Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rock Springs and Why You Are Safer From Gators On A Kayak

It was something quite random. My wife suggested we take a weekday trip to Rock Springs, a place not that far from our home. We both grew up here and had plenty of memories of going there as kids, then teenagers, and then as parents. As our population grew, the desire to join the crowd at the springs diminished. But, as we new retirees found out, just because there's a waiting line to get in on the weekends, doesn't mean that you can't walk right in on a weekday. One thing we learned from one of the park workers was that a significant amount of damage is being done to the springs by people trying to collect fossils. He showed us jagged edges of rock where someone had used a tool to chip away pieces. It seems like this kind of thing happens at most landmarks we visit. I sure wish people could look at beauty without breaking it.
We had plenty to tell each other about our trips to this place. Being married for 40 years doesn't mean there is nothing left to say, it means that you are helping each other remember things. For example, I never tire of hearing about Pam's dad and his friends when they were teenagers, going up into the head of the springs with a garden hose and a bicycle pump as a snorkel and finding a dead body. And I never get tired of telling her about me and my buddies driving here on our motorcycles when we were 15 years old. Hey, that's a long trip on a 90cc motorcycle! Mostly, we remembered the times when my extended family would gather there for special occasions and have a big picnic. 
Pam actually took our kids camping there without me, which I'm still scratching my head about, but she was off all summer and my work schedule back in those days was not great for camping trips. We took a walk to the campground, and finding it empty, decided we had to give it a shot. A few days later, we came back with camping gear and our kayak to see if it could still be as fun as it used to be.

It was...I got to demonstrate my new, improved skills at camping, learned from so many trips with my brothers, and I must say that once I iron out a few kinks, we will be one of those calm, collected, campers you rarely see...and I'm not including those that don't speak to each other at all.
One thing I learned is that a short extension cord isn't much use, if your wife can't lift one end of the picnic table to move it. The other main thing I need to figure out is how both of us can get an excellent night's sleep in that little tent with my twin mattress. This trip, we tried her on the mattress and me on the ground with the sleeping she froze to death, while I tried to find the one smooth spot on the ground. The compromise was that about 3 in the morning, we ended up on the mattress with the sleeping bag wrapped around us both...just like the good old days! Except that she informed me that from now on, I will be bringing that CPAP machine or else she will tape my mouth shut to stop the snoring.
We disagree on that part, because in order to snore I would require getting to sleep, which I'm pretty sure never happened. A larger mattress will be ordered and maybe a larger tent as well. Since Pam quickly took over the cooking, my life was mainly cleaning up, setting up, and packing up. Life was good, and even without sleep, we were happy. One reason for this was: Pam had discovered a secret recipe on Pinterest for keeping bugs away. All over me I had this oily, smelly stuff that pretty much made me feel like I was shopping in Bath and Body works...but it kept the no-see-ums at arm's distance...and they were out in force. I know that other parts of the country have these bugs, but if you have no defense against them, you are doomed. As a matter of fact, as locals do everywhere, we entertained ourselves by watching the people going down innertubes on the springs, doing little dances as they tried to avoid the bugs.

 The last part of this journey was to kayak the 8.5 mile run down the springs at King's Landing, which is just about 1/2 mile north of the campground. You pay $10 to launch your kayak and for another $10 they shuttle you back at the end of the day. King's Landing is a very cool little business. My only advice is to not accept their offer of a free beer....and I will get my wife back for her part in that little practical joke...I am quite sure that I was an internet sensation for a minute when their camera captured me opening the icebox of free beer to find only a fake king cobra inside...

 There was a small group of kayakers that started in front of us and a solitary paddleboarder. We stood out from the rest in that we are riding in our tandem kayak with only me paddling. Pam sat there, camera ready, as if I were the nature guide and she was the photographer come along to get images of elusive animals. Me, I enjoyed the chance to paddle off some of the food I had been eating and we were paddling downstream anyway. There were plenty of obstacles above and below the water and I often wondered how Paddle-Girl was going to do in front of us. She and Pam spotted a gator about an hour into the trip, but he was quick and I never got a look. Paddle-Girl paddled faster after that. I did notice then that paddleboards are not as fast as kayaks. I had suspected this before, but this trip confirmed it, and I was now convinced that I no longer needed to paddle faster than an alligator could swim, just faster than Paddle-Girl.

 This adventure turned out to be everything I had hoped for, we had great weather, not too hot, not too cold, plenty of quiet time and some friends we met along the way, and as it turned out, the whole group made it to the shuttle stop in one piece.
"We will go camping again!" said Pam, " year, BEFORE the no-see-um's  and mosquitoes arrive". 

 Thinking back, I'm not sure there are any places in Florida that are nicer than this, but Pam and I agree that we both think it's worth finding out....