On one of our visits to the Wilderness Lodge, we saw a sign for a tour of the lodge beginning at 9:00 a.m. So on Tuesday, we took the boat over there, stopping at the Roaring Forks Cafe for a quick egg, bacon and cheese croissant. We stopped at the concierge to find out where we should go for the tour. Well, it turned out that the tour is only given on Wednesday through Sunday! Oh well, we hung out at the lodge for a bit, taking some more photos and watching the ducks paddling around the swimming pool! They certainly don’t seem to mind sharing the pool with humans!
We then returned back to Fort Wilderness and walked the Nature Trail. The trail starts at the marina – bikes and golf carts are not allowed although we found out from a couple that we were talking to later in the day, the hour long Segway tour does go down the trail. Later in the day, we took a bike ride, lounged around and then that night as mentioned in a previous post we walked down to the Electric Water Pageant.
On Wednesday, we got to do it all over again! We stopped at the Roaring Forks cafe again and had the same breakfast (cheapest thing on the menu). It was such a nice day out that we decided to sit outside and we were visited by a few uninvited guests! They didn’t seem to mind being around humans, in fact, they were nipping at our legs while we were eating. Guess they didn’t read the “Do Not Feed the Wildlife” sign!
After breakfast, we returned to the meeting place in the lobby where we were greeted by Ranger Jack shortly after 9:00 a.m. For over an hour, Ranger Jack explained all sorts of information about the Lodge. The lodge is a true representation of the attention to detail that is used on any Disney property. One benefit of taking the tour is that Ranger Jack took us into the Carolton Pacific Room which is tucked away in the Wilderness Villas building where we had never been before. That room was a mini-museum of art, photographs, replicas and actual artifacts from Walt’s steam train hobby and Disney World’s earliest years. Walt’s daughter donated two train cars from Walt’s own backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. He used to pull these cars behind his own American 4-4-0 engine, which was named “Lilly Belle” after his wife.
Some of the facts that we learned about during the tour:
- There are 35,000 people employed at Disney World during off peak season; 50,000 during peak season.
- Walt Disney died in 1964. He never saw his dream of Walt Disney World completed, construction began in 1966 and completed in 1971.
- The Wilderness Lodge has a mascot – the brown bear. When looking from the lake towards the lodge, the multi-peaked roof structure resembles the face of a bear. The two small peaks are the eyes, the large peak just below is the nose and the two wings are the paws.
- The wood in the 8 story atrium lobby is real except for the main support columns – 85 truckloads of lodgepole pine from a standing dead forest in Oregon were used in the construction. The support columns are reinforced concrete that mimic the appearance of real wood.
- There are two 7 story, 55 foot totems that are the sentinels of the lodge known as the Eagle Totem and the Raven totem, representing the lineage of the Native American tribes in the Northwest. The totems took over a year to complete.
- The 82 foot stone fireplace was built to mimic the rock strata of the Grand Canyon.
- Most of the rock in the interior (including the fireplace) and exterior of the Lodge is “Disney Rock” actually made of concrete and painted to look like real rock. However, notable exceptions are real slabs of flooring from geographic areas specific to the northwestern theme.
- The beautifully polished hardwood floors feature a design adapted from a Native American creation story and highlight four strikingly different types of wood, including pine, bird’s eye maple, and Brazilian cherry.
- The furniture in the hotel represents at least three different styles; Mission, Stickley and the other we can’t remember but it’s something along the lines of rustic western.
- The bubbling hot spring that starts in the lobby looks like it goes all the way down to the pool but it doesn’t. There are three separate water systems: one begins at the spring and ends at the walkway near the head of the pool, the second is the pool water, and the third feeds the geyser and goes out to the lake/bay.
- The Fire Rock geyser can shoot as high as 120 ft and mimics the geothermal sounds using compressed water and air. It’s control system also incorporates a wind sensing algorithm to ensure guests are not excessively doused on windy days.
There was so much more but who can remember it all! Guess we’ll have to go back again!
Just to give you a feel of the lobby, here’s a video followed by more photos:
And more photos: