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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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)

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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)

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)

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)

 

Beautiful day for a swim @ Wekiva Springs State Park, Florida

Most of this week in Florida, the weather had gone back in forth between warm to cold and back again, sometimes with variations of 30 degrees or more. Now, normally I hadn’t cared one way or another regarding the elements outside for going to the gym. Though, starting Sunday, I was blessed with a touch of the cold making the rounds with my fellow bipeds. Monday and Tuesday, I had conceded to resting and hydrating. Entering into Wednesday, two of my good friends had wanted to visit La Fitness. One had inquired if any interest? As with most days, I had stuffed my backpack for either a morning or afternoon gym interlude. In my mind, like the weather, I had switched back and forth on deciding on following through on some basic cardio.

With the witching hour upon me, I had chosen to go. Either way, I was going to be congested. The logic for going, I had thought, “I’ll be so exhausted afterward quickly succumbing to sleep!” Plus, I had figured another means of working phlegm and other impurities out of my body. The good news was after this outing and each on Thursday and Friday achieving deeper sleep and feeling better. Then, Saturday had arrived. I was key on alternating to swimming for resting my knees joints and legs muscles. I had decided on hitting Winter Park’s La Fitness for their salt water pool. After completing my mundane chores for the day, I had started driving to the gym. While jamming to tunes on my iPhone, a friend had texted me up about visiting Wekiva Springs. My immediate response was absolutely. I had pondered hitting one of the state parks during the weekend anyway.

With all the weather fluctuations in Florida recently, some people had wondered, “Why bother?” Well, if you were in one of the snow ridden states today, Wekiva Springs constantly maintains a 72 degree temperature. For some folks maybe too cold but, as another park visitor had eloquently responded later in the day, “Warmer than the North Atlantic!”  Picking up my pal, we had driven out to the park. The sun had started breaking through the clouds shedding heat and light. It had reminded me of the early days of spring. At the gate, the park ranger had stated “That doesn’t look like you?” while looking at our park pass without a photo ID.  I had followed up by turning the card over pointing to a big yellow flower on the opposing face. He then had smiled big waiving us forward.

After parking, we had walked down to Wekiva Springs swimming area. Having affixed  swimming goggles to my eyes, I had submerged into the fresh spring waters. Exhausting myself with just a lap, I had exited looking up to sky. I had reflected on what a great reason to skip inhabiting the walls of any place including the gym. In contrast to the rest of the country’s weather fortunes, I had thought, ”What a beautiful day for a swim @ Wekiva Springs!”

Read More:
Wekiva Springs State Park – Apopka, Florida (GarzaFX)

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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

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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Wes Skiles Peacock Springs @ Live Oak, Florida

Writing this post, I had thought being a turtle, might be the ideal existence. They had seemed to populate all the cool watering holes in Florida with the least amount of people. The latest fresh water spring that had met this description, Wes Skiles Peacock Springs in Live Oak, Florida. From a technical standpoint, Peacock Springs had offered approximately 33,000 feet of underwater caverns for those with the proper scuba certification. With respect to flow, it was classified as a magnitude 2 spring. This state park had run about 15 minutes away from Troy Springs State Park  and 45 minutes from Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

From the entrance, the single lane pavement had quickly given way to a dirt road. I hadn’t seen how any two cars could manage heading in opposite directions. So, I had strongly recommended driving slowly, just not turtle slow 🙂 Obstructing the sun and clouds above, tree over hang had predominated the path forward. In reflection, it had achieved a calming, zen like quality with all the greenery.

After pulling into the back parking lot, I had walked down to take some pictures and video. My friend had taken a few moments to go swimming, seeing bit of algae and a turtle. Ironically, we had bumped into a two other park visitors from earlier in the day. They had also visited Big Shoals State Park in White Springs and Troy Springs in Branford. Both had seemed to be performing a similar scouting trip with swimming and a GoPro. Unfortunately, I had left one of my Sketcher’s Go-Run running shoes and $10 swimming goggles at the last stop, Troy Springs. Hating the idea of wasting money, even worse going shopping, I had cut this visit short. Maybe someday, I had hoped to return for an extended stay.

Read More:
Wes Skiles Peacock Springs (Florida State Parks)
Ichetucknee Springs State Park @ Fort White, Florida (GarzaFX)
Troy Springs State Park @ Branford, 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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Troy Springs State Park @ Branford, Florida

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

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

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

Springs “Hydrology” (Wikipedia)

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Weeki Wachee Springs State Park @ Weeki Wachee, Florida

Heading west on highway 50 for about 2 hours, we had arrived at Weeki Wachee State Park. Navigating the online park photos, the large swimming area had increased the appeal of this visit. Another selling point, the Mermaid Theater had intrigued us with a theater performance by water borne actresses.

Walking into the park. we had noticed the current Mermaid performance at capacity. After resigning ourselves to some photo ops, we had walked around the premises, noticing a stray peacock and the swimming area. Upon entering the water, I had seen decommissioned water slides. I had imagined how fun that might have been, if operational. Because of the Mermaid Theater, a floating divider had also shaved off access to large portion of the springs. Once in the water, the average depth had approached five feet. Moving toward the dive platform, the depth had gone down about twenty feet. The dive platform had provided for a good 30-45 minutes of enjoyment, in lieu of other park shortcomings.

The park had provided quite a few offerings for smaller children with different playground equipment and faux petting zoo. They had decorated some of the facility gearing up for Halloween festivities. For a family with young kids, this had seemed ideal for a visit. However, like an old man asking me about the lack of ladies in a shot of the boardwalk, it had lacked certain adult fare.

