Crazy how things can come at you sometimes – like a puzzle piled up on the table before us – pieces to consider; all part of another day. The easiest ‘pieces’ at the moment for me are in paddling and riding some of our older highways, the rest – well, I’m thinkin that things will fall in some sort of natural order with due-time. Simple objectives, no schedule (life at 60). Fewer responsibilities; seems to work so far.
My plan for ‘a loop‘ down through Florida to visit my father; a cousin in Hobe Sound; a niece in Madeira Beach; and then to paddle in the Ocala National Forest with yet another cousin were all materializing – the little trailer was all hooked up and ready to go.
Then I received ‘the call;’ Dad died..
In all true sense – as soon as I could lock the cabin door I was headed South. The post (WT Haynie 1926-2010) says the rest – ‘writing’ really hasn’t been on my mind; ‘riding’ has.
Dad could relate to a good ride; “ciphering”things out he called it.
After the funeral, and with the little trailer and ‘traveller’ diligently behind, I idled up hwy 441 – to where our family had gathered in the 1960’s and early 70’s.
ROCK SPRINGS (Kelly Park)
One of life’s ‘little circles’
‘Rock Springs’ as we knew it; Kelly Park in Apopka, Fla (that’s Dad above on the same rock as below). Hadn’t been there in 40 years and the place looked great! New boardwalks, nature trails, and many signs that emphasized wildlife management/ habitat.
We used to get into the 67 degree water at the cave – then swim, float, or walk (exploring the ‘boils’ along the way) to the ‘second-landing’ near the main swimming area. The brave ones would venture to the ‘third-landing’ (esp alone) which was something special because it further in the ‘woods’ (‘tales’ of ‘gators).
On this date I went from the cave to the ‘third-landing’ (above) without ever getting wet,
the familiar atmosphere remained. I felt that some of the trees were the same, and now after so many years – here I was.
It was a nice stop to reminisce – for some inherent sentimental reason that’s important – a reason, a purpose, maybe even an excuse to dwell in an ambiance where connecting with memories are possible. ‘Little circles’ – an interesting comparison of memory, perceptions, and present reality – all while feeling that certain hollow feeling within the statement that; “you can never really go home again.”
I was not disappointed with ‘Rock Springs,’ this was the place that our family was totally united in agreement over the water’s temperature – it was bone-chilling COLD! Over a ten-year period we spent many memorable holiday’s camping beneath the trees. As a kid we learned to camp here.
Potato salad, the kids drank ‘check-cola’ and the in-laws and parents quietly sipped cheap malt-beverages. The radios of the day were tuned into the races at Daytona just a few miles away. I remember ‘Fireball-Roberts’ hitting the wall, he died.
It was mandatory for everyone to ‘get-wet’ at least once as a group and float the ‘run.’
For me, Kelly Park was definitely one of life’s ‘little circles.’
There is not a place to paddle through Rock Springs so I went a bit further along the same road past Camp Joy – to check out there; closed.
I proceeded up Highway-19 to
The Ocala National Forest.
With some information my cousin Jo had given me (and a map from the forest service) I located the springs that I wanted to paddle – Salt Springs Marina for a ‘quickie,’ and Juniper Springs for a more extensive paddle and return shuttle.
Water clarity- 7+
Natural Quality – 7
Difficulty – moderate
Salt Springs would help loosen up my arms, and Juniper would be the next day.
What I found from The Salt Springs Marina (nearby campground also) was a few hour paddle to Lake George, with a return trip against the wind – all was fine, especially as the Manatee and her calf playfully broke the waters surface beside me – neat.
I did talk and drift with some other paddlers from Chattanooga, so it was a good afternoon paddle – 2.5 hours down, and maybe the same coming back – 1230 pm until 430 or so.
Camping is available at Juniper Springs without electric (near hwy 40 and hwy 19), and from checking with them earlier – it would be the best place for an early start (Ocala was 40 minutes away) so what the heck.
Leaving Salt Springs I found a little store (cell reception poor) and picked up some food ‘stash’ and water – but they had hot food also. Econo-lunch on the way to Salt-Springs, and then chicken and potato-wedges/bread back to Juniper Camp ground – life is indeed good, warm food..(do we need to talk about food on the Mississippi?)
A shower is as good as any cup of coffee first thing in the morning, pretty important – that’s the biggest luxury I need – and I’m unsure what I would choose if I had to pick between a pillow and a shower; lets don’t go there.
I went in as a camper; site 64. The neighbors partied most of the night and it was actually pretty nice to listen to someone else’s subtle jabber, camp-fire conversation and lite music in the night. I laid on my mattress in the back of the truck and took it all in as “a free-ride.’ The rest that I received from the night was like I had slept with my ‘ears wide open;’ the distant traffic on Highway-40 might have had a little to do with that.
Water clarity- 8
Natural Quality – 9 (again, traffic noise)
Difficulty – moderate
Anyway, Juniper Springs – 8am, put in at natural spring, flow with the basin as it combines and becomes a creek with surface flow. I had seen a sign that said “Not for beginners,’ I wondered how/why?
I had spoken earlier to some other paddlers about Juniper and they had inquired about my kayaks length (associating length with maneuverability), but my 14 foot Liquid-logic never confronted me once with handling problems (it was always human error).
The spring is gentle and clear at first, and as the stream grows its a comfortable drift with the palmettos and wildlife that surrounds – a hawk hopped head level and watched me pass from 4 feet.
Water drains from the land around making the clear water more of a ‘tea color,’ unfortunately there was occasional highway work going on in the background that I had to ‘tune-out’ and zero my attention back into the nature around me. In doing this alone, I thought several times that being solo added to the ‘peace’ of it all, it didn’t hurt my ability to remain clear of those ‘strainers’- certainly company has its benefits.
Stream into a creek, bending, ‘ducking, mostly thinking ahead while enjoying the serenity, it was present.
The current could draw your craft to the side if you didn’t pay attention; I saw many cypress tree’s with the ravages of canoe’s that had beaten against their skirt, ‘beaters’ I thought; as the scars are many which have healed through the years – also with that, I wasn’t perfect either.
The route was adequately maintained and the many rental canoeist were likely a positive.
So as the kayaker on Salt Springs inquired of me, he asked – How do you know if an Alligator is near?, that’s easy I said – “you get chill bumps when they’re under you”..
It’s true. – but they are no bother and naturally afraid of humans, unless we feed them – for some reason I thought it was funny when I saw a sign that mentioned, “If you see an alligator, leave it alone.” duh…
They’re just big lizards with teeth.
It wasn’t long after this field that the highway noise and bridge construction neared, the Park shuttle was there to pick me up right on time – well worth the few extra bucks to haul me and my vessel back to the park – a secured vehicle for the day, a ride back, and another shower.
soon I was back on the road all clean thinking about how much I really like the ‘ride.’
Link to: The Silver River