Friday February 11th 2022
The positive weather trend continued today with a high temperature in the mid seventies. The only downside is the humidity is also increasing. It seemed to be a little warmer than the actual temperature. Tomorrow is the last day of this trend. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday night and Sunday will be much cooler.
After almost two weeks here at Silver Springs State Park, I finally visited the actual spring today. The first time I visited Silver Springs was in the mid 1960s as a kid with my parents and grand parents. In those pre Disney World times, Silver Springs was one of the biggest attractions in Florida. After Disney opened in 1971, Silver Springs struggled to remain competitive. It added amusement rides, shows and concert venues to attempt to draw some of Walt Disney Worlds leftovers, but it struggled. The Glass Bottom boats along were not enough. In 2013 the state of Florida took over the Silver Springs park area and combined it with the neighboring Silver River State Park to form Silver Spring State Park.
I don’t remember much from my first visit more than 55 years ago. We took a smaller competing glass bottom boat all the way up the Silver River from highway 41 instead of the “World Famous” Glass Bottom boats at Silver Springs. I remember the story about the monkeys released on an island in the river as an attraction that escaped to the mainland. There are know signs warning you about interacting with them all over the state park. It is hard to believe somebody didn’t know they could swim. The other thing I remember was watching a reptile show at Silver Springs. The guy leading the show “milked” a rattle snake for its venom. The things a kid remembers!
To get to Silver Springs I hiked about 2.5 miles on the Sandhill Trail and the Springs Trail. The name Sandhill trail helps define the main characteristic of the hike. The hill is only about ten feet of altitude change, but the sand lining the trail makes walking in some areas difficult. The majority of the hike is through a Long Leaf Pine Forest that has been subject to many prescribed burns over the years. Evidence of the periodic fires can be seen in absence of thick ground cover and the charring on many of the remaining pine trees. The fires are necessary for the health of the trees and the ground animals like the Gofer Tortoise.
The park was busier this year than last. Many people were sitting at picnic tables and on the grass enjoying lunch on the warm sunny day. The line for the thirty minute glass bottom boat ride was very long. I think the next available seat on a boat was over two hours away. The ninety minute ride that I was interested in wasn’t available at all. I chose to walk all the trails and view the springs from the shore. You can hear all the stories the boat captains tell about the springs and park from shore. Sound carries well across the water.