Read more:
Weeki Wachee State Park (Florida State Parks)

Weeki Wachee, Florida (Wikipedia)

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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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Wekiva Springs State Park – Apopka, Florida

Over the past year, I had started to spend a lot of time outdoors. Big part of that experience had been Wekiva Springs basin in Apopka, Florida. I had visited this park years ago but, this year definitely lost count the number of times hitting this wildlife area. Beginning with a canoe ride down the Wekiva River from King’s Landing, a buddy and I had kicked off a series of scouting runs. On the initial voyage, I had remembered, as a pair, being somewhat uncoordinated in navigating our rental. At a few points, the canoe had flung around some bends into some downed branches. The resulting chaos had generated some laughter and a brown scar on my back.

From that point, we had scoped out some of the primitive camp sites including Otter Camp ground. After calling in a $12 reservation with park services, we had decided to cut work early on a Friday. We had paddled up the 4 hour haul with quiet efficacy just before dusk. One of the pleasant surprises of that outing, Otter campground had happened to fall inside Volusia County. If on the Seminole side, the county had placed a ban on fires. With $5 bundle of wood in tow, we had satisfied our need for a display of pyromania. The fire and smoke had kept insects away, along with warming the cool damp air. Cashing out to sleep around 8 pm, the passing rain storms had picked up force. Occasionally, the noise and water had elicited a glimpse outside the tents for restroom breaks. Later in the night, we had woken to the remnants of a camp raid. A raid had occurred by a way of  some hungry river monsters, no. More likely it had been a pair of raccoons.

Cleaning up the campsite in the morning, we had headed back down the river to a pickup point for King’s Landing shuttle. After the previous night rains, the river and surrounding foliage had taken on a more vibrant look. Coming through the shallows, a few deer had moved into the river for a drink. Upon being noticed, the deer had quickly returned into the shadows of the Wekiva forest. With time to spare before pickup, we had moved the canoe toward Wekiva Springs State Park recreational area. Before making a turnabout, I had seen a large 12 foot alligator and few massive fish. In the distance, I had been able to see the park’s canoe launching point. This had been just around the corner from the springs’ boil. After moving back down the river, we had ventured past the pickup point and back. Around 2PM, the King’s Landing shuttle ride had driven our weary bodies past the entrance to Wekiva Springs State Park recreational area.

This week, we had decided to visit this specific area after a Saturday morning jog. Traveling to the spring head, we had come across a park official explaining the practice of controlled burns. He had described the unique fuel sources of swamp muck and scrub brush fires. For some reason, perhaps pyromania, I had keyed off those visual possibilities. I had asked about the burn schedules’ availability on the Internet. The official had responded, ”It’s not a government secret, but you can use the Freedom of Information Act.” I had thought, “Extended exposure to carbon monoxide clouds the brain.” Finally walking down to the water, the boil had been in plain sight. Of all the previous Florida springs, the Wekiva Springs State Park’s boil had resided in shallow water, easily accessible to anyone. In the boil, I had swam down the 20 foot crevice with varying degrees of success. On one descent, I had gotten a seizing cramp in my right calf. This had forced me out of the water for the day. Luckily, my friend had wanted to venture to these waters again during the week. This had provided the opportunity for another round of video and pictures.

Catching a glimpse of my brown scar this morning, I had reminded myself of the memories from Wekiva Springs area. There had always been an another adventure around the bend on the map. Though, get a map that scales to size, otherwise you might had chimed repeatedly ”Are we there yet?” With any luck, maybe you had found a chance for a connection with nature, God, or another human along the way.

To connect there:

Wekiva Springs State Park
1800 Wekiva Cir  Apopka, FL 32712
(407) 884-2008

King’s Landing (Canoe Rentals)
5722 Baptist Camp Road Apopka, FL 32712
(407) 886-0859

Read More:

Wekiva Springs State Park (www.floridastateparks.org)
Wekiva Springs State Park (Wikipedia)
King’s Landing (kingslanding.com)

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Ichetucknee Springs State Park – Fort White, Florida

Just south of Lake City and northwest of Gainesville, Ichetucknee Springs State Park had been a quick interlude off U.S. 27. A friend of mine from college had made the suggestion of taking a peak at the cool blue waters. She had talked up the accompanying river and tubing. After traveling quite a distance on I-75, I had thought this would be ideal for cool break on a hot day. Upon arriving, parking had been immediately accessible once past the gate. Right before going to either spring area or the run, a concession stand had been available for a bite to eat. Taking a left onto a boardwalk, I had walked about 10-15 minutes to spring area near the river in the back. At the end, a few people had started diving from a wooden platform. This had invoked the ire of park rangers. Of my many park outings, this had been the most active interaction from park staff. For a moment, I had thought “lock-down.” After departing this crowd, I had taken some shots of a side stream. I had been truly astounded by the pristine blue clarity of even a stream. After walking back across the boardwalk, I had changed into some swimwear. Overheating a bit from the Florida sun, the waters had sent a chill through my leg muscles. This had been the second coldest spring waters in the state. After a quick swim, I had decided to dry out and take a few more pictures. One thing I had not tried, the river based tubing. After Labor Day, the long portion of the run had closed until next summer. That said, it had been an endeavor worthy of your exploration.

Read more:
Ichetucknee Springs (floridastateparks.org)
Ichetucknee Springs State Park (Wikipedia.org)

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