Sunday, October 4, 2009

Get Wild in Ohio

Growing up, I spent many summers with my grandparents' in their vacation home in Cumberland, Ohio. Don't misunderstand me, when I say vacation home, I'm not talking about a lake house or mountain retreat. Just a quaint home, in a small town, two hours south of their home, but near my aunt and cousins so they could relax and visit family. Much of their time was spent tinkering around the house, hunting for bargains at garage sales or fishing. In the evenings, we'd sit on the front porch and watch the rise and fall of "The Big Muskie" across the hillside.

Once it was dark, we'd sit on the upstairs porch and watch for shooting stars. The Big Muskie, the largest dragline ever made and one of the seven engineering wonders of the world, was a famous landmark in those parts for nearly 30 years and still is, even though it's no longer operational and dismantled. The Muskie would run around the clock, scooping thousands of pounds of earth with each scoop. The land that the Big Muskie mined is owned by AEP Ohio, and in an effort to reclaim the land, the power company donated nearly 10,000 acres of land to waht is now called, The Wilds.

Today, that land has been transformed into North America's largest animal conservation center for endangered species! Visitors to The Wilds can choose from several tour options that will take you on a guided 'safari' bus that will entertain and educate all members of your family, young and old. You may see over 25 species of rare and endangered animals native to Africa, Asia and Northern America which include Rhinos, Giraffes, Zebras, Oryx, Bactrain camels, Pizewalskis Horse, Onager, Bison, Red-crowned Crane and more. We last visited two years ago and they were completing a new carnivore section that I can't wait to tour! The tour guides are all friendly and knowledgeable and make frequent stops for you to view the animals and snap photos from the safety of the bus.

After you've enjoyed a leisurely tour on the busy, viewed the educational displays, and strolled throught the gift shop, you may be hungry and chose to eat at the on-site restaurant or travel to the nearby Miner's Memorial Park for a picnic lunch. Here you will see all that remains of the Big Muskie, the enormous bucket that in the course of service, moved twice the amount of earth that was moved when constructing the Panama Canal. You can see up close why it was such an impressive feature to the landscape for so many years. You'll be astaounded at the massive size of the bucket, nearly as large as a 12 car garage. An entire school marching band once posed inside for a photograph. You will also understand how I could watch it night after night from miles away when I was young.

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