Veteran’s Memorial Park and Seven Mile Bridge @ Little Duck Key, Florida

During a scouting trip through the Florida Keys with a buddy, I had searched for a location for hopping into the azure blue salt water off the coast with little effort and few people. On the second day of driving southbound toward Key West, Veteran’s Memorial Park just past the Seven Mile Bridge @ Little Duck Key had provided that venue. The opportunity also had provided the chance for testing out my new GoPro3.

After clearing the Seven Mile Bridge at Little Duck Key, I had pulled into parking lot on the right accessing the now defunct bridge. Walking down the decommissioned run of the Seven Mile Bridge, I had passed some folks fishing from each side of the bridge. Before reaching the end, I had come across the dried out corpse of a moray eel. Apparently the little guy had missed the memo about hydration and sun screen. After walking down a bit further, about a good half mile, I had reached the end. At this cut off, I had a clear view of other end of the bridge no longer in service. I had thought this would be a perfect location for a photo op at dawn or dusk.

Once returning to the car from the escapade on the bridge, I walked across the road to Veteran’s Memorial Park. Entry was free with park hours dawn to dusk. The beach and shallow waters were easily accessible. On this side of the key there was decent amenities like restrooms and shaded picnic tables. If looking for a pit stop going to Key West, this had seemed an ideal location for a breather. For myself, I had fired up my GoPro3 taking a test round of footage. Despite some shaky camera work, the footage had still recorded enough material communicating the natural beauty and feel of the park.

Though a brief interlude, each location had definitely caught the spirit of the Florida Keys I had yearned for from afar. Moments in the sun that had embodied the American ideal of manifest destiny driving toward tomorrow.

Read More:
Seven Mile Bridge (Wikipedia)

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Key West AIDS Memorial @ Key West, Florida

Life had always offered subtle surprises in introspection when least expecting it. Travelling to the keys with a friend, I had scouted the finish line to his marathon for a pickup in Higgs Beach @ Key West, Florida. Walking around in the heat, I had encountered a flood of people supporting participants around the Keys 100 Ultramarathon. One of the first things that had caught my eye, signage for an African cemetery at Higgs Beach with mural map of the surrounding nautical area. Moving further up the sidewalk, I had come across the granite Key West AIDS Memorial and a pier going out to the sea. There I had stood for few moments thinking of a span of 20 years of life.

My thoughts had started out with a memory of participating in an AIDS vigil in 1995. From there, I had reflected on the experience of coming out against the backdrop of dark times in the LGBT community. Since then I had known friends to test HIV positive and die of AIDS. Like the etching on this granite memorial, the echoes of this disease and stigmas of being homosexual were like an unresolved musical phrase by the collective consciousness of this minority today. This was a direct contrast to the environment which I had encountered at age 22 searching for my identity. Back then, love and sex were associated with societal ostracization and death. There was a lack of happy glee in that notion; however, I had marched forward in self-realization peeling back the layers of ego. The path forward was framed through looking-glass of affection for my best friend in college. It was a necessary yet, slow evolution in difference to years of assertions to being straight. Perhaps this was why the quotes from Robert Frost and Alfred Tenyson resonate so well with me in this construct.

Walking out to the nearby pier on this Saturday, I had felt a calm reassurance of knowing exactly who I am. Listening to Peter’s Gabriel’s soundtrack to the “Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ,” gone were the days of fretting over the fear of friends, family and God knowing who I am too. These many leaps of faith intellectually and physically had defined my person on a road less traveled.

Key West AIDS Memorial is located at White Street @ Key West, Florida 33040

Read More:
Key West AIDS Memorial (keywestaids.org)
Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ (Wikipedia)

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#3463, The Rescue Run Corporate 5K @ Lake Mary, Florida

On Thursday, March 27th, 2014 @ 6:30 PM, I had journeyed out on my first outdoor run since October 2013. The purpose of this endeavor was helping raise money and awareness to the plight of the homeless in Seminole County Florida. For myself, the point was just to see how my aging, 42 year old body might fair at the end of a business day. Some fellow work friends had inquired, ”Are you going to run or walk?” My response was, “Just have to see what happens!”

On the day before the run, a work email was sent out listing all the registered participants. Though registering for the event online, my name was missing. Following up with the in house organizer, I had requested being placed on standby for any cancellations. Writing off that possibility Wednesday night, I had awoke at 3 AM Thursday morning hoping to wrap up loose ends on an IT project; however, the day was marred by frustration and disappointment copying files from one portion of a SAN (i.e. fancy disk system) to another. The phrase,”Soooo slow” was echoed by one peer embodying the morning’s events. Think this was the theme for most of the day. Then, an unexpected chat window from an event coordinator had materialized on my laptop display. Someone from the list of registrants had called out sick. I was thinking, “Okay I’m in. Let me turn this day around.”

With the 5K kicking off promptly at 6:30 PM, I had cruised the first mile with a brisk clip. At 1.5 miles in, I had felt my calve muscles starting to cramp from too much afternoon caffeine consumption. In an effort to maintain pace, I had employed a routine from a friend alternating a walk and run every minute or so. With that technique, I was able to bridge the next 1.5 miles at a moderate clip. Coming around the final corner, I had switched to walking again. Pulling up on the left side, one of my co-workers had encouraged me to “finish strong!” For some reason, I was reinvigorated by his inspirational phrase. That act of comradery had provided me with a descent final run time.

At age 42, a 5k at 30 minutes 40 seconds were quantifiable, some say, respectable numbers. More important was bridging these moments to the failing health of someone close to me over the weekend. That person, age 38, had experienced a potential stroke including loss of facial muscle control. I had not known anyone that close to me or young to suffer such a physical setback. I had never felt so helpless to fix a problem. With each tomorrow, I had to waited to see what happens with his condition. For today, I had only hoped to motivate him, like my co-worker, down the road that lies ahead.

Update: The stroke was a misdiagnosis of Bell’s Palsy.

Read More:
The Rescue Run Corporate 5K (therescuerun5k.com)
Bell’s Palsy (Wikipedia)

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31 days to scuba dive in Blue Springs State Park @ Orange City, Florida

On Sunday, March 16th, at 10:30 am, I had returned to my vehicle after 23 minutes of diving in Blue Springs State Park @ Orange City, Florida. On recollection, my buddy had noted an anti-climactic nature of this escapade after taking a month and half off from diving. Our last outing was two days in the salty brine of the Atlantic Ocean off Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for Padi Advanced Open Water class. On the surface, I had wanted to agree with my friend’s assessment; however, being my first post-surgery dive from two hernias, I had felt an emotional contrast to the facts of the day.

