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Let's go for a wild drive in the South Sound!

There's a new way to visit Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and help the park make up for $2 million in lost revenue. #k5evening

EATONVILLE, Wash. — We are driving, caravan style, in a guided tour of Northwest Trek's 435-acre free-roaming area when we hear naturalist Jessica Moore’s voice come over a phone app.

 “Fortunately for us and for the animals out here, there are no predators in the free-roaming area,” she says.

That's a relief! My son Cooper has a camera in the backseat. He's trying to get a shot of a jogging buffalo in the same frame as a young deer.

It’s a different kind of experience that requires hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Most of the time.

“It is a little bit challenging,” Moore admits. “It's unlike what most people have done before in maneuvering your own vehicle potentially through herds of bison, around interesting curves in different habitats, but we go nice and slow and we want to make sure everybody is safe and comfortable.”

As we approach a swampy area, Moore suggests we roll our windows down.

“You can hear bird songs and frog calls,” she says,  “animal sounds that you wouldn't normally be able to hear on an 80 passenger tram,”.

Our approach sometimes sends animals scattering away to a safe distance. And sometimes, like in the case of a giant buffalo, they don't move at all. There were stretches when we didn't see much, but the last ten minutes of the ride were very busy.

Credit: Cooper Bryan
A solitary buffalo stands in a NW Trek field

“You can have your windows down,” says Moore. “You can enjoy the sights the sounds the smells of nature around you and get to look for animals like bison, big horn sheep, mountain goats, moose, elk, deer and caribou.”

No bears wolves or cougars though. They're here but off limits until NW Trek opens fully. That may happen when Pierce County gets approval to move into Phase Two.

Until then, if you really need to add some wild to your life, consider going for a drive.

“Our guests are telling us that this is just what they needed,” says Moore. “An opportunity to get out of the house, engage with their families in a way that's away from screens, and feel safe but still have an opportunity to have fun.”

NW Trek's "Wild Drives" tours cost between 70 and 80 dollars per vehicle. They're already sold out through the end of this month and have started booking for July.

Update: Both NW Trek and Point Defiance Zoo are now open with numerous social distancing guidelines in place. "Wild Drives" will still be available. To learn about the new guidelines and how to get tickets, see the websites for Point Defiance Zoo and NW Trek.

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