Barren fields shimmered, painted in an icy glaze, as a muted, rising sun crested over valley fog that nestled neatly within rolling plains. Frost surviving wildflower stems danced in the cool morning breeze, as hovering altocumulus clouds wisped across the sky in a manner reminiscent of waves upon a lake.
This was the much-anticipated day for the first autumn open wagon tour hosted by Deer Haven Park. Reserved COVID-distanced seating tickets had sold out long in advance, noting a rain or shine event, but as the day progressed and cumulonimbus clouds began their assembly, they nagged the question — would Mother Nature outstretch a protective arm, or would the event be rain saturated?
One hour prior to start time, visitors began arriving for now-standard health screenings and check-in when the wind quickly began to whistle through the parking lot. Suddenly, the sky released a torrential downpour in monsoon-like fashion. Guests were leery, but DHP volunteers remained optimistic. If ever positive energy could bolster the results of any given situation, this was the ultimate challenge.
Twenty minutes to boarding and the rain would not relent. Volunteers began to layer up for warmth and water resistance. Guests hovered, waiting ... wondering. Ten minutes to boarding, the wind abruptly stopped. Shortly thereafter, the rain followed suit. Wagon seats were quickly wiped down and “All aboard!” was the call. Off to create another first in DHP history.
Tour guide Pam Raes began with a backdrop of the vast military presence at the Seneca Ordinance Depot, setting a scene, as in domino effect the tractor-pulled wagons eased into motion. As Pam’s voice amplified via microphone, reaching speakers on every wagon, guests were transported back in time to the 1940s when economic depression mandated food and product shortages, and uncertain military response hovered with threats from foreign war.
En route, multicolored, detached leaves seesawed in flight, drifting and lofting on a caressing breeze entertaining wafts of fresh, rain-washed countryside. The sun made a cameo appearance, birds chirping in acceptance, as clouds parted in response to the hopeful and positive energy of human hearts.
A fascinating account and genealogy of the white, whitetail deer unfolded along with the variety and abundance of other wildlife at home on this 3,000-acre nature preserve, tones of admiration and appreciation evident. Captivating mental images unfolded upon entering an abandoned ammunition igloo, and military history became a vivid reality with a walk through a personnel bomb shelter.
Onward bound and soon the clandestine and infamous “Q area” came into view, its triple barbed wire perimeter fencing an ominous site, as insights abound regarding its former contents and multi-guarded existence.
The Lehigh Valley Railroad’s importance came to light when suddenly a shout out was heard. Onlookers turned as if on cue to catch a glimpse of two curious white doe who briefly paused to gaze at this vast entourage. What an awe-inspiring site!
Upon the last leg of the tour, lingering curiosities were addressed by the individual wagon’s tour guides and volunteers and folks disembarked with what seemed to be the only remaining question: “Will DHP be able to do this again next year?” It was perhaps the greatest compliment a park such as this could receive.
For now, however, DHP wildlife bid a brief farewell as the park closes for the 2020 touring season. Hope abounds for a springtime reopening sans pandemic restrictions to commence bus tours as well as auto tours, allowing visitors a glimpse into the ongoing legacy of this treasured land, the life and times of the evolving human presence here, and the rare, multifaceted array of wildlife and nature. A culmination rendering DHP a must experience, incomparable adventure!