For those unfamiliar with Blue Springs, park services had closed off the spring head access during the winter months for manatee activity. This being the first weekend of open water access, many divers had converged upon Blue Springs. According to the park rangers, we were the 8th grouping to check-in at the front desk. During that process, one of the female rangers had scolded us for skipping park entry. Though, we had flashed our park pass moments earlier. I had thought, “What a saucy lady!”  Despite the unfriendly welcome, we had both shrugged off the experience with joking about one of us not returning from this simple excursion.

After clearing the main gate, we had parked our vehicle in the secondary parking lot for assembling our equipment. Before heading down to the wooden boardwalk near the springs, I had attached my buoyancy control device (BCD), tank, and regulator to a small hand truck on loan from Paul Shepherd from Seminole Scuba. The goal for the day was overcoming an underlying fear of undoing my surgical repairs. On one hand, my surgeon, Lou Harold, had cleared me for this activity. On the other hand, while loading my vehicle with a scuba bag the previous day, I had felt some heat from my lower pelvic incision. I was hoping the feeling just to be mild stretching of scar tissue. Maneuvering the hand truck awkwardly, I was exerting a bit more energy and motion than expected. I had speculated, “What if the cylinder pops off the truck? What if I go rushing to catch it from crushing a passing child? What if that rushing action rips my flesh apart?” With those thoughts spinning in my mind, I had opted for a gut check by helping my buddy get his gear on. I had imagined this a good physical barometer for myself to gauge skipping on using the hand truck. Despite all the rehabbing exercises of the past 29 days, I was unsure of the forthcoming result. Carefully lifting and holding his equipment in place, my friend had secured himself. Then it was my turn. Quickly attaching my upper chest and waist level clips, my scuba buddy then had released the full weight upon my body. We then both had commented on, “How light the tanks were?”  Despite adjusting my cylinder once more on the walk down the boardwalk, I was amazed at the relative ease of handling the assembled scuba equipment. I had thought,“Score one for picking up lunges for stretching and strength training.”

Reaching the water’s edge, we had discussed our plan for navigating the boil. We had headed toward the spring head on our right in the shallows. The strategy was avoiding the bulk of the current’s strength and overexerting ourselves physically. Upon reaching the spring head, the water’s visibility was greatly decreased by the overcrowded activity of all the other diving groups. For about fifteen minutes, we had waited for the activity to die down. With eight divers returning to the perimeter of the water, we had moved forward with our descent.

Recalling swimming this spring last year, we had passed by the downed tree across the boil opening.  Clearing this landmark, I had struggled with current pushing back. I was wondering if cutting my weights down to four pounds might be too light?  However, switching my profile to feet first had helped with my descent along with long release of air from my lungs. Additionally, I had pulled myself forward on the white limestone formations. These limestone ridges had appeared like huge underwater shelving at eye level. The descending view was more reminiscent of an alien orifice perhaps from H.R. Giger. After reaching approximately 60 feet, we had basked in the current like a pair of fish. With time to spare, we had spent a few moments for photo-ops. We had joshed around with posing in power flexing stances to Vulcan greeting to other sexually suggestive sign language.

Before our ascent to our safety stop, the sun had cleared the clouds. Looking up at the cascading light shimmering on the limestone cavern and floating debris, I had felt calming sense of accomplishment. The importance of this moment was therapeutic. There were lots of facts to complain from this dive; no manatees, dearth of big fish, an unruly free diver, overcrowding, limited visibility, a cranky park ranger and blurry underwater Go Pro photographs. All of these facts were inconsequential for myself being 31 days out from hernia surgery. This outing was a driving force for my recovery. All I had fixated on most of the month was bridging the gap from surgery to submersion beneath the water’s surface. Twice during that time, I had dreamed vividly of being underwater. Dreams I had believed speak to us about ourselves. People had often talked about the love for water as a form of rebirth or renewal. I had believed that before, more so now. To the question of “What’s inside me?”, for myself, on this day I had lived a dream.

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

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A return to Lake Lily Park @ Maitland, Florida

On the mend from surgery, I had opted for a returning drive up to Lake Lily Park @ Maitland, Florida. Over the past year, I had ventured across most of the state of Florida. Most destinations had offered a greater degree of seclusion and natural brilliance than this city park; however, on this Monday, I had only wanted to escape the confines of my bed. The goal for the day was asserting my mental independence over physical disrepair.

Heading out at noon, my vehicle had voyaged into Lake Lily’s parking lot. Exiting my Explorer, I had gingerly moved toward the perimeter of sidewalk wrapping around the lake. After making one lap around Lake Lily, I had stopped because of lack of hydration in the noon time sun. That notwithstanding, I had achieved a very rudimentary goal with pretense of another return.

On the following Tuesday, I had committed to hitting an hour walk. With some discomfort but, an increasing tempo of footsteps, I had achieved my target time. Putting aside the rehabilitation of my body, I had also encountered a multitude of underappreciated views. Perhaps being less mobile than normal, I had enjoyed the passing sights of squirrels, turtles, fish and ducks. I was also reminded in even such limited liberation, the solace of the mind nature brings.

I hadn’t decided where my next walk will be but, glad to reacquaint myself with local favorite in Central Florida. It was more than a return to a physical location but, one of solace.

More Information:

Lake Lily Park is located @ 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland, FL 32751.
Hours: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm
Farmers Market is held on Sunday mornings.

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Padi Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Class @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

In the middle of January, I had signed up for Advanced Open Water class down at Seminole Scuba @ Lake Mary, Florida. Fresh off a cold and a possible new hernia, I had pushed myself to hit the road with my scuba buddy in completing this upgrade to my diving repertoire. During our adventure, we had hit the following underwater areas off the Ft. Lauderdale coast.

1. Rebel
2. Oakland Ridge
3. Hog Heaven
4. The Caves
5. Tenneco Tower
6. Barracuda Reef

On the lessons learned front, I was treated to a reality check on a few different technical items. One, I had definitely needed a thicker wetsuit for managing my threshold for hypothermia (i.e. 3mm vs. 5mm). According to our instructor, Johnny G. Thomson, I was shaking like a tree on a windy day. Some might say not a big deal but, this had definitely kept me from fully enjoying the dives. On the physical front, I was eating up my Nitrox like a drunk sailor on shore leave. After the first day, I had thought I easily lost a few pounds looking in the mirror just from the extended exposure.

