Spring Break Adventures: Part 1 of 2: The Wildlife Sites

road trip

Spring Break was kind of a big deal for the RoloPolo’s this year and I have decided to share some of it with you, my RoloPolians.  My daughter and I never, ever have the same spring break but this year we did so we decided to hop in the car and check out some cool stuff in the Tyler, Texas area.  Without further ado, here is just a bit of what we did and where we went.

My daughter LOVES big cats and this stop was high on our list of interests.  We spent two hours on the site and were so pleased to get to speak with the staff about the animals they care for.  Though Tiger Creek is primarily devoted to tigers, they do have a variety of other big cats including pumas, bob cats and, lions.  Below are a few of the pictures we took while visiting 🙂

Stop #1

Contact Info: Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, 17552 FM 14 Tyler, Texas 75706 Phone: 903-858-1008
Contact Info:
Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, 17552 FM 14
Tyler, Texas 75706
Phone: 903-858-1008

Tiger Creek Wildlife Rescue

DSC00437Left: Juda was kind enough to take a break from napping so we could photograph him. When he came to Tiger Creek, his previous owner’s only wish was that he be allowed to live out his days with a lady friend. He does, though according to the staff, the lioness rarely helps him keeps his mane clean and groomed 🙂  Right: This pair of tigers are DSCN1644one-year-old brother and sister, Mustang (white female) and Ban.  The morning we visited was clear and chilly so the kids put on quite a show.  We spent a good half hour watching them play and fight over a pumpkin; typical kids, there were two pumpkins but they only wanted one of themWithin the next year, the two will have to be separated as tigers are generally very solitary and territorial.  Mustang is by far the most dominant of the two – she kicked butt!!


 Stop #2

Contact Info: Cherokee Trace, 1200 CR 4405, Jacksonville, TX 75766 Ph: 903-683-3322 Email - contact@cherokeetrace.com GPS Coordinates: 31.916252, -95.044913
Contact Info:
Cherokee Trace, 1200 CR 4405, Jacksonville, TX 75766
Ph: 903-683-3322
Email – contact@cherokeetrace.com
GPS Coordinates:
31.916252, -95.044913

 Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari

Holy cats was this a fun stop on our grand tour!! I won’t lie, it is a tiny bit expensive but in the end, well worth the money spent.  In fact, along with Tiger Creek (above) we are going to re-visit this site later next week.  🙂  Just like the sign says, it is a drive-thru tour and you get a “menu” of all the animals housed on the site so you can identify exactly what animals you are seeing, feeding and, enjoying.  My daughter LOVED this, especially the feeding part.  Most of the images below didn’t even require my zoom lens – you are all up in the action here.

DSC00615Left #1: I love donkeys and there is no logical explanation for this.  They are cute as can be and I really wish I had had the opportunity to pet one but petting is frowned upon – BOO!  Right #1: The camel!!!  Yes, they have a camel and sheCamel appears to be smiling.  According to the staff, she is quite friendly and if you call her by name, she will totally come say hello; we didn’t learn her name until far too late to try it out.  Left #2: This is a watusi (not to be confused with the dance) and they are very curious and friendly creatures.  This one is particular took the opportunity to stick his/her (?) nose right inside the window and give me a good lick.  Clearly, my daughter thought this was hysterical.

DSC00624Right #2: The zebras.  Let’s be fair, what kind of safari place would they really be without having a herd of zebras.  I can honestly say this is the closest I have ever been to a zebra and Piper adores them so we made sure they saw that she was the one with the food and not me.  As you can see, they came right up to her DSC00640 window and were in no way shy about saying hello.  She giggled, a lot 🙂  Left #3: This is a Scottish breed of cattle and before the safari tour I had never seen nor heard of this breed.  According to the “menu” they are very adaptable, very docile and no longer solely in Scotland.  They are rather short and cute as can be.  This is one of the last animals we saw before exiting the site.DSC00653

The site is very clean, it isn’t smelly at all and the animals are very clearly well cared for.  It is very tempting to open your door or reach out to pet one of these animals but they are still wild and most are far larger than the average human.  Piper and I were reminded of that on the way out when we saw a bison standing next too a PT Cruiser.  Holy furry creatures, Batman that animal is massive.  Take a look for yourself 🙂


Stop #3


East Texas Gators and Wildlife Park

DSC00551This was a totally unexpected stop on our trip and one my daughter loved.  You see, she thinks snakes are about the coolest thing on earth – behind cheetahs, of course – and she was thrilled to see all the snakes and was even allowed to hold two.  Let me be clear, I HATE snakes and nothing good ever comes from being around one so I totally wimped out and stood far, far away while my kid held two snakes.  Yep, mom of the year, right here 🙂 

Piper watches a LOT of non-fiction/documentary shows about animals and is basically a walking encyclopedia of wildlifeDSC00555 knowledge.  It’s totally cool and she told me all kinds of interesting facts about the animals we saw but, there is a down side to all the knowledge.  With the exception of the weird lizard, Piper refused to allow any animal’s head near her because, and I quote, “They strike really fast!”  On the left, she is wrapped up in an albino python, to the right is the weird lizard and, below is the California King Snake.  Yes, I was totally freaking out the whole time. 



 Stop #4

img122Brookshire’s World of Wildlife Museum

DSC00591This was one of our last stops before heading home and it was OK if I am being totally honest.  The site is basically a really big display of stuffed animals that the Brookshire’s acquired during three African safari’s.  Their intention was to bring some of the wild to the city and they set up the museum to DSC00600educate and entertain.  It is free to get in, they have some really beautiful creatures, a replica of an old country store, a gift shop with loads of old-school candies and, three separate playgrounds.  Yes, my daughter was all about the playgrounds 🙂

Stop #5

Contact Info:  2203 Martin Luther King Blvd. Tyler, TX 75702 (903) 593-0121 info@caldwellzoo.org
Contact Info:
2203 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Tyler, TX 75702
(903) 593-0121

Caldwell Zoo

How can you not love the zoo, right??  We discovered the Caldwell Zoo several years ago and it quickly became one of our favorite zoos.  One of the primary reasons I love this zoo so much is because they have penguins and puffins.  While I know this sounds ridiculous and you are thinking “Most zoos have penguins and puffins!”, the zoo I live closest to, does not.  We live outside of Houston and our ginormous zoo doesn’t have any cold weather creatures and I adore puffins.  Also on the list of why I love the Caldwell Zoo is its size.  Caldwell is not a large zoo but is a place that has really made the most out of what they have – we walked the entire zoo circuit twice on this trip!!  Below are just a few of the bajillion pictures we took during our latest visit.

DSCN1560Left and Right #1: The BIRDS!!!  While I am not generally the biggest bird-lover, I do DSC00363appreciate a beautiful and naughty bird.  All of the birds like this are in open habitats and easily seen.  They are gorgeous but every one of the signs in their area clearly say “We Bite!”  It makes me giggle every single time 🙂 

Left and Right #2: That gorgeous bald eagle is also in an open habitat simply because he is unable to fly.  Both of Caldwell’s bad eagles were injured to the point they can no longer fly which would essentially mark them for dead in the wild.  Caldwell is DSC00372super-proud of their rescue efforts and though I am certainly no veterinarian, even I can see that both birds are healthy and well cared for.  Piper’s class spent time studying American symbols in Social Studies this year so she was full of bald eagle information 🙂  The big cat you see lounging around was in that EXACT spot both times we DSC00373passed by his/her habitat.  Piper and I both joked that no matter how big the kitty, they do love their naps. 

Left and Right #3: Piper’s very favorite land animal – and yes, she is that specific about it – is the DSC00403cheetah.  There is nothing my little doesn’t know about cheetahs and she is very ready to share her knowledge with everyone!!  Case in point: the Caldwell also has a Serval which looks like a small cheetah.  Piper heard some kid very excitedly mention the little cheetah he saw and Piper literally yells across the way “It’s a Serval NOT a cheetah!”  Yes, it was a proud moment for me.  Though the actual cheetah didn’t get up and roam around while we were visiting, I did manage to get a quick shot of Piper watching her DSC00386favorite kitty.  On the right is one my favorite creatures, the crocodile.  I have no idea why I like these guys (and alligators) so much but I do and I take loads of pictures of them.  I guess I figure anything that has been on this earth as long as alligators and crocs have deserve a little down time and a lot of respect.  I am also fascinated by the whole Death Roll thing 🙂

Alas, we come to the end of Part 1 of the RoloPolo Spring Break Adventures.  Piper and I spent four days in the Tyler area and that means we had to have a place to spend the night.  On a whim, I booked a bed and breakfast and it turned out to be a fantastic location.  The owners were delightful and very knowledgeable about the area.  In fact, we had only planned on visiting four sites over the course of the four days but because of the B & B owners, we worked in eleven different sites!!  Below is a picture of the B & B and their contact info. 

Dogwood Hills Bed & Breakfast:  Dogwood Hill, LLC.  18317 County Road 322 Tyler, Texas 75706-2203 Phone: 903-858-1018  E-mail: thechandlers@dogwoodhillbandb.com
Dogwood Hills Bed & Breakfast:
Dogwood Hill, LLC.
18317 County Road 322
Tyler, Texas 75706-2203
Phone: 903-858-1018
E-mail: thechandlers@dogwoodhillbandb.com

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