Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Blues

What first comes to mind when I think of "the blues" is the Sunday morning blues radio show on 100.7 wzlx that my dad always used to listen to growing up near Boston. My sister and I hated it and always begged him to change the station to put on whatever crazy pop happened to be in style at the time on our favorite Kiss 108 FM station. While this will always be my first association of "the blues", living in Florida has inspired this phrase to mean something else in my mind - the springs! Their crystal blue color certainly makes me feel the opposite of how sad and "blue" the people were who I used to hear on the radio in the living room on Sunday mornings.

It's hard to believe that June, and now July, have flown by, leaving us with just over a month of official summer left (before it continues being summer in Florida...). Summer classes are wrapping up, and while being in a crazy hardcore-over-my-head stats class can sometimes make me feel like singing the blues, I instead opted for study breaks that brought me closer to the wondrous blue waters that inspire me and have become my second home...

July started with red, white, and blue celebrations on the 3rd and 4th. Val and Austin were in town the night of the 3rd, so we enjoyed some fireworks with them at Flavet Field (and some delicious Karma Kreme afterwards to celebrate their short and sweet visit to Gainesville). We began the next day with a walk/run at Millhopper, which inevitably (to go along with the theme) ended with lots of blue falling from the sky... aka it poured half way through our outdoor adventure, which wasn't ideal. Although once we were soaked, it wasn't so bad, so we embraced it and stayed for a while as the rain drove from the skies, waterfall-ed down the steep, muddy walls of the sinkhole, and percolated into the ground, destined for the aquifer beneath our feet.

 Of course the rain stopped just as we arrived home, so we dried off, had some lunch, and continued our park adventure by going over to the La Chua trail, where we caught a few glimpses of blue skies and sunshine. The alligators, butterflies, a whole assortment of fun insects (thankfully not the biting/stinging kind) and beautiful passion flowers were also enjoying a break in the rain and served as perfect subjects for taking some photos along the way.

To celebrate the 4th, we went up to Andy and Kathleen's farm for a potluck celebration that included lots of food, beautiful sunflowers, cute piglets and goats, loud fireworks, fantastic company, and so much more :)
My favorite flowers... high in the sky.
Skeptical, but adorable, little piglet. She's one of Lilliputian's babies (we picked up Lilli on our way back from diving at the Middlegrounds in the Gulf of Mexico last year and she looked just like this... can't believe she already has piglets of her own!).
Andy starting the fireworks early - awesome!

Our next adventure was blueberry picking. Usually strawberry picking is one of my favorite activities of the summer (just as apple picking is one of my favorite fall activities). I have many fond memories of picking with my grandmother at home, but in Florida, the picking seasons are shifted so that strawberries come before summer even has a chance to begin and blueberries are gone by the time the August picking season starts in New England. Danielle was able to do some research and track down what I'm pretty sure was the last farm open for the season - a beautiful, organic farm up on the Santa Fe River.

The very nice lady who ran the farm left a walkie-talkie (talk about a blast from the past... haven't used one since elementary school) so that we could call her out in the field to tell her we were ready to pick berries. There was a minor problem though - her walkie talkie didn't have batteries, so we were calling nobody! She ended up coming in from the field shortly after we arrived, which was actually okay because it gave us some time to explore the interesting little store (with signs that said things like "no horseplay on the porch" and "do not pick up the cats"...)
Slim pickings (but still some left!).
With bellies full of berries, Greg and I finished the day with a swim at Ginnie's Dogwood spring and marvelous display of fireworks in the Ginnie Springs field. There were other explosions in the sky and angry rains for a while, but it was well worth waiting out the rainy weather for the amazing show. We left late that night, but I couldn't stay away for long - the following Monday, I headed back up to Ginnie to explore the caves with Harry :)

Peaceful weekday morning - well worth getting up early!
A week later, Danielle and I headed out to Ichetucknee Blue Hole to beat the Monday morning blues. There's definitely no better way to beat the summer crowds, and it's certainly my favorite way to start the day - Mondays are for bathing suits (not other kinds of suits... and I can safely say Danielle agrees!).

Danielle taking one of many fantastic photos of the day (the one she is taking here is a neat shot of the visible boil at the surface... the flow has been very strong due to all of the summer rain!).
The summer rains brought the water level up at least a 1-3 feet. I've never seen the water this high and clear at Blue Hole. The extra water made a little spring run swimmable that never used to be deep enough to swim through, so I squeezed my way under a log and found this magnificent view before swimming upstream a hundred yards or so :)
Reflections in the side spring run.
The strong flow from Blue Hole making its way towards the Ichetucknee River. I'm holding my camera up to the fence that keeps boaters and swimmers from entering the spring from the river and keeps swimmers in Blue Hole from getting out and disrupting the sensitive vegetation.
Brilliant blue below... a freediving dream spot :)
A few days later, the springs were calling again, so Greg and I headed up to Gilchrist Blue Spring. Eager to swim up the run from the Santa Fe River, I left my camera... which obviously meant that we saw something amazing. As we swam up the little spring run towards Naked Spring and the spring came into view, we counted 20+ turtles, all sleeping and resting throughout the spring. Throughout the day, the turtle count went up to 50 throughout the whole spring... it was absolutely breathtaking.
A view of Naked Spring from above. There are easily 20+ turtles just below the surface.
Coming up from freediving in Naked Spring (NOT freediving naked in the spring... note subtle difference ;).


St. Augustine Beach.
Leaving the stunning blue bowls of water behind for a day, Greg and I headed out for a short but necessary visit to the ocean. We were lucky to find a break in the persistent summer rains to find blue skies in St. Augustine. A beautiful morning in the water gave way to a very brief midday thunder shower (thankfully while we were drinking delicious smoothies and eating at my new favorite lunch spot called Stir it Up) then the sun came back out and we swam for a while longer, played with the awesome mole crabs in the sand, and then headed off the beach to explore downtown.

My new favorite lunch spot. Basically everything on the menu has a name that's a play on words using lyrics or names from Bob Marley's songs!
Pink flowers galore. These and many others lined the little cobblestone streets of St. Augustine.
Greg and I by a pretty fountain outside the Lightner Museum.
Beautiful shell and tile artwork (above) at Flagler College, as well as a brilliant gold ceiling in one of their historic campus buildings.
We ended the very hot summer day with some delicious homemade  popsicles from The Hyppo.

Photos from all of these July adventures are in my Facebook album The Blues :)

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