30 July 2014

A Forest Oasis

By this point in the vast knowledgebase that contains the history of Walt Disney World, we have all heard of the railroad that ran through Fort Wilderness once upon a time. The railroad, which ran regularly from 1973 through 1977, has been a memory of the bygone days for several decades. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t enough photographs and postcards out there to keep our appetite for the stream train through the wilderness satiated.

One thing that we don’t see very often is the tickets that booked a guest’s passage aboard the train. Mickey conducting the train in his Davy Crockett outfit is the perfect symbol of all things Fort Wilderness in the 1970’s. And that price? .50 cents for the round trip! What wouldn’t we pay in this day and age to have that opportunity one last time.

29 July 2014

No. 92

When you venture on down the Sassagoula River, you’ll pass the stately manor houses of Magnolia Bend and get swampy area known as Alligator Bayou. The manicured lawns give way to drooping moss hanging from timeworn pines. This is where the earthy homes of Port Orleans – Riverside have long resided. Inside each room the accommodations are furnished with some of the findings they have acquired from up the river. Everything from crates to washboards adorn the rooms.

The washboard, utilized as part of the d├ęcor of the hand-washing basin, has a lot to say about the area’s history.

The quickest reference to catch is the washboard being known as No. 92. This is a direct reference to the year in which Port Orleans – Riverside, then known as Dixie Landings, opened, 1992.

The Acadian Company listing on the washboard is a nod to the much richer history of Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. As the story goes, two brothers came down from Port Orleans seeking to make their own ways in the world. Everette, the more solitary of the two brothers, made his home in Alligator Bayou. Meanwhile Colonel J.C. Pearce, Everette’s brother, constructed the mill that brought industrial life to the area. Once he had amassed an impressive fortune, the Colonel decided he needed an antebellum home that matched his stature in the community. Nestled among one of the many crooks in the Sassagoula, the collection of estates would commonly be referred to as Magnolia Bend, with the Colonel’s manor being named Acadian House.

All that history crammed into just two little lines on a washboard. It’s amazing where you’ll find your Disney history!

23 July 2014

Rain from the Past

Listen to the Land is a song that has stood the test of time with anyone who has ever heard it, regardless of whether or not you visited EPCOT Center prior to the attractions overhaul in 1993. For those that remember the original boat ride through the greenhouses of The Land, the opening segment known as Symphony of the Seed had lasting effects. From the oversized vines, fruits, and vegetables, to the lights that ran through them, Symphony of the Seed sought to simulate the life of the plants and how they grew.

1993 saw the removal of Symphony of the Seed and was replaced with Rain from the Past. While not as flashy or on the nose as Symphony of the Seed, the rain scene talks about how weather is a new beginning for plant life. With the rain washing away the loose dirt guests view the root systems of the trees and Living with the Land is able to discuss how those roots work to absorb nutrients and water to continue the growth cycle.

This concept art for Living with the Land shows the volatility of the storm. Exposed roots, rushing flood waters, and copious amount of rain being driven down by the winds are all present here. The rushing waters and exposed roots may have been built into the landscape of the attraction, but completing the torrential rains meant carefully placing and angling wires that could catch timed bursts of light. It’s a simple and time-tested effect, but it never ceases to impress me. If you ask me, Rain from the Past is simply the evolution of Symphony of the Seed.

21 July 2014

No Boots on the Table, Please

When you think of the Pioneer Hall area of Fort Wilderness, in particular the food that is available in the various restaurants, more often than not we all think of fried chicken. To be sure, this is the marquee attraction for Hoop Dee Doo and Trail’s End, but it also isn’t something that is easy to recreate at home. Today, let’s look at a recipe that allows you to bring a little bit of Pioneer Hall into your home, the Pork Rib Rub.

A couple of notes before we start, while Pioneer Hall utilizes this rub for ribs, it is also recommended for chicken, pork chops, and smoked pork butts. The Pork Rib Rub yields 3 cups of rub, or enough to cover 4 full racks of ribs.



1 ¾ Cups Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Paprika
¼ Cup Granulated Onion
2 Tablespoons Coarse Salt
2 Tablespoons Dried Marjoram
3 ½ Teaspoons Chili Powder
3 ½ Teaspoons Black Pepper
2 ½ Teaspoons Dried Thyme
2 ½ Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 ½ Teaspoons Cumin Powder
1 ½ Teaspoons Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¾ Teaspoon Dry Mustard
¾ Teaspoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Celery Salt


Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well
Store in airtight container for up to six weeks

To give the rub a taste test, I opted for a smoked pork butt that smoked with apple wood. I applied the rub the night before giving the pork time to absorb the flavors and then smoked it over a period of about 8 hours.

There is a definite heat present throughout the flavor of the meat from the Pork Rib Rub, but there are also some zinging flavors from the ginger and mustard, along with hints of sweet from the sugar that quickly forms a glaze on the meat. Overall, this rub gives an excellent range of flavors to the pork, really amps up the dish in a simple fashion.

While the rub is easy to put together, apply to meats, and adds a wealth of tastes to the meal, it does have one drawback, the ingredients. Nothing here is hard to find, in fact they should all be located in the spice section of your local grocery store, but the need for fifteen ingredients means that the rub is going to cost quite a bit up front. That said, as some of the portions are minor, repeated rub creation shouldn’t be as expensive as you will only need to purchase a couple of items.

Some of my fondest memories of Fort Wilderness had to do with sitting at my campsite around the charcoal grill, barbecuing something for dinner with my dad. The Pioneer Hall Pork Rib Rub reminds me of all of the simpler pleasures Fort Wilderness has presented us with over the past 40-plus years, and it also makes for one heck of a barbecue!

15 July 2014

The Wild Slide

Last week on the Disney Parks Blog, Nate Rasmussen had a great glimpse back looking at a pair of construction and attraction photos from Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach Water Parks. It got me thinking of the original Vacation Kingdom spot to cool down during the high heat of summer, River Country.

Here’s a great overhead shot of Whoop-‘N-Holler Hollow, River Country main attraction, with guests and Goofy twisting and turning their way down to the swimmin’ hole below. Of course, River Country was more than a one trick pony, and you can see lots of great moments further on back in this photograph. There’s volleyball taking place in the water, the Cypress Point Trail that ran along the shores of Bay Lake and through the willows and cypresses, the tire swing, rope climb, and, of course, picnic areas.  My personal favorite is also here, the Cable Ride, aka the zip line. How long were you able to hold on as you raced across the all-natural pool before you took a plunge into the cold water below?

There were a lot of great things happening at River Country that can’t be seen here. Attractions such as the Boom Swing, White Water Rapids, Kiddie Cove, Slippery Slide Falls, and Upstream Plunge each had their own fans that couldn’t wait to visit their favorite corner of the swimmin’ hole. I don’t know about you, but my favorite place to swim back home, never quite cut it once I had my first taste of Fort Wilderness’ version!