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)