Second, having to switch to a spare air cylinder due to overconsumption of Nitrox, I had forgotten to switch the mix on my dive computer down from 31% to 21%. That oversight had forced my Viper Air to lock out reading my PSI. At that point, I was a bit frustrated and crestfallen. During that process, I had also unexpectedly experienced moving down from Nitrox to normal air mix. I had suggested skipping that switch if at all possible. A normal air cylinder definitely had a stale dry aftertaste. On the plus side, I had picked up a tip on modifying my regulator for better air management. Additionally, I had kept in mind to ask for a bigger tank on rental the next go around.

Third, on buoyancy, I was down to a body weight of 150 pounds. This was a swing of 10 lbs. from taking Padi Open Water class. Eight pounds of weights in either salt or fresh had seemed much for managing my buoyancy with the least amount of effort. I had targeted to cut this in half for my next outing.

Fourth, never leave your personally verified Nitrox cylinders unattended on shore or charter boat. Despite the personal labeling, I had one fellow diver pulling my buddy’s and my personal cylinders without our knowledge. Either through being lazy, or just being rude, I was extremely pissed off by the potential of coughing up money for a missing cylinder. On top of that, we had depended on the lowest Nitrox mix for our deepest dives. What was this guy thinking?

As far as the big picture stuff on the trip, I had continued growing to love being out on and in the open water, whether deep or at night. Every dive so far has had a different pay off. It was cool to finally get below 100 feet; however, the emotional payoff on this dive trip was the accommodating staff from Seminole Scuba and my dive buddy. Their passion for diving had shone through any technical challenges for myself. Sometimes it was more beyond the wildlife you encounter but, the comradery. To that end, I had looked forward to planning my next dive post my hernia surgery.

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Padi Advanced Open Water @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida @ GarzaFX.com

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Padi Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Class @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida @ GarzaFX.com

Padi Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Class @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida @ GarzaFX.com

Sponsored by Seminole Scuba

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Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in a lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

Afternoon hike in Wekiva Springs State Park @ Apopka, Florida

Wekiva Springs State Park was a bit of an ongoing natural exploration for myself. I had viewed different passing phases of weather elements ranging from hot, warm, humid, rain to cool, cold, dry, and windy. All these elements had enshrouded different perspectives in and out of the water for swimming, camping and canoeing. One thing I hadn’t done yet, hiking on the many trails emanating around the spring boil. Taking a half day of time off work yesterday, I had met up with a friend for taking a leisurely advance into these nearby woods.

Our walk had started on the boardwalk close to the trail-head. On this weekday, the first thing I had realized the lack of people occupying the grounds. This expectation was bit of an adjustment, on weekends in warmer weather, people flock to this watery arena. Another adjustment was the lack of insects in the air whether wasps, flies or mosquitoes. The offset was the cool breeze washing in and out of the pine and palmetto trees. My logic had concluded this being the reason for lack of ever present indigenous locals either human or not.

Courtesy of www.mappery.com
Courtesy of www.mappery.com

Finishing the short boardwalk, we had moved onto the main trail heading toward Sandlake. The shimmering light of the sun had revealed harvest like colors of auburn, browns, grays, yellows and green. With a recent trip out to mountains of Georgia, the slow arcing topography of the Wekiva basin was a welcome contrast. Both environments had their unique elements of appreciation yet, Florida’s emitting a more familiar comforting emotional refrain.

With an eventual split in the trail, we had steered to the left eventually moving across a road. Coming to the connecting side of the trail, we had seen a metallic hiking icon hanging on a wooden marker. It was a bit of flashy icon with another patch below for “no biking.” Proceeding down the way, we had come to some yellow caution tape on both sides of another road. On the ground had fallen a paper white posting listing the area for a controlled fire burn for January 15 – January 17th. With lack of sight or smell of fire, I hadn’t worried much about such postings; however, with the dashing winds, I had thought prudent in a turnabout. A few moments further down the trail, I had heard the chopping of wood in the distance. I had recalled a presentation from Wekiva burn manager about their preparation for controlled burns. I had theorized these noises from an advancing group of “preppers.” With that thought, such burn notices were better suited for the front gate or a website. With this turnabout, I had accumulated unfinished business for another Florida afternoon.

Read More:
Wekiva Springs (Florida State Parks)

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New sponsor, Seminole Scuba

2014 brings GarzaFX a new sponsor in Seminole Scuba.

Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in the lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

Seminole Scuba’s next major adventure, Africa 2014, is a magical trip to trek with Gorillas in Rwanda, Safari in Kenya, and then to Zanzibar, Tanzania for 7 nights of diving and culture. As a guide, Paul Shepherd brings his 10 years of living in Africa plus, an ability to fluently speak Swahili to enrich this experience.

Travel Summary:

Gorillas, Wilderness, & Diving Approximate dates: Nov 11 – Nov 29, 2014*
Wilderness, & Diving Approximate dates: Nov 15 – Nov 29, 2014

*The Gorilla viewing is optional

More Information:
Seminole Scuba

Address: 3869 Lake Emma Road, Lake Mary, Florida, 32746
Phone: 407-333-8856
Fax: 407-333-8134
Emaildive@seminolescuba.com
Website: www.seminolescuba.com

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Manatee Springs State Park @ Chiefland, Florida

On the last Sunday of 2013, around 4:30 am, I had received a text from a good friend while asleep. The text was the start of a conversation for selecting a pick-up time for heading out to Manatee Springs State Park @ Chiefland, Florida. By chance, I had awoke around 5:30 am responding to his text with “Ready to go in 30 minutes.” The irony, my friend and I had reversed sleeping schedules by chance. Usually, I had perked up earlier in the day; though, this morning was different. Our travel plan had evolved as early as Thursday. Since then, I had checked the weather report, water clarity, and any manatees blocking spring access; however, accommodating out of town friends and family, we had pushed back our initial target date from Saturday to Sunday. With my buddy’s arrival at 6 am, we had embarked to our water borne destination tossing my gear into his back seat.

A big concern for this fresh water adventure was air management and site selection. Neither of us had known a great deal about this locale in advance. Our tentative objective was scout the two bodies of water at the park; Manatee Springs and Catfish Hotel. Less any onsite objections, we had wanted to expend 1000 PSI (i.e. pounds per square inch) out of 3000 from our scuba tanks per body of water. Another unexpected variable was weather. During in car conversations, we had both noticed the unusually warm temperatures in Orlando, Florida. Beginning the drive, the skies were slightly overcast with little to no rain. Entering the last hour of the drive, a heavy deluge had begun falling. For the most part, passing storms in Florida had provided a shelf life of about 15 minutes. Intensifying with the sound of thunder and flashes of lighting, this front had matured beyond that characterization. For a scuba trip, we had wondered what kind of omen this might mean at Manatee Springs State Park.

