Sunday Walk To Fern Hammock Springs @ Fort McCoy, FL

This cluster of vents is located at the back of Juniper Springs Recreation Area. Always best to visit when the park opens. The morning silence gives way to Cardinals, turtles and hikers.

More information check out;

http://www.flsprings.com/content/fern-hammock-springs

October Afternoon In Madison Blue Springs @ Lee, FL

 

Sometimes secrets are just a left turn off the highway on a road trip in Florida.

More Information:
Madison Blue Spring State Park | Florida State Parks
https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/madison-blue-spring-state-park

Madison Blue Spring
http://www.flsprings.com/content/madison-blue-spring

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A December Hike Through Wekiwa Springs 13-Mile White-Loop

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.

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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.

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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.

Read more:
Wekiva Springs State Park

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The Grēn of Poe Springs @ Highland Springs, Florida

During my father’s eulogy, I had rehearsed words in my mind, “While one door closes, another opens.” This sentiment had embodied our personal journeys moving forward until final conclusion. Whether through pictures, text, or sounds, the composition of shared story telling experiences had turned my hands right maneuvering into Poe Springs Park.

Poe Springs IMG_0636 @ Highland Springs, Florida

If just a casual passer by, the open greenery of the park had appeared exceedingly mundane; however, walking down the wooden board walk, the spring boil was brimming with water bugs and a multitude of green hues. Walking down the concrete stairs bordering the spring, my friend had warned me of the disconcerting slipperiness of green algae on its steps.  Catching a small quick slip moving downward, I had quickly conceded to gravity into the shallow waters.

Poe Springs, IMG_0668 @ Highlands, Florida

With the overhang of trees and break of the sunlight, it was hard to see the opposing water’s edge. Was there a gator in the darkness? Who had known but, I wasn’t going to travel any further than required for swimming into the boil. Submerging myself further into the spring waters, it had pushed back with distinct force from the cropping of jagged openings.

Poe Springs, IMG_0669 @ Highlands, Florida

Away from the calming charm of the spring head, its waters emptied out into the expanse of the Sante Fe River. This river was product of the many springs along its twisting curves. Like leaves on the water’s surface, I had drifted onto the corner of accompanying fishing pier overlooking the Sante Fe River.

A week later, sick in bed, feeling like death, I hadn’t pondered the meaning of turning off the road into Poe Springs Park. Reflecting now, I had believed times like these fill our work, our lives with hope. In the end, without hope, how does a person start the day?

Read More:
Poe Springs Park (Florida Springs)
Map of Florida Springs (Florida Springs)
Hue (Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

SunRail Eastbound Joy @ Maitland, Florida

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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.



Read More:
SunRail (SunRail)
SunRail extends late-night service (WFTV)

Blue Skies above Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park @ Homosassa, Florida

“Blue skies smilin’ at me / Nothin’ but blue skies do I see..”Irving Berlin

Under a mix of rain and rolling grey clouds, I had hit the Florida highway toward Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. With elements in flux, I had questioned the wisdom of following through on a Wednesday’s morning impromptu road trip; however, after finishing the commute into their parking lot, the weather cleared into postcard Florida sunshine and blue skies.

Waters of Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park @ garzafx.com

While absent opportunities for swimming or canoeing, this excursion had provided in person viewing of Florida’s indigenous wildlife like the panther, bobcat, fox, and more. Of the many on-premise animals, very few, I had seen in the outdoors except gators, otters and manatees. Another hallmark of the park was “The Underwater Observatory”, a.k.a. “Fish Bowl.” This submerged area had permitted visitors an alternate perspective in watching fish and the playful manatees.

Blue Skies above Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 2 Fish @ Garzafx.com

After clearing the “Fish Bowl,” I had wandered down the Wildlife Walk boardwalk. Here, the bulk of the park’s creatures were concentrated concurrently from flamingos to the Florida Panther to the reptile pavilion. The highlight for myself was hearing electrifying calls of bald eagle.

