Monday, October 10, 2016

Wakulla Springs

I went on a bus trip with other seniors a few weeks ago to Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee, Florida. As soon as I heard the words “boat ride included”, I was ready to go. And the mention of Wakulla Springs brought back the memory of a book I had read, Murder at Wakulla Springs by a local author and environmentalist, M. D. Abrams. My curiosity was peaked.

We pulled out of Gainesville around 8:30 and traveled via 441and I-10 for most of the trip, weaving and winding through little back roads to reach our final destination. We arrived at the springs, which is a State-owned park, just in time for lunch, mine to be a tasty vegetable and pasta alfredo with garlic bread, a tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and key lime pie for dessert. A ranger familiarized us with the history and layout of the springs as our food settled. I learned Wakulla was originally made famous through the writings of John Muir in 1867. The Lodge where we ate was a sort of hotel, restaurant, and gift shop combination with beautiful old-style Spanish architecture, lots of marble, mosaics, arches, a 16-foot Cyprus beamed ceiling, and a red-tiled roofline, truly beautiful in its natural woodsy setting.



As I ate, if I looked out the lovely arched windows across the green lawn, I could see the springs where several people were swimming and sun bathing. There were two huge wooden decks in the water for sunning or jumping off and another two-tier deck for diving into the now tannin-colored river. We were told the water temperature of the springs was a consistent 68-70 degrees and although normally crystal-clear, it was tea-colored now because of recent rainfall.

The Wakulla River which originates at the springs and where we would have our 45-minute boat ride was the best part of the trip. Forty-three of us split up into two covered and flat-bottomed slow-moving tour boats. We leisurely made our way a few miles downstream as our pilot, actually another park ranger, pointed out all kinds of wildlife. We saw anhingas, egrets, ibis, all kinds of ducks, herons, bitterns, limpkins, turtles and so many others I can't remember them all. Florida alligators rested or slept on every little sandbar sticking above the waterline and a rather rowdy one swam directly across the path of our boat. The literature boasted 182 different seasonal birds and I believe them. It was truly a nature-lovers paradise.





As our ride neared its end, we circled the springs and were surprised to see a gator gliding along the edge of the roped-off swimming area. Our ranger navigated our boat so we were behind the wily creature and he successfully "herded" him back out into the river as we and the divers watching from the deck breathed a sigh of relief, I think, or maybe it was "old hat" to them. I don't think I'd want to go swimming there, but what a beautiful place it was.





A thunderstorm came up as we docked and the second boat's ride was cut short, coming in right behind us. The swimming area was closed and the lightning drove all of us inside just as the rain began...on to the gift shop where there was an old-fashioned soda fountain in back of a long marble bar. Candies of yesteryear festooned the top and I overheard many talking about sugar daddies and candy cigarettes. We spent the rest of our trip there parting with a few dollars and enjoying homemade scoops of ice cream, one with the unusual name of “muddy shoes”. I hesitated to try that one opting instead for my old favorite of mint chocolate chip.





Our driver escorted each and every one of us to the bus via a big black umbrella when it was time to head back home. It continued to rain as we pulled out, and we didn't see sunshine again until we got back to Gainesville around 6:30, everyone eager to get up and out and stretch. At home Mopsy greeted me at the door with her chastising expression like she was ready to read me the riot act...or maybe not. I think she had just wakened from a long nap, but soon she realized she was hungry and everything was back to normal again.

2 comments:

  1. Yes, what a wonderful day trip. Leisurely and nostalgic for me. Happy we went.

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    1. And I enjoyed it even more with you as my seatmate. So glad you went.

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