How do you remember a walk in the woods? With months past now, I had reflected on this winter outing because of the sunlight illuminating the golden, brown and red hues of dry brush and weeds. On this morning, it hadn’t mattered how near or far this location. More important was the immersion into adult introspection contrasting with childish titillation.
Traveling the first mile of the artery feeding the majority of park trails, a wooden marker had signaled a break in the path. Turning left and moving across a paved road, my friend and I had encountered a campground. At the edge of this encampment of vehicles was a small row of wooden benches converging into a theater like area. Much to our amusement, we had found a lady’s discarded top nearby on the ground. Wasting no time for a photo-op, I had stretched the garment across my chest for minutes of grins.
During the second portion of the hike, we had walked through crisp foliage underneath a green canopy of pine needles. The gray dry sandy trail had eventually transformed into a dark brown. With each advancing step, our feet had slipped further into the watery mud. Despite the diminishing quality of the surroundings, our spirits had coasted along on the power of puns and innuendo. This had continued until encountering a small black constrictor. Collecting snapshots of the peaceful reptile, we had completed two-thirds of the white trail loop.
The final leg of our morning journey was characterized by curiosity regarding walking sticks and bees. The walking sticks insects had seemed eerily out of place. They were easy bait for any predator hungry for a meal; however, pairings of these insects had slowly crawled unabated from any lizard or bird. Next, just past a worn wooden hold for horses, a hoard of bees had hovered in the air. Almost out of sight, the droning sound of the bees had recalled a recent news story. A story in which a father and son were stung by a hoard ending up in the local hospital. With this thought echoing a similar childhood experience for my friend, we had expeditiously cleared the last portion of the hike.
That small adventure navigating through nature had epitomized a moment of personal freedom and liberty. An adventure that had deferred adult responsibility. With fall coming around again, I had looked forward to not only cooling weather but, the smile of an earnest friend.
Wekiva Springs State Park
In downtown London, I had experienced my first childhood memories of trains and candy. All these years later, in a small, quiet adventure on Central Florida’s SunRail, I had indulged myself again but, with a moment of reflection. Gazing outside the box car’s windows on Interstate 4, the ride had recalled some of my other journeys’ across the ends of the United States.
Listening to the rhythmic clanking of the wheels over the tracks, I had remembered trips to Washington D.C., San Francisco, California, Boston, Massachusetts and Miami, Florida. Each commute had the unique appeal of the respective metropolitan area. Yet, all had encompassed a degree of random unexpected chance. With the certitude of departing and arrival times, my job was day dreaming of exploits for every endeavor with sights, sounds, tastes, and other sensations.
During a stop in Debary, Florida, a few elderly folks had exited out of the SunRail cabins into charter buses. I had pondered, “Where these people reminiscing too? Perhaps, they were thinking of the freedom of being on the railroad or, maybe just days gone by?”
Enroute back to Maitland, a grouping of friends across the cabin were joking about the news of the day. It was charming compliment to another family with their small children pointing outside to the passing trees and houses. All of these travelers had invoked a similar sentiment, the joy of moving somewhere between one’s future and past.
For years now, I had pulled into the parking lot at Lake Lily for a range of different experiences. Sometimes, it was checking out the Sunday morning farmer’s market. Other times, it was hanging out with a good friend or date for conversation. Yet others, it was repeatedly lapping the half mile loop for exercise.
Despite being off I-4 and state road 1792, I was still able to find quiet moments in thought. Stringing all these moments together was nature. Somehow, the park’s charm was the ability in subverting urban civilization.
Perhaps, it was the gratifying connection of feeding the ducks, squirrels or turtles. This action had always brought adults and children degrees of satisfaction.
In passing, a fellow co-worker had mentioned this being one of his favorite spots in Orlando. With sun shimmering on the lake and the animals congregating about, I had continued to understand why.
Lake Lily Park is located at 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland, Florida 32751.
Hours: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM (daily)
Admission: Open to the public
Maitland’s Farmer’s Market (itsmymaitland.com)
My first fall living in the Greater Orlando area, a friend had drove me out to Kelly Park in Apopka, Florida. Unsure of the distance, the commute had seemed to take an eternity in the passenger seat from downtown. This weekend, I had decided to “Pay it forward” by inviting out another friend for a drift down the clear waters of Rock Springs.
Before hitting the road on this Sunday afternoon, I had called the front gate verifying park capacity. Luckily, even with a late start around noontime, foot traffic was light because of morning temperatures starting in the 60s. During the last two miles of the drive, we had pulled into a road side vendor renting inter-tubes. After picking up two for $3 cash a piece, we had headed for the park entrance.
