End Of The Line GilChrist Blue Springs State Park @ High Springs, Florida

At the end of a road trip, I think Americans look for an epiphany. As we age, the road less traveled is more about introspection than a place. Visiting eleven Florida parks in five days, the common thread for myself is a calm in motion and at rest.

This journey is now beyond the constraints of ego, rather a gift of time spent with nieces and a nephew. The lesson from a hospital bed a year ago is converting possibilities. An opportunity for them I hope, looking into a future with road trips and experiences of their own into reality.

In these images of water, earth and sky, there is a liberation from the confines of an ivy drip. Freedom from the mindset that rationalizes consuming emptiness transmitted over a wire or radio signal. My aim is never a question of where, rather whom I share this fragile existence with. Before life’s undertow takes one’s last breath, step forward, drive on and reach out into the cool blue water.

More: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/gilchrist-blue-springs-state-park

Florida State Caverns Park @ Marianna, Florida: Part 2

Before proceeding to take a tour of the Florida Caverns, I had the opportunity to explore the back end of the park. If only hitting the caverns, you had missed out on the camping areas, horse trails, hiking trails and clean restrooms at the back of the property. Coming round to the tail end of the acreage, the road had gone up on a slight hill. On the left shoulder, probably the nicest looking restrooms in the state park system. Below this change area and outdoor shower, a scenic view that had given way to waters on the edge of my vision. Walking down the greens had appeared the deep aquamarine colors of Blue Hole and Blue Hole run. Blue Hole, though not advertised off the state’s website, had provided a means for swimming. It had also offered a location for fishing bass and other assorted aquatic life.

After soaking up some sun and the view, we had departed to canoe launch area about 1/2 mile down the road. This portion of the park had appeared considerably different but, no less tranquil with the sound of running water. A row of rental canoes had laid securely across aluminum framing near the river. There was one key difference about the Chipola River launch area versus Blue Hole, a sign relating to Florida’s favorite reptile, alligators. Investigating the canoe launch area were signs relating to flood history of the area, plus references to President Andrew Jackson.

After taking some of pictures and video of the Chipola River, the time had come to return to the front of the park for the cavern tour. Of the five state parks in West Florida I had visited, Florida State Caverns Park definitely worthy of the time and gas.

Read More:

Florida State Caverns Park (Florida State Parks)

Florida State Caverns Park @ Marianna, Florida: Part 1 (GarzaFX)

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Florida State Caverns Park @ Marianna, Florida: Part 1

During this past Labor Day 2013, I had missed the last tour for Florida Caverns tour by 10 minutes, after some misdirection from T-Mobile. For reference, the last tour of the day had always started at 4:30 PM Central Time. To right that wrong, I had planned for another visit to the Florida panhandle to hit one of the crown jewels of Florida. Hitting these grounds a third time, I was glad to take more time to view the back of the premises including a river, change station and another sink. After killing time with those activities, the time had come to revisit this underground curiosity.

Back in the 90s, I had visited the Florida Caverns on a road trip back from New Orleans. That go around I don’t recall having to pay for the cave tour but, good for the park system for valuing this tour @ $8.00 per person, plus $5.00 per vehicle fee on the high end. After a quick introduction, the park ranger had taken us below fleshing out the history of subterranean opening. One chamber in particular, had served as backdrops for weddings. Another practical fact, the caverns were prone to flooding. Additionally, he had cautioned the patrons to avoiding touching any limestone. If you had done so, it would make the various limestone growths (stalagmites, stalactites) inert. The difference between stalactites and stalagmites, stalactites had grown from top of caverns, just remember the T for top, the later for the bottom.

For state filled with no great contrast in topography, the caverns had provided a visual feast. I had posted few images and video but, they hardly do justice! If you had enjoyed anything about geology or an avid naturist, this tour is a must!

Florida State Caverns Park
Address: 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, Florida 32446
Phone: (850) 482-9598

Park Admission Cost:

$5.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass

Youth or Adult Group Camping Fees:
(Per person) Youth  $1.00, Adult(s) or chaperone(s)  $5.00

Cave Tour Fees:
$8.00 per person, age 13 and older.
$5.00 per child, 3 to 12.
Free, 2 and younger.
$4.00 per person, organized groups of 25 or more with prepaid reservations.

IMPORTANT: NO CAVE TOURS on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!

Read More:

Florida State Caverns Park (Florida State Parks)

Stalagmite (Wikipedia)

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Music from Jerry Goldsmith’s original soundtrack for “Legend”, “Unicorns”

Falling Waters State Park @ Chipley, Florida

Heading back from west Florida, we had wanted to check this out after reading the guide to Florida State Parks and visiting the falls of Rainbow Springs Park. After taking a quick detour off 1-10 into the countryside, we had driven to the park entrance. At the gate, the park ranger had provided a cheerful welcome; however, she was not excited about the flow of the river feeding the falls. Proceeding to the park area, we made quick use of the restrooms before heading down the trail to the Falling Waters sink. Without question, this park was exceedingly clean and well groomed by the staff and respectful visitors. The other two parks that had fallen in that category, Troy Springs and Florida Caverns State Park. Proceeding down the walkway were examples of local greenery including some wax murtle and some purple flowers. After hitting the boardwalk to the sink, it had appeared down on right with the 70 foot fall below. Crestfallen with the view, we had packed up shop reminiscing about the photogenic but, smaller offerings at Rainbow Springs. The park had a hiking trail, small river and lake for other activities. With about 3 hours left of daylight, we had opted to head back through Tallahassee, Florida. Before leaving Chipley, we had taken a quick stop for photo op of cotton fields. They were quite impressive in passing,  despite a possible negative historical reference and current shout out to US trade in-balance. For a weekend getaway, this park was exceedingly beautiful with the rolling hills and pine trees, just call ahead for feedback on the falls.

