3-02-2014 Alexander Springs with Alison

Current Location: Blue Springs State Park Overcast and 58 F High today 76F

DSCN6739When I managed the soil survey project in Sonora, California, I had a delightful young woman from Illinois “detail” into my project for two seasons.  With an emphasis on completing millions of unmapped acres out west, my agency would send folks from other parts of the country to help out with soil survey where they were needed most.  I was lucky enough to get Alison.  I don’t think I have ever known a more vibrant, strong, hard-working, constantly positive, cheery person ever, and that girl could dig a pit faster than any guy on the crew!  We all called her “Scoopy” for the way she handled those shovels

Soil sampling with my crew in Tuolumne County, Alison in the cowboy hat

DSCN0684We had great times together in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, and have remained good friends.  Alison took a promotion to Florida, and I have visited her a few times since that move.  Last year I came to her lovely new home just after her baby boy was born. On this trip I planned specifically to be somewhere near Eustis on a weekend so that we could get together again this year.  Alison’s parents are in Eustis for the winter, so they all decided to drive out to Alexander Springs for an afternoon.

Alison visits_016With warm sunny skies, after some snacks and drinks and visiting, we decided a walk to the springs and a swim was in order.  I wasn’t so sure I was warm enough to swim, even in the 72 degree water, but after watching that little baby laughing and playing in the gorgeous crystal clear pool I decided to join in as well.

I just wish there was some way to show in a photo what it felt like to swim out over the roiling water of the spring.  The pool is very deep, more than 30 feet or so, and deeper into the depths of the cave where I couldn’t see.  It is cobalt blue in the deepest part, and various shades of turquoise and pale blue along the edges where the underwater grasses don’t grow.

Alison visits_040Alison visits_047While Mo visited with Alison’s parents who watched the baby, Alison and I put on snorkel masks and swam across the white sands and dark green grasses to the spring. Then the breathtaking blues opened up below us.  I had no idea, just looking at the spring from the shoreline that it held all this complex rocky reef of blues and crystal water. Of course, since I was swimming, I have no photos to document what for me was an incredibly magic moment.

Floating over a spring emitting 70 million gallons a day of crystalline water is a surprise.  Alison and I both laughed afterward about how hard we were swimming and not getting anywhere.  It was a magnificent moment, and a thrilling end to our last day at Alexander Springs. It was also great that after sharing so many good memories of working together in California, Alison and I had a chance to experience this little bit of magic.

Alison visits_044There are 27 first magnitude fresh water springs in Florida, each of them completely unique, and I have only seen a few.  There are rivers and spring runs to keep a kayaker happy for a very long time, so many that we can’t begin to see them all this time around.  In spite of giving ourselves a month in Florida, we have only scratched the surface of the amazing network of Florida’s fresh water wonders.  Still, many of them are either dark and spooky, or the manatee are there so there is no swimming allowed, or they are completely commercialized and artificial. 

Alexander Springs was an afterthought, a piece of the travel puzzle that wasn’t planned.  I am so grateful for the serendipity that brought us to this beautiful gem of the Ocala National Forest.  Alison visits_030

Up next: Blue Springs State Park, Manatees, and Magic Kayaks, and Sherry and David are our neighbors.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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