The 2018 RV Trip Comes To An End
Tuesday, April 10
Leaving the Suwannee Park area today, sadly because I love this place. We need to make it to Boca by the 12th and have one more cool place to stop along the way. We drove east for several hours and made it to the Silver Springs area just outside of Ocala. This was as far as we'd go today. Time to rest up and do some laundry. We found a nice RV resort to pull into just before the rain started again.
Wednesday, April 11
Up early today with a short drive to get to Blue Springs State Park. Justin found this as a good spot to dive; a clear spring that forces out over 100 million gallons of water daily. It was a clear and sunny day around 68 degrees. The park was quite large. We checked in with the ranger, who gave us a brief outline of what we were not allowed to do while diving. First being not to mess with the two remaining manatees, second being not to enter the cavern system deep within the springs we were diving. I perked up at the mention of manatees, not expecting to see any, how lucky was I? This springs system is one of many they congregate to in masses during cooler winter months. The water stays a consistent 73 degrees for them. Right about now, they all should be moving back out, but two remained behind.
We found a great spot to park thick with shade. Lil would rest comfortably while we spent some time diving. We donned our gear and walked the boardwalk to the divers entrance. It felt like a jungle, with a lush green canopy of trees and plants around us. The water was crystal clear, absolutely beautiful! Right away we were able to spot the manatees, marked by park service with buoys on their tails. As we dropped into the shallow waters, I was surprised to feel the force of the current working against me. We sure wouldn't be swimming to the crevice, for this current was very strong. We could stand, with water at our chest, so we slowly waded through the water into the mouth of the spring. In my grace, I stumbled a time or two over fallen logs, clear as day to see, but I was watching the manatee buoys instead of where I was walking!
Once we were as far back in the springs as we could go, we put on our masks and dropped below the surface. Damn! Beautiful does not do it justice. The way the sun was splitting across ripples on the surface, it made diamond shaped illuminations that danced across the sandy bottom. It was so clear, I could see the lumbering giant sea cows 30 feet from me. Since they are protected, and it is illegal to bother them, I just stared for a while as they gently poked around the bottom picking at plants to eat.
We swam up on the crevice we were to dive. At first, the pitch black gap felt too ominous and uninviting to me. I felt just fine hanging out here in shallow water watching manatees play. Justin was first to descend, down between fallen trees into the crevice. It wasn't very wide, but opened up more as we dropped. I followed, and my eyes eventually adjusted so it wasn't a black hole any longer. Rather, it became a surreal underwater mini canyon. The force of the springs had worn away stunning formations in the limestone. I wanted to see more, so we kept diving farther down, pushing against the force of the surging water, until we eventually reached the depth of 60-something feet where the cavern system began. No farther could we go, which was fine with me, it was pretty dark this far down. I rolled over and looked up to see the remarkable image of sun rays streaming into the opening far above. Once again, I paused to appreciate it for a minute. Eventually, more divers entered the crevice, making it a little too crowded for my liking, so we eventually made our way back up into shallow water. It was at that point that I turned my GoPro to video to record bits of the swim through the shallows, letting the current carry us. There were so many fish, huge pan fish and even some long gars near the end. You'll have to watch the video to see what I saw.
Manatee!This one was around 6 feet. The attachment on its tail is a buoy marker so park rangers can see where it is at in the springs. It's illegal to disturb or bother them so the marker helps boaters steer clear as well. They are very friendly and will approach swimmers and make physical contact.
Click on the photo above to see pictures from the dive.
Click on the video below to see the drift through the current in shallow water.
Blue Springs Apr 2018
After the excitement of the dive, we returned to the RV to clean up and start heading for Boca, where we would spend the next few days with family.
Friday, April 13
Friday the 13! I didn't even realize that until the day was almost over. It was a quick visit with family, but we had reservations with a dive charter in Venice for tomorrow, so we had to get moving. Venice is said to be the fossil shark tooth capital, with divers able to find many teeth along its waters. I was itching to see what the buzz was all about. We left late in the day after dinner, and arrived 4 hours later in the Venice area, around 9:30 pm, both fully exhausted from an eventful couple days. The spot we reserved would have been the perfect size for us, had the thickskulled self-important moron in a huge motorcoach in front of us not attached his trailer with car- it sat at least 25 feet over in our space and we had to work around it to get the RV hooked up. I was just glad we had a spot and could fit in, I was too tired to stress over it. As the story seems to go, another early morning in store for us, so we needed to get some sleep.
