Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Snakes Alive – We visit Wakulla

Monday April 8, 2013
Site 9, Ochlockonee State Park
Sopchoppy, Florida

 

*Alert to snake phobics – beautiful snake pictures in first paragraph.  Give it a look.  It can’t hurt you.  But if you really don’t want to, I’ve put it pretty far down so you can close your eyes and go on to paragraph two.  But don’t leave us, you’ll miss Wakulla.  Just look for the snake patterns that begin and end this section…….just kidding, just kidding.

 

 

 

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I get a surprise when I come back from running.

 

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We have plans for today so we are all up and out doing our exercising early this morning.  When I finish running, I walk back to Winnona and as I come around her rear fender I stop.  Between Ruby and Winnona moseying along minding his own business is a beautiful NON POISONOUS Corn snake.  

David comes walking up with his headset on headed right for the snake.  I wave my hands and yell.  I don’t want David to step on him poisonous or not.

 

 

 

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He sure is beautiful and we watch him slither on off on his way to wherever snakes go to do whatever they do.  Carrie comes up just a little later and is sorry she missed him.

 

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BIG excitement at Ochlockonee.

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Today is our visit to Wakulla Springs State Park.

 

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After that cool surprise, we get cleaned up.  Grab a quick breakfast.  Pack a lunch and head up to Wakulla (WA KULL UH)  Springs State Park.  It’s located 28 miles north east of us.

 

I want to add this spring to my ‘I swam in it’ list, we want to check it out for paddling possibilities and see the lodge.

 

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This 6000 acre property has 55 recorded archeological sites on it including paleoindian kill and camp sites, village areas and a mound/village complex.  These are not part of the public area of the park.  The area has been timbered, used for turpentine stores, picnics and political rallies.  In 1934 New York Financier Edward Ball  purchased the land and developed it as an attraction focused on the preservation of wildlife and the conservation of natural resources.  Wakulla Springs Lodge, opened to the public in 1937, is a fine example of Mediterranean Revival architecture I’m told.

 

We walk in and it feels like just the right lodge in this natural setting.

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It is nothing like the famous National Park Lodges of the west.  It is described as “a vision of quiet elegance, providing a retreat from the modern world.  Twenty-seven guest rooms are furnished with period furniture and private bathrooms.” (aside: No phone, no TV.)  “ The dining room overlooking the spring provides elegantly prepared food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The lodge lobby has an intricately painted 10 foot ceiling.  The period furnishings include a grand piano, marble checker tables, a massive fireplace.  The lodge’s only television is located here.”

 

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David’s thinking ‘checkers game’.  Great spot for it but way too nice to be inside.

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The ceiling is amazing. 

Through the far door I could see people having lunch in the linen table clothed dining room.  I decided a no picture clause was appropriate so you’ll have to come and have breakfast, lunch or dinner here.   I’ve included THIS link to the lodge website.  It has a very nice slide show and from there you can look at the dining room menus.

 

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On the opposite side of the hotel lobby is a door into the Gift shop.  It has the regular souvenirs and also an ice cream parlor.  The marble bar is billed as the longest one in the world.  We’ll return here after lunch and our hike.

 

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We head out the beautiful rear door and down the walkway to the springs.   The detailing on and around the door is wonderful.

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We walk down to the spring.  It’s one of the largest spring areas we’ve visited.

 

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Looking back from the spring.  It’s a very impressive building.Monday at Wakulla Springs 044

 

The actual spring head is far to the left, beyond a 2 story diving platform and just beyond the River Tour Boat.  More about that later

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In addition to the diving platform, there are 3 platforms at the edge of the roped off swimming area for folks to swim out to, climb aboard and relax.  Remember this area was developed by Ball as an “attraction”.  A place for folks to relax and swim.

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Speaking of the boat tour, it’s another thing we do not have time for but Carrie and David check into it and pronounce it a ‘next time’.

 

Here’s what they found out.  The park concessionaire offers 3 mile-40-60 minute tours on the Wakulla river.  The captain will tell you about the history of the spring, including the filming of three Tarzan movies and the 1954 classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Tours are given 365 days a year, except during inclement weather. They begin at 9:40 a.m. and the last tour departs at 4:30 p.m.; except during daylight savings time, when the last tour departs at 5 p.m.  The cost for adults today was $8.50.

They also offer glass bottom boat tours over the 120 foot deep spring cave where they claim you can see the fossils of mastodons (closely related to elephants) and other Ice Age mammals.   

Now that sounds great. Same price but the tours are only offered when the water is clear and that is becoming less and less often. And not today.  This is a sad story about the increasing pollution of and loss of Florida’s springs.  Anyone interested in Florida’s springs might find this November 2012 article from the Tampa Bay Times very enlightening.  Those who live in Florida or those of us who spend winters here and love it should do all we can to be involved in efforts to protect and rejuvenate the springs.   If you are a Florida resident, please locate your state representatives addresses and send a letter asking them what bills they have sponsored or cosponsored in support of the springs.

 

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It’s getting too late to do all of the hike we had intended and we still haven’t had lunch. 

We walk around the side of the Lodge and over to the picnic area.  Along the way there is a lovely camellia bush which we stop and enjoy. 

 

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The picnic tables are located in a lovely pine woods near the trail head.  The trail is 6 miles long one way and we do not have time or inclination for a 12 mile hike at this point in the day so I check out the map to see how far we want to go.

 

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The beginning half mile of the trail is an educational tree experience created as an Eagle Scout project and a good one it is.

 

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We sure have seen a number of very fine works by eagle scouts in our travels and this is surely one of them.  As you walk along the trail at numerous trees there is a post with a hinged cover.  On the top are great sketches of the tree’s leaves and nuts or fruit.  You are supposed to identify the tree then raise the lid and find out if you are correct or learn what tree this is and interesting facts about it. 

