Since most of the springs are experiencing high water the risk of them running brown has increased, so we stick with the sure thing and go to Silver Springs. The spring is a brilliant clear blue as always and there is a thunderstorm building in the distance. What’s a little rain especially when you’re already in a swim suit. We venture off into a few alcoves looking for some gators and turtles, but instead we find a monkey! I’m sure I heard two calling but I never saw the other one. He hung out with us for a little, jumping from one tree, sticking a pose then moving on to the next branch. We stayed for about 15 minutes while I mostly said “OMG there’s a freaking monkey! Do you see this?!” then moved on. One amazing animal sighting already checked off the list, let’s see if we can’t find more. We keep our eyes peeled pointing out different birds, fish and turtle then “Baby Gator!” I scream. No, not just one baby gator but 5! Little swamp gremlins laying out in the sun, perched on down branches and duckweed, too cute to resist. At this point I’d say it’s been a pretty good day and to match our incredible luck, the skies open up and pour down on us. And don’t stop. All in all I’d call this a pretty successful day.
Next day we get up early and head to Alexander springs. We scout out the location and see we have the place to ourselves! Yippee! We go back to the van to grab our gear and are met with technical difficulties. Fogged camera sensors, fogged lenses, an O-ring that won’t seal all the way and dead batteries. Only one of us is a professional and it’s clearly not me. 45 minutes and several curse words later we drag our camera and snorkel gear over to the spring. Usually I just jump off of something high and let the cold water rush up around me. The only way into this spring is a small set of stairs that drops you in at mid waist, jumping will do nothing for you but jar your knees and make you realize getting older sucks. We wade in taking short shallow breaths and then I dive in. This is actually one of the warmer springs I’ve been in putting it probably around 72 degrees. There are plenty of small fish, bass and turtles swimming on the boarder careful not to get too close. The water comes rushing up from large cracks in the limestone and gives way to a picturesque lagoon. Nothing may have gone right that morning, but a quick dip certainly makes up for it.
We pick up yellow red bull and appropriate road snacks then head south. We stop at dirty taco in Tampa for lunch (add it to your list! it’s amazing!) and then address a dire situation. My inability to sit still means I need to burn off some energy if I expect to be tolerable. We stop at Fort De Soto for a brief paddle and run into fellow photographer Claudette (insta handle Klaude_g). We talk for a few minutes about the red tide and sunsets then launch across the channel and quickly come back. I have my heart set on stopping at Venice beach to find some sharks teeth so we make a quick pit stop. For some reason the beach is completely abandoned and there is literally no one here. I find about a dozen teeth then leave for the next location. That night we stop in Myakka where the campgrounds are mostly flooded and the pictures are all blowouts.
The last stop is a familiar one, Fisheating creek. By time we get to the campground it’s in that later half of the day. Not enough time to go down the river, but enough time to fill up the pineapple and explore a little. Odds are if I’ve had alcohol I’m less inclined to say “ahhhh it’s a spider, get me away!” and more inclined to say, “ohhhhh it’s a spider, get me closer!!” We go visit a fav spot for some fun pics and professional ones as well. I climb into the tree, pineapple in hand and act like my nerdy self for a few minutes. How I haven’t fallen out is beyond me. That night I cook the last meal we will have in the van for a while, roasted potatoes with bacon, sesame roasted broccoli and BBQ shrimp. We wait til it’s dark and then go out to see which eyes stare back at us in the darkness. Orange iridescence are frogs and lizards, green is spiders and reddish (and relatively large) is alligators. You’d be surprised at the hundreds of eyes staring back at you. The next morning we canoe down the river marking the end of this trip. All in all it’s been 3 weeks, 2 states, 14 campgrounds, 2,700 miles and just the right amount of tacos. What’s next?
Stay tuned, I have no idea either.