Thursday, August 25, 2011

Worth the Trek

Last week a couple of my fellow zoo staff from the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater took a trip to visit our sister facility, Northwest Trek, in Eatonville. It's a bit of a commute, but the drive is immeasurably more pleasant with good company. 

The forested grounds at the wildlife park provided just the right amount of dappled shade for the warm August day, and despite the high attendance, Trek's wide pathways and spacious viewing areas felt open and uncrowded. First we strolled through Cat Country where a lynx quietly stalked something (imagined) and the most active event at the cougar exhibit was a yawn and a stretch. But what a yawn! The coyotes trotted around to greet us, as did a red fox, but the wolves just eyed us lazily from atop their comfortable napping spots.

At the grizzly bear exhibit, we stood wide-eyed with mouths agape as the two bears snarled and swatted each other, one warning the other to back off from his den. I managed to capture a bit of this display on video.

Next it was time for our tram tour. Our tram was immediately greeted by a female caribou, who tagged along for the first few minutes of the ride, running alongside the tram cars. We also spotted all of the big horn sheep, (including the lambs frolicking!) the mountain goats, the elk herd from a distance, the dozy-looking bison herd and many smaller creatures such as swans, sand hill cranes and pond turtles.

 The highlight though, was seeing the sometimes elusive moose lounging right by the tram road!

Of course, I couldn't resist lingering at the bird of prey exhibits; the barn owls posed especially nicely in their faux barn habitat.

In the wetlands area of the park we saw snoozing porcupines, a sunning badger, and a very active wolverine. While we watched the wolverine bouncing around her enclosure, a man behind us declared, "Nasty animal!" My companions and I audibly gasped. The wolverine gets a bad reputation; they are fascinating, playful, intelligent and anything but nasty!

To wrap up our wetlands experience we were greeted by a curious fisher who sat perched on the end of a log just in front of our viewing area. If he could have spoken, I think he'd have given us a guided tour. We also came nose to nose with a raccoon, bobbed along with a beaver and witnessed an otter playing with a wreath of twigs the keepers had given him.

We also took a peek inside the Cheney Discovery Center where we were probably way more interested in the Western Toad than your average zoo-goer. But it was so fat and round!

After seeing all of the exhibit animals, we still weren't quite finished with Northwest Trek. Our last stop was the trailside encounter, led by two seasonal employees. This presentation featured a young beaver who walked (and swam) on a harness. she demonstrated several behaviors on cue, including grooming and opening her mouth to show her teeth. In addition to the sheer entertainment of watching a beaver swim, waddle, and chew on twigs, the trailside encounter offered an educational element. Questions like, "do they eat fish and aren't beavers mean, revealed visitors' ignorance regarding beavers, but the presenters handled all the questions in an engaging, conversational manner that held the audience's attention while dispelling myths and providing interesting information.

If you're looking for a place to take the family before school starts up, a place to take that special someone on an outing, or want an alternative to your usual weekend in front of the TV, visit Northwest Trek!


  1. Yes, but the real question is...where are the dinosaurs?

    I haven't to been to NW Trek, but have been up to Olympic Game Farm near Port Angeles. It's so cool! Perhaps when my nieces and nephew are out to visit I'll take them on a trek :-)