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THIS AND THAT: Have you ever overnighted at a zoo?

Jeff Wallace

Jeff Wallace

Have you ever spent the night in a zoo? How about three? We did.

Last weekend was one the family had anticipated for some time. My nephew, Robert, was getting married in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. Two daughters and children, a couple of brothers and their families were all planning to attend, making it a celebratory family occasion.

The wedding was to be near Champion, Pennsylvania, a tiny dot on the map not far from Donegal which is 18 miles from Latrobe, hometown of Arnold Palmer and Fred (Mister) Rogers. Checking accommodations in the area, my wife came upon an interesting one called Log Cabin Lodge and Suites that was only 8 minutes from the wedding site.

“For comfortable overnight accommodations or a romantic retreat Log Cabin Lodge and Suites provides a unique lodging experience in the heart of the Laurel Highlands,” a promotional ad states. (Please take note of the word “unique.”)

Mary Lou looked at the website, viewed the photos, got in touch with the two daughters who would journey with us and decided to reserve Big Buck Lodge B, a four-bedroom setup with a large open living space, an upstairs pool table and even a hot tub on the back deck. It seemed perfect for handling our crew and a great gathering site for others in the family who were staying in single rooms across the parking lot.

Big Buck B was booked for three nights, and we eagerly awaited our time together in the state of my birth. One daughter flew up a day early for a business appointment in Pittsburgh, caught an Amtrak to Latrobe the next morning and a Lyft ride to the lodge.

She was able to check in prior to our arrival and made a cell call as we were making our way through West Virginia.

“Did you know we were staying at a zoo?” she asked with a laugh in her throat.

At the other end of the conversation, my wife said, “What?”

“We are staying at a zoo,” came the reaffirmation.

Log Cabin Lodge and Suites is connected to Living Treasures Wild Animal Park. As my daughter discovered, one checks into the lodge at the entrance to the zoo. Until the phone call, none of us knew.

To clarify the picture, the rooms are not inside the zoo, but share the same parking lot, have a view of it and got the benefit of the daily sound effects. From the back deck of Big Buck B, we could see the kangaroos, including one with a joey that made a game of going in and out of its mom’s pouch.

In the mornings, we heard not only the many roosters on the grounds crowing, we also got to take in the cries of the peacocks and the loud “wooooop, wooooop, wooooop” of the gibbons. And if you think that roosters wait for the sun to come up before crowing, think again. One over-achieving fowl tested its vocal prowess at 4:29 a.m.

Of course we had to go and see all the things we heard, so Saturday morning the eight of us marched the 60 feet from Big Buck B to the zoo/hotel front desk. (Entrance cost is half price for those staying in the lodge, and the ticket is good for the duration of the stay.)

After getting a bag of baby carrots and one of compacted hay balls, we walked out on a cold Keystone State morning to greet and be greeted by animals of all sorts. Chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys wandered the grounds at will. Farm and other domesticated animals were in pens and eagerly accepted the feeding generosity of visitors. Wild animals were in cages or compounds.

In addition to the gibbons, there were tigers, bears, wolves, a reindeer, foxes, wallabies, marmosets and sloths. Not as large as the big-city zoos, Living Treasures provided visitors with an up-close animal experience for young and old in an easy-to-maneuver setting.

But if you are staying in Big Buck B or any of the other rooms on-site, remember to have your partying over by 10 p.m. That is when quiet time begins. The animals need their rest so they can get up at 4:29 and disturb yours.

(And the wedding was nice too!)


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