So after our sprint south we arrived in Central Florida about three weeks ahead of our original plan. The primary motivator to get back to the Sunshine State was basic homesickness and the desire to see friends and family again. The only specific date on our revised fall schedule was Rosemarie’s mom’s pending birthday, but we were ten days ahead of that event. Serendipitously, Linda and Jayson were just finishing a post Navy retirement cruise out of Fort Lauderdale and would be at Universal Studios in Orlando later in the week. So our dance card was starting to fill up, but we still had a couple of days to kill.
We elected to go back to one of our favorite Central Florida campgrounds, Blue Springs State Park. We have stayed once before and made a day trip there last year, both times in the deep winter (Florida version) when the spring is filled with manatees and thus closed to swimming. This time we hoped to beat the sea cows there and enjoy a bit of spring snorkeling. October is early enough in the year to be out of peak season, so spots were readily available via the online reservation system, particularly for non-weekend stays. We locked in the standard power and water site for $30 and change (after taxes and reservation fees) per night.
Going to private RV “resorts” is nice: you get so many amenities, usually have some sort of wifi, and can often take advantage of discount rates. But they are so often very cookie cutter, with no real nature or views other than your neighbors RVs. We try not to get locked into a rut of staying at too many of the same type of places during our travels. Look at our October run by campround type: county, county, private, military, private, military, military, military, private, private, state. About the only thing missing is a national park stop. State and county parks provide a different experience than the private campgrounds, usually in much more natural settings with lots of greenery and wildlife. Blue Springs did not disappoint.
Our site was of a decent size with plenty of separation from neighboring spots. The facilities have recently been upgraded, with brand new and spotless bathhouses and laundry. The spring is maybe a quarter mile from the campground; a casual stroll along a well marked path. Our first afternoon we took it just to enjoy the view of the pristine water, and confirming that as of yet, no manatees were clogging up the swimming hole.
That evening we drove to my son Jackson’s house for a cocktail and then dinner at a local gourmet taco joint, Neighbors Artisan Taqueria in historic downtown Deland. This was a great dining experience and a solid value, particularly since Jackson picked up the bill. I can strongly endorse the “Hipster Neighbor” menu option if you have any tolerance for mushrooms.
The next day it was “get in the cold water” time. We pulled out our snorkels and headed down to the spring, encountering a young female raccoon putting on a show in broad daylight right beside the boardwalk pathway. A good omen for our day in nature. We dropped into the water a hundred yards downstream from the spring boil to snorkel with the abundant catfish, gar, and other assorted fish. After a bit Rosemarie exited claiming frostbite from the 72 degree water. I continued up stream to make a few dives down into the spring itself. On my return swim a manatee passed right beside me exploring the head water. I kicked for the dock and convinced Rosemarie to come back in, just in time for us to watch the animal come back down and pass right beside us on its way out to the main river. Fantastic.
We topped off our stay with a hawk swooping right by us during our walk back to the campground. Hard to ask for a better day in one of Florida’s best state parks. So where are the pictures of all these animals? Would you believe we forgot both our phones and our waterproof point and shoot during this outing? Argghhhh!