Special thanks to Allen for sending these pictures along for us to share. We enjoy hearing from our readers, and welcome you to send your travel stories through our Share Your Travels page. Your contributions help make UndiscoveredWanderings possible.
We couldn’t have made this one up if we tried. Then again, we haven’t been to Key West, Florida yet. But who would guess that the place is overrun by rogue chickens?! OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but the local wildlife is definitely offbeat and very much apart of life in Key West. These wild birds roam the streets, hang out in trees, and make their daily rounds through alleyways and gardens, usually looking for–and receiving–handouts (personally, we don’t recommend feeding them). Guess the alarm clock industry isn’t much of a thing in Key West; there’s plenty of roosters who are happy to do the job.
And we thought runaway iguanas were bizarre and a “Florida thing”. Apparently they play with the chickens, too. So if you’re planning a trip to the Keys, be prepared to be welcomed by everyone and everything. They’re quite popular with tourists.
Life in Key West, we hear, is pretty relaxing. The local wildlife agrees.
A very special thank you to Seneca White Deer, Inc., the nonprofit that works tirelessly to preserve this piece of nature and wildlife, and who are responsible for organizing these white deer tours. The people working for Seneca White Deer were amazingly helpful to UWanderings as we got to know the history of the Seneca Army Depot and see the furry critters that call this place home.
Our recent trip to see this elusive white deer population was nothing short of amazing. This is the world’s largest population of white deer. They aren’t mutants, they aren’t albinos…they’re actually just white tailed deer. But they’ve been enclosed in a 10,000 acre compound for almost 80 years, relatively undisturbed, so they’ve had a chance to breed and pass on this rare, recessive gene that makes them primarily white in color without too much in the way of natural predators.
The site of the white deer is also of major historical significance. They live on what used to be the Seneca Army Depot, a munitions depot built by the U.S. Army in the summer of 1941—in anticipation of America’s likely looming involvement in World War II. Though useful for the war effort, the construction of this giant project came at a sad cost: over 100 families–many farmers–were given short notice to vacate. In other words, they were evicted and poorly compensated. The remains of some foundations are still visible today. However, the end of the Second World War didn’t mean the Depot was obsolete. The Cold War was just heating up, and this place was anything but redundant.
The Seneca Army Depot, or “the Depot”, as it was locally known, was a large repository of Cold War era weapons when it was still active. But the absolute secrecy of the place, coupled with the government barely acknowledging its existence in the first place, contributed to its mysterious nature and an uncomfortable level of anxiety by the community. It was Upstate New York’s Area 51.
Officially, the U.S. government kept a tight lid on the Depot’s inventory—and what went on there—by confirming nothing. But it was widely believed that aside from traditional munitions like bullets and artillery, the Depot was also home to a fairly large stockpile of nuclear weapons, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world at a moments’ notice. And because of the perceived nuclear inventory, it was also thought that the Seneca Army Depot was a top target on the Soviet hit list in the event of a nuclear exchange, so the site was not without controversy.
The secrecy and denial by Uncle Sam didn’t stop the countless anti-nuclear weapons protesters from demonstrating right outside its gates over the years, with many getting arrested for disrupting operations or even trying to break in by scaling the fence. There was even a well known group of anti-war women who continuously camped out adjacent to the Depot grounds so as to permanently remind the U.S. government that not everyone was comfortable with having nukes in their backyards.
Despite the mysteries that went on behind the fence, the white deer well known due to their occasional appearances at the border fence for passersby. The deer were protected by the soldiers that were based there, thanks to an early base commander who, in 1949, saw the first white deer on the Depot grounds and ordered all personnel to leave them alone. They were not to be hunted or bothered. The orders stood for the rest of the time the Depot operated. They even become an unofficial mascot of the Depot and the people who worked there. Now that the base is inactive, declassified, and in private hands, locals are flocking to see these white deer up close and, because it was forbidden for so long, the base itself.
This tour was awesome, not just because of the deer, but also because of all the other wildlife we saw. It’s a virtual nature preserve. Osprey, eagles, beavers, wild turkeys, turkey vultures…and so much more. And of course, there’s plenty of normal colored deer with fluffy white tails. They’re actually pretty cute.
Part of the fun with this tour is keeping a keen eye on the scenery to spot the white deer. Sometimes they’re obvious; other times, you have to intently look around as the bus moves through the terrain, so don’t be shy about shouting out “There’s one!”, at which point the bus will stop or back up so everyone can get a better view. You can really get into it. On the cold, overcast day we visited, the deer weren’t in the mood to come right up to our bus, as they sometimes do, but the sparse spring foliage made them easy to spot through the trees. But they moved fast, so our photography was a little shaky.
Although there are some small developments here and there, most of the former Depot is still either wild nature or nature that’s slowly reclaiming the land from manmade structures, which gives the whole base a sort of zombie apocalypse vibe. And since Zombies are cool right now, that definitely makes this tour much more interesting. For all the military buffs out there, there are over 500 weapons storage bunkers, otherwise known as igloos, that still stand to this day. Talk about Cold War relics. We even got to go inside one. It was pretty cool–check out the video above for more on that.
