03 May 2010

Instant relief

Last week, we vaulted back and forth between the various incarnations of Fort Wilderness’ nature trail. Throughout the week I kept thinking back to the days I have spent wandering through there, both in my youth and in my adult life. If I am honest with myself, and know that I am only speaking from my opinion, there is no single resort on Walt Disney World property where you can spend more time relaxing, and for more of a value, than Fort Wilderness.

For the past several years, during my annual solo research trips, I have made a point to take off one afternoon and evening towards the middle-end of my trip and spend it wandering through Fort Wilderness. What, you might ask, could I do to take up all that time? Here’s a typical afternoon.

For starters, you could take one of the three inner-resort transportation lines, but the more leisurely and historical journey takes good old fashioned foot power. From the front check-in, known as the Outpost, to Bay Lake/Settlement is, approximately, a little more than a mile. With that knowledge in mind, an afternoon stroll through the campground is not a strenuous as it sounds. On the first leg of the trip, between the Outpost and Meadow, you can pause to find rotting borders around trees, trees that once lined the railway of the Fort Wilderness Railroad.Along the way the raised railroad bed of the former line can be seen, but for a more substantial reminder of the campground’s transportation history we’ll stop in at the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool. The newly created splash area and waterslide use the former water tower from River Country with the symbol of the Fort Wilderness Railroad emblazoned on the side. Here, even without all of the water activities, you can have an ice cream, play an arcade game, or take a stroll over to the Meadow Trading Post for a game of checkers. As we move on, fear not we will be back to the Meadow area.Moving towards and through the Settlement, the paths become more tree-lined. Other intriguing trees can be seen along the nature trail, as previously discussed, as well as infamous Lawnmower Tree. Several years ago, as The Lawnmower Tree continued to envelope its lawnmower namesake, the tree was trimmed down to stop this process. Still, the lawnmower and its crafted history are intact.Spending time along the shores of Bay Lake can be some of the most relaxing moments of the day. First, however, stop in at Trail’s End Take Out. For my money, there is no better value than The Lone Rider, a boxed meal containing two pieces of chicken (white meat only is an option for a bit more), two sides (choices between coleslaw, French fries, cowboy beans, mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese), and the option of a biscuit or cornbread. Grabbing a drink and the to-go meal, a few steps back to Bay Lake and a tasty meal can be consumed against a backdrop of waves lapping on the shore, a distant view of the remnants of River County and Discovery Island, and the sun setting over the towering trees in the distance.As evening begins to creep in, the time has come to venture back to the Meadow and the Campfire Show. Arrive before the fires have been set and you can watch the mass of children romping in the grass behind the stage and screen. As a quick aside, thinking back to my own formative years here, it is nice to see that some things, such as children creating their own games and running around barefoot, never change. Once the fires are lit, the after dinner fare of roasted marshmallows and s’mores is a staple. If you don’t happen to have the basic essentials for roasting over the fire, the chuckwagon at the back of the amphitheater has kits available, and larger portions can be found down the way at the Meadow Trading Post. The Campfire Show, hosted by the guitar and banjo extraordinaire Cowboy Anthony, features plenty of interactive songs along with meet and greets with Chip and Dale.As dusk gives way to night, most evenings will offer a choice that will need to be made. After the Campfire Sing-A-Long, there will be a Disney feature shown on the large outdoor screen under the stars. Usually, staying for the film will mean giving up heading back to Bay Lake. Back and forth once again, but why would we want to head back to Bay Lake? Because the furthest shores of Fort Wilderness offer a uniquely spectacular view of Wishes as well as a prime location to behold the Electrical Water Pageant.With an afternoon and evening of relaxation, revitalization, good food, and entertainment coming to a close, it is time to hop on a bus back to the Outpost, or to the campsite. While the hustle and bustle of a day in Walt Disney World seems like the only way to spend a day, Fort Wilderness offers a perfectly peaceful way to waste away an evening, with the only investment required being time.


Rhonda in Chile said...

We are headed to FW for a few days between DVC stays. We are really looking forward to it.

I have a question. Can I used the Dining plan quick services credits at the To-go window at Trail's end?


Ryan P. Wilson said...

Rhonda, as of the last update to the dining plan's list only the buffet at Trail's End is part of the Dining Plan, and that is listed as a Table Service credit. I hope you have a great time exploring the Wilderness!