This is a good week — my brother and sisters are here, along with my nieces, nephew, and the two boys. I am very happy to be visiting with my family after 5 months in Florida, all of us enjoying the sun and the gulf beaches. While rain was predicted for the past 3 days, we haven’t seen a drop of it — perfect weather!
Failed Trip to Crystal River
Prior to the weekend, my friend and I had decided on a road trip to Crystal River, hoping to see some manatees but just wanting to get out and shoot pictures again. We started out with high hopes — and lots of food prepared by my friend. She hadn’t been to Crystal River for 10 years or so, but she remembered it as a place that was worth the trip.
We drove the hour and a half to Crystal River, but we had difficulty locating the actual recreation area for some reason. We stopped at a couple of places (gas stations, chamber of commerce) to ask where the area was, but everyone told us that you had to have a boat to get to where we wanted to go. Needless to say, we didn’t have a boat, but my friend didn’t remember needing a boat to get there.
So we drove back and forth, asking everyone we could for directions to the area she had visited previously. Apparently, things had changed in 10 years. You really did have to have a boat to get to the island, except a few times a year, and the whole area had apparently become so commercialized that my friend didn’t even recognize it anymore. We were, at this point, losing patience — and time. We stopped in one final place to ask again about getting to an island at Crystal River, and a clerk we talked to told us about another place neither of us had heard of: Rainbow Springs. She recommended it highly, and we decided to skip Crystal River and head to this new place. Crystal River is no longer a place either of us wants to visit.
Ahhh, Rainbow Springs
Rainbow Springs was another 20 minutes to half hour away from Crystal River, but wow — what a beautiful place! The parking area was very large, and it was easy to find a spot with shade from the very hot sun on this day.
The walk up to the entrance was really well landscaped, with waterfalls and a creek (all manmade).
There was quite a line on this Saturday at the entrance, so apparently we were the only people who hadn’t heard of Rainbow Springs. Entry was $2 per person, which turned out to be a real bargain. The place was beautiful! The walkway led to views of the springs, and then to the large grassy area that held crowds of people engaged in picnicking, grilling, and sunbathing.
We had brought our cooler of food with us from the car, and we decided to eat first, drop the cooler back off at the car, and then walk around taking pictures. We had noticed that alcohol was not allowed in the park, so we decided to forgo the bottle of wine; but we had a great meal and then packed up the cooler and took it back to the car. We then started following the path around the park, first to the waterfalls. There were several of them, but I only got a good picture of one (we were playing with the shutter speed to blur the water, but the best blur of water resulted in a blurred photo).
Even though the water features in the park were manmade, they were beautiful — someone did a great job creating them. The next stop was the butterfly garden, which was situated next to what used to be a rodeo arena (the park has had several uses through the years).
In the butterfly garden, once again, I couldn’t capture a butterfly, but I did get some potential butterfly perches:
The Springs themselves were gorgeous, and a huge draw for those wanting to cool off. We had, once again, forgotten to bring water with us, and it was, as I said, a very hot day. I swear I thought I was melting at one point, but then I decided I was baking instead. The Springs were calling our name!
We went over to the swimming side and I had to go first, so I hemmed and hawed until I finally just leaned forward from the dock and fell in. That was, in short, a real rush, but it was necessary in this heat. My friend went next, but forgot to take off her sunglasses first. Here’s the crowd that gathered to help her find them in the water:
Just about the time my friend had given up on finding her sunglasses and we were packing up to move on, one of the searchers came over with them. What a great bunch of people. . .
Having cooled down, we continued our walk around the park. Here is my friend enjoying the scene and probably taking a very good shot. I thought she added a nice touch to the scene.
The park was so full of plants and gorgeous water features that we had a hard time leaving. Here’s another couple of shots just for grins and giggles. . .
Reluctantly, we headed out, planning to go to Skeleton Key to catch the sunset. On the way south, we passed through a town that reminded my friend of the best hotdogs she had ever had — and it was a kitschy place to visit, anyway, so we doubled back to find this hotdog place. We GPS’d it, which meant it took twice as long as normal to get there, but we finally arrived:
Yes, it was just as interesting inside as it was out. I ordered a footlong coney dog, and my friend ordered a regular sized one. They came out pretty quickly, but we took some inside shots while we waited.
Unfortunately, the hotdogs weren’t as good as my friend remembered, but at least the ambiance was interesting there! By this time, it was too late to go to Skeleton Key (the sun was already too far gone), so we headed back home.
The next day, my brother and his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons came in to stay for the week south of me. My sisters and other niece flew in on Tuesday, so I’ve been very busy with family. I’ll post about our activities (primarily beach time) next week. Thanks for reading!