Natural Florida on a Wednesday Morning

Yesterday morning I was feeling a little low. Studly Doright had been out of town for a couple of days, and I was lonely. The news, both national and local, was depressing as hell. The book I was reading couldn’t keep my attention, even though it’s an excellent bit of almost poetic mystery. My first inclination was to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and cry.

But some little niggling thought wormed its way into my head. “Girl, get outside,” it said, so I washed my face, pulled on my favorite jean capris and a comfy old t-shirt, and drove straight to Wakulla Springs State Park.

As soon as I arrived I purchased a ticket for the boat ride, but had about 45 minutes to wander around before time to board.

Below is the diving platform into one of the springs that gives the state park its name.

Above and below are photos of the outside and inside of the lodge. I visited with a young couple who were staying at the lodge and they said the rooms are lovely. Maybe some day Studly and I can spend a night out there.

Doesn’t it appear that the butterfly is hovering above the walkway outside the lodge?

About 15 minutes before the boat was scheduled to leave I hurried back to the dock and was first in line, a decision that paid off as I noted a school bus disgorging teenagers out on a day trip while I waited patiently to board.

I believe the vegetation pictured (above) beneath the water’s surface is eelgrass.

My early bird status in the boarding queue paid off, and I found myself in the front row with a couple of families and a smattering of young couples in the seats beside and immediately behind me. The teenagers and their chaperones were herded to the aft section of the boat. Yay! Although, I have to say they were extremely well behaved and seemed to enjoy the experience as much as I did.

The trip was immediately rewarding as we literally passed directly over this manatee mom and her calf after leaving the dock.

You’ll think I’m silly, but I got a bit teary eyed.

Can you spot the alligator nestled in his hiding spot? He was the first of several we saw that morning.

Above, framed by the boat’s scaffolding, is one of my favorite birds, the anhinga. Anhingas swim quite well, but they have to spread their wings to dry them upon leaving the water; otherwise, they’d be unable to fly. When anhingas swim only their heads and slender necks appear above water, giving them the appearance of snakes and earning them the nickname, snakebird.

This guy, above, was one of the larger gators we encountered.

Below, are just a couple of photos that made me happy. Our boat captain turned off the motor and let us experience the beauty around us in silence. It was like being in a true church.

Now, this guy below was one of the highlights of the tour.

Prior to us seeing him, a couple of small male alligators came shooting out of a grassy area to our port side. Our captain told us it was mating season, and the males were likely establishing territory. Then the guy above came swimming directly towards our boat, hissing as if to scare us away, before he claimed the spot the other two males had just vacated. If I’d been a better photographer I’d have captured the whole thing, but I was too busy watching with my mouth wide open as nature’s drama played out in front of me. It was incredible.

We also were privy to hearing a bull alligator’s mating call. That was quite an impressive sound. I tried my best to capture it in a video, but it didn’t come across well. The ride was a bit anticlimactic after our gator standoff, but everyone was buzzing about what we’d witnessed.

I left the park feeling so much better than I had earlier in the day. My spirits were refreshed, and world events didn’t seem quite as dark and scary as they had just a couple of hours earlier. Plus, Studly would be home soon, and I couldn’t wait to tell him about my morning.

Peace, people!

Snapshots #233 and #234

I live less than an hour from one of the most beautiful state parks in the country. Today I decided it had been far too long since my last visit, so I remedied that problem with a trip to Wakulla Springs State Park.

No trip to the springs is complete without a boat ride through the park, and while I’ve had some great experiences in the past, today’s visit surely topped them all. Just to start the trip I took these two photos of a mama manatee and her calf.

That’s mom in picture one. I’ll call her”Madonna of the Springs,” and the one with baby, I’ve dubbed “Blissful Innocence.”

I missed the chance to snap a shot as they went beneath our boat directly in front of my first row seat. My goal was to capture them both in the same shot, but that wasn’t to be. But that’s ok. Not many things make me as happy as manatees do.

The remainder of my photos from the trip need to be edited a bit before I share. If I don’t take a nap I might do that editing this afternoon. Most of the bets are on the nap.

Peace, people.