Springs, Springs, Springs!

On the next part of the journey
We were looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There were gators and crystal springs
The first thing we met was a manatee
And the sky with no clouds
The day was warm and the river was wet
But the air was full of sound

Adapted from “Horse With No Name” by America

We visited 4 Springs in a row:

  • 7 Sisters Springs (Chassahowitzka River)
  • Gilchrist Springs
  • Ginnie Springs
  • Wakulla Springs

At Chassahowitzka River campground (near 7 Sisters Springs) we rented kayaks, and toured the river, enjoying the wildlife (birds, fish, turtles) and particularly the friendly manatee that was often near the docks at the boat rental. We also saw our first freshwater springs – with crystal clear water flowing up out of underground caverns. The water appears bright blue, particularly where the caves are made of light colored stone. Another fun part of kayaking the Chassahowitzka is traveling upstream a mile or so of progressively narrower and shallower water until you reach “the crack” a deep rock cleft where spring water pours forth.

Gilchrist Springs wasn’t too interesting, being closed to boating. Besides we were just stopping for the night before we could get a spot at Ginnie Springs. The park ranger casually mentioned “weather” was on the way, but we didn’t give it much thought until we saw a weather report warning of wind gusts of up to 50 mph, and a tornado watch (and eventual warning 15 miles away). Lori had an evacuation bag packed with food, flashlight, etc. in case we had to run for cover in the concrete block bath house nearby. It never came to that, but Lori was on the verge of making a run for it for 1/2 an hour or so.

Ginnie Springs was lovely. We kayaked one day – visiting at least 5 different crystal blue springs along the Santa Fe River – and paddle boarded the next (the first time for both of us!). Scuba divers explored the caves at the bottom of the main spring, and we spent a long day in and out of the water, on and off the paddle board. Lori learned from a fellow paddle boarder that our phone model is water resistant. He showed us several underwater clips he’d taken earlier. That was enough for Lori to brave it herself, and you can see the result in our video. Ginnie Springs is also set up as a tubing river, with a path to walk back upstream after a lazy drift downstream. It is huge with hundreds of campsites. What a great place for a family outing.

Wakulla Springs State Park is another gem. It has 2 main virtues. One is an excellent hour+ tour on the Wakulla River, only $8 per person. A great deal! We learned to identify many native birds. We saw at least 20 alligators, from 2 foot long babies, to giant elders. We also saw two manatees. There was a wealth of information provided about the river environment and the characteristics, habits, and behaviors of the river’s denizens. The other neat thing about the park is the high-end cafe onsite. If you eat there, they take the park entry fee off your bill!

Well, enough chatter. Here’s the video. Yes, you’ll see lots of spring water, what can we say, we were enamored with it. There’s always the fast forward button.. :)

As we write this, we’re in Mississippi, just east of Biloxi, headed for Louisiana tomorrow. Stay tuned for the details in our next post. Bye for now!

Mark and Lori

No Wandah

We weren’t going to do a “no RV” blog post, but we had a lot of fun while Wandah was in the shop so we’ll do short video and summary. Highlights include:

  • Meeting up with Mark’s Hewlett-Packard friends & Lori’s family
  • Beach / Sunsets / Drum Circle
  • Canal cruising
  • River Tour
  • Orchids
  • Art Fair

Video highlights

North Port & Venice FL

After leaving Wandah in Winter Garden, Florida, for a minor fix, we headed southwest for a day in Boca Grande and then over to North Port. Lori’s cousin Elizabeth (Libby) was very welcoming and provided us our own little living space with bed, TV, couch and chairs. To show our appreciation during the nearly two-week stay, Lori channeled her inner Marie Kondo, helping Libby to re-organize and simplify her living space. Mark assisted with handyman work and gadget setup. Win-win.

We also had some memorable area outings. The gulf coast is known for dramatic sunsets. One night we watched from Venice, where there’s a small park with a long jetty on one side and a nice seafood restaurant on the other. We watched the sun sink below the horizon then enjoyed dinner by twilight. Another night, we went with Anne (a friend from HP days) to Nokomis Beach, where they celebrate the sunset each Wednesday with a drum circle and dancing. Very hippie. Very fun.

We got our wildlife fix by visiting Myakka River State Park with Anne, then the 3 of us joined Libby for a nice BBQ lunch, and a boat tour on the Myakka River from Snookhaven. We got some local history, and learned about a variety of birds and animals we viewed along the river. We saw a few alligators too!

One night at Libby’s we had dinner with her neighbor Walter, a horticulturist. One of his passions is Orchid cultivation. He suggested we all attend the Orchid show in Venice the next day – his treat! It was spectacular! Here are just a few of the orchids that were on display there.

Cape Coral

We have friends from our cottage community in Westford who spend winters at their beautiful new home in Cape Coral, Florida. (Bart and Christine – Mark knew Bart at HP). Our several day visit with them included excellent dinners out, a visit to the Edison/Ford Winter Estates, and a day of cruising the Cape Coral canals with Christine’s parents – with a mid-day lunch at Rumrunners. We did have some down time too, lounging under the lanai in their hot tub and newly-finished pool, playing rounds of Texas Hold-em, and playing with their cute new pup, Lexi. What a good time we had!

Winter Garden

We finally got the call to pick up the RV, so we headed north towards Winter Garden, once again, to be reunited with Wandah on Monday morning. Thanks to a recommendation from Lori’s friend (thanks Karen!) we spent Sunday in the cute lakeside town of Mt. Dora, with a vibe more rural midwest than “typical” Florida. There was a huge art fair going on, filling the downtown streets for blocks in every direction! After hours of strolling the art booths, and the nearby park and waterfront, we headed south to Oakland Manor House B&B, located on enormous (50 square miles) Lake Apopka. The Manor was grand and ornate yet quite charming. We headed to quaint and old-timey downtown Winter Garden for dinner, skipping a Peruvian Shaman ceremony being held at the B&B. We slept well in our comfortable room and the next morning enjoyed the delicious breakfast offered by the innkeeper.

So that’s it. We picked up Wandah on Monday and we are already back in the groove! Next time we’ll share a video of our Chassahowitzka River manatee sighting, taken from our rented Kayak. Stay tuned!