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Toward the end of loop on the boardwalk, past the reptile exhibit, I had caught glimpse of resting alligators. Across from the gators was the only non-indiginous creature on display, a 50 plus year old hippo. Turning the corner around its holding area, I had noticed a sign with an image of the backside of  a hippo with tail swinging side to side. According to park ranger earlier in the day, the sign had served as warning of the hippo’s playful spraying behavior.  A behavior, which had offered as motivation for clearing the area after seeing this hippo heading to the dry embankment.

Blue Skies above Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park 3 Gator @ Garzafx.com

Initially, I had held a certain apprehension about visiting a park without options for water bound activities; however, the charm of seeing so many indigenous Floridian animals had won me over.  The big takeaway was seeing kids and other adults being equally enamored by showcased wildlife. Of the many state parks, this one was worth the travel even under threatening skies.

Manatee Programs: 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Alligator/Hippopotamus Program at 12:30 p.m.



Address: 
4150 South Suncoast Boulevard, Homosassa, FL 34448

Hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM, 365 days a year.

Admission: Adults, $13.00, Children 6-12 $5.00, Florida State Park Pass Holders, Free.

Note, The last tickets are sold at 4:45 p.m.

Read More:
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (Florida State Parks)
Blue Skies (1926 song) (Wikipedia)

The Life of Lake Lily Park @ Maitland, Florida

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.

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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.

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Perhaps, it was the gratifying connection of feeding the ducks, squirrels or turtles. This action had always brought adults and children degrees of satisfaction.

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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

Read More:

Maitland’s Farmer’s Market (itsmymaitland.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Springs in Kelly Park on a Sunday Afternoon @ Apopka, Florida

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.

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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

Hours:
Summer: 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.;
Winter: 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.;
Monday – Sunday

Phone:
(407) 254-1902
Admission:
$3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people

Read More:

Kelly Park/Rock Springs (Orange County)

Prelude to the Fall in Gemini Springs Park @ DeBary, Florida

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Admission: Free

Read More:

Gemini Springs Park (volusia.org)

Lot 1, Canaveral National Seashore @ Titusville, Florida

Driving a new route into National Canaveral Seashore park, I was reminded of the expansive acreage encompassing the area. On the left, I had viewed many charred trunks of palms from controlled burns. On the right shoulder, I had seen the most butterflies since being in elementary school. Before my final turn into the park gate, a solitary turtle had struggled to cross the center of the road. Fortunately, the lack of traffic had allowed me to swerve slightly into the median avoiding a possible road kill, buzz-kill moment.

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Arriving at the gate, I had thought out loud,”How many times have I been here over the past year? Maybe I should just get a pass?” At that moment, the ranger had waved us past the guard house. The reason was National Public Lands Day, meaning free admission to any national park. I was ecstatic at the surprise of saving $5. Perhaps, it was good karma for showing mercy upon the tiny turtle earlier on?

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Eventually parking at Lot 1, a few ladies were headed to their vehicle. They had commented out-loud on the rough surf. With that thought in mind, I had carefully waded into the seas wondering,”How rough?” After few moments of swimming and trending water, the undertow seductively had pulled me out beyond my comfort level. After this realization, I had swam back to shallows enjoying the forceful nature of the waves while swimming in place. It had served as an extra round of exercise over the heated gym pool earlier in the morning.

After wrapping up for the afternoon, I had headed toward the boardwalk. Right next to the wooden steps, a fish head had captured my attention. Not too far away was a small cluster of pink flowers blooming. The Canaveral National Seashore had always served as reminder of the duality of nature. Sometimes showcasing life, other moments, it had offered testament to death with an empty shells or carcasses. The reason for my affinity for the park was this dichotomy.

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If you hadn’t visited this park, the next day for free admission was November 11, Veterans Day. The vast acreage had offered opportunities for fishing, swimming, hiking and primitive camping. For more information visit,  Canaveral National Seashore (National Park Service)

Read More:

Free Entrance Days in the National Parks (National Park Service)

Detour into Green Springs Park @ Deltona, Florida

“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.

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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.

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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?

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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
Admission: Free

Read More:
Green Springs (volusia.org)
Volusia County Florida Ecological nature parks (Volusia.org)

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)

Bahia Honda State Park @ Big Pine Key, Florida

Heading south on A1A to Bahia Honda State Park @ Big Pine Key, Florida, I had remembered the cadence of my wheels clearing portions of the bridge above the Atlantic. Looking left, I had caught a passing glimpse of the now decommissioned Old Bahia Honda Bridge feeding into the park. One sensation I had recalled most, the summer air blowing against my arm driving toward this destination.

Clearing the bridge, my vehicle had come upon the park entrance on the left side of A1A. After the gate, the asphalt road was bordered by thick greenery. Moving forward, the road had curved few times in different directions. After one curve, it had gave way to views of the shallow waters beyond the guardrail. Perhaps this reveal  was part of the charm of Bahia Honda? All that greenery was followed by the contrasting blue waters and white sands, typical of a postcard of the Florida Keys.

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Arriving at the parking lot, the walk to the ocean was around 100ft through picnic tables into the turbulent waters this May Saturday afternoon. To my chagrin, the waters were remarkably cool for this far south. After taking refreshing quick dip in the ocean, I had hopped back into my car to dry out in the heat. Leaving this park, I had wished only for less foot traffic and more time in the sun. The park had offered flats for fishing, ample beach for swimming and more. Reminiscing about this diversion, I had thought I would very much like to return for another round of exploration.




Bahia Honda State Park is located at:
36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
Phone: (305) 872-2353

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Read More:

Bahia Honda State Park (floridastateparks.org)

Bahia Honda State Park  (bahiahondapark.com)

A Sunday Morning at Wekiva Springs @ Apopka, Florida

For my many journeys into the Wekiva Basin, I hadn’t the opportunity to take underwater footage around the spring head until now. This quick video had embodied the sanctity of the spring head on a Sunday morning on July 18th, 2014. The story behind this visit was being turned away the previous day. The important secret for Wekiva Springs State Park most of the year, especially during weekdays, more so in the winter months, visitor traffic was light; however, on hot summer weekends, I had recommended getting there early, between 7 AM – 8 AM.


If you hadn’t known, Wekiva Springs was a 1st magnitude spring. Meaning the spring head had pushed out a tremendous amount of water, roughly 100 cubic feet per second. Another fact regarding the State of Florida, it was home to the most fresh water springs in the world. If you were interested learning more about other similarly classified state springs hop over to Apalacheehills.com’s List of First-Magnitude Springs in Florida. If already a visitor to Wekiva, I had recommended hitting these other 1st magnitude springs in Florida like Silver, Rainbow, Wakulla, Ichetucknee, Blue, Troy, Silver Glen, Weeki Wachee and Alexander. With summer 2014 drawing to close, I had simply thought to say “Jump in the water!”

Read More:
Basins: Middle St. John’s River: Wekiva River (sjrwmd.com)
Hydrology (Wikipedia)

 

8 Miles on the Wekiva River from King’s Landing @ Apopka, Florida

A number of weekends starting back in February 2013, I had traveled down the Wekiva River from King’s Landing in Apopka, Florida. The great thing about canoeing down the Wekiva for 8.5 miles, you were almost completely surrounded in nature. The catch to having a good adventure was always figuring out what time and with who to get on the water with.

For a starting time, I had targeted between 7 AM – 8 AM in the morning. This last trip, I had arrived late around 9 AM. For a summer day, this had seemed like a severe misstep; however, the waterway had lacked any real traffic. Because of the lack of human activity and raised water level, the normally 5 hour plus interlude had seemed fairly effortless. Like a scuba trip, canoeing had always presented something unique each time out. This go around, the noise of cicadas had filled the air on a mostly sunny, slightly breezy day. Along the way, I had caught glimpses of numerous turtles, white herons and even a four-foot gator. With respect to insects, there were a few mosquitoes, gnats and horseflies. Though, this was nothing a quick slap of the hand couldn’t handle. The surprise of the day was the ability of the sublime taking center stage, specifically the sounds and sights of slow churning water and trees.

