"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

April 30, 2014

April 30 - Welaka, FL

Bryant's Wharf Public Dock

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." ―George Bernard Shaw

When we were in Welaka a few weeks ago a local man told us about several places we should explore. We didn't take time to see those places on our first visit, but we did today. We took the dinghy down and headed north to check out Welaka Spring first. The spring was very small and unimpressive, but the area around it was very pretty. Our next stop was Mud Spring. It’s located in Welaka State Forest, we took our dinghy through Little Lake George and up Mud Creek, but it can also be accessed along a hiking trail. There is a nice picnic area around the spring and the spring forms a pool that you can swim in. Both springs we saw today were very small compared to the others springs we’ve visited.

On the way back to the boat we rode up Bear Creek to the Oklawaha River. Both were beautiful and lush...we felt like we were in a jungle. It looks so jungle like, that filmmakers used an area close by to film Tarzan movies during the 1930s and 40s. Locals have told us there are monkeys in the area, descendants of those that got loose during filming. We were also told today by a couple, that they see monkeys around the Mud Spring area regularly...but we didn’t see any today.

We're still waiting on the storms that are moving this way. We've gotten afternoon showers the past few days but then it clears up...nothing like they're getting north of here. This evening we had quite a few visitors on the dock; everyone was interested in the boat and where we'd been. One young lady I was visiting with even gave us a pie...the people in Welaka are very nice.

Welaka Spring
Mud Spring entrance from Mud Creek
Mud Spring
One of the trails around Mud Spring 
Bear Creek
A map of the area we explored today.
This little guy was hanging around the boat this evening. He even came closer when I started talking to him.

April 29 - Welaka, FL

Bryant's Wharf Public Dock

“We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

We only had a little rain last night, but the wind never laid down, and we bounced and rocked all night long. After breakfast we were both ready to get off the big boat and go for a ride in the dinghy. The four-mile run up the Salt Springs Creek was a little different than the other creeks we've explored. This creek is wide, has higher banks and is lined in marsh grass and has fewer trees close to the water...definitely different but still pretty. Since it was early and the middle of the week, we had the springs to ourselves…or should I say to myself, since I was the only one that went swimming. The springs and the park are beautiful and I'm sure it's packed here on a warm summer day. The water was refreshing and I had fun looking into the spring vents and watching the fish.

Salt Springs, along with Juniper Springs and Silver Glen Springs are recreation areas in the Ocala National Forest. The waters of Salt Springs rise from vertical cracks from deep within the earth and stay at a constant 74 degrees. The spring gets its name from the presence of potassium, magnesium and sodium salts in the water. The Salt Springs has several spring vents in a large shallow spring pool, which forms the headwater of the 4-mile long Salt Springs Run (Creek). It has been said that Salt Springs is the legendary "Fountain of Youth". Scientists have discovered that certain minerals and trace elements that are available only in unrefined groundwater can slow aging, and the abundance and variety of helpful minerals in the waters at Salt Springs can be found nowhere else in the United States.​ Maybe I'll be looking younger now that I've swum in the "Fountain of Youth"!

There are predictions of thunderstorms and increasing rain chances for the next few days, so after enjoying the park we decided it was time to move the boat out of Lake George. It was a short trip to the city dock in Welaka with little excitement, except for our eagle spotting. This is the first time we've ever seen an eagle on a channel marker...we were eye to eye with this amazing bird. He finally flew off as the main part of the boat passed the marker. It was a once in a lifetime encounter...glad I had my camera ready. We may stay in Welaka a few days again while this weather system passes. There are a few places we'd like to explore around here...hopefully we can do that tomorrow before the rain arrives.

Views of the Salt Springs Creek
Salt Springs Recreations Area
Salt Springs pool
Going for a swim
Underwater view of one of the spring vents
Looking down into one of the spring vents
What an amazing sight...it was like he was posing for us.

