Mini-Trip: Part 2 – Wolves!

I left off yesterday just as I got to the wolves, because this part of the trip deserve its own post.

I had made reservations for Wolf Park way way back at the beginning of the year. Our original plan was to go for Wyatt’s birthday trip and as his gift – however, Wyatt ended up having three emergency shunt revisions instead. Both the Airbnb and Wolf Park rescheduled our dates for us and were amazing to work with. I had purchased the insurance for the Airbnb on a whim, and I am glad that I had that little nudge from within to do that because otherwise I would not have been able to do so. Anyway, our trip changed from March to May, and to be quite honest, the weather was a million times better than it would have been, although we could have done without the surgeries obviously!

Wolf Park was started in 1972 by Dr. Klinghammer who wanted to study and research wolves’ behavior, and create a dictionary of human to wolf behaviors, called an ethogram. Over the years, the methods and research has continued to evolve and grow, and the park is currently home to six wolves, a herd of bison, two red foxes, two gray foxes, and a box turtle named Clementine! There is also acres and acres of protected land surrounding the Park, and this is home to many other wild species of birds and animals.

In addition to all of the scientific observation and conservation efforts, Wolf Park is open to the public, so that we all may learn more about these magnificent creatures, become wildlife advocates, and to dispel the myth of the “big bad wolf”. They offer so many different programs, from the evening wolf howls, photography tours, field trips, birthday parties, bison tours, and private tours, as well as many more. Because Wyatt loves wolves and this was his gift, we made reservations at the wolf howl in the evening, and then also a private tour.

Our first event up was the wolf howl! Guests have the option to explore the grounds, shop in the gift shop, poke about in the buildings, and hike a little on the trail in certain areas before the program starts, which we did. We stopped and looked at the foxes and I exclaimed over how adorable they are, we ducked into the nature center building where we learned about the different wolf howls, depending on the number of wolves (solo, duet, rally, chorus). Then we decided to check out the seating, since kiddo was in his wheelchair. They have stadium type bleachers in front of where the program is held, but also had a few regular benches as well, and those worked perfectly for us. Then we just had to wait for it to start! Waiting was way easier than it normally would have been, because the wolves were front and center, walking a path around the front of the enclosure, getting ready for their demonstration and the howl. And probably the treats they knew they were about to get!

Want to see the wolves?

The howl started with educating the crowd a bit on wolves, wolf behavior, wolf howls, and what they do at the park. It was very interesting, but Wyatt loved when the howling began, as did just about every other kid (and maybe adult!) there. Sometimes the wolves howl, sometimes they don’t. It just depends on their mood, and when we were there, the wolf in front of us, Khewa, was giving a low howl, and it was so adorable. She was so close to us that we were clearly able to hear her.

We ended up leaving half an hour early, but not because it was boring, but because Wyatt was tiring out and we still had an hour drive back to our rental – then we had to get up early and do the drive all over again! That was ok though, because the next day was our private tour!!

After a solid night of sleep and dreams full of wolves, we returned to the park for our private tour. Nikki, our education docent, met us at the door and they were all ready for my little guy. Since we were the only people there, we were able to just leave his wheelchair in the gift shop while we were on the tour, since the gravel path was too much for its wheels. However, Nikki had secured the use of a golf cart (also reservable with the tour) and had it all backed up and waiting for our little family. We were all so excited, but no one was as excited as Wyatt.

Wyatt is a loud kid, but only with people he loves and trusts. Generally, when he is with new people or in new situations he is pretty shy and quiet. So that is what Billy and I expected when we booked this tour. We were absolutely shocked however when Wyatt was a wild child on this tour. I think Wyatt just had a lot of excitement going on! He loved the golf cart, he loved Nikki, and would not stop trying to talk to her and stand up to be near her. He seriously did not pay too much attention to the tour, but Billy and I did and it was fascinating. Nikki drove us around all the enclosures, stopped and shared information, answered our endless questions, and handled Wyatt’s chatter all very well. She definitely has a gift not just for animals but with children as well, the sign of a very good person in my opinion. She gave off just a very calm, upbeat vibe. Nikki was brought in to work with the bison, so they are her favorites on the property. We learned not just a lot about the wolves, but also about bison! It was really cool.

Our tour finished up at the foxes and with Clementine. When we pulled up at the foxes, we were just in time for the keepers to work with them so we got to watch the feeding and working demonstrations and I loved it!! Wyatt could not get over how stinky they were, because dang, foxes stink y’all. Very musky. We also got to see Clementine and learn about box turtles!

What a great place to work!

After our tour we shopped, and since we were the only people there, had the shop to ourselves which was neat too. We picked a few souvenirs for ourselves and then for our four nieces as well.

Overall, this was 100% worth the effort and money spent, even if Wyatt did not get the “full experience”. He was just so very overstimulated and excited I think by being there, but it is still an experience he will remember forever, his vacation with the wolves. Billy and I got a lot out of the tour, which was amazing and I highly highly recommend booking the private tour if you are visiting, especially if you are driving a distance to get there. If we lived in the area, this is a place that we would visit all the time and probably visit for all the fun different events they have, like the upcoming picnic and the more seasonal holiday type events, as well as the howls.

