Sunday, August 9, 2015

Vacation Part 2 (Silver Springs)

We continued a bit of what we started last year with introducing our girls to the Florida we (and more so, their grandparents) grew up with and that began with Silver Springs (if you click here you can read a lot about it and why it is so endangered now).

We didn't time our visit very well so we missed the glass-bottomed boat tour by 5 minutes. That gave us a chance to explore the rest of the park by foot.

 My eyes have missed Spanish moss so much.

Kate read this sign to us and made sure we all knew not to get too close to the edge "just in case".

Unfortunately, a big thunderstorm was moving in fast so the next boat cruise was cancelled. We decided lunch was in order so we introduced the girls to another staple of our childhood--DQ. Lucy was thrilled to learn what dilly bars were.

With 2 hours to go until the next boat cruise, we headed east into the Ocala National Forest, where Len spent a lot of his youth hanging out with friends.

We found this guy perched above looking for prey.

This was their first experience with a dirt road. Although, as dirt roads go, this one is very well maintained and even with all the rains in FL this year, we never hit a patch of washboard.

We ended up pulling over for a bit to let the girls experience complete solitude and quiet. No sounds of sirens or planes or people or music. Just cicadas and wind and thunder in the distance as the storm approached.

I found some deer tracks...
which the girls then wanted to follow. It led them down a smaller, much less-traveled road.

where we discovered an ant hill boiling over with very busy ants.
Further along we disturbed a vulture who flew up and groused at us from a tree.
The rain started up so we got back to our car to explore a bit more
 before turning back to get to the main highway.
And then it just bucketed! We could barely see the road for a bit.
With the storm quieting down, we returned to the springs to find that the next tour was set to begin.

Silver Springs is endangered mostly from fertilizer runoff that is causing massive amounts of algae to grow. In the following pictures you should be able to see bright white, almost sparkling white, sand. That is what the entire spring used to look like and why it was called Silver Springs. It would literally glow. Now you can see lots of green algae covering the plants and the bottom which has killed a lot of the fish and plants.

Actually, the last time Len and I went there with his sister on her boat, the park was privately owned and wild monkeys were everywhere in the trees, part of an original attraction and meant to replicate the feeling of the Tarzan movies that were filmed there. Although most of the monkeys have since been relocated (and we did not personally see any on our trip) we were told that there were still about 3 tribes or families left in the forest.
I managed to snap a shot of this turtle sunning himself but was on the wrong side of the boat to get the baby gator on another log.
This is one of the head springs or places where the water shoots up out of the aquifer below. It is about 30 feet deep at this point but looks like you could swim down easily to touch the bottom.

These three statues are 7 feet tall and were brought in for a James Bond movie that was filmed here. Many other films including Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Yearling and the tv show Sea Hunt have used the clear waters for their shows. You can really see the algae taking over in these shots.

Our 30 minutes were up so we called it a day and headed for Meme and Papa's. More on the rest of our Ocala sojourn in another post.

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