in natural, open-range habitat. A newer carnivore compound features the cheetah and the African Wild Dog and Dhole (an Asian wild dog).
David said, "It's a money-making machine. I was disappointed we didn't get to see more animals."
We didn't buy any $6.50 hamburgers but we got to see some other unusual animals, several of which you won't see at the zoo. There are special kinds of antelope, birds, deer, sheep, goats and relatives, wild cattle and zebras and wild horses (the Persian Onager - a wild ass is pictured above) in addition to rhinoceroses, giraffes and camels.
I agree the prices are a bit steep but would still recommend at least one visit to the park.
This was my first "real visit."
When the Wilds opened to the public more than a decade ago I wrote a story for the newpaper on the endangered rhinos there. The paper's photographer and I got to go behind the scenes to see the rhinos, which were the only animals at the facility then.
Our guide today, a college student, seemed knowledgeable of his employer's mission and the interaction with the 30 people in our safari vehicle was nice.
For the three to four hours you spend at the Wilds I guarantee you'll forget you're in southeastern Ohio.

Our vacation is coming to an end.
Tomorrow we plan to see the latest "Harry Potter" film and do some back-to-school shopping.

1 comment:

  1. I went to a 4-H teen retreat at the Wilds in '90 or '91 when the visitor's center was the only building there. There was a nature trail and they had some sort of small wild bird walking around. We teens couldn't fathom there ever being a wildlife preserve was in very early stages, and they were still trying to get funding. They've come a long (and fantastic) way since then. Glad you had fun!