Where to go, what to do, how to avoid the crowds during a holiday is always a question when you live near any busy tourist area. But having lived here before, we learned where to hang out when the parks are packed. And so we returned to one of our favorite places: Ft. Wilderness. Rich will write up the details about lunch. I’ll fill in the details about everything else.

It was an especially beautiful Florida morning and knowing we were going to Disney added to the excitement. Because it was the 4th, we’d made a point to make an ADR for Trails End, even though we knew we wouldn’t need one to get a table – it’s always quiet during lunch here – a nice respite from the busy parks. But with the holiday, we thought we might need to prove we had an ADR so the guard would let us in to park. And that was so true. There was a sign stating that if you weren’t staying or dining at Ft. Wilderness, you wouldn’t be able to park there.

We had the most hilarious time with the CM at the guard gate – what a hoot. This is what we love about Ft. Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge – the welcome, fun, homey atmosphere.

We like to walk the mile or so down from the Outpost Depot to the Settlement Depot area (where the Hoop Dee Doo, Trails End, and the Marina are located), and then take the bus back. Walking through the campground gives us the familiar feeling of many campgrounds out west and it’s always fun – if not a bit hot – but another reason to do the walk first while you’re fresh.

We arrived a bit early for our ADR, but it wasn’t busy and we were seated right away. Rich will write a post about our lunch but here’s a pic of him thoroughly enjoying himself. I tried to capture that look he gets on his face when he’s having so much fun, he’s about to skip,  but in my first try, the picture came out a bit dark and on the second try, I may have lost the moment. But he definitely looks happy, happy! After that hospital ordeal, I can’t seem to take enough pics of him.

After lunch, we stopped in at the Trading Post for a couple of refreshments to take out to the Marina to sit and snack and watch the boats go by. We remember doing this a lot when we lived nearby before. Having skipped dessert at lunch, I had a Mickey Bar and Rich had a nice, cold beer (although we shared a bite and a sip.)

Rich relaxing with a Coors Lite, now in plastic bottles:

Watching the boats – our favorite way to transport ourselves around Bay Lake:

We were admiring the puffy, Walt Disney World clouds and those parasailing, but once we finished our refreshments, we decided it was time to leave. We turned around and holy, moly, storm clouds were headed in our direction. We walked quickly to the bus stop, hoping to beat any lightning. The thunderclaps started as soon as we made it under cover.

Folks were sitting and chatting, waiting for the next bus and we noticed George, the bagpipe guy we’d seen at Wilderness Lodge/Ft. Wilderness on Christmas Day. He told us how he’d been in the Navy Seals until he was so old, they kicked him out – lol! He served in the Korean War through the Vietnam War. He lives in Virginia now and his daughter is a CM so he and his wife come down 4 times a year, entertaining the folks with his bagpipes.

He didn’t have his bagpipes with him then – it was his wife’s birthday and he’d snuck out to get her some chocolate – one of her favorite treats. He got off at one of the stops and headed for his cabin and wouldn’t you know it – he waved to all of us on the bus and said, “Merry Christmas.” It was like a scene out of It’s a Wonderful Life.

How ironic we should see him again – first Christmas Day and then the 4th of July. Yep, it really was Christmas in July.

Read Rich’s 4th of July Lunch at Trail’s End post.

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