The Blue Spring in Orange City, Florida, feeds the St John River with over 100 million gallons of fresh water every day, emanating from a deep crevice at the source within the Blue Spring State Park. A thriving ecosystem exists for birds, fish and of course the beloved Manatee that move up and down the river feeding and drinking.
My interest on this day was purely for enjoyment of the crystal clear and cool water on a rather hot and humid Central Florida day. That and sharing the day with the Capra family, my close friends I hadn’t seen in 16 years. Tim, Nicole and I were immediately on the same page and it was clear that nothing had changed between us, although we had been through very many changes since last we hung out.
They packed up their 3 young daughters for a day long, last minute, standup paddling trip with a practiced flow and skill that was nothing short of graceful. Living nearby in Vero Beach, this is their turf and I was the fortunate for the invite, out of towner. Ever go paddling with your friends 3 kids aged 8, 6 and 2 on spur of the moment?...Didn’t think so.
300+ year old Cypress Trees line the Spring and River, draped in Spanish Moss, setting the stage for one of my most unique paddling experiences, weaving and bobbing through the gnarled branches. Paddling up the Spring is a surreal experience as schools of fish are herded underneath the paddle boards that seem to float in the air and Wood Storks, Herons and Osprey lurk in the branches looking at the menu.
The boardwalk that winds along the Spring in the State Park is also its’ own wonderland, with striking views of the impossibly clear water from the elevated walkway and the occasional Manatee cruising by, going about their own business.
We spent the day on the water, sharing a wondrous experience. Children’s bewilderment is at its best when in nature and is true enjoyment to observe and enrich. Not a superficial, manmade, commercial based unreality that doesn’t challenge them.
We paddled, we packed up and we headed home. Just a bunch of old friends, out doing what we do these days. The ease and familiarity that comes with a rare reunion like this one, is like a checkpoint that delivers a big smile and assurance you chose friends wisely.
Till we paddle again.