Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring in central Florida

Spring in central Florida

It must be springtime in Central Florida! From Moss Park our northern trek led us from south of Orlando to just north of Orlando and the small town of Apopka and Wekiwa Springs State Park. Around the corner and up the road, it was on to Kelly Springs Campground. Next we’re going to Alexander Springs Campground in the Ocala National Forest!

Yes, we’ve been here before but to refresh – Wekiwa means “spring of water” and the 42 million gallons of crystal clear water are still being emitted everyday from the deep blue crevice. There is still an abundance of small fish and when the weather warms – still lots of folks who cool off in the wide walled swimming area or relax on the sloping grass slope nearby. There are 2 camping loops and there is not a bad campsite in either loop. Some are open and some are surrounded by palmettos and pine trees, making them a bit more secluded. We were parked on site 32 for several days but because of the “ site specific” reservation system we had to move to site 33 for our last 3 days. This spot was sideways to the road so we put the tailgate down and displayed my dishcloths and potholders! Great conversation starters and several dollars ended up in my pocket!! The winter must be over down here. The tall pines are no longer dull army green; the live Oaks are showing off their new bright green leaves, as are the Cypress and their lime green new growth! Outside of the park there are Dogwood, Redbud, and Azaleas in gorgeous colors from white to coral and pink. The tall tan wild grasses in the woods and meadow just outside the camping area have now endured a “ prescribed burn” to clear out the dead undergrowth and allow the new grasses and wildflowers to emerge and grow. Pretty un-nerving when they light the fire just feet from the perimeter of the campsites!

Apopka is on the east side of Lake Apopka and Winter Garden is on the south side. Back before 1950 the lake was clear and a busy with lots of fishermen and families wanting to get away from the big city. Today the grimy green lake is full of fertilizer run off and other noxious pollutants. The lakeside park is still cared for but the small boat harbors are full of weeds and scum. What a shame. According to the information kiosk, there is a group working to make changes and bring the lake back to its previous life. Lets hope it works.

Unlike Moss Park with her pretty lakes, Kelly Park has a crystal clear spring like Wekiwa State Park, however this spring originates in a cave. Kids of all ages can tube or float down the swift moving “run” that opens up to a wide swimming area then on to another jungle lined stream that leads to the Wekiwa River. The river flows north to the St Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville. We arrived on Friday and were anxious to get our suits on and take our turn at floating on down. No water adventure that day! The ranger who was guarding the area said there was an “alligator issue” and there were trappers on their way to the park. NO – the creature was not captured that day – nor was it captured on the following 90 degree day when the park was FULL hot kids and frustrated parents. Nor was it captured during the entire week that followed. The stories that evolved vary from how big the gator was (or is) to whatever actually happened to it. It’s again a Friday and the swimming area is now open – the first day of bike week AND spring break!! Once again the park is full of boisterous teens cooling off and enjoying the refreshing clear waters. Is there an alligator or isn’t there?

Thankfully there are other wildlife! There is a tom turkey that is far bigger than the toms at Moss Park. This one is in love with the shiny bumper on H’s truck when he and his friends are not rambling thru the park. There are butterflies that can’t stay away from the deep red petunia blooms that keep our amaryllis company in the white pot on the picnic table. By the walkway to the bathhouse is a deep hole that looks as tho a beagle had been digging there. A Gopher tortoise lives there and shares the warm sand with a 4 ft long Rat Snake. Cardinals, Pileated Woodpeckers, Blue Herons, a Swallowtail Kite Hawk and all kinds of happy sounding birds call this haven their home. It’ll be our home for one more night and then we’re heading north again – to beautiful Alexander Springs.