After commuting just under three hours, we had pulled into the park’s main gate courtesy of my friend’s snappy driving. Flashing our Florida State Park Annual Family Pass for admission, we had cleared the gate. Though, we were immediately re-directed to diver check-in. During that process, one of the rangers had entered exclaiming, ”You are going to get your hair wet out there today.” My response was, “Somehow, I don’t think that’ll be a problem scuba diving.” Despite the dreary overcast skies, this happy banter had reinforced our cheerful road demeanor. That good karma, I had believed in manifestation of slowing the rains and an end to the thunder and lightning.

Afterwards, we had followed the road down a bit until parking. From here, we had engaged in walk-through of Catfish Hotel and Manatee Springs. Two things had immediately caught my eye. One, a sign for snakes, which in all of my Florida travels, I had seen only once before at remote beach on Honey Moon Island. The second, a layer of bright puke green algae had obscured about half of the water’s surface at Catfish Hotel. Now, I hadn’t really worried much about any snakes with the air temperatures dipping to 68 F degrees with no sun; however, the green algae had just reminded me of an out of control toilet or sewer. The notion of submerging myself into this water hole had just invoked the idea of filth. The phrase,”Ewwwh!” had epitomized my feeling exactly.

Post our walk-through, we had suited up selecting the deepest body of water, my favorite of course, Catfish Hotel. Moving down the steps for entry, much to my relief, my buddy had entered first. He had inadvertently caused a wake clearing a path in the algae. In this wake, I was now able to see clear water below. With this opening, I had mitigated my earlier disgust. Putting off use of my regulator, I had swam out to the center of the water. Agreeing once more to general subsurface plan, we had descended into Catfish Hotel. We had maneuvered into the base of the depression moving to threshold of the cavern going to Manatee Springs. Throughout our 12 minute dive, we had seen various fish including, yes, hand sized catfish. Coming about to 40 feet in depth, we had pulled parallel to the cavern opening. After pivoting off some submerged tree logs, I had come within view of a corner pocket off this cavern threshold. In this pocket, I had seen a medium school of small fish. Because of the lack of surface light penetrating the darkness, I wasn’t able to get a make on a specific type of fish. With a maddening curiosity, I had wanted to investigate them further. Though, due to my lack of cavern diving credentials, I had redirected to ascending into the middle of water column. During that moment, I had recalled recent discussions of mishaps by unqualified divers and swimmers dying this year at Wekiva Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Eagle’s Nest. Later in the day, my dive buddy had forwarded a great YouTube video summarizing the dangers of cavern diving by the untrained called, ”A deceptively easy way to die.” The point of the video was the mental seduction of what appears safe to the inexperienced precipitating in a life ending event.

After an allotment of time for a safety stop, we both had resurfaced switching out our regulators for snorkels. Out of the water, I had turned down to see my friend pulling himself up an exit ladder. A layer of green algae had covered the top of his body. Luckily, I was spared a similar fate by following in his wake to the water’s edge. Walking to Manatee Springs, he had told me of his misfortune of sucking algae into his mouth from his snorkel. He had described the sensation as extremely unpalatable. To freshen up, we had quickly immersed ourselves into the pristine clear blue waters of the Manatee Spring boil. From the spring head, we had used our snorkels to acclimate to the physical layout of submerged area. After going back up against the current, we had took a moment to rest to our heart rate before switching back to our tanks. Soon after, we had descended into the spring.

The main attraction for this 25 foot deep area, the strong underwater current. To close out the day, I had decided to place myself directly in path of this raw power. After equalizing a few times, I had grabbed firmly upon a rock at the threshold of the spring opening. The pressure forcing me back was substantial. My right hand had flexed to maintain a firm grip. After a moment, I had shifted to two hands onto a larger rock. Wanting to share in the experience, I had signaled my friend down. I had encouraged him to hold onto the adjacent rock. After settling on the bottom, we had felt the current’s force breach our masks with noticeable amount of water. Periodically, we had exercised pushing the water out with air from our noses. Despite the display of nature’s unbridled will, the current was extremely relaxing, almost enthralling.

With air starting to run low, I had perched myself  atop another submerged log. After catching my friend’s attention, I had made a few hand signals mimicking sexual gestures for humor sake. In response, my friend had motioned to the surface. He wanted to share in the beauty of the light rain breaking the surface tension. The cascading effect from below had appeared almost like drops of silver.  After this observation, we had concluded with another scuba safety stop. Leaving the water this time, we had packed our equipment for departure.

This day was marked by grey clouds and spattering of rain. Raining days were defined by most people as depressing in general. This one was different. Reflecting on the whole experience now, it had took the mundane into the realm of magnificent. This experience was rooted above and below the water in appreciation of physical exploration, mental renewal, and joyful friendship.”If everyday had ended that way,” I had thought,”Text me whenever! I’ll be ready to go in 30 minutes.”

Manatee Springs State Park
Address: 11650 NW 115 Street, Chiefland, Florida 32626
Phone: (352) 493-6072

Read More:
Manatee Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)
A deceptively easy way to die (YouTube)

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Sponsored by Seminole Scuba

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Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in a lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

More Information:
website: www.seminolescuba.com
phone:  407-333-8856

Revisiting Tandem Hang-Gliding Flight @ Groveland, Florida

November 2013 had ended with revisiting Groveland, Florida for Tandem Hang-Gliding at Quest Air field. Earlier this summer, during my first visit, spotting weather had given rise to a concern about wind shear. Signing on for a third aerial excursion, I had worked out any nervousness about falling from the sky, like Icarus from Greek mythology; however, my pilot, Donny, had acknowledged my previous suspicions relating to wind anomalies. His response regarding the flight, he had stated pragmatically, “I want to live too!” After deciding on different flight agendas for my friend and me, a company jeep had hauled us out to the grass airfield.

Arriving at a blue glider, I had started to get into the top portion of the tandem harness. Donny had wasted no time joking, saying, ”I am I getting raped here?” With my left eye brow rising, I had thought to myself, “That’s not ever happening!” He quickly had followed up the quip with, “Just busting your chops man! Par for the course the third time out.” Passing the time with idle chatter before the flight, I had mentioned scuba diving at Devil’s Den the previous day. Donny had expressed some concern to Spinner, the other glider pilot. He was concerned about the possibilities of “the bends.” After responding to the concern with passage of time (i.e. 24 hours) and a limited depth of 30 feet, everyone was ready to go.

