I’ve put some hefty mileage on my body odometer (Alaska, the Dominican Republic, Australia) so far in 2013, but the majority of my trips have been much closer to home. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that an avid traveler and wanderluster like me was born in a place famous for both tourism and exploration - the Sunshine State!
One of my favorite places to visit in Florida is Ginnie Springs, an off-the-beaten-path secret if ever there was one. A favorite of scuba divers, camping enthusiasts and even just day trippers looking for a fun place to cool off in the hot sun, Ginnie Springs has been my family’s Mother’s Day weekend destination for more than a decade.
What started out as our crew tagging along with another family has become an Orth tradition that carries on year after year… even when I skip out due to other commitments. (Which has happened for I dunno how many years in a row…)
Our crew usually consists of 50+ people… and that includes siblings & parents, cousins, past prom dates, musicians, my brother’s bevy of roommates and their girlfriends, randoms that no one seems to know, people I haven’t seen since high school, weird friends of my dad and the occasional toddler.
Once everyone takes every last comfort item from inside their houses, packs it into their cars, drives it all to Ginnie and unpacks it at Twin Spring, the fun begins.
Generally we spend the next three days building fires, grilling meat, eating and tubing down the river. There’s nothing so logistically challenging as finding a way to fit 50 rafts and 50 people in the back of a couple of pickup trucks. (It would make a brilliant time lapse video… perhaps next year!)
My plan for this visit was simple: I wanted to scuba dive in the springs, snorkel in the river and tube several times a day. Unfortunately I was walloped with a raging case of strep throat just before the trip, so I didn’t really get to do anything I planned on doing. Mostly I vegged out on a lounge chair or in an inflatable boat and maintained a quarantine situation in order to prevent others from getting infected. It was pretty miserable.
I did hop in the springs and tube down the Santa Fe a few times, because it’s icy cold and it was the only thing that made my fever manageable. The springs themselves are 72 degrees all year round, so I was in no rush to get out of the brisk water. It was actually the most comfortable part of the weekend!
If there’s one thing Ginnie Springs is known for, it’s clear water. There’s no place in Florida to equal it for visibility, which is one of the reasons I was really itching to dive there. Even Jacques Cousteau – yes, THAT Jacques Cousteau! – noted Ginnie as having “visibility forever.” It’s that good!
While cave diving doesn’t appeal to me at all, Ginnie Springs is famous for it. I think I’d be a bit too claustrophobic, but for those who aren’t, the Ginnie cave system is unlike any other on earth.
While this year’s excursion to Ginnie was a bit of a bust for me personally, I know the rest of the crew had a great time and I managed to snap a few pictures to give you an idea of just what treasures you can find in Florida if you know where to look. If you’re a diver, a camper, a snorkeler or just a day-tripping traveler looking for a way to cool off in the central Fla. heat, Ginnie is the perfect spot for you.
Next year, I’m diving! Seriously!