Frontierland, a land originally inspired by the stories of Tom Sawyer, Zorro, and Davy Crocket, has become more about the wildest ride in the wilderness!This land has always been about the feeling of getting somewhere, be it the raft to Tom Swayer Island, hitting the wake of the Mark Twain, or dealing with a ornery mule while riding around Rainbow Ridge. When Disneyland opened in 1955 the most high tech attraction was Autopia in Tomorrowland, but on the exact opposite side was the Mule Pack. This most basic of attractions would put guests on live mules and take them around barren Frountierland.
In 1956 after a major expansion, the Mule Pack became the Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules with the addition of the Mine Train Through Rainbow Ridge. These two attraction would wind throughout Frontierland and cross over in a key spot in what was the original Bear Country.
By now I’m sure you are asking “Jeremiah, what does an attraction that was closed before I was born have to do with Disneyland Diamonds?” I am glad you asked. In 1973 the Pack Mules took their last walk through Nature’s Wonderland followed by the last trip of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland in 1977 to make way for the a new train ride. But as always, some things are left behind.This small tunnel is the same as the one from the picture above. It even still had track up until a few years ago when a tree feel and caused damage to the track and cave. The most interesting part is that this is the last remaining portion of the old Pack Mule trail as it went right over that tunnel.This picture is the point of view of guests if the Pack Mules were still active today looking toward Big Thunder. Also it seems those bears may not have caught all the jumping fish in that river down there. Next time you walk by, see if you can spot any of them still jumping after all these years.Speaking of those pesky mules, over the two decades that they tracked their way through Frontierland, you have to figure they may have gone through a few shoes. Well next time you head back to Big Thunder Ranch, take a look near that old cabin.It seems that all those shoes and the ones from the horses used for the Conestoga Wagons and Stagecoaches, which also used to roll through these parts, had to all be collected and are now “on display” for all to see (hidden Mickey included.)Now for the Wildest Ride in the Wilderness, yes that’s right, the attraction that more kids have gone on for their first “roller coaster ride” than any other (at least in my family), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!The mid 1970’s were a time of change for Disneyland, with its sister park in Florida getting a lot of attention there was not much growth. Thankfully, Tony Baxter had just joined WED Enterprises and started to help shake things up. His first major project to actually get made was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This was a ground breaking attraction as it was one of the first to use computer-aided design (or C.A.D.). The C.A.D. system is actually where our Diamond comes from. of course this one you can’t really see so much as feel. As the story goes, while working with the C.A.D. system, the computer wouldn’t let them crate a full 360˚ circle on the track and kept putting a small adjustment in the layout. Being the early days of computers, there was not much space for workarounds so finally they had to just keep it in. So next time you take the Wildest Ride in the Wilderness as you are doing a long turn notice about half way through the odd jolt, it also happens at Big Thunder in Magic Kingdom.
Now we continue to the ever expanding west.
Our main correspondent for Walt Disney World and the Orlando area and a heck of a paleontologist if he does say so himself.