We celebrated the day before New Year’s Eve with a very tame hike along the boardwalk at Blue Springs State Park to see the manatees. Just daughter #1, her boyfriend, the husband and me. Oh, and in celebration of 2015 and six months of writing this blog, I’ve decided the husband can now have – if not a name – at least an initial. Perhaps a little Kafkaesque, but “J” does have a certain ring to it. Perhaps the daughters will obtain their own initials at some point.
I’d like to say that Blue Springs is a hidden treasure – but it has clearly been discovered, as demonstrated by the hordes of eager manatee watchers who were out in force on an overly hot winter’s day. Blue Springs has always been “discovered”: it has been a tourist spot – or at least, a layover – since the pre-train days of 19th century Central Florida. The house of the original settlers still stands – a couple from Brooklyn, New York, who migrated to Florida to establish what became a steamboat stop on the St. John’s River in the 1870s or so. As steamboats gave way to trains, the place evolved into a weekend resort for hunters and fishers. The tourism that seems so out of place in the apparent wilderness is actually an authentic part of Blue Springs.
Blue Springs is also tremendously accessible to anyone with any physical challenges. A smooth boardwalk runs the length of the river, which not only helps walkers who need some assistance but also protects the plant life. The place itself is one of the most beautiful in Central Florida. The spring – one of the largest in North America – pumps out water from the Florida aquifer at a staggering 100,000,000 gallons per day. The water is a brilliant clear emerald color, and through it you can see long nosed gar wending their way down the river, as well as the large cow-like blobs that are the manatees themselves. Legend has it that manatees were the original mermaids, but it would take many days at sea for one of them to resemble Ariel!
One of my favorite parts of Blue Springs is the fact that somewhere hundreds of feet down the spring connects to the limestone caves that permeate Florida’s substructure. As I understand it, many of these underwater caves are unexplored (and probably can’t be explored). Frankly, as much as I can imagine scaling summits of mountains, the idea of going underwater into a subterranean cave is unfathomable. But just knowing of the existence of those deep dark places – who knows, perhaps inhabited by goblins mining for the fairy queen’s jewels – adds an appropriate level of mystery for this New Year’s Eve.
Because who knows what 2015 will bring? It should bring our climb up Cotopaxi, but that’s just one of the many summits I’m sure I’ll encounter. 2015 is stretching out before me like those underground passageways below Blue Springs – and it will just take a little imagination to realize its possibilities. Here’s to exploration in the New Year!