Buffalo kisses a welcome sign of continued growth for Mercer

Soulful brown eyes shaded by horns look up at me with a wistful expression. In my hand is a palm-size bread treat, one that seems to be eliciting drool from the shaggy-faced behemoth on the other side of the fence.

Carefully, I stretch my arm over the wood and metal railing. The creature’s moist nose and open mouth is level with my shoulder. Gently, I feed the tasty morsel to the hungry giant. Seconds later, she begins licking my fingers.

I smile as the “kisses” continue.

I can now cross “feeding a roll to a buffalo” off my bucket list.

I am at Buffalo Trail in Bluewell for a story on the resort’s continued growth and expansion. Accompanied by Features Editor Jeremy Bartlett and photographer Jessica Nuzzo, we tour the new cabins and not-so-primitive treehouses.

The grounds are amazing; the lodging incredible.

Feeding the Buffalo a roll

Feeding the Buffalo a roll

Just three years earlier I was at the resort to document its opening and availability to all-terrain vehicle riders visiting our area. Owner Seth Peters spent eight years building the restaurant and initial 10 cabins before its grand opening on Memorial Day weekend in 2014.

As a resident of the area, I could see the growth and development during my daily commute to and from work. It was exciting news for those who reside in the greater Bluewell-Montcalm area.

Prior to the development of Buffalo Trail, the site on the mountain near the end of Lorton Lick Road was home to an apartment complex. While it started out new and pretty, all too soon it devolved into a haven for trouble.

Burglaries, drug deals and more were not uncommon.

After some years, the complex closed down and vagrants moved into the abandoned apartments. If memory serves, there were fires and a myriad of other problems. It was not what the neighborhood needed.

To see beautiful wood and stone cabins rising from the ashes of a former hellhole was, indeed, an incredible sight. I called my friend (and Seth’s mom) Vivian Peters and made a pitch to do a story.

Vivian asked if I could delay it until they had the initial phase of the resort complete. They wanted a big unveil.

I understood, and told her we would wait. Yet driving by the site each day was an exercise in patience.

Seth and I laugh and joke about the area’s reputation during last week’s interview. I tell young journalists Jeremy and Jess that some folks in other parts of Mercer County expect to read news of our neighborhood in the police blotter — not under headlines announcing a beautiful resort opening and expansion.

By historic reputation, our part of Mercer County has had its share of black eyes. However, the influx of tourists to the area — and the surge in community pride — seems to be driving the local cockroaches in to the darkness.

It’s a great feeling to drive through Bluewell and see baskets of flowers flanking Route 52 and new businesses opening alongside the thoroughfare.

Since its opening, Buffalo Trail has experienced “at least a 50 percent growth each year,” Seth tells me.

“We started out with 10 units on the main property and the restaurant,” he says. “The first full year — 2015 — we added the microbrewery and 11 rustic treehouses. In 2016 we added nine additional cabins and four ultimate treehouses.”

The resort has also added four additional RV sites and a welcome center, which sits at the intersection of Route 52 and Lorton Lick Road.

Now, the resort also boasts sky houses — and an up-close view of the buffalo for which it is named.

Midway through the interview and tour, I am mere feet away from 10 mature female buffalo and 10 babies. The sound of corn spilling on the ground near the fence line draws them close. I restrain myself, and manage to pause before petting.

Is it OK to stroke a buffalo’s nose?

He likes the ladies!

He likes the ladies!

Buffalo Trail in Bluewell …
In answer to my quizzical look, Seth hands me a roll. I feed it to the buffalo, and then she licks my fingers.

It’s a good day, and a good era, for western Mercer County.

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