Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Exciting Rocks, August 1969

Ya know, that ol' Rainbow Desert sure was a popular subject for shutterbugs. Some say that the desert heat drove 'em plum loco! I seen it happen. 

I've seen so many pictures of these buttes and natural arches that they now seem like old friends. Some of my best friends are rocks. They are easier to get along with than most people! Even my mule (Fred) gets along with them, and he doesn't like anybody.

I dream of someday building a series of shops here. I will call it a "strip mall". There will be a nail salon, a frozen yogurt place, a Panda Express, a Starbucks, and a Supercuts. And it will all be air conditioned.

The rocks to our right are rare examples of "tumbling rocks". They sway and turn with the wind and the vibrations from our passing train. I haven't figured out how to make money from these yet, but dagnabit, I will, eventually.


TokyoMagic! said...

I spy a coyote in that second pic and a bobcat on top of a cacti in that third pic!

Since the rocks pictured in the first pic are still standing today, it's a shame they couldn't have just kept everything north of them (including the geysers and paint pots) as some sort of walk-through area for guests. After all, Big Thunder Ranch and Big Thunder BBQ didn't get built until years after Big Thunder Mountain opened, and prior to that there was nothing but a grassy meadow beyond those rocks. Of course I would rather have the entire Nature's Wonderland attraction still intact today and would swap it with Big Thunder in a heartbeat. They ruin everything, don't they?

TokyoMagic! said...

Make that "cactus"! I was mixing up my plurals with my singulars!

Tom said...

I for one cannot get enough pictures of these rocks. never did get to see them in real so the more angles i can get of them when they were in place (even the ones that are still there aren't exactly the same), the better. Good stuff!

K. Martinez said...

I loved the Living Desert area in Nature's Wonderland. One of my strongest memories and favorite moments on the Mine Train was when the Living Desert came into view in the distance and the descent would begin as the train winded its way through the desert past cacti, paint pots, geysers and balancing rocks on it's way to the Rainbow Caverns. The slight incline in the track within this area made for a dramatic effect. I absolutely loved it.

Ironically they recreated similar environments within the Grizzy River Run attraction with its geyser field and in Carsland with its Caddilac Range. In some ways parts of DCA with its extensive rockwork are a "Nature's Wonderland".

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! I always wondered why they didn't keep everything north of the rockwork. It would've made a cool walk-around with the paint pots and geysers. After all, they did keep Cascade Peak intact after Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened.

MRaymond said...

I would have liked a hybrid attraction. You leave Rainbow Ridge, go around Cascade Peak, then into, and around the Living Desert at a faster pace than the original ride. When you enter Rainbow Cavern is where you hit the first lift hill into Big Thunder.
It wouldn't have been too difficult. After leaving the loading area you go up a slight lift that gives you the energy to go around the peak and through Bear Country (new track of course). The Living Desert was slightly downhill already.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I especially like the bobcat. I forget is he trying to avoid wild hogs? Or coyotes? Or CHUDS? I remember seeing photos of the grassy meadow you mentioned, it looked surprisingly big in some pictures. I don't hate Big Thunder, but sure miss the longer, richer "Nature's Wonderland" experience… there was nothing else like it.

Tom, that's good to know, because it seems as if I never have a shortage of pictures of that particular part of Nature's Wonderland!

K. Martinez, I don't recall the incline… presumably that means that, at some point, the train was going on an uphill incline too? I like the look of the area around the Grizzly River Run, but I would never go on it… my friend's son went on, and it looked like he had just climbed out of a swimming pool fully dressed. No thanks! I doubt they could have kept the paint pots and geysers within walking distance of guests today… there are too many idiots who would either throw their trash in, or figure out some way to hurt themselves.

MRaymond, that would have been cool, but I get the feeling that the company was awfully high on providing thrills for guests rather than themed environments.

Chuck said...

While I think we (and much of the public) would have loved to see the Living Desert stay open as a walk-through, we have to consider the revenue model WDP was using in those days.

There was no all-inclusive admission; guests bought individual tickets or ticket books to experience the ticketed attractions. I'm certain I remember reading years ago in a long-lost "E-Ticket" issue on NWRR that attraction maintenance funds were allocated based on total ticket take at each attraction. If an attraction had a high attendance rate (think "people-eaters" like the Haunted Mansion or Pirates), they received a proportionately higher rate of maintenance funds.

In the case of NWRR, I remember reading that guest numbers were dropping throughout the early 70's, and the ticket was reduced from an "E" back down to a "D," which reduced the revenue-per-guest numbers. Ride maintenance was beginning to suffer, with animals that would break down or get scruffy-looking and spend relatively long periods waiting to be repaired. That, in turn, affected the guest experience, which discouraged repeat visits, sort of sending the ride into a "death spiral."

From a management perspective, based on the funding model in play, NWRR was not generating the revenue to justify its continued existence. Had the Living Desert been converted into a walk-through, you would have had a situation where you had a very pretty attraction that may have contributed to ambiance but would have required funding outlays to maintain with NO revenue generated at all. While Main Street is, in many ways, a walk-through attraction that contributes to ambiance as well, it also has a high density of shops that do a high volume of business, justifying expenditures to keep it pretty and pristine.

Other things to consider is that that area was also being considered for both the "Dumbo's Circusland" expansion to Fantasyland and the "Discovery Bay" extension to the Rivers of America. They may have cleared the land in hopes of moving forward with one or both of those projects, only to find them both delayed due to economic factors and ultimately cancelled (although major show elements were recycled for both WDW's Magic Kingdom and DL Paris).

