Waking to rain on the camper roof, I was worried it would be another day of huddling in the camper to stay out of the weather.
Cindy woke up and made us some coffee and while we were sitting outside under the awning, the rain slowly stopped and the skies cleared up. The radar showed what looked like a clearing for the next few hours so we all let out a cheer. Jeff was cooking breakfast on the grill when we realized that being this deep in the woods, it’s not the mosquitoes or sand gnats that you have to worry about, it’s the flies.
They were EVERYWHERE and I’m sure after being hunkered down after the last few days of solid rain, they were very hungry. Before long, we were all back inside our camper to escape the onslaught of annoying flies. If they weren’t biting you, the red ants were tearing up your feet with a vengeance. Ahhh, the wondrous joys of camping in Florida 🙂
Once breakfast was over and all that mess was cleaned up, we got on our swum trunks and headed down to the springs. We decided to walk down to the very end of the boardwalk to see if there was a ladder back up onto the boardwalk from the water. We figured if there was, we’d float down the run and just walk back the boardwalk rather than try and swim upstream against the strong current.
I guess so they don’t invite paddlers who are paddling down the Santa Fe River onto the boardwalk, they don’t have a ladder up out of the river, so our idea was out of the question. By the time we had walked to the end and back, I was itching to dive in and cool off in that turquoise blue water. It was so crystal clear, you could see huge schools of fish and dozens of big turtles floating lazily in the spring.
One cool thing we saw was where the crystal clear water flowing out from the spring meets the rich, tannic water of the Santa Fe River. The two would meet and create a distinct line. Sitting there watching the two roll and twirl as they mix together and flow downstream towards the Suwanee River is a beautiful sight.
While the girls and Jeff blew up the tubes, I went in the camper and put my 5DMKII in the Ikelite Underwater Housing. This task that used to make me nervous as hell has now become pretty easy to do. Much like anything else in life, do it multiple times and learn the kinks and it’s not that big of a deal. Although I still always dip it once underwater, then pull it up and inspect it very closely to see if there are any droplets on the inside of the housing.
Jeff was the first one to jump off the dock. Once that started, the fun was on. We spent the next few hours just swimming/snorkeling around the spring and for the most part we had it all to ourselves. Every now and then a few canoes would paddle in from the Santa Fe River to cool off in the spring. They’d swim around for a few minutes, then be off to go find another spring.
There was another family that had showed up for the day to picnic and swim in the springs. The young boys would swim around catching baby turtles and give them to Evan to play with which was very kind of them.
The water was so clear, that you could just sit there floating on the surface staring into the grass that lined the banks of the spring. After allowing your eyes to adjust and focus on the grass, you’d start to see all sorts of aquatic life floating and swimming around the grass. Turtles would be brilliantly camouflaged in the grass and unless you were to sit still long enough for them to get comfortable with your presence, it would be almost impossible to see them in there.
At one point I was following this Yellow Bellied Slider Turtle when I noticed it had a hook sticking out of its mouth. I pointed it out to Jeff who was wearing Cindy’s mask and snorkel. Jeff swam behind it for awhile till he could just reach down and grab a hold of the sides of her shell.
He swam up to the dock and we had Cindy run back to the truck to grab a pair of pliers out of the tool box. Jeff extracted the hook and we let the turtle go back into the water feeling good about the task performed.
After hours of snorkeling and floating around in the cool spring water, we took a break to have some lunch back at the campers. With full bellies, Jeff went and rented a canoe and we took Evan for a paddle out the run to the Santa Fe River so he could get a different view of the area. The banks were so lined with turtles we lost count after 100. Once back in the spring, the girls went for a paddle by themselves as us guys got back in the water to cool off. This is the way a hot, summer day in Florida is supposed to be spent.
Now we all know that wife likes to say she’s afraid of heights, she tells everyone she’s scared to snorkel and that she doesn’t like to swim (along with a whole host of other things she says she afraid of, yet does on a regular basis??)….luckily for me, I’m very good at talking her into just about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. This means that we got her out of her tube, where she lazily lounged all day long to jump off the platform, not once, but multiple times and she spent at least an hour snorkeling around the springs. GOOD JOB CINDY!
After a full day of fun in the springs, we headed back to the campers. Everyone showered, changed into some dry, comfortable clothes just in time for the evening storms to roll in. Cindy grilled up some burgers and another night was spent in our camper laughing, telling stories and just having good fun with good friends.
Here are just some more cool photos to look at. The day offered too many to only pick a few.