Getting into the air first, Donny had waited until the tow cable release from the skiff, before proceeding with four acrobatic rolls. These aerial maneuvers were more thrilling than any roller-coaster ride, absolutely stunning. After those moves, Donny had passed control of the glider to me. Being my third outing, he had suggested focusing on a silver roof of a house below. Taking well to direction this go around, I hadn’t spiraled down like a diving kite like before. Between both pilots, Spinner and Donny, I had finally eased mentally into guiding the glider. Before heading out to this trip, I had wondered, ”How different will this flight be? Worth 105 bucks?” Those doubts were silenced thanks to the cumulative efforts of the folks at Quest Air. Now, I had felt comfortable with the notion of maybe pursing glider training in 2014.

Read More:
Tandem Hang-Gliding Flight, Groveland, FL at Quest Air Soaring Center (GarzaFX)
Wind shear (Wikipedia)
“the bends” (howstuffworks.com)
Icarus (Wikipedia)

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Devil’s Den Springs @ Williston, Florida

Heading out to Devil’s Den Springs in Williston, Florida, this morning, the day had started with mildly cooler temperatures and slight humidity. Commuting over two hours from Orlando, Florida, we had arrived at our destination. After signing waivers, the staff had rented out pairs of buoyancy control devices, regulators and cylinders. After a walk through and some pictures, we had begun assembling our scuba gear. Switching to a wetsuit, the air had remained crisp but, manageable. While testing my regulator, my cylinder had accidentally lost 500 psi out of 3000. The staff had happily granted my request for a new cylinder at no charge. My friend had described my visceral response as giddy as a “school girl,” because of the phenomenal customer service. After gearing up and completing our pre-dive check, we had embarked to our descent.

Grappling the railing on the left facing wall, each of us had slowly stepped down the shaft toward the underground cavern. After clearing the first half of descent, the stone steps had transitioned to wood. The air temperature had also grown warmer because of the closed environment of the spring. Reaching the base dive platform, we had dawned our mask and fins at the water edge. Double-checking our bcds once more, we had launched ourselves into a familiar mental refrain of “dive, dive, dive!”

Leading the way into the submerged portion of the chamber, I had started releasing air from my b.c.d. Adjusting for the change in pressure, I had grasped my nose a few times blowing a puff of air into my ears. Acclimating to the warm 72 degree spring waters, we had started a lap around the limestone perimeter. Moving down the water column, our underwater flashlights had scanned the surfaces of the cavern walls. The rock formations had seemed as foreign as an alien world. The underwater silence had provided a calming, peaceful accompaniment to the surroundings. Seeing a signal from my friend, he had motioned to small red devil figurine on the edge of a limestone formation. After a quick view, we had proceeded further down in depth.

A unique portion of this adventure had stemmed from a small passthrough and gazing above to the sky. Coming upon a small illuminated passage, I had carefully maneuvered my body through a pair of rocks. Turning my head back, I had saw my friend clearing the same passage with his GroPro and flashlight. After clearing this corner, my eyes had steered to the surface. From 30 feet down, the cavern opening had made the sky appear like a floating ball of blue with white streaks.

Refocusing on our lap around the perimeter, I had signaled my buddy for current air supply. With matching numbers, 1,500 psi, we had continued by the numerous sub surface dive platforms. Moving to the end of our dive, a few groups of additional divers had entered the water. Checking again our psi, I had reached a reading of 1,000. At this threshold, we had started our ascent. At 15 feet, we had sat on one of the submerged wooden dive platforms. Working in 3 minutes for a safety stop, we had surfaced for a hot shower and change of dry clothes.

Capping off the time, money, and effort toward PADI scuba certification, this experience had satisfied my desire for returning to the water with a radiating confidence. In managing my air consumption today, I had floated like a turtle. In pursuing a suggestion for water activities earlier this year, I had pondered my animal totem. The question was which one, a turtle or a cock?

Read More:
Devil’s Den Scuba Resort (www.devilsden.com)

Animal in you (animalinyou.com)

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Juniper Creek Canoe Run in the Ocala National Forest @ Marion, Florida

Closing out a day on a road trip for Veteran’s Day, I was curious about a sign for Juniper Creek Canoe Run. On the way back from Salt Springs on SR 19, I had looked for an excuse to pull over for the restroom. The brown signage on the left side of the road for the creek was that excuse. What was the connecton to Juniper Springs Recreation area? I had remembered Juniper Run at the recreation area. From that visit, the Run was unimpressive for a possible canoe excursion. That portion of the waterway within Juniper Springs Recreation area had become shallow and unmanageable. This canoe launch area had shown a much wider and deeper view of the creek, worthy of a second look. The view was postcard perfect with glistening water, powder blue skies and the ever present chirping of birds. From reading around the web, Juniper Creek Canoe Run had provided trips of a few hours plus, a possibility of shuttle ride back to the launching area. With the colder weather heading for Central Florida, I had pondered the possibility of canoeing through this portion of the Ocala National Forest again.

Located at Latitude :  29.183745   Longitude : -81.688533, just off Florida State Road 19.

Read More:
Juniper Run (US Forest Service)
Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest, FL  (GarzaFX)
Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida (GarzaFX)

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Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida

Going to Salt Springs Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest, the adventure had begun with a friend’s email for ideas on travel for Veteran’s Day. After agreeing to a sketch of locations the night before, I had fired up my car’s ignition heading out to locations familiar and unknown. Of the many springs in Central Florida, I had skirted with perimeter of this area before with the Salt Springs Observation Trail; however, I had yet to encounter one of the most photogenic spring heads in the state. After visiting Wildcat Lake Park, we had headed up US 40. After turning onto Florida Highway 19, about a mile up the road, an adult brown bear and her two cubs had decided to cross the road from the right. We had slowed down in attempting to capture photographic evidence of this passing encounter. In retrospect, probably better the bears had all darted back into the woods of Ocala National Forest. With the enticing smell of peanut butter from my center console plus cubs, wild bears had provided the potential for unpredictable behavior. After reaching the town of Salt Springs, I had noticed the signage for Salt Springs Observation Trail. On that trail, I had seen numerous trees with the bark ripped from their sides. The memories of this unkempt trail had reinforced my earlier thoughts on the bear encounter. These magnificent creatures, though cute, had demanded respect with distance, less encounter misfortune.

On the north side of the town, the entrance for Salt Springs Recreation Area had appeared on the right. Heading into the park, we had wondered if any Federal workers might be around because of the free admission on Veteran’s day. At the gate, a park ranger had greeted us reiterating policy of no pets and no alcohol handing us a parking permit. Driving forward, we both had wondered if they might know, ”How salty were the springs waters?” At the end of Salt Springs Observation Trail, the odor of brackish waters were quite overwhelming coming off the downstream waterway.

After parking, we had scouted the enclosed swimming area with multiple boils. The first color that had popped out looking into the springs heads, a golden yellow tint of some of the rocks. Thereafter, something unexpected had transpired. Flying fish had shot into the air, making quite a ruckus with splashing sounds. Ironically, while trying to document this activity, the fish had stopped their activity, almost on cue. Following this inactivity, they had jumped out of the waters, always seeming to avoid our two cameras. Finally, after some patience, I had caught at least two glimpses on my iPhone.

After switching gears, we had entered the waters of Salt Springs. My buddy had decided to try on his new fins, snorkel, booties and mask. I had opted for picking up more swim time with my goggles. In the waters, the flying fish had appeared to be large mullet with no predator in pursuit. They moved around the underwater vegetation and spring openings with ease. Swimming to the multiple boils, each had a distinct depth, shape and current. The shallow yellow tinted rocks had provided quick and easy access to each boil, even for a novice swimmer. For a holiday, the park had remained fairly devoid of any foot traffic, less an elderly couple. After moving through the perimeter of the enclosed swimming area, we had opted to leave early, making time for our final destination of Silver Glen Springs. At the end of our excursion, we had answered the question regarding the briny nature of the spring head. The waters that day, despite the name, had provided a faint salty aftertaste.

If you hadn’t visited this tranquil Florida backdrop, get out there!

Salt Springs Recreation Area
Address: 13851 Florida 19,
Salt Springs, FL 32134
Phone:(352) 685-2048

Read more:

Salt Springs (USDA Forest Service)
Salt Springs Observation Trail in Ocala National Forest @ Salt Springs, Florida (GarzaFX)
Silver Glen Springs, Ocala National Forest, FL (GarzaFX)

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A masquerade of dolphins, horseshoe crabs and manatees @ Port Canaveral, Florida

“mag·ic ˈmajik”
noun
“the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.” – Oxford Dictionary

Returning with a friend to Merritt Island last weekend, the entertainment for the day had entailed a $40 Groupon for “Swimming with Dolphins.” The weather for the day was overcast with a cool breeze. The water conditions on the inside of Port Canaveral had provided murky brown waters, reducing visibility beyond a few feet. Advancing to our target in the back of boat, the salty ocean spray had splashed onto my torso with a slight chill. Upon arriving at a small atoll, Carlos, our guide, had issued some instructions for traversing the sandbar surrounding the tiny island. He also had reminded us to shuffle our feet on the sandbar for avoiding any negative encounter with a stingray. The final instruction was rotating your view 360 degrees to search for signs of dolphins.

After walking out knee deep for 20 feet, we had capitulated into fully immersing our bodies into the ocean. Ironically, this action had relieved the chilly sensation of wadding in the water. Moving around the sandbar in our swimming goggles, we had seen little to titillate the eye. Coming around the entire atoll, the most excitement I had experienced, treading water unexpectedly. After a quick sprint to the sandbar, I had risen out of the briny water to get some Gatorade. After washing away the salt water after taste of the sea, I had headed to highest point on the atoll. Now, this heap of sand’s highest point had measured maybe 3 – 4 feet. Taking a 360 view from this vantage point, I had searched for signs of swimming dolphins.

For a few minutes, I had rotated my body and view 360 degrees. All I had seen, my buddy swimming about 50 feet out and our guide stretching out at the campsite. At this point, I had thought having the sun break through the clouds might be as good as it gets; however, pivoting back to watching my friend tread water, a dolphin had surfaced just behind him. Signally a moment too late, the mammal had gone back under the surf. Looking to the other side of the island, the dolphin had resurfaced then disappearing again. After giving up scouting, I had moved back into the water waving down my friend. Catching my peripheral vision, something had moved into the shallow waters around my feet. At first, I had thought a stingray but, no flapping motion and silt cloud. Looking more keenly, what had appeared a silhouette of a living horseshoe crab. In fact, it had been two of them. A smaller one, perhaps a male or juvenile, had attached to top back of the larger specimen. Regardless, I had motioned my buddy to come ashore for taking GoPro video. I had never witnessed a living horseshoe crab before. In school, I had only seen depictions in books and dead skeletons in a marine biology field trips. Now, the next thing I had done falls out of protocol for dealing with wildlife. I have to state, never touch or disturb any living creature above or below the water or on land; however, in my excitement, I had made a decision to steer our horse crab pair back into shallow water with my bare hands. During this encounter, nothing had happened but, I still recall nature’s wrath at Scrub Brush Bird Trail @ Titusville, Florida. After sometime with the day’s guest star on camera, we had walked back to meet the guide, Carlos.

Coming ashore was another group of visitors on our ride out. During that transition, a family that had accompanied us on the tour began returning. In that family, the oldest woman had pointed out to a blue marker. At the blue marker, they had come across 5 dolphins in shallow water, just beneath a bridge going into Port Canaveral. Funny, I had asked our guide where they might be earlier. My buddy and I should had thought about what might command their attention so far offshore. Then again, spontaneous experiences, in nature, had never worked that way. These moments usually had just happened auto-magically. During the boarding process, a woman coming ashore had demanded photographic evidence of the “swimming dolphins” from Carlos. I had chimed in stating,”Like aliens, they exist!”

Taking my seat at the back of the approximately 20 foot boat, the vessel had engaged a course back to the marina. Not more than a minute out, a dolphin had surfaced moving back into the brown waters. With the boat bouncing up and down entering the estuary at the beginning of our trip, another or same dolphin had pulled in at the aft of the boat. A young child in our group had affixed her gaze looking for breaks in the surface. The dolphin had followed close for about 4 or 5 minutes. After reaching some riverside construction, it had taken a u-turn heading back out to the open water. Just after this moment, the captain had pointed out two manatees on the left in shallow river waters. The young child had excitedly inquired about the animals and getting into the water.  The captain had provided a reduction in speed for proper viewing and discussion.

