I was reminded of the pirate, Jack Sparrow, as Bruce glanced at his trusty compass, glared with furrowed brow into the thicket, and then marched purposefully ahead. Specifically, we were in search of the headwaters of Blind Creek. Bruce had been there once.
Arriving at this spring in the swamp, I was awestruck. And snorkeling over the blue hole, I looked down 180 feet into an enormous cavern sparkling with rays of sunlight. There's John diving for a closer look (video below).
|Bluestripe Ribbon Snake|
There were moments of doubt and head-scratching, but eventually we saw a brighter patch through the trees ... and that turned out to be our destination.
Unlike the headspring, this upwelling was broad and mostly shallow. It featured a long underwater rock wall about 35 feet high. At the bottom of the wall, several springs flowed out of caves. Strange algal formations rose from the wide shallow flats, a playground for the fish. We too had a frolic in this watery garden.
While taking another refreshing swim (and respite from the bugs), two strangers arrived. The man heard a voice from the spring and asked, "Is that Mr. Morgan?" How could two avid Florida caver friends have come to this hole in the swamp at the same time? Hmmm, probably not that unlikely. One thing led to another, and soon the four of us were tagging along with Rod and Allee on their date where he had promised to show her some of his favorite cool places, including CAVES. We caravanned east to the Withlacoochee State Forest. Rod led the way into the forest -- another long hike in rugged unmarked terrain... How do these guys find these places?
With little daylight left, we moved (too) fast past grandfather trees, fern grottoes, limerock bluffs, and finally came to a spectacular series of caves and tunnels snaking through the earth and undergrowth. Speaking of snakes, Allee, a college prof and herpetologist spotted a beautiful coral snake along the way. "Red on Yellow, Kill A Fellow..." First one I've seen in the wild in years.
Mud-covered and rain-sweat soaked, we got back to our vehicles about 9:30 pm. We were ravenous as mosquitoes, so Rod pointed us toward a nearby tavern, where, despite our grubbiness, we were welcomed and soon sated with good food, beer, and karaoke. Meanwhile back at the campground - still an hour away - neither John nor I had set up our tents yet, and Bruce's mate, Ann, who'd arrived earlier that evening was undoubtedly beginning to wonder where we were. That was a late night.
These jewels that adorn our remaining wilds must be protected for our children's children to explore... and marvel at... and find their connection with our planet.
Thanks for sharing in my adventures... and please leave a comment if you feel like it. The comments won't appear right away, but I'll see them and be sure they get posted.