After parking, my friend and I had walked about the perimeter of the springs and accompanying run. Entering at the spring head, I had started swimming against the current, raising my body temperature preparing for our trek. After a few minutes of swimming in place, I had hoisted myself above a split in the limestone overhang.
On re-entry, I had sat atop the inter-tube quickly passing under the first wooden boardwalk. Turning right into the first bend, the current was moving at a brisk pace. During this moment, the shade had gave way to the warming sunshine. An inch long, metallic looking, blue dragon fly had landed on my knee. Then, it had hovered, landed and flown away.
Passing the bulk of human activity on the second bend, we had reached the final stretch of water. At the third and final bend, the sounds of lapping water and crickets had communicated a calm serenity. Another dispersion of dragon flies had passed above the water. Now, that long drive years ago was small penance on this picturesque Florida day.
Kelly Park is located at:
400 E Kelly Park Road, Apopka, Florida 32712
Summer: 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.;
Winter: 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.;
Monday – Sunday
$3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people
Kelly Park/Rock Springs (Orange County)
Today had marked my second visit to Gemini Springs in the past few years. The last time out, I was visiting some friends playing flag football in the open green spaces of this park. On this October afternoon, I had searched for solitary moments for recording video and stills; however, human activity had reached a fever pitch filling the air with sounds of conversation and horse play.
Making my way to the lake and spring boil, I had run into stray squirrels going up and down the various bridges. Despite all the surrounding water and soft mud on the water’s edge, noticeably absent were mosquitoes from my previous week’s journey to Green Springs, just a few miles away.
Circling the lake, I had looked about for a slithering reptile or two. No such activity had existed to satisfy my curiosity. The only water borne creatures that had swam about, mullet and a turtle. With soft yet firm cool breezes pushing through trees and across the water’s surface, I had focused on some red and purple flowers. These blooms I had concluded wouldn’t be around much longer.
Last time leaving this park, a thunderstorm was rolling in a with palpable change of weather. With an overcast morning giving way to sunshine and blue skies, a transformation had begun.This tangible sense of nature had resurfaced with a prelude to the fall.
Gemini Springs Park is located at: 37 Dirksen Drive, DeBary
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Gemini Springs Park (volusia.org)
“viridescent adjective \ˌvir-ə-ˈde-sənt\ meaning: greenish or becoming green. Origin: Latin viridis green” –merriam-webster.com
A friend had suggested visiting Green Springs Park in Volusia County at the beginning of September. He had mentioned an affinity for walking the premises with his wife at dusk. Now, for some reason, perhaps this aforementioned quaint notion had reduced my mental image of the park into just a pond, an oak tree and a park bench for a loving couple. The reality though, this park was more lush with plant life and extensive with acreage than this assumption.
Heading to the beaches of Titusville this past weekend, I had detoured off course into Deltona, Florida. Coming off the I4 exit, after a quick left on Debary, a right on Providence, then another quick left on Lake Shore Drive, my vehicle had pulled parallel to the St. John’s River. Across the road from the St. John’s was Green Springs Park’s entrance.
On this mid-morning, the gravel parking lot was fairly empty in difference to perhaps Wekiva Springs State Park. Approaching the main paved trail, a slow trickle of bikers had flowed in and out of the picnic tables and restroom area. Walking left down the main paved trail, Green Springs was immediately available on your right. This body of water had certain mysterious quality on viewing. The differing shades of greens emanating on, around, and below the surface had further underscored the forthcoming fall season. A friend of mine, had described the elongated branches of a tree stretching over the spring as finger-like and evil. Maybe, it was just symbolic of the history of the area being part of an old winery?
Aside from the multitude of overhanging tree limbs, a number of white square signs had lined the spring perimeter noting “No Swimming.” If entering the water, the signs had spoke of being trespassed from the property by a park ranger. This was only the second park with fresh water springs in my travels prohibiting swimming by the generic public. The other was Silver Springs in Ocala; however, another passerby had mentioned the “locals” wait until after dark for venturing into the spring head.
Moving to the opposite end of the spring overlook, I had climbed down to the water’s edge. In my movements to get a better picture, small fish had splashed beneath the surface trying to escape perhaps some other natural predator. After collecting few more images and video, my friend and I had moved back onto one of the side trails. We had come across several small rusty colored streams. While charming in sound, the abundant thunderstorm season had provided ample breeding grounds for mosquitoes. With the swarming insects, we had quickly opted to head out of the side trails. On the way out, we had seen a pair of red cardinals. Before we could grab a few stills, they had flown away. Following that lead, we had left the park pondering the dynamic fall temperatures might bring to the miles of trails in this park.
Green Springs State Park is located at:
994 Enterprise Osteen Rd, Deltona, FL 32725
Open daily: Sunrise to sunset