Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sweatshirts in the Summer

Every afternoon we approached shore after a long, summer day on the ocean, we slowly shed layers of clothing as the warm shore air mixed with the chilly ocean breeze. I remember looking at the far away masses of ant-sized people from the cozy, cool cockpit, lost in layers of beach towels, oversized sweatshirts, and sweatpants that covered the bikini and shorts I had optimistically put on in the muggy morning hours. All of those tiny people in the distance were sweltering hot in their bathing suits, some brave enough to dash into the 60-something degree water for just a second to cool off before the sun found them again.

Even in northern Massachusetts, escaping to the sea was often the only way to avoid practically melting in the blazing sun, and I realized at some point mid-college that the reason I claimed to love summer and the hot weather was that I had a way to escape it when it slowly crept in shortly after the last snow piles melted. I had a secret place to go where I could bundle up, drag my feet in the waves with my sister, and come back to shore completely refreshed and looking totally crazy with windblown hair sticking up in directions I didn't even know were possible.

Moving to north central Florida was scary because I thought I would lose this escape. Being landlocked was perhaps my biggest fear. But after yet another weekend of melting temperatures spent at the springs, I have come to realize that the feeling I get after being in a spring is much the same as coming in from a long afternoon of sailing - it's refreshing both temperature-wise and for the mind. In both cases, I'm cold when everything around me is hot. And unconditionally happy.

Despite the sweltering summer temperatures, it appears to be
 fall in the main Ginnie basin :)
While they act as thermal refuges for manatees and striped bass in the winter, they are my liquid freezer in the summer. They are the reason I drive around all week with fuzzy sweatshirts and jackets when my car thermometer reads 100 degrees. As I drive around town, I can't fathom even getting near one of those jackets, let alone putting it on - until I jump in a spring. This past weekend, we swam in three springs to escape the summer heat and I was reminded that being landlocked (and wearing a sweatshirt in 100 degree weather) isn't so bad after all.

Stairway out of paradise.

Normally, Ginnie on a Saturday isn't exactly a relaxing outing. Actually, if at all possible, I go during the week to avoid the crowds and have some hope of getting some decently clear shots in the springs before everybody and their grandma comes into the springs with tubes, rafts, noodles, and air mattresses galore. But this weekend, I really really wanted to go diving with the amazing springs artist, writer, enthusiast, and co-Springs Eternal Project founder Lesley, so we decided to brave the crowds and head over early on a Saturday morning. And before 9am, before the night-before partiers have stirred or the late-sleepers have driven in from near and far, Ginnie on a Saturday is quite peaceful.
Persistent summer rain storms have caused the water level to rise a few feet. July 2013 set a new rainfall record! A photo I took in this exact location during the winter field season showed cyprus knees a few feet above the crystal clear water!

(Above Left) Children played in the sky while Lesley and I we dove in the basin below. After doing some skills just outside the cavern, we swam out the run to explore the magical area where the spring run meets the tannic river (Above Right). I could play here for hours - it's fascinating how the water swirls and mixes and forms rainbows of color.

Greg trying out his new GoPro in the Headspring.
We met Lesley and John out near the Ichetucknee on Sunday and had a fantastic tour of a house they were taking care of for some friends. Afterwards, we made our way over to the headspring for a swim. Greg tried out his new GoPro while I took some photos in the boil and around the edges where the sand they recently dumped above the spring is making its way into the boil and covering the submerged aquatic vegetation. While we had to wade through a sea of people to enter the spring, it was funny to observe their movement in the spring (or lack thereof). There were some children dashing around and maybe one or two people that would branch off and swim near the boil, but 99% of the people stood crowded around the stairs (most fully clothed) in waist-deep water. While I found this funny as I swam around with my mask and snorkel and big fins and attempted to stay above water for as little time as possible (only for a breath here and there), I truly appreciated the diversity of things the springs have to offer and how many different people can enjoy the springs, doing very different things. It also made me happy that everyone wasn't doing the same thing as me... there isn't much room in the little cavern once you free dive to the bottom ;)

Next, we walked out to Blue Hole where I was again in heaven on earth freediving down to the bottom and dolphin-kicking around the basin. We stayed in for as long as our wetsuit-less bodies could handle the cold and then made our way out the path to the warm car.
Perhaps my favorite view from the bottom of a spring - I actually didn't realize it at the time, but now I see that it is literally an eye in the sky :)
Greg frog kicks in the bright blue sky.
On our way home, we made a quick stop at the Sonny's BBQ on 441. But we didn't go inside. We more just used their parking lot as a convenient place to park for a few minutes to go look at Mill Pond Sink, hidden just out of view from the busy road.
It's amazing what you can find less than 100 yards from a place you've driven by dozens of times. Apparently the water isn't usually this high and tannic - I'm excited to come back and see how different it looks once the rainy season is over!
There are more photos in my Summer Springs Facebook album :)

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