Falling Waters State Park is located at:

1130 State Park Road, Chipley, Florida 32428
Phone: (850) 638-6130

Read More:

Falling Waters State Park (Florida State Parks)

Rainbow Springs State Park -Dunnellon, Florida (GarzaFX)

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Music from Steve Howe, “Valley of Rocks”

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park @ Wakulla Springs, Florida

Enroute to Apalachicola National Forest, I had wanted to visit Wakulla Springs before camping out. In my college days, I had frequented this state park to escape the summer heat of Tallahassee, Florida. The springs had provided a pristine clear blue waters with a two story diving platform.

With dusk approaching, I had parked my vehicle heading quickly to the water’s edge. Two things had become immediately apparent, the lack of foot traffic and clear waters. In difference to Silver Springs, these premises had allowed for swimming and diving. After entering the springs, I had seen the reason for the lack of people. The water had appeared murky with an abundance of algae and other overgrown vegetation. Acquiescing to the state of springs, I had swam over to the two story diving platform. After taking a couple of jumps into the waters, I had headed to shower off reflecting on the current state of world’s largest and deepest fresh water spring. With the glass bottom boat rides, I had thought ,”What a disappointment for a paying customer.” The one bright spot of the visit, I had seen a deer and her two offspring crossing the road on exiting.

A week later, by chance, I had switched over from my AppleTV to viewing regular cable television. Starting on PBS, I had caught the tail end of Florida Crossroads: Protecting Florida’s Liquid Sunshine (Florida Channel). The show had incidentally profiled Wakula Springs’ challenges. Apparently, one of the up stream lakes feeding the area had become a source of populated runoff from Tallahassee. State government had recently moved to better protect this spring through land and water management; However, Wakula Springs had left me recalling the “good ‘ole days.”
Before heading out to to this park, I had suggested calling first for water clarity.

Address: 465 Wakulla Park Drive
Wakulla Springs, Florida 32327
Phone: (850) 561-7276
Hours: 8 AM -sundown, everyday

Read More:
Florida Crossroads: Protecting Florida’s Liquid Sunshine (Florida Channel)

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs Park (Florida State Parks)

Wakulla Springs (Wikipedia)

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Pope Still Hunt Camp, Apalachicola National Forest @ Crawfordville, Florida

A few weekends ago, traveling through Tallahassee, Florida, one night’s final destination was the 500,000 plus acres of Apalachicola National Forest. After exiting I-10 east, we had headed south on US 319 for about 30 minutes. With dusk approaching, we had taken a detour for a quick dip in Wakulla Springs State Park.

After departing Wakulla Springs, our first concern was paying for a campsite. The solution my friend had dialed up, Freecampsites.net. With directions in tow, we had started moving toward Pope Still Hunt Camp. Not too far into Apalachicola National Forest, we had both lost cell coverage for T-Mobile and AT&T. Fortunately, Pope Still Hunt Camp site had sat close to the intersection of Florida Highways 13 and 350. Approaching this intersection, asphalt had given way to sandy dirt roads.

After parking at our destination, another vehicle had pulled into the camping area about 50 yards away. Unlike most other travelers in passing, they had seemed reclusive staying inside their van. Isolated moments like these had always invoked scenes from backwoods Hollywood movies like Deliverance or Wrong Turn. In an effort to get better feel for the immediate area, we had walked around for a bit before getting in our SUV. Driving down about a half mile, the road had become increasingly narrow and rough. Outside the driver’s side window had appeared a sign for “road closed.” After passing this signage, four ATVs had driven out on the road. The odd thing, they had all stopped moving in the middle of the road behind us. Proceeding for another half mile, I had turned around figuring to setup for the night back at the campsite. Upon coming around their previous location, the ATVs had parked at another turnoff. I was curious of their purpose but, more so in sleeping. This small bit of paranoia had clearly stemmed from exhaustion.

At the campsite, my friend had chosen to sleep in his tent in the cool dry air. I had decided to go it alone in the vehicle. I had surmised in the event of a bear or “crazy”, the path of least resistance, my friend’s tent! After taking off my shoes to sleep, I had noticed the lack of light and noise pollution. Initially, I had hoped to go hiking or visit Leon Sinks while in Apalachicola National Forest; however, the tranquil twilight environment had provided enough satisfaction. I had hoped to visit here someday again.

Read More:
Freecampsites.net (freecampsites.net)

Apalachicola National Forest (fs.usda.gov)

Apalachicola National Forest (Wikipedia)

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On the road again, across Florida

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Hitting the road yesterday from Orlando, Florida, I had ventured across a sea of different towns. Each had offered a different experience ranging from under a hunter’s moon to underground. Looking forward to wrapping up trip, I had wanted to provide a quick update before arriving at next destination. Here was a partial list of the points on the map:

Tampa
Tallahassee
Tarpon Springs
Brookesville
Chipley
Marianna
Crawfordville