As far as planning for half day canoe ride, I had packed orange juice, Gatorade and a banana. Keep in mind, Styrofoam cups or glass bottles were not permitted when launching from King’s Landing. On this trip, staff had requested removal of bottled beer from my cooler. This notwithstanding, the staff at King’s Landing had provided friendly feedback regarding river water level and state of the waterway. The cost for renting a 2 or 3 person canoe for the day was $40. One last benefit of renting from King’s Landing, they had still provided a shuttle ride back to your car at 2:30 PM and 4:30 PM.

Travelling down the Wekiva River from King’s Landing again,the experience had reaffirmed my opinion the canoe ride being one of Central Florida’s best entertainment offerings. I had recommended going down the river for any naturist or just simply a good time.

King’s Landing is located at 5722 Baptist Camp Rd, Apopka, FL 32712
Hours: 7 AM – 6PM Wednesday – Sunday, less Thanksgiving and Christmas

Read More:
King’s Landing (kingslandingfl.com)
Wekiva River (wikipedia)

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18,000 Foot Tandem Skydive from Skydive Space Center @ Titusville, Florida

This Saturday morning, a good buddy had drove us out to Titusville, Florida to go on 18,000 Foot Tandem Skydive at Dunn Airpark. Now, this idea had floated around in my head for few months; however, I had remained non-committal to the adventure until another set of travel plan fell through last minute. Buying the skydive Groupon on a Thursday, my focus initially was just on making the roaster for Saturday jumps.

Upon arriving at Skydive Space Center at 7:15 AM on this Saturday morning, I hadn’t realized the gravity of jumping out of a “perfectly good working plane.” Yet, my buddy was extremely anxious. His anxiety had culminated in sweating profusely while filling out waiver paperwork. Amazingly, this plane ride was his third flight lifetime. After getting checked-in, some of the instructors had sized us up with  harnesses. They then had pulled us aside in groups providing instructions for body positioning for the actual jump. The tipping point for my fear of heights had precipitated with the first propeller engine roaring on. This was eclipsed by learning I was going to be the the first customer out the cabin door. After final strap check and round of instructions, the videographer, Derek, had positioned himself first out the door. Then quick moment after, my skydiving guide, Mark, had propelled us across the threshold into the open air.

In freefall, I was treated to an awesome view of the Titusville, Florida coastline. It had looked lush and pristine from above.  After about a minute, the free fall had shifted to controlled decent with the parachute deployment. I was provided an opportunity to steer the parachute. In difference to steering a hang glider, the parachute was intuitive and mirrored your arm movements naturally. After this exercise, my skydiving guide had provided final guidance on landing. The landing itself was remarkable for the small amount of real estate being targeted. The landing though quick, was firm and controlled. After standing up, I had looked back to see my buddy cruise down out of the air with huge smile. It was remarkable  turnabout. Despite the nerves earlier, it was definitely half the fun of selecting this travel outing.

Some things to consider, if you had wanted to go try out this experience. One, consider wearing glasses instead of contacts was a thought. My left contact was dislodged by the air pressure into my goggles. Two, expect a nasal drain after landing, think my sinuses had drained for good 30 minutes afterwards. This was also true for my friend. Three, as far as Skydive Space Center, private GoPro usage was prohibited leaving you with minimum $100 purchase for event media (i.e. video and pictures). Lastily, I had suggested gym shorts for comfort in the harness. All in all, the experience was one of a kind, simply phenomenal. I had recommended this to anyone with a sense of adventure.

