>The Real Florida

>We interrupt this triathlon blog to bring you exciting photographs from a non-endurance sports weekend….

This past weekend, I took my youngest daughter camping, along with four other dads & their daughters.  Camping is a fairly regular thing for us, as we belong to a “renegade” Indian Princess group.  Basically, we’re a group of dads from our church that has been camping for the last four years or so…since the girls were in kindergarten.  We typically camp in the state parks in Florida…and we’ve done all kinds of great activities – we’ve gone shelling, we take hikes, we’ve toured Civil War forts, we’ve visited Indian burial grounds and middens, we’ve gone canoeing. 

This weekend, we visited Blue Spring State Park, near Orlando.  Blue Spring is a tributary of the St. Johns River – and is a winter home to a large herd (or pod) of manatee.  Saturday morning there were 145 manatee in the spring.

Below are a few of the pictures I took during the weekend.  Enjoy. 

Looking up Blue Spring from the St John River towards the headspring.  Over 100 million gallons of water flow out of the spring every day.

Two of the 145 manatee that were in the spring this past Saturday.  Park rangers can identify each manatee by distinct patterns of scars caused by boat propellors hitting their backs.

This alligator was somewhat of a rare site for January.  He was a big gator, too — maybe 9 feet long.  While we didn’t see it, other visitors told us that he “took a swing” at a manatee that got too close to him.

Live Oak trees in the low-water hammock near the river.  Live Oak trees used to be used in the manufacture of ship hulls because of the distincive curvature of the branches.

The stumpy-looking things in the foreground are Cypress “knees”.  They are part of the root system of Cypress trees.  The waterway in the background is the St. Johns river – a river with headwaters in Central Florida near Melbourne, that flows north through the panhandle, and exits into the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville.

This view is looking up an indian midden – which is basically an ancient garbage dump.  The middens we visited were created 7000-10,000 years ago, and were full of shells – snails, clams, etc – which were integral in the diet of the early inhabitants of this part of Florida.
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