September 27, 2012
Marina and Justin made us a breakfast of homemade granola with almond milk and freshly roasted coffee from the drum on their porch, before we got onto the road headed towards the .
The river is one of the last protected habitats in Florida, teaming with wildlife, winter home of the nearly extinct manatees. The only way to get onto the river is to take a guided tour on a flatboat. We missed it by two minutes, but strolled around the lodge and enjoyed the park while waiting for the next tour, which took place an hour later. Edward Ball bought this land in the 1920’s and erected a lodge, inviting guests to experience nature in its pristine undisturbed state.
Two of the Tarzan films were made here, although the actual tree Tarzan swung from, is now barely more than a stump.
A small group went out on the flat boat with a ranger who explained everything we saw. The Wakulla Springs are the largest submerged fresh water caves in the world, and feed the nine mile long river. It was an incredible experience, to float along the spring fed river surrounded by so much wildlife. Easy to imagine how this country must have looked and felt five hundred years ago, before the arrival of the European settlers and the influences of modern culture.
The river was loud, teaming with life and animal sounds. Countless alligators and turtles lazed about on stones, sunning themselves in the midday heat. Alligators are the only reptiles that protect their nests and stay around to help their offspring into the water.
As the water in the Gulf of Mexico cools down, the manatees swim upriver, and many of them were visible just under the surface of the water. The excitement in the boat rose every time we saw one, and the passengers continually raced from one from one side of the boat to the other, anxious to see everything and to capture the sights on their cameras.
After a meal at the lodge, we had to pay for the wonderful morning at Wakulla Springs by traveling for hours in the 90 degree heat.
We ride on the shoulders of the roads – when they exist – and have become adept at dodging debris: glass, metal, branches, pine cones, and bits of lost retreads. Something black and wiggly, which we at first mistook for a piece of rubber, was without doubt, the largest snake we have yet seen. Preoccupied with our own safely, we neglected to observe it, and now regret the lack of attentiveness that makes identification impossible.
Every day we see vultures – nature’s housewives – cleaning up after traffic accidents that leave snakes, raccoons, turtles, squirrels, and deer dead along the roadside.
We camped at , at a stunningly beautiful spot where assertive white squirrels – greedy rats with bushy tails – pestered us by scrambling about in the trees above our tent, waiting for us to turn our backs so they could jump onto the picnic table and nip our food, until Christof chased them away with pine cones.
We slept in the tent without a cover, and could follow the progress of the moon, whenever we woke, as it traveled across the sky.