April 29, 2014

April 28 - Lake George, FL

Salt Spring Creek

"If I could have, to hold forever, one brief place and time of beauty, I think I might choose the night on that high lonely bank above the St. Johns River."-Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

We had two anchorages today. Our first was close to Silver Glen Springs...unfortunately we draw a little too much water to take our large boat into the spring run. This is a popular spot for houseboats and smaller boats to anchor for the weekend. The water is a beautiful, crystalline clear blue that stays a constant 72 degrees. I would have loved to spent a few days anchored in this clear amazing water, swimming right off the boat. Even before we entered the spring run the water in the lake became clear and we could see the aquatic grass, algae and fish on the bottom. We spent the day swimming and doing a little hiking, but mostly we spent it relaxing on the banks of this beautiful spring. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings had a cabin in the area and it inspired her book “The Yearling”. We hiked the Spring Boils Trail that leads to Jody’s Spring, which was named for the spring described in her book.

Silver Glen Springs is a first-magnitude spring with a large, semicircular pool that measures 200 feet by 175 feet. Sixty five million gallons of water flows from two cavern openings in the rock at the bottom of the pool and flows nearly one mile down the spring run to Lake George. Most of the spring pool has sand and limestone on the pool bottom, with areas of aquatic grasses. Large fresh and saltwater fish are common in the pool and around the vents.  

After we returned to the boat we decided to pull anchor and move closer to Salt Springs, which we'll explore tomorrow. Lake George is a large lake and offers little wind protection. Last night was very calm...making it a bit warmer, but we slept well on a calm ship. This evening the wind has picked up and we have gotten a little rain and we're definitely rocking. I'm sure it'll be more than a gentle roll putting us to sleep tonight.

The view from our picnic table
The water was so clear and blue it looked like we were swimming in a pool...just amazing.
Aww...this is the life!
Looking down to the vents on the bottom of the spring
Most of the spring pool is shallow...until you get close to the vents, then it drops off quickly.
This little island stand guard at the entry to Silver Glen Creek.

April 28, 2014

April 27 - Lake George, FL

Juniper Creek - Anchorage

"Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream." ―John Lennon

We woke up to our fourth day of fog...but it lifted quickly and we really didn't have anywhere we needed to be. We did a little research on the springs that flow into Lake George. We knew we could get our dinghy into Silver Glen and Salt Springs, but weren't sure if we could make it up to Juniper Springs. So our mission today was to explore Juniper Creek and hopefully get to swim in the springs. This spring is one of the oldest and best known recreation areas on the East Coast and from the pictures I’ve seen it looks gorgeous. Unfortunately getting to the spring from Lake George proved to be impossible. We had fun exploring the creek, but it soon became too shallow for us to make it in our dinghy. This creek is very popular with airboats, which can slide over the grassy shallow spots...what a racket they make. With all the weekend noise and commotion we only spotted one alligator.

We spent the late afternoon and early evening trying to stay cool...summer arrived in central Florida today. We decided to anchor in Lake George, so we could take advantage of the breeze to keep us a little cooler...by sunset the temperature had dropped and the breeze had picked up a bit, making it much nicer to be at anchor. Tomorrow we'll go to Silver Glen Springs...being a Monday hopefully it won't be as crowded. We never looked forward to Mondays when we were working...since we started cruising we love them.

Our morning view of the St. John's River
A beautiful day on the river...but it was very busy. 
The Pearl anchored in Lake George
Juniper Creek 
A video clip of Juniper Creek

April 27, 2014

April 26 - Hontoon Island State Park

 Park Dock
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” —T.S. Eliot

We began our morning with a visit to the farmers market that is held on 3rd Street. It wasn't large but had a nice variety of things. We picked up some delicious strawberries and a loaf of bread. After lunch we began our return trip to Jacksonville...we are now moving downstream. It was a beautiful Saturday and boats were everywhere enjoying the day. A large part of the river we traveled on this afternoon was posted as low speed (because of manatees) so having so many boats around really wasn't a problem, but with all the activity and noise on the river, the only wildlife we saw today was human.

The weather is beginning to warm up in the afternoons, so we decided to dock at Hontoon Island State Park this evening, so we could have electricity and plug in the AC. The next few days we will be anchoring around Lake George, so we can visit a few more springs. Starting tomorrow night we’ll have to adjust to sleeping in warmer temperatures. We had a nice evening visiting with other boaters on the dock and fixing a wonderful steak dinner. Life on the river is good…at least for now!

Sanford waterfront
Farmers market in Sanford
The main street in the historic district of Sanford
A busy day on the river
The cutest boat we saw today
It was very busy around Blue Spring State Park