Sunday, March 29, 2015

Underwater at Salt Springs...Bring Your Mask And Snorkel?

Our Salt Springs camping trip contained lots of surprises for me. It's about 90 minutes from Orlando and I figured that it couldn't be much different than Rock Springs, Blue Springs or other places that I have visited, but we needed a campsite and this was the only place that had one. My brother Paul, had been there many times and he is the one that convinced me to go swimming even though we knew the water was cold. The weekend was pretty hot and we had little shade, so by late Saturday I was ready to jump in the water. It didn't really seem near as cold as the ocean recently and then the big surprise of how cool it looked underwater. There are not too many times when you can open your eyes down under without worrying about chlorine or the salt, and this was one of those times. Paul never uses a mask here, but I would definitely come back with a mask and flippers, just to enjoy their use in this setting. I'm not sure how crowded this place gets in the summer, but even with a full campground, it didn't seem anything like the crowd at Rock Springs...the distance from any large town is probably the main reason, but this place is well worth a day trip from Orlando. I'd start out early, because I would sure hate to get denied at the gate..not much else to do around here. However, on the way to Palatka to go to the store, I passed a very strange store with giant yard sculptures all around. That alone warrants a return visit with Pam! Underwater video at Salt Springs

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Things I Still Didn't Know About Florida: Salt Springs Isn't Salty!

The Perkins boys got together again last weekend. This time we camped at a place I've never been before. In fact, I had little interest in going to another springs, but this trip contained some big surprises. The northerners and just about every kid in High School and college are on break and they had fun all around us. The "primitive" campsites were all that were left to us, and by primitive, the parks folks meant we were camping in a large field with few trees. I mean, I drove 1 1/2 hours into the land that time forgot (Ocala) only to find a campground that was as crowded as the Winter Park Art Show! (Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit). I arrived first and set up my tent in the blazing hot sun, close as I could get to the solitary tree near our site, all the while being watched closely by a group of 10 teenagers next door, who were probably sure I was some kind of creepy old guy. A sweet spot in all of this was the lone tree near me contained a bird's nest of a large hawk that made lots of noise and flew in and out of the nest all day long, so I got some of the best bird watching I could ask for.
My brothers, Steve and Paul, show up later and it looks like the other sites near us are no-shows, so perhaps we would have just the teen church group next door singing Kum By Yah, and we could settle down for allmeat-noveggie meals our trips are famous for. The food is good, and we clean everything up and stow the ice chests, because we have been warned about bears in the area...I mean, if bears are roaming through neighborhoods in Orlando, what the hell can we hope for in the woods of Ocala!? We have our campfire talk, settle that I need to find a job, that it is all Obama's fault, and basically, anybody that ever offends a woman in our family gets their asses kicked.
I finally come to the part of camping that I dread: sleeping. It's a little hot and sticky, and it's a long walk to the restroom and I don't want to freak the kids out right next to us by making like a bear in the woods. I make it through most of the night and then wake suddenly to the sound of a bunch of things being thrown around and then silence..and then, right next to the side of my tent I hear snoring so loud it could only be that a bear has arrived and decided to sleep it off right next to me. Now, I'm taking my life in my hands just to take a leak and finally get up in the twilight of the early morning only to see that our other neighbor has arrived...a huge man in an open tent...with a black Prius parked nearby...

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Trip Begins With Waves..

I headed out on the road for another adventure, but had to make a stop at the beach on the way. The waves looked very good, but it was semi-overcast, which made it look a little spooky out there. On top of that, the 6 second wave period pretty much made it a non-stop wave machine out there. I was wondering how in the world I would get out on the paddleboard. Being alone, I decided that this was a time to take pix instead. I ran out onto the Sunglow pier and snapped away. Someday I will learn to slow down, grab the tripod and take nice sharp photos, instead of cradling my 500mm lens and thinking "I don't need no stinking tripod!". Even standing on the pier was a bit of a rocking motion with all of the people there.
I noticed later, of the 10 guys in the water, most of my photos were of one guy. This was not on purpose, he was just the guy that was tearing it up. They don't look dangerous here in the pictures, but there was hell to pay if you messed up and had to get back out, so it seemed like most of the guys were being very picky about which waves they took.
My only regret now was that I didn't spend more time on that pier taking photos. If I had known what was waiting for me at the campground in Salt Springs...I would have....

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tomoka State Park in March

Camping in Florida this time of year is very interesting. We arrived at Tomoka State Park at the tail end of Bike Week and right in the middle of Spring Break. The weather is perfect and the campground is packed. Some are families, but most are older people with nice campers and their Harleys'. So, for the 2nd husband and wife camping trip in a row, we leave the city for the quiet of the woods and get the roar instead.
We spent the afternoon trying to get down to the beach and long before I could get near the water, I saw surfers and paddleboarders riding waves. First attempt failed when I found out the new high price for beach access and they would not accept a credit card. We then found a spot that required walking half a mile with our gear..but I did find a surf spot I was totally unaware of: The ramp at the far north bridge of Daytona. I didn't even know there was any kind of break here, but it is only minutes (normally) from Tomoka and I got some good waves and had friendly company in the water. I would like to note that the cool clear water was full of moon jellyfish. I'm pretty sure they don't sting, but I was trying my hardest not to find out.
Pam fixed a tremendous dinner of salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, and smoked/flashburned chicken....I'm am so glad that I was not the person in charge of the BBQ this time. We could not get the first going and kept adding wood until we suddenly had a bonfire.
It is early morning now and as soon as I can get Pam up, I'm in charge of breakfast...and then more surf..who could ask for more?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

That Sinking Feeling

Ahhh...a beautiful beach day in the middle of the week in March. Everybody must be at work and we will have the place to ourselves!? Not so fast, Perkins...we now officially have the early springbreakers, the early bike-week folks, and anybody else that could afford to escape the winter up north. In all, the beach is packed, but hardly anybody is in the water. This Wednesday was supposed be a near record temperature day, almost 90, but it wasn't really like that on the beach. There are clouds, a cool breeze and occasional fog. There are some nice looking waves, but they are not breaking right on the outside, the water is freezing and only a couple of guys are out, and not getting any good rides.
So, I'm wearing my short wetsuit, freezing in the water and sweating when I've been out of the water for any length of time. I'm getting a few waves, but more frustrated by the waves that peak up but don't break. I spend a lot of time moving around, trying to find the spot where it really is breaking when I find myself in a fogbank. I can barely see shore, and off in the distance I can see a ghostly pier and a single paddleboarder. I start doing my best to head back his way, as this is about as spooky as a scary movie. I'm apparently going against the current as this is taking quite a bit longer than I thought it would, but distance judging in the fog is not my strong point. The fog finally clears and I realize that I can see both the paddle guy and the lone surfer getting out on the beach, leaving me the only guy in the water. Now I start to wonder, is it lunchtime? Or is it munchtime? Somehow, surfing is never quite as fun when you spend most of your time looking for dorsal fins....