The staff was amazing, from start to finish, including when I was emailing back and forth to ask about accommodations for Wyatt, rescheduling, and then finalizing our reservations. Just a great all around experience!!!

You can see the wolves and other ambassadors here, and then explore the website for more information, because if you are a wolf lover, or know one, then this place is a definite must visit!

You can read about the first part of our trip here.


Mini-Trip: Part 1

This weekend was a blur – we were on the move! We took a quick road trip to Indiana, with a special destination in mind – Wolf Park!

Our journey started though with a blur of farm country out the car window, as we hit the road and drove the four hours or so to where we were staying. However, we did make a stop halfway through our drive, in Fort Wayne.

My late stepfather was born and lived in Fort Wayne, and although he moved away to Michigan as a young boy, he was a Hoosier in his heart forever. His love for Indiana, his home state was deep and he loved going back to visit family and to explore his beloved Indiana. So our visit was special for me as well, like a connection to my stepdad.

We had planned to spend a little more time than we did in Fort Wayne, but ended up just hitting our main goal – to see the Johnny Appleseed gravesite. Our family holds John Chapman as one of our favorite historical heroes, for his way of life, respecting nature, making peace where there is war, sharing what you have. (although he did have some strange religious views that I discovered when researching him). So, when we learned we would be near where he is buried we thought we would make a stop.

It was quite a lovely and peaceful spot, on top of a hill by a park. The other side is a giant arena so maybe not so much when that is in use but time moves on I guess. But when we were there it was quiet and peaceful.

Then we got back in the car and made a choice – mess about in Ft Wayne a bit longer or get the rest of the drive over with. And we opted to get to our Airbnb, and get settled. So we hit the road, again! We arrived to our Airbnb about an hour and a half later. I love an Airbnb. I feel like it gives Wyatt a lot more freedom, with more space to move and get his energy out, especially after being cooped up in the car, and because he can be loud if he wants. That being said, you never know where you will end up sometimes, neighborhood-wise or city wise even at times, unless you know right where you are going. I tend to focus on what the house itself looks like in the photos, how it is set up, if it looks clean, and also I look at the reviews and rating. So the house we ended up at was super cute and clean and tidy and it appeared to be in a small town that was experiencing some revitalization which is awesome. The house we were at was completely refurbished and updated, comfortable, tidy, with seriously the most comfortable bed we have all laid in ever. And since it was vacation, we often chose to be super lazy and lay in bed and watch television instead of hanging out in the living space. Because why not?

The next day we had some different options for our day. We had our wolf howl in the evening and we had to be there by 6:45 and it was an hour from our rental, so we had to keep that in mind, that we had a two hour round trip drive in the evening. So did we want to spend the day driving to different places, or stay local and have a more chill day? We decided it would be best for Wyatt to have a chill day and not wear the kid out before the wolf howl, so we explored the local area and had a very relaxed and fun day.

It was free comic book day as well! We found a nearby comic book store that Wyatt could get his free comics, and then explored the rest of the city as well. We were in Kokomo, Indiana, and it was a cute little town with a quirky little vibe, with “Geek Street” and art alley. Geek Street was a fun stop. We stopped at the comic book store, Comics Cubed, picked up Wyatt’s free comic, and purchased their souvenir pin while we were there as well. Then we headed next door to Kokomo Toys and Collectibles, which is massive and if you are any kind of toy collector this would be a mecca to head to! SOOOOOOOO many Funko Pops! It was unreal. Mermaid Girl’s head would have exploded in there since she does like to collect them. And there were literally hundreds! Wyatt however, found a different something that he loved. A tiny collectible Bob Ross! He LOVES Bob Ross and that was his pick. I was happy we found that there, because we had considered heading to the Bob Ross Experience in Muncie, an hour south, to tour the Joy of Painting set but ruled it out due to the driving and Wyatt’s tolerance for being in the car another day all day, especially since we were going to be at least 5 hours in the car the next day. Maybe another trip to Indiana we can do that.

From there we headed to Chapter 2 Books, a simply beautiful used book store! It smelled good, like wood, and that is due to the fact that it is in fact, all designed from fresh wood. It was so pretty in there! The shop keeper was super nice, and… there was a store cat named Nancy Drew! She was beautiful as well. We ended up getting a book to read together later this year, in October, and the shopkeeper gave Wyatt a Pete the Cat pin as well, and some stickers from The House in the Cerulean Sea, which I certainly appreciated. LOL.

We continued to poke around, visiting a crystal shop where I picked up a strawberry quartz because I liked the name and it was pretty, and a jasper arrowhead for our nature cabinet. Then we grabbed a pizza from Pizza Co. to take back to the rental for a late lunch, early dinner. It was completely handmade, and it was delicious. We have a tradition of trying to find a non-chain pizza place to get a pizza from on vacations so this one was a happy find!

After our afternoon of exploring and pigging out on pizza, we took a quick little disco nap before we had to get ready for our wolf howl! Tomorrow, I will talk all about the wolves…. but let me tell you, it was awesome!