Saturday, April 14
I dreamed of shark teeth last night, excited about the charter dive with Florida West we had scheduled this morning. The RV park we chose was close to the dive shop, and had electric so we could leave Lil in the AC to relax (she spent the last two days with a house full of doggies to play with). We rolled the scooter off and stuffed our few pieces of dive gear on, then burned off to the dive shop. There we were outfitted with the remainder of dive equipment we'd need for diving off the coast in the gulf waters. The last time we tried this, the charter was cancelled due to high winds, but today looked perfect with the only signs of bad weather rolling in later tonight.
We boarded the dive boat with several other eager divers, and they carried us out into the gulf. A warm morning, salty breezes on our face, turquoise blue water, it felt like paradise. The dive master dropped in the water, checking for good spots for us, and when he was satisfied, he gave us the thumbs up to plop on in. Justin and I dropped to the bottom at a depth of around 30 feet, ready to start hunting for teeth. The visibility wasn't perfect, seeing only around 10 feet in front of us, but it was far better than that of the Cooper River. I poked around with my hands, trying not to stir up too much silt. I knew I was on the search for fossil teeth, but the marine life down there simply captivated me, distracting me over and over again from the task at hand. We found a seahorse, many live seashells, and attracted a school of fish along the way. The teeth however, not as plentiful as advertised. Justin and I each found a partial megalodon tooth, and a handful of smaller teeth. We completed a total of two dives in the 77 degree water, and I was exhausted and chilly by the end of the second. The weather was changing, bringing in wind and higher swells on the surface. While we could surface swim to the boat after the first dive, the captain had us stay put on the second, bringing the boat to us instead. Exiting the water with all our gear and weights was more challenging with the boat rocking and bucking in the wind. All in all, it was a great experience and we didn't leave empty handed. Let me just say, there really isn't much that is sexy about diving; the wetsuit is tightly adhered to every roll in your body, hair becomes an entangled mess of algae and debris, the mask leaves a long-lasting indentation around your face, the regulator in your mouth bulges your lips out like a swollen fish, and let's not forget the snot or saliva strings drizzling from your face just after emerging from a dive... but I wouldn't trade it in for anything.
This photo is my view as I surfaced from my first dive.
This is a photo of our collective finds.
Play the 10 minute video below to see our dive highlights.
While the water looks green, it really is much clearer.
The GoPro rendered to the best of its (and my) ability.
After the dive, we scooted back to the RV, showered and cleaned up and pulled out to find lunch. We were both starving, and butter burgers and frozen custard from Culvers sounded perfect! After lunch we drove another 3.5 hours north back to the Live Oak area to look again at some land we were interested in. It was a hot day, in the 90's and very humid. When we arrived in Live Oak, it was late, but still hot. We crawled around in the woods along the river, looking at uncleared lots. When we broke out of the jungle-like brush, Lil sought relief by laying in some cool clay mud, leaving knobs of sticky clay to dry on her fur like cement.
After land hunting, we pulled into the Spirit of the Suwannee Park where we'd stay the night. It was a huge hippy-like music festival complex outfitted with over 600 RV sites. My priority was to clean off Lil as soon as we hooked up. She took a shower in the RV after a failed attempt to use the hose outside while fighting off mosquitos. Once everyone was clean and fed, we all crashed for the night. Tomorrow's highlight...returning home!
Sunday, April 15
Everyone slept in a little, well earned I would think. We couldn't procrastinate long though, we had a long drive ahead of us and severe storms were rolling in. It was a windy ride home, and we felt we were being chased by the bad weather. A few stops along the way, including one flower photo op with Lil, and we arrived back in Charleston by late afternoon, just in time to feel the rain on our backs as we quickly unloaded the RV.
Ah, a sigh of relief to be back home!
Below, from the beautiful Boca coast we left behind to the weather that chased us home, a Georgia sky and a South Carolina roadway.
This is a final tally of my collection; 93 pounds of fossil ammonite, 40 pounds of fossil trilobites and trilobite material, 94 pounds of quartz crystals, and other assorted rocks and fossils total a whopping 320 pounds!!
The Final Collection Justin drove over 10,000 miles from coast to coast over the two and a half months we roamed. I managed to collect over 300 pounds of fossils and rocks. Lily hiked the desert canyons and frolicked in the snow covered mountains. From boondocking on sandy beaches, SCUBA diving in the middle of a desert, prospecting for gems, eating in the streets of Mexico, to seeing the many natural wonders of our states... it was an epic adventure all the way, leaving us with many wonderful memories to look back on.
And hey, thanks for following along! Stay tuned for a highlight reel of my favorite photos from the entire trip.