Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gearing Up.

Carole and I are gearing up for our first real vacation of the year. We're going to head down to Florida to visit some more first magnitude springs. One that we've seen before, and several more that will be completely new to us. We'll have kayaks to explore them in detail and I'll have my underwater camera to take some good detailed shots of the spring heads and spring runs. I'll likely come back with many great wildlife photos. Florida is, bar none, the best place on the east coast to see wildlife. There's nowhere else quite like it east of the Mississippi.

One of the springs at Juniper Springs Recreation Area.

Andy and Carole in our old canoe. We were on the Silver River. Believe it or not, this river emerges, whole cloth as you see it here, from a single gigantic spring. The water is crystal clear, fresh, clean, fast-flowing.

On the banks of the Silver River. If you'll look closely, you will see a medium-sized alligator lying in wait just beyond the line of decaying plant matter at the edge of the water.

In the midst of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area.

Even though this photo is a bit blurry, it illustrates why I love exploring the wild places in Florida. We'd just seen a wild turkey, an alligator and, a few yards from that spot, I snapped this young raccoon foraging in the shallows with a white-tailed deer just behind him on shore. (A week after I took this shot, a young woman was killed not from from this spot by a very large alligator.)
Ocala National Forest campsite with our trailer (Juniper Springs Recreation Area).


MarkGelbart said...

We're debating on our summer vacation this year.

It's between St. Simon's Island, Georgia or Wakulla Springs, Florida.

We're leaning toward the latter.

I can't remember, have you ever visited Wakulla Springs?

James Robert Smith said...

The Edward Ball Wakulla Springs is one of our favorites. We only visited it once as a day-trip. The hotel there is stunning. We have tried several times since to book a room there with no success. It used to be an exclusive private retreat, but is now part of the State Park system. It's considered the deepest first magnitude spring in Florida (hundreds of feet deep). My favorite detail of the joint was the high dive platform. I didn't dive there, but I jumped off until I exhausted myself. This was one of those springs that my wife had a hard time getting me out of. She was ready to leave several hours before I was.

They also have a boat tour that takes you downriver where the wildlife is typical of Florida: stunning. When we were there the boat took us past a spot where Johnny Weissmuller liked to dive when he was shooting water scenes of some of his Tarzan movies. I actually recognized his favorite tree from a couple of the films (loved them when I was a kid). The tree was dead several years ago, so I don't know if it's still there.

Yeah, I can highly recommend Wakulla Springs. Not so much St. Simons Island. St. Simons has its charm, but I never cared for most of the barrier islands of Georgia--far too developed, poor beaches, and the water is full of effluent from the big river basins. Cumberland Island is, of course, the exception. Unspoiled, great beaches, enormous dunes (some of them over 80 feet tall), and almost no development (and clear water on the ocean side of the island).

Kirk G said...

I don't remember fire ants from when I was a small child visiting Florida. But as an adult, in the 1980s, I remember my vacation being ruined by steping on a fire ant hill and suffering a handful of bites. Are there any near Wakulla Springs and how do you deal with them?

James Robert Smith said...

Fire ants are an invasive species non-native to the USA. They're a plague upon the land and are hideous creatures, for sure.

You can use some really powerful insecticides on them to control the population--Malathion, maybe. The best stuff to kill them has been outlawed, so they are an inexorable problem.

You can't really do anything but try to avoid them. I didn't run into any at Wakulla Springs. But I have encountered them all over other parts of Florida.

They suck.

MarkGelbart said...

We're probably going to Wakulla Springs, but my wife and daughter ruled out staying at the hotel there. They have no television or wifi.

You're wrong about Georgia's barrier islands. In addition to Cumberland Island, Ossabaw, Wassau, Sapelo, St. Catherine's, Little St. Simon's, and Wolf Islands are completely undeveloped and have no roads connecting them to the mainland. In other words most of Georgia's barrier islands are protected and have no condos, beach houses, etc. Unfortunately, that makes them inaccessible as well.

James Robert Smith said...

I never miss the absence of TV or wifi. (Usually, that's what I look for.) Downtimes I go to my books.

You could always buy a small flat screen TV and portable DVD player to take along. That stuff will fit easily into the trunk of a car (or even a suitcase) these days.

The hotel is very nice. If you're not going to stay there, you should at least go in and tour it. They have a gigantic soda shop in one part...I believe they claim to have the longest marble countertop in the world there. We bought an ice cream cone in the shop, but we didn't have dinner at the restaurant.

Much of the hotel was constructed from old cypress logs pulled out of the spring. The enormous timbers in the main lobby are cypress and the ceiling was done by artisans brought in from Europe. The history of the hotel is itself quite interesting.

MarkGelbart said...

I'll be sure to take photos of the hotel when we go.

I already checked the hotel menu out online--it's too pricey.

James Robert Smith said...

Yeah, that was my impression of the dining room. A bit too much for us at the time. The ice cream parlor wasn't too bad, though. About what you'd expect.

James Robert Smith said...

Here's the link to my blog from a few years ago when I covered the Inn: