Blue Springs State Park Currently 56 degrees F High today 76
I have been thinking about what to write about yesterday for hours. The day all just blends together in my mind and words seem useless. Yesterday was a experiential visual delight, so much so that my senses are almost overwhelmed with the magic of it all and I am at a complete loss for words. I may just give up and resort to a string of photos to try to catch the magic.
We are at Blue Springs State Park, arrived Monday afternoon to sunny skies and a nice campsite. Of course, the big surprise of the day was that we were right next to Sherry and David, with no clue that they were even still here, much less in the site next to us. What a delight, especially since Sherry has so much knowledge to share about the local treats, including manatees, secret kayak places, and ice cream.
I was surprised as we arrived in Orange City at how big the area seemed to be, how developed. I somehow imagined Blue Springs to be as remote and quiet as Alexander Springs was, tucked away in the Ocala National Forest. Instead, Blue Springs is an oasis of state land in the midst of a well developed urban zone. Today I saw a sequence of aerial photographs that depicted the change in urbanism around the island of protected state land since the 70’s. Such a gift that this place was saved.
After settling in, we took Abby for a walk down to the boardwalk where dogs are allowed, a nice benefit at this park. Although Abby can’t go on the upper boardwalk to the main spring, we can take here all the way out to the St John River where most of the manatees seems to hang out anyway. On our first walk that afternoon we saw several manatees hanging out, resting and moving quietly.
Yesterday morning, however, I walked through the early dawn light to the boardwalk again, and to my delight found 8 manatees playing near the spring. As I watched they began moving slowly back toward the river, and I had the moments all to myself, with no sound but the gentle “whuff” of manatee breath now and then. As the morning progressed, a few more people showed up to visit the manatees, including Sherry, and we laughed at the serendipity of our chance camping choices and talked about manatees and kayaking.
Kayaking was a priority for us for the two days we had to spend here and Mo and I were on the river by 11, heading south into the St John toward the oxbow and then into the narrow channel of Snake Creek.
This is the point where words just completely fail. Mo and I decided that this paddle was probably our premier paddle of all time, just beyond perfect.
The weather was perfect, the skies were perfect, a bit of cloudiness to dress things up and then brilliant sunshine to illuminate everything.
Can you imagine being led into a wilderness by four great egrets, lifting in front of us, flying a bit farther into the channel, and landing. Waiting till we got close, lifting again to fly further down the river. They did this all the way to Dead Hontoon River, and then did the same thing all the way back to the St John River on our return trip.
We saw baby alligators and big daddy alligators, more turtles than I could possibly count, saw red shouldered hawks, and heard barred owls and saw wild turkeys on the shore.
Big Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, green heron? night heron? cormorants, anhingas, cardinals, and what Carol Herr called “little brown birds”.
The water was so still, just barely moving, and the forest so silent except for bird calls. Not a single boat marred the perfection of our 3 hour paddle into that primordial place.
It felt exactly as if we were in some kind of prehistoric jungle place, a world only imagined and not even in the vocabulary of our gorgeous Pacific Northwest sojourns. I feel as though I am in a foreign land here in Florida, a magic place full of green and warmth and water and birds.
I am simply out of words.