Read More:
Skydive Space Center (www.skydivespacecenter.com)

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Barracuda Reef Dive off the Sea Experience, June 8, 2014 @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Second dive of this day, I was able to get around without my wet suit moving constantly in the ocean. I hadn’t seen any barracudas for the Go Pro video below; however, I had seen schools of grunts and jacks, a grouper, a queen angel fish, a yellow hog fish, and wrasses. The only creature undocumented on the final edit was a turtle. Holding on the dive flag had also provided an even flow to some of my camera work. The video I had composed using  Go Pro Hero 3+ Black Edition, MacBook Pro and iMovie. Think I was fairly jazzed putting the video together. Adding the track Solar Sailor from Daft Punk to the video, I had thought ideal counterpoint for drift diving.  As far as air consumption,  I was clocking an acceptable number with my PSI on the scuba tank on a 40 minute dive with 1500 psi leftover. Below were the stats from my Suunto Viper Air dive computer for this outing. In retrospect, lots of  elements were ideal on this dive with air temperature at 91 degrees F, warm seas at 82 degrees F and oodles of video. It had  epitomized everything that makes scuba diving fun! barracuda reef drift dive @ garzafx.com barracuda drift dive @ garzafx.com 

Read More: Sea Experience (seaxp.com)  

Tenneco Towers East Dive off the Sea Experience, June 8, 2014 @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Tenneco Towers East was one of the more challenging dives out of my twenty-five to date. This day on the boat had started out with my buddy’s cylinder order being mixed up with 21% regular oxygen blend versus a Nitrox blend of 32%. After securing the correct tanks, he had run into a busted o-ring when setting up his gear. Both of us also had issues with our regulators leaking air from one location or another. Luckily, the dive master from the Sea Experience was extremely helpful in securing my wireless transmitter and my friend’s run to his BCD.

After getting out to sea, I had run into a two issues right out of the gate. First my buoyancy was way off  preventing a controlled descent. Second, one of my fin straps had come loose approaching the boat ladder. After getting back on the Sea Experience, I was provided an additional 4 more lbs. of weights. After re-entering the ocean, I had easily converged with my buddy patiently waiting at the top of Tenneco Towers East. We then had started our decline down the slop of the top of the structure.  Originally, we had planned to spiral around the tower but, the strong current and my earlier missteps didn’t allow for keeping with our dive plan. After our last air check, my friend had realized the necessity to work up to a safety stop; however, I had lost view of him moving to the boat anchor. With rising bubbles and silhouettes from other divers, my view of him was totally obstructed. Amazingly, he had seen me the entire time looking down the rope for the anchor.

After getting topside again, I had found my dive buddy seated at the front of the deck. We soon had engaged about the miscommunication under the water and the break in visual contact. The fundamental faux pas had centered around dumping our planned movement and properly signaling with our hands to ascend outright. I had thought for myself, “Lesson learned. Keep it simple stupid!” With my dive relatively unsuccessful with about 23 minutes submerged time, the silver lining was firing up a newly acquired Go Pro gathering my first dive footage. To that end, I had posted a video below that I think truly communicates the unworldly feel of Tenneco Towers.

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Created with Go Pro Hero 3+ Black Edition, MacBook Pro, and  iMovie.

Read More:

Sea Experience (seaxp.com)

 

Long Key State Park @ Long Key, Florida

Long Key State Park had fit the bill for a random interlude for pulling to the side of the road and viewing the tropical surroundings. The great attraction was the quick access to the shoreline. There was very little foot traffic aside from one park ranger. A few benches had lined the side of the parking lot. The bulk of my visit, I had sat in my vehicle looking across the horizon thinking of what tomorrow might bring. The only other drawback was the timing of low tide making swimming in the flat impractical.

Combining the Florida State Park Annual Pass for families with one time seasonal fee of $5.00 for Monroe County surcharge, had made exploring this and other state parks affordable on this road trip down into the Florida Keys.

Long Key State Park is located at 67400 Overseas Hwy, Layton, Florida 33001

Park hours: 8:00 AM until dusk 365 days a year. Admission Fees:

$5.00* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.

$2.00* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

$4.00* Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.

* Plus $.50 per person Monroe County Surcharge.

Read More:
Long Key State Park (floridastateparks.org)
Florida State Park Annual Pass (floridastateparks.org)

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