3 Days of Dives @ Key Largo, Florida

Diving is a lot about metrics, air consumption, depth, ocean current, water temperature and more. The experience is colored by each diver’s focus. My experience for this set of dives could have been characterized by all the small details that can go wrong. Days later, I’m still itching from the stings of baby jellyfish across my legs and arms. Small knicks on my hands, knees and elbow are still healing from contact with fire coral and barnacles. Pondering all the possible adjustments for improving gear and physical conditioning for the next dive, I choose to recall the minutes differently.

I remember the hammerhead shark swimming by on an ascent.

I remember the turtle speeding away from the light of my flashlight during a night dive.

I remember the stingray gliding above the sand and reef.

I remember moving about the hull of a boat wreck with barracudas.

I remember big blue.

Three days out from this trip, I can still close my eyes in silence and feel the rocking of waves on a boat, back and forth repeatedly. Men aren’t meant to be under the glow of office fluroscents. Men are meant to be under the open sky.

 

 

 

 

 

An October Day in Rainbow Springs State Park @ Dunnellon, Florida

From an ecological point of view, I had wondered how John Muir might reflect on such an area on this October day.

Perhaps, it was the crisp blue springs waters next to the nearby train tracks.

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Or maybe, the expansive open picnic area that had rolled like soft green waves under the park’s entrance.

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Rainbow Springs State Park was elevated terrain, lifting one’s visceral response beyond the stereotypical flat topography of Florida. With hues of yellow, green, red and blue on display, flowing through the fall air was a sentiment on the edge of spirituality. Representing the thousands of indigenous state springs, this location had embodied all the reasons for protecting the environment. You hadn’t needed a whole of lot money ($2 per person) for experiencing one of Florida’s most versatile and picturesque parks. An open mind was the only thing required for embracing the charm of its small walks and swimming in the sun on this October day.

 

Read More:
Rainbow Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)
John Muir (Wikipedia)
Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1 (BallotPedia)

A Return to Troy Springs State Park @ Branford, Florida

An acquaintance had defined fresh water springs as simply, “A hole in the ground with water in it.” For some, the confining nature of a closed body of water with little aquatic life had probably fit that description. With my affinity for the crystal blue waters of Andros Island, Bahamas, that assessment was probably on point; however, questions had motivated my return to Troy Springs State Park @ Branford, Florida. Questions of unknown sights, limits, and connections had helped steer my vehicle across a three hour drive to the heart of north Florida.

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Upon arrival, my first question about the park being underutilized had gone out the window. A group of scuba divers had conducted training drills filling the park with chatter and foot traffic. So, my friend and I had opted to wait for the activity to clear.

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Patiently, I had sat on a wooden bench by the spring boil thinking of my second set of questions. What was beyond the darkness on the surface? What had concerned a dive shop owner to recommend staying clear of this descent after getting scuba certified? After cooking in the summer heat for 30 minutes, my dive buddy and I had moved into the water closing in on some answers.

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Reaching 70 feet, the view was unremarkable with shadow, sand, limestone, and logs. Though, one creature had stood out, a tiny brown flounder hugging the shady spring floor. To the question of avoiding this dive after getting Padi certified, there was depth and the dangerous allure of cavernous openings.

The next reason for the trip was my friend demonstrating his ability to still function diving, despite a bum shoulder. This was an important benchmark before suggesting an open water dive in a cattle boat on the Atlantic. To that end, he had appeared like a playful otter flipping over in circles maintaining a consistent depth.

The last question was reconnecting with fresh water springs. For most of the 24 minute dive, the springs had lost some of its’ luster from the previous year. My perspective had changed with an emphasis away from swimming to diving. Though, this notion soon had changed during our safety stop. Perhaps, it was the white noise of water pushing out into the spring. This noise had provided a similar experience to lounging out in amniotic fluid. For a moment, I had felt a calm floating about with my legs and my arms crossed awaiting to rise to into the summer heat. Much like the surface skimming insects, there was a reason to be here. I had only needed to slow the mind for a minute for that epiphany of grace.

Troy Springs State Park is located at 674 Troy Springs Road, Branford, Florida 32008
Phone: (386) 935-4835

Read More:
Troy Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)

Troy Springs State Park @ Branford, Florida

Troy Springs State Park had fell second to last stop on a three day road trip. It had offered a self service payment system with a $5 admission fee. The boardwalk, restrooms and grounds had seemed fairly new providing one of the best experiences in my travels. The waters at the deepest point were 70 feet. The spring run had also contained the remains of the Civil War-era steamboat Madison. Though the boat had not appeared in plain sight on entering the area. Troy Springs had earned the rating of first magnitude spring, 1 of 33 in Florida. That rating had meant a discharge water rate of at least 2800 liters or 100 cubic feet (2.8 m3) of water per second. Due to time restrictions and a touch of exhaustion, my swim time there was brief. I had really fancied the secluded nature of park and lack of activity. If you had travelled close to central Florida, try to work this site in!

Troy Springs State Park address is:
674 Troy Springs Road, Branford, Florida 32008

Read More:
Troy Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)

Springs “Hydrology” (Wikipedia)

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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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