It's interesting to note that Big Thunder Ranch and Big Thunder Trail, both major enhancements in ambiance (as well as traffic flow), weren't built until after the retirement of the A thru E ticket system. They were also built alongside the Big Thunder Barbecue, which was a revenue-generating establishment.

Don't misunderstand - I really miss NWRR, and would jump on an opportunity to ride it again (and again, and again - especially now that I'm older and my back creaks), but I understand the reasoning as to why management let it go. It's harder to accept the loss of a true work of art like Rainbow Caverns - I really wish there was a way it could have been incorporated into BTMRR - but I understand. And I also wonder...if NWRR had survived to this day, how many of us would have started complaining in the early 80's about how WDW got that awesome BTMRR and we were stuck with that pokey little outdated mine train? :-)

Nanook said...

Dear all-

THIS aerial view, which I coincidently posted yesterday, along with the Daveland pictorial, helps to show the attraction and its relationship to the surrounding areas.

And as to Ken's memory of the incline in the track - there was certainly at least one - as on more than one occasion I can remember the CM attempting to get the drive wheels to grab the slick rails, most-likely wet from water mist. Either in these pages, or somewhere else in the vast internet, this issue has been addressed in more depth.

Thanks, Major.

MRaymond said...

I recall in interview with Tony Baxter where he stated that they wanted BTMRR to go around Cascade Peak but there wasn't enough energy left in the cars to make it without adding another lift hill. That would have been cool.

Nanook said...

Also.... the above-referenced image is from 1962 & the Daveland reference was from yesterday's post (oh - my mind), but HERE'S the link to that image.

K. Martinez said...

Major - I'd assume on the Mine Train that the highest elevation point on the track was the "creaky" trestle that crossed over the Bear County area and the lowest elevation point was the Rainbow Caverns and load/unload area. The elevation changes seemed slight throughout, but seemed more pronounced in the Living Desert area since the entry point to the Living Desert scene was higher than the Rainbow Caverns entry point. I seem to remember that unlike the other areas of Nature's Wonderland, the Living Desert area was visually open and you could see a lot of the show elements before actually approaching and passing them. I have a lot of memories of this attraction. It was my second favorite lost attraction after the Skyway.

Another thing to note about Big Thunder Mountain's confined footprint is that Disney also wanted to open up access between Frontierland and Fantasyland when they constructed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Before Big Thunder was put in, if you wanted to go from the eastside of the park to the westside or visa versa, you always had to return to the Plaza Hub to do so.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, yes....the bobcat was trapped on top of the cactus by wild hogs/boars. WDW's Big Thunder has that scene as well as the one with the rattlesnake confronting the roadrunner (Tokyo DL has that scene too), but they are all better viewed from the park's trains which run alongside Big Thunder rather than while riding the attraction itself.

Chuck, the Big Thunder trail was there from the time Big Thunder opened. It's the ranch and the BBQ that came along later. There was a wooden railing in front of the old Nature's Wonderland rocks and guests could not venture past that point, but they could still continue on around to Fantasyland.

Chuck said...

TokyoMagic! - My bad. All that happened in that mysterious period from 1976-1993, known in some (extremely small) Disneyland fan circles as the "Chuck wasn't there" era. I consider them my own personal Dark Ages. :-)

Sorry, I should have cracked a reference book to check my work before posting. Thanks for the correction. Seriously - I hate giving people bad info unless I'm completely (and hopefully obviously) making something up.

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I know that everything you say makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, but I keep thinking that MAYBE, if the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland (MTTNW) had just held on for long enough, it would have become popular again. Why did the Jungle Cruise thrive (and continues to be popular to this day), while the MTTNW did not? Did the humorous spiel make the difference? Or were people just tired of the "Old West"? I have pointed out that in almost every photo of the MTTNW, there is virtually no line, even in older images. Granted, it was a "people eater", but I honestly don't recall more than one or two pictures in which there was a crowd waiting to board.

Meanwhile I am glad that they never built "Dumbo's Circusland" or "Discovery Bay", they just didn't sound like the kind of places that I wanted to visit. Who knows, maybe they would have been amazing, it's really hard to tell.

Nanook, I wonder if the trains ever needed a push to get going on wet days? Interesting.

MRaymond, I can't believe that there wouldn't have been some way to add energy to the trains to go around Cascade Peak, but it probably would have involved a lot more money.

Nanook, thanks for the links!

K. Martinez, I am envious of your vivid memories of the MTTNW! I sure didn't recall that the train's went slightly uphill for a while… my recollection was that it was all pretty flat. But I trust your memory more than mine.

TokyoMagic!, the speed of the BTMRR makes it hard to appreciate any of the vignettes place along the track. I suppose one could argue that this encourages repeat viewings. At least you have the option of seeing the stuff form the WDWRR.

Chuck, at this point I consider NOW my "dark age" as far as keeping up with the latest stuff at the park. It's ridiculous, I hardly go anymore. The news of the large crowds and the high prices, are enough to discourage me.

Anonymous said...

The highest point on the ride was the transition point between the trestle and the entrance to the Painted Desert...which was also right below the arch supporting the mule trail above. As for slipping on the tracks, operators could deploy sand in front of the drive wheels by pushing a button below the operator's seat.

KS...former MTTNW CM