Isn’t that a great show? Anyway, it’s good to be back in the greatest/craziest state in the continental U.S., Florida. Did you know that there are caves and caverns in Florida? I didn’t. Also, do you know the difference between a cave and a cavern? Many things, but the easiest fun fact to remember, caves have one entrance\exit and a cavern will have multiple. Now go impress your friends with your new found knowledge! Back to Florida Cavern State Park…
We have somehow managed to wake up at 5:40am, have our usual breakfast of coffee and PB&J’s and drive over to the launch. Unloading is not a simple 5 minute process; we pull the canoe off the van and fill it with multiple cameras, lenses, domes and various forms of caffeine. We push off from the ramp and rounding the first corner what do we see but a fawn nestled along the shore quietly watching us float by. By time one of us fumbles to get a camera we have startled her and she dashes off. Rest assure, there is more wildlife on this trip. The paddle is lackluster and I have to dodge several branches from newly fallen trees wondering what sort of spider will try to hitch a ride on my oversized, yet necessary, hat. We finally turn off and behold! The river water changes from brown to crystal clear blue and the sunbeams shine through the cypress and fog and reflect back creating prisms of color in every direction. I would have never guessed this hidden gem was tucked away amongst such mundane surroundings but here it is looking untouched and as if it were designed to peak your mind and imagination. I hop in to the coldest water I have experienced on this trip and float around with the small bluegills while trying not to show how badly I’m shivering in my wetsuit. We snag a few pictures and make our way back to the main river.
This is where things get fun… I am not a big fan of snakes and spiders but I like to think that I am building up a tolerance and curiosity. We turn off to find another small spring and looking down along the root line I ask “what’s that? It looks like a snake… it looks like a big snake, OMG that’s a big snake and not the good kind!” True, this was a big snake and not the good kind, it was a water moccasin, about 3 feet long which is 2 feet longer than I’m willing to calmly tolerate. We make our way back out and head down another tributary, “what’s that? It looks like a spider shedding its exoskeleton?!,” I say. We get closer, “Nope, that’s a (big ass) fishing spider eating another (big ass) fishing spider,” he says. What do we do? Take pictures of course. I chose to do this from a safe distance of 5 feet, Paul chooses to do this from 6 inches and this is where we get a now commonly used quote: “If that spider jumps on you don’t come near me, you solve your own problems.” Enough of these shenanigans! We head back to the ramp and pick up line and lures along the way. I have become fascinated with local spiders that I am starting to notice more often and decide to to try to snap a few. One important thing I have learned is that spiders in webs are very different from the fishing spiders I’ve seen along the base of cypress trees in that they don’t jump, so I have dubbed these “safe” spiders.
With so much to do in Marianna, we decide to do something dumb; we paddle down a river fed from a damn and think we can make it back. Kids, don’t make the same mistake we did, I spent half the time in the river walking the canoe back when the water was shallow enough. We clearly didn’t spend enough time in Marianna, but we make notes on what to do when we return as we head south to St. Joe’s Peninsula.
We stop off at St. Patricks for some fresh gulf seafood and some local caught shrimp at a more than reasonable price. We arrive to St Joe’s with enough time to scout a location for sunset. I was told there would be sand dunes, but I kept my expectations pretty low. The sand dunes resemble large hills that appear to be covered in fresh snow with plants sprouting up here and there. Boarding the dunes are scrub oaks set up like guardians protecting the pristine slopes and towering in the distance are longleaf pines looking out like sentries searching for foreign invaders. Lightning strikes touch down in the distance and light our way back. Sunset was a blowout, but the walk was unforgettable. Back at camp, dinner is fire roasted corn on the cob, potatoes and shrimp on a skewer, simple and delicious.
The next morning we go down to the beach for a workout. After we push each other to the limit and get covered in sand we feel that we’ve earned a reward. We leave the park and head to webers which is open until they run out of donuts, guess when they ran out of donuts… when we got there.
Next stop… Madagascar
Mada-Who-ah? as-car not who-ah…. and more.