At first, I had jaded appraisal of this adventure. Then, I had remembered the joyful looks on the child’s face and memories of my father steering a similar boat into different waters. Those thoughts had ended a day starting with me shouting out, “Nice tits” to alternating sexes en route to this excursion. Without alcohol, caffeine or sugar, just a buddy, now that was magic!

Dolphin Paradise Tours
4905 N Tropical Trail
Merritt Island, FL 32953
Email: DolphinParadiseTours@gmail.com
Phone: 321 848 2486
Website: www.gopaddleboardcocoabeach.com

Hours: Monday-Saturday
Departure hours: 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm

Note: Sunday and Holiday’s Dolphin Paradise Tours are Closed.

Read More:
Swimming with Dolphins (ren3gade.wordpress.com)
Horseshoe Crab (Wikipedia)
Stand-Up PaddleBoarding – Manatee Cove Park @ Merritt Island, Florida (GarzaFX.com)
Scrub Brush Bird Trail @ Titusville, Florida (GarzaFX.com)

horseshoe crabs @ port Canaveral @ garzafx.com

horseshoe crabs, photo courtesy of renegade399

Busch Gardens under a Hunter’s Moon @ Tampa, Florida

Ending a day of hopping around central Florida state parks, I had embarked on experiencing Busch Garden’s annual Howl-O-Scream. To be honest, the allure of a Halloween themed evening wasn’t my angle; however, hitting the roller coasters had offered an opportunity of a familiar thrill and maybe, adding new ones. Another aspect of the visit, a Hunter’s Moon had illuminated enough of the evening sky heightening the anticipation. Moving into the park, the air had become humid and heated in the proximity of other visitors. Every so often, I had walked into foul odors, either from holiday effects or patrons.

Upon arriving at the first ride, Cheetah Hunt, the wait time had increased to about an hour. I had winded a way forward until scoring a seat. The ride had started methodically pulling the occupants to the release point. With the night sky as a backdrop, the moon had appeared even more enormous than on the ground. Filling my entire vision, the ascent had provided a unique view of the darkened premises. The clicking of the front of the ride had stopped giving way to rattling of the descent and screaming from passengers. Winding down, up and around, the ride had soon accelerated placing a genuine smile across my head. Thrusting into darkness, the acceleration of Cheetah Hunt had added that extra element of surprise. On exiting this ride, I had taken a moment reviewing video stills of recent passengers. Appearing in a video preview, it had captured my face with a matching satisfaction.

After Cheetah, I had jumped on two other rides; Montu and Kumba. Both had provided equally exhilarating moments but, failing to outperform Cheetah Hunt. With SheiKra being closed, I had held out hope for another specific ride, Gwazi. From a distance, this ride had seemed under maintenance. On my previous two visits to Busch Gardens, Gwazi had closed for service. After circling around to the front, a park worker had waived us over to get in line. The appeal of the coaster you might wonder, it had offered a composition of wooden carts and super structure. From watching the Discovery Channel, this composition had provided riders a sensation of instability. After a short wait, I had sat toward the end of the carts. The restraints, though safe, had felt inadequate. In the previous coasters, I had securely flipped my wallet in my pocket under the restraint bars. This time, I had clasped onto my wallet with a death grip. With the carts moving forward, the resonating vibrations had generated an unnerving feeling across my hands. With the carts swaying unevenly on the tracks, I had sensed the wallet coming out of my pocket. I had pressed down on the wallet’s edges wondering,”How much longer before the ride ends?” My desire had quickly become a reality. The ride had finished with an equally gratifying end yet, different from Cheetah.

Overall, this adventure had definitely provided great new memories. If you had wanted a different spin on coasters, suggest trying wooden ones or riding at night. That my fellow humans had made all the difference!

Read more:
Howl-O-Scream (Seaworld Parks)

Busch Garden Rollercoasters (Seaworld Parks)

Hunter’s Moon (Wikipedia)

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Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park @ Port Richey, Florida

This state park had offered about 4,000 acres for various activities from hiking, fishing and canoeing. For reference, I had not confused this land for Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest. Visiting two entrances off US 19, hiking trails and port-o-potties had immediately been visible for any weary travelers. After making a quick visit to the northern entrance, I had ventured down to the southern entrance. Keep your eyes open, I had effortlessly driven by the southern entrance by the nearby Walmart. After parking, I had noticed surrounding acreage a recent target of controlled burns. Walking down one of the hiking trails, the park was exceptionally quiet. Upon nearing the water, I had come across some folks fishing in the salt marsh. For a quick or extended excursion, I had thought this park a great choice for avoiding the hustle of the Tampa Bay area.

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park address was 9120 Old Post Rd, Port Richey, Florida. Admission was $3 for those without an annual Florida State park pass.

Read More:
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park (www.floridastateparks.org)

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Greeks, Octopus and Mama Maria’s @ Tarpon Springs, Florida

Over the past few months, I had driven around the Tampa area, visiting various Florida State parks. Tarpon Springs had come up in a conversation with a fellow co-worker and a friend’s posting on Facebook. After leaving Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, I had plotted a course for a restaurant in Tarpon Springs.

Despite having the word “springs” in the city name, this town had evolved from a history of sponge diving. Interestingly enough, that reputation had matured under the immigration of Greek nationals. Tarpon Springs, Florida had provided the highest density of Greek population within the United States. As I had driven south on 19, two things appear; Dunkin Donut shops and a Mediterranean influence.

Starving from a swim earlier in the day, I had pulled into Mama Maria’s for sustenance. My co-worker had recommended their calamari; however, I had opted for a new adventure. I had taken up the waitress’s suggestion of grilled octopus. I had immediately consumed the smaller ends of the tendrils upon the dish hitting my table. With a mix of herbs, lemon and butter, the entree had started off well. Working my way up to thicker portions of the tentacles, the octopus had become more an exercise in chewing, than a pleasurable consumption of seafood. Satisfying my hunger, I had taken a ride by the city’s historical docks. Near the water, the Greek influence had become more pronounced with the various eateries and shops. With the day turning to dusk, I had cut this portion of my Saturday drive short. I had then proceeded off to another random detour off 19 to the waters off Honeymoon Island, before ending the night in Tampa, Florida.

