Thursday, July 3, 2014

Celebrating 30 At The Wilds

Hello again, friends! I wanted to pop in today to share what my super, SUPER awesome fella did for me for my birthday. Mind you, we don't usually pull out all the stops, but it was my 30th so he put extra effort into making sure it was special. It was an incredible trip and I thought it might be fun to share a few photos (well...many really) and stories with all of you.

We spent Tuesday and part of Wednesday at The Wilds. It's an endangered animal preserve and conservation center about an hour and a half east of us. We've been out there a few times over the years and both truly enjoy it (Sean likes to joke that I'm going to drop everything to go to vet school one of these days, so this experience was a treat for me). For this trip Sean booked us a night in the Grand Yurt (essentially a plush hut that overlooks the animal pastures) as well as two tours that I'll get to here in a moment.

We got to the area a little early, so we spent some time at a nearby Audubon overlook. From there we were able to see some of the animals at the facility along with several bird varieties we don't get to see in the city.

We checked in to our yurt in the early afternoon and then loaded into the bed of a pickup to take the first of our tours (the Wildside safari). Our guide, Chris, works as one of the animal handlers at the Wilds and he was very knowledgeable about the critters.

We started the tour down by the Pe're David deer. These deer are an aquatic variety and actually have webbed hooves! Summer happens to be the Pe're David Deers' mating season so we could hear the male deer bellowing their love call late into the evening and early in the morning. It was funny mostly because it sounded like a cross between belching and laughing. Real charmers, those deer.

Next, we drove past a female Asian One-Horned Rhino and her calf. They were just relaxing in the tall grass.

We could see the Bactrian Camels up the road, so Chris drove us over for a visit (you can see the yurts in the distance; ours was the one all the way to the left).

Chris called the camels when we drove up and they came to investigate. That little one is Rae Rae.

Her papa is Gobi. He was a very big, very sweet fella.

We were able to pet the camels (some were more friendly than others). Rae Rae was all about getting her head scratched. In all honesty, I think she thought I was smuggling apples in my camera bag.

Next, we started driving through a field toward a small pond. It didn't look like we were going to see much until, suddenly, this guy emerged from the water.

He also liked being petted (and fed apples and sweet potatoes).

He was a little muddy.

From there we headed over to the carnivore section of the facility (it's separate and has its own fencing). On the way there we came upon the Persian Onager (a wild donkey)...

and the Przewalski's Wild Horse. The horses were the very first animals at the facility more than 20 years ago. They are still, to this day, the only equine species that has never been successfully ridden. Chris told us that there is a theory that their untamed temperament may have something to do with an extra chromosomal pair. They certainly are gorgeous creatures.

We saw Cheetahs, Dholes, and African Painted Dogs in the carnivore areas. They were all tougher to see without the binoculars, so this is the best photo I could capture. I was tickled that the alpha female Painted Dog's name was Lizzie. Sean remarked that the alpha dog in his house's name was Lizzie, too. The tour group got a kick out of that.

We started with the Grevy's Zebra on our way back through the herbivores. Their markings were so distinctive and striking. I was surprised at how fuzzy their ears were.

The Fringe Eared Oryx was in the same area.

We travelled up the road a little way until we came to the giraffes. This little one (he was just 4 months old!) was just starting to figure out all the cool things his tongue could do. The whole time we were there he was playing with it; licking his own face and sticking it out as far as it could go.

This was his papa. He was distracted by a lady giraffe in the next pen.

Then we went to a barn and had the opportunity to feed another giraffe (that Chris kept calling "the chosen one") romaine lettuce. He was very funny in that he was happy to be petted and come down to say hello as long as there was lettuce in your other hand. No lettuce, no dice.

Our next encounter was with the White Rhino herd. The Wilds is home to the largest heard of White Rhinos outside of Africa.

There were several babies and they were SO CUTE. They kept trotting around to stay close to their mamas.

Our final visit of the trip was with the Scimitar Horned Oryx. Such graceful creatures. There were several calves in this herd, too, and you could barely see them hopping around in the tall pasture.

We arrived back at the Visitors' Center in the evening and cleaned up before catching dinner. Afterward, we headed back to our yurt and relaxed on the patio. From our yurt you could see several animals that we didn't get a chance to visit on our tour (American Bison, Sichuan Takin, Banteng, Herons).

We stayed out there enjoying the scenery and the animals until we fell asleep in the adirondack chairs watching a storm roll in (luckily we woke up and went inside before it actually arrived).

The next morning we spent some time watching the animals and the birds before heading to breakfast. After breakfast we got all packed up and headed down to the horse barn for the Horseback Safari, our second tour.

Sean was assigned to Lightning, a retired racehorse. Sean had never ridden before so George, our guide, gave him a few extra pointers (and some gentle ribbing) before we headed out.

I was paired with Barney, a lovable chub who would have been happy to hang out and eat grass all day. Trying to get him to keep moving through some of the taller foliage was entertaining. Hilarity ensued.

Our tour took us along the ridge where we had slept the night before and then across the road into The Wilds' Prairie Reclamation area. It was a beautiful area and I would have loved to have taken pictures, but I was busy trying to get Barney to stop eating grass.

It was a wonderful time and a trip that I would absolutely recommend. Sean definitely made my 30th birthday one that I'll never forget. I'm a very lucky girl.

Thanks for stopping by today and hanging in there through all of my ramblings and photos. I'll be back with another crafty post again soon. Take care!


June K said...

Wow Lizzie, looks like you had a wonderful birthday. Oh of those animals are so cute. Well worth the mud :)

Randi Jones said...

That was soooo cooool!! I chuckled several times!
I think Sean did "ride" a horse once at the FW Children's Zoo....

Anonymous said...

What a great birthday. The pictures and comments are both good and clever. Thank you for sharing. You two are a very special couple. Happy, happy.

Cindy H. said...

A belated Happy Birthday, Lizzie! Looks like you celebrated your 30th in a big way. Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

see mary stamp said...

What fun! Happy Belated Birthday.

Nichole said...

What amazing pictures, Lizzie! It looks like you had the time of your life! Happy 30th birthday, just a bit late!!!

Kathy Mc said...

Happy Belated Birthday, Lizzie! Your picture taking is so phenomenal I felt like I was there enjoying the adventure with you. TFS your 30th birthday with us!