Seneca White Deer has been running these tours for about six months now, and they’re catching on fast. Since people from all over the world visit the Finger Lakes region for the wine, it’s only a matter of time before they come to see the deer, too. White deer simply don’t exist in such large numbers anywhere else in the world.
It’s human nature to explore things that are rare and unusual. Perfect for us, perfect for the curious travelers out there like you.
So we welcome you to join us as we discover the white deer of the Finger Lakes, and do be sure visit for yourself someday. The deer will be here to say “hi.”
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If you’re looking for scenery and wildlife, this is it!
Antelope Island State Park, about an hour drive from Salt Lake City, makes for a good day trip. Your drive out there will treat you to an outstanding view of the Great Salt Lake as you cruise along Antelope Island Road, just off I-15. Odd that the drive reminded us of cruising the causeways of South Florida, but in fact nothing could be more opposite.
As you cruise around the Park roads, you’ll notice the wildlife is hard to miss. Although named for the antelope, you’ll probably see more bison. Lots of them.
A simple $10 entrance fee will let you in, then you’re free to explore. Perfect for a cool down on a hot Salt Lake City day. We recommend checking the link below for current Park conditions before visiting.
A UWanderings Reader Shares Her Perspective on Hiking and Dating
A very special thanks to one of our readers, Sally Perkins, who graciously offered her insights into combining hiking and dating. Sally is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible. Sally also writes for Backpackerverse. You can read her other article about prepping for a hike by clicking the link immediately following this article. As she explained to us:
“Whether it’s a first date or a wedding anniversary, hiking can be a wonderfully romantic way to spend time with someone…”
Sally was kind enough to share her thoughts about hiking and dating from a woman’s perspective, and today offers suggestions for those in the Bay Area and SoCal. Pay attention, guys! Since we’ve covered a lot of California lately, and since summer’s around the corner, her contribution couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you, Sally!
Two Hiking Trails That Know What a Lady Wants—By Sally Perkins
Cute animals, wine, and a romantic hike – it doesn’t take an expert on women to know that these are the elements of a perfect date. With its extraordinary wildlife, vast wineries, and gorgeous scenery, California is the perfect state for a date spot. Here are two different hiking trails in the sunny state that will put you up close with animals, nature, and wine to create the perfect romantic date for any couple.
Freemont Older Open Space Preserve
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A 763-acre open space preserve, Freemont Older is the perfect destination for a romantic hike. With incredible views of the oak studded hillsides of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Freemont Older is home to many native animals such as bobcats, coyotes, deer, and bird species. If these animals aren’t cute enough to make your date say “Aww”, the horses of the park are sure to. The preserve borders the Garrod Farm Stables to give you and your date an up close and personal experience with some of their horses. You can even ride one through the trails if you’d prefer.
Regardless of whether you hike on two feet, or are assisted by a four-legged friend, you will start the trail in the Cooper Garrod Estate Vineyards parking lot and end in the tasting room. The grand finale will have you tasting their wine and even munching on a mini buffet. Wine, horses, food, and romantic views – What more could a girl want?
Located in Malibu, California, just thirty minutes from Los Angeles, you and your date can sign up for a hike through the Malibu Vineyard and Saddlerock Ranch for a day filled with precious animals, breathtaking scenery, delicious wine, and ultimately romance. You can choose between a group hike or a private hike to fit your needs. The 2.5-mile hike is classified as an easy to moderate hike and will take you about two hours to complete. Therefore, you should wear clothing that is comfortable to do a light workout in, and make sure you have proper footwear as closed-toed shoes are mandatory.
Your romantic hiking trip will take you through the Saddlerock Ranch where you can meet the animals that live there. These exotic animals include zebras, camels, alpacas, and bison. You can even meet Hollywood’s retired superstar, Stanley the Giraffe. As part of your hike, you can feed Stanley and maybe even ask for his autograph. After you’ve worked up a sweat on your hike, you will go to the Malibu Wine Tasting Room to taste a flight of five different wines. Grab a spot on the lawn or pull up a chair at a table to enjoy the beautiful wine, weather, and scenery.
From animals to wine, and incredible scenery, these hikes will be sure to have your women falling in love with the area, and ultimately, falling in love with you.
Even We Had Trouble Finding This Place, But That’s the Point.
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Far into the wilds of Northern California lies a place where the fish thrive and people can live as one with nature. UW found this fishing paradise on accident after a chance encounter with one of the managers. And we really lucked out.
We ventured to Northern California to see the real Northern California–you know, the one that’s a few hundred miles north of San Francisco. Yeah, that one. Located in Klamath, about 40 miles from Oregon, Gold River Lodge offers true fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts a piece of nature difficult to find these days.
For the fishing aficionados, this is the place you need to be. Perfect for a weekend getaway in a comfy lodge with a scenic view. Or you can bring your RV there if you’d like–they’ve got plenty of parking. But the best part is, Gold River Lodge does everything for you. It’s not BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) here…they’ll take care of that, plus tailor a trip and fishing packages just for you.