Read More:
Tarpon Springs, Florida (Wikipedia)
The Original Mama Maria’s Greek Cuisine (theoriginalmamamarias.com)

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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

Stand-Up PaddleBoarding – Manatee Cove Park @ Merritt Island, Florida

After jogging for 13 miles on a Saturday, I had headed out to Merritt Island, Florida for 2 PM rendezvous on the Banana River. Upon arriving at Manatee Cover Park, Nate, the guide for the day, had introduced us to couple of paddle boards. After getting some instruction, I had hoisted myself topside. Balancing on my two feet at the midpoint of the board, I had started moving across the water’s surface. Paddling out about 50 feet, something unexpected had come our way. Much to my surprise, a manatee had started maneuvering underneath us. According to Nate, they had earned a reputation for being very playful in this area. It had taken about 15-20 minutes for first animal to approach our seafaring vessels. Despite murky brown waters, I had connected on a primal level because of the manatees’ interaction. For an example, one had bumped my friend’s board gazing up with his eyes. That experience alone had provided a new perspective and respect for these docile creatures. Up to this point in my life, the only other mammals that had mimicked this behavior, cats and dogs. Another trait regarding manatees, Nate had mentioned the manatee’s love of fresh water. I had recalled some pranksters using this vulnerability for a means of pulling a childish and illegal act on YouTube.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding - Manatee Cove Park @ Merritt Island, Florida @ garzafx.com

Photo courtesy of renegade399

Ending a bit of hide and seek with the manatees, the paddle boarding lesson had commenced. As a group, we had navigated around a protected island for pelicans and their young. Coming around the island and a pair of fishermen, the real exercised had started. With wind coming off the coast, the current had pushed back on the group. The trick in paddling had become apparent by pushing off the right side. The crosswind had pushed back from the left enabling a straight line to our destination. Reaching the halfway point of the excursion, we had moved back up the shoreline. Returning to our launch area , the manatees had presented another opportunity for their playful behavior. With 20 minutes to spare, two pairs of the group had broken off floating around the animals. Coming back to shore, after the two hour adventure, I had enjoyed the paddle boarding considerably more than the passive action of my Crystal River outing.

According to Nate, manatee activity had increased along this park with mating season pushing into the fall. Normally, the guided tour had cost $80, but check out pricing on Amazon Local for half the cost. If you hadn’t been keen on this kind of voyage, check out the park from the shore for fishing or just the sunset. Otherwise, I had hoped you consider hitting the road for active cruise on the surface of the Banana River.

More information:
Go Paddle Board Cocoa Beach’s Website: www.gopaddleboardcocoabeach.com / Phone: 321-848-2486
Manatee Cove Park @ Merritt Island, Florida is located 4905 N. Tropical Trail, Merritt Island, FL 32953

Read More:
Manatees (Wikipedia)
Manatees & Tarpon of Crystal River, Florida (GarzaFX.com)
Blue Springs State Park, Florida (GarzaFX.com)

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Photo courtesy of renegade399

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area @ Flagler Beach, Florida

Off highway A1A in Florida, I had pulled into Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach. Parking on the side of the road going northbound, I had hobbled out my vehicle on an aggravated right knee. Coming down the boardwalk for beach access, the orange sands had contrasted with the rich green colors of the turbulent Atlantic Ocean. After making a quick entry into the surf, I had noticed a significant undercurrent; however, unlike Canaveral National Shores in Titusville, this turbulence had decreased with the drop off in depth. With the sunshine providing different colored hues of the seafloor, my mind had kept mistaking shadows and sand for a seafaring predator like a shark.

Moving back onto the beach, the sand was cool, soft and firm. Thankfully, it had lacked the stone washed rocks of the shallow shores of Honeymoon Island, Florida. Near the sand dunes, sea oats had moved casually around in the light breeze. Nearing the base of the sea oats, numerous ghost crab holes had lined the sandy slopes up and down the shoreline. At the threshold of dunes had appeared a large depression. Approaching closer, this hole had seemed the size of large turtle, perhaps a nest? Examining tiny track markings, I had wondered, baby turtles or scavenging crabs?

Turning my back to the dunes, I had gazed upon my friend swimming against the dark waves. A slight bit of fear had entered my mind. Should a swimming emergency arise, what kind of strength and courage had I housed? What if I had lacked the potential for handling such an event? Years ago, a local musician had attempted a rescue of drowning man on this very beach. He had done this despite age and an advanced arthritic condition. In the end, both men had perished in the rough seas. What had survived? The story of a selfless act for a fellow man, which posthumously had earned Gamble Roger recognition as the area’s namesake. On this day, this stretch of beach had provided entertainment but, also a piece of ironic introspection.

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See More:
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach, Florida (Florida State Park)

Gamble Rogers (Wikipedia)

Silver River State Park – Silver Springs, Florida

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Traveling across Florida, voyaging to one part or another, the destination had sometimes started as a random act of pointing on a map or triangulating a position and time. This past Sunday, after wrapping up a trip to Honey Moon Island beaches, Silver River State Park that had fallen closer than the next possible hop of White Springs. Generally known as Silver Springs, this park had gone through various management in recent years, hoping to become a financially viable operation; however, this last attempt had left the property back in the hands of the state.

Having drove past this location before, I had thought, ”What a good way to cool out in 90 degree weather.” After some misdirection from Google maps, I had driven around the perimeter of this property to the enormous sign for the entrance. After making it through the front gate, I had noticed the parking lot eerily vacate for a warm Sunday afternoon. At first, I had written this off to recent changes. The opening facade over a wooden boardwalk had looked impressive with towering oak trees for a backdrop.

Walking into the promenade, concessions had continued operating. Walking over to the glass bottom boat river launch, we had asked an employee where to go for a dip. A gentleman there had mentioned somewhere further down the river. Walking down the concrete sidewalks next to the river, I had seen an old fenced-in area, perhaps for a giraffe or other exotic animal. In the far distance, I had noticed a two-story plantation style house. The house lawn had apparently provided a setting for a concert or two. Walking down the far end of the sidewalk, I had noticed something remarkably non-existent. I had seen no means of descending into the crystal blue waters of the Silver River. Turning around, I had decided to walk back to find a park employee for further inquiry. Upon returning to the promenade, we had approached another employee. We had asked where to go for a swim. The polite lady had responded ”I don’t know, I just started working here a few days ago.” Then we had approached a small nest of workers inside the last door in the plaza. The cordial ladies had answered the question regarding swimming, ”Maybe in the future.” I thought to myself, “You got to be kidding, a fresh water spring park, no swimming?” No wonder this venue had lost money. With Juniper Springs recreation area a few miles away, that had been one big reason for the lack of visitors. As Paul Harvey had stated eloquently many times,” That’s the rest of the story.”

Read More:

Silver River State Park – Silver Springs, Florida (Wikipedia)
Silver Springs goes back to basics as state park (Orlando Sentinel)

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