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)

Big Shoals State Park @ White Springs, Florida

One of the reasons for traveling to White Springs, Florida was the mention of white water rapids at Big Shoals State Park. After seeing the low level watermarks for the Suwannee River at Stephen Foster State Park, my expectations had diminished for this excursion, from canoeing to just hiking. Driving down County Road 135, I had not seen too many signs for navigating to the park. After taking a right onto Old Godwind Bridge Road, the pavement had turned to gravel. In the middle of the road had laid a dog and her four puppies. I had started to question out loud,” Is this the road to a state park?” The dogs had seemed unaffected by our encroaching vehicle. In a moment of clarity, I had switched off driving responsibilities with my friend to handle the dogs on the road. Snapping my fingers at the oldest dog, I had pointed to a nearby house. The dog, on cue, had responded wonderfully, moving her entourage out of the way. Another half mile down the road, the sign for Big Shoals had come into view.

After parking, we had walked down toward the canoe launch area. The Suwannee River’s appearance at this location had appeared more robust than the offering over at Stephen Foster. Walking back up toward the Pavilion, a small wooden fence had provided a great view of an overlook with 50 – 60 foot drop off to the river below. After this stop, we had proceeded out onto Big Shoals Hiking trail. Along the way, we had seen the remnants of an old bridge. Standing amongst the trees, the huge pillars had remained a testament to the history of the area. A mile in, we had heard the rumble of water. In excitement, we had both started jogging to another overlook with a similar drop-off like before. Down below, we had noticed the foaming rapids break upon the rocks. Wanting to get more pictures, we had scaled down the side of the limestone bluffs. At the water’s edge, we had both taken the opportunity for some pictures and video. The rapid were relatively nice but, nowhere near their optimal peak for canoeing. According to Florida State Parks website, to earn the class III classification for Big Shoals rapids, the water level had required being between 59 – 61 feet.

Scaling back up the estimated 80 foot bluffs, we had decided to double back on the hiking trail to the Pavilion. Near the Pavilion’s picnic area, another structure had caught my attention. The sign had read, “Bat Exhibit.” In the Florida Keys, I had seen another tower but, with a different architecture. Even though I was unable to see the bats, their sound echoed outside of the structure. The take away, bugs, specifically mosquitoes, were almost non-existent in the immediate area. Or maybe we were just lucky. In the end, Big Shoals State Park had offered a dynamic environment for canoeing, hiking and camping. If you had wanted to hit the rapids, suggest calling ahead for a water level report.

Big Shoals State Park
Address: 11330 S.E. County Road 135, White Springs, Florida 32096
Phone: (386) 397-4331

Read more:
Big Shoals State Park (Florida State Parks)
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park @ White Springs, Florida (GarzaFX)

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Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park @ White Springs, Florida

Just before dawn on the third day of road trip, we had parked just outside Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park at White Springs, Florida. After driving on the road for about 4 hours, I had taken 15 minute nap, killing time before the facility opening. Down the hill from my vehicle had existed an interesting piece of history regarding the town. Up to this point in my travels, I had become comfortable with the clear, blue and relatively clean smelling waters of all the other springs in Florida; however, down the hill had existed the brown waters of the Suwannee river. The river’s hue had come from plant decay (i.e. tannins), coloring the waters a dark coffee color. Just past the slope, I had walked across a small wooden bridge going towards the remnants of an old style bathhouse. Below, I had seen the babbling of a tiny boil. Further down, I had walked along the side of the concrete bathhouse. Approaching the rumble of water gushing into the river, I had thought maybe a water treatment facility. With the overwhelming smell of sulfur, I had dry heaved 4 or 5 times. Reading signage at the front of the structure, this location had served as a popular destination from various native Indian tribes and then some, for the sulfur springs. Locals had built the concrete enclosure back in 1903, isolating the springs from flooding with a series of locks.

After making my way back up the hill, the state park had opened. I was excited with the potential of a canoeing. Never a good sign, when the park ranger had graciously redirected your attention to hiking. Nevertheless, after scoping out the water level, my friend and I had embarked onto portion of the backwoods. The park had seemed extremely tranquil, less the firing of a rifle and bells ringing. Walking along the Suwannee River, I had caught a glimpse of a deer and a pair of snakes. Despite missing out on the canoeing from low water levels, I was satisfied with the active move up and down the local topography.

The park had publicized itself as “home of the world’s largest set of tubular bells.” Heading back from the trail, I had hoped to see this hallmark of the Stephen Foster, a 10 am performance of tubular bell music. With few hours on the trail, we had missed out on this event. Instead, we had visited the building housing the bells. On the ground floor were exhibits regarding the building and Stephen Foster. Some items were fascinating, a small scale replica of the housing for the bells, other musical artifacts and a golden figure of Stephen Foster. One specific exhibit had bordered on questionable taste. Half of the encased exhibit had shown musicians playing on a porch, the other half echoing an offensive stereotype. Some historical curator had chosen to share this with the public? What had you thought?

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Aside from being known for the “sulfur” springs, the town of White Springs had sponsored an annual 4 day Florida Folk Festival. This town was also known for Big Shoals State Park with the only class 3 rapids in Florida. After a quick vehicle inspection and a food check, we had headed to that stop next.

Read More:

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park (Florida State Parks)
Suwannee River (Wikipedia)
White “Sulfur” Springs (Wikipedia)

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