As you can imagine, we were all over this and it took up more of our limited hiking time. Unfortunately no one took a picture of the inside information on the tree.  :-(

We had hoped to  go to number 3 on the map, cross the bridges and see both spring runs and turn back.  But we didn’t make it that far.  In the end, we walked 2 miles in and turned around and came back in order not to miss the closing of the ice cream parlor.  :-))  A total of 4 miles, still very respectable.

 

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Ok, who knows???  The seed pod is a dead give away.

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The real tree, the real leaves.

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More Florida sink holes along the way.  They really are everywhere.

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Pretty good sized cypress.  Lots of knees.

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Off the boardwalk and onto the sand trail.

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We arrive back to the soda fountain with 5 minutes to spare. 

I think the woman behind the counter wasn’t too happy when we ordered a milkshake and a malt just at closing time especially when more folks walked in after closing time while she was preparing ours.  But she gave us enough for each of us to have a cup and on the way out we closed the double doors to deter even more customers.   The flavors offered were pretty ordinary and so was the ice cream, but a malt in the south is fairly rare so I’m happy.

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I hadn’t actually intended to swim AFTER my ice cream but that’s the way it turned out. 

I was thinking hot hike – high today 85 – swim, milkshake.

But we go into the up scale bath house with porcelain sinks and put on our suits.  By now we don’t need cooling off.  The sun is sinking, the temperature is dropping but I need to put this spring on my ‘I swam in it"’ list.  And besides the water always feels warm once I am in and swimming.

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I drop my towel and swim bag at the foot of the lovely cypress next to the spring and in I go.   Carrie isn’t quite as sure.  David declines totally.

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Can you see who is swimming with me???  You have to look closely.  Now that’s terrific!Monday at Wakulla Springs 122

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Carrie does some wading, I do some swimming.  David takes the pictures.

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Just before we leave, we climb up to the top of the diving board for a look at the spring head. 

 

I’m actually surprised that they have this two story platform since the only way to use it is to jump straight down into the roped off swimming area.  You can’t dive out into the spring head area.  I assume they allow scuba folks out there and there didn’t seem to be a restriction for kayakers.   But we’ll have to come back another day to check out the boat tour, which I think goes up here, and the kayaking possibilities.

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Like De Leon Springs, Wakulla still has its original 1950’s attraction sign.  I love it!  

This is yet again a place we need to return to after doing some research on where to put in to kayak the Wakulla River.  Maybe more than once so we can eat in the dining room and take the boat tour.  We have found so many wonderful places in Florida with so many great things to do that require multiple visits to do them all.

 

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It’s been a big day as you can see and we’re mighty tired.  You must be too.  Thanks for sticking with me through all these words and pictures.  I know it’s been long.  I may have Bayfield Al’s blabber fingers disease,  but I’d still like to hear from you.  Hope you’ll drop a comment my way.

14 comments:

  1. So you walked that far for a plain old milkshake, how far would you walk for some Bruster's J-M-C??? :cD

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  2. My gosh, Sherry, snakes, sink holes, board walks, trees, lodges, flowers and too much to mention! I've noticed with each post, your narrative skills have made you a wonderful guide for those of us who read! I bet you could get a at one of Florida's many NWRs.

    I have to tell you that I shiver every time I see you swim in one of the springs. I'm sure it's wonderful for someone without the phobia that I have. I will swim in the ocean or a pool, but no lakes, rivers, or springs for me since I got out of girlhood which is still not too far back that I don't remember doing many things, with wild abandon, that you do, now. You're a young girl at heart. I'm sure your David and Carrie agree. :)

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  3. Love all the intricate detail around the lodge door. And those camellias are picture perfect. All the layers and swirls of petals are just gorgeous.

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  4. Great tour, but I could skip the snake part!

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  5. jeez with the snakes but omg... The Creature from the Black Lagoon has kept me out of lakes for ... 1954? no kidding.... wow... that's a long time!

    Another beautiful day ;)

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  6. Oh my! Those camellias are just gorgeous, and perfect! I really like this place, the scenery and the history both.

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  7. I don't know how you pack all this in to just one day, and find the time to write so eloquently about it. No matter where one visits there's almost always more things to see and do than just one day allows. How can anybody think, there's nothin' to do. Beautiful snake, Lodge and springs. Too bad about the ice cream.

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  8. Beautiful snake, lodge, camelia, trees, hike, spring... Just a BEAUTIFUL day!!!

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  9. Thanks for the link to the interesting article on the springs. They truly are one of the very best things about Florida and it would be a shame to lose them.

    Love the picture of the camellia. That was another plant we had on our Georgia property that we'd never had in Florida. Love them.

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  10. We took the boat tour years ago. Definitely worth it. Sounds like you had another lovely day. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Thanks for the warning on the snake ... I took a peek, but didn't dally. We saw 13 snakes today on our beach walk ... all but one was dead ... some for a long time; others newly dead. I think they were all washed out from the wetlands during yesterday's storm.

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  12. Snakes are so cool, thanks for treating us to this beauty.

    You must have a very warm constitution to enjoy swimming in such cold water. Those Florida springs have the coldest water I've ever been in.

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  13. Another invigorating blog as I anticipated your swim in the springs. I think I would like to do that but am, sadly, becoming less adventurous about swimming in natural settings than I once was. You, however, continue to inspire me with your willingness to jump in--both literally and figuratively. p.s. I am fine with the snake photos.

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  14. Great post - pictures and all :) I like the one of me taking a sip of water with my hat off my head - lol...the picture of you and I in swimsuits is a good one too :) Nice mix of what we did and the history of where we did it. So glad we stopped to smell the roses :)

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