After mostly exhausting the possibilities of Ichetucknee’s south side (a walk to the tubing launch), we drove around the back side of the park and re-entered through the north entrance. Before leaving the south side, my companion had taken a few minutes to study the park’s map. Peering over his shoulder, I noticed a dotted line leading to something called Blue Hole.
I already knew we were going to walk to Blue Hole, but I said nothing. I envisioned a replay of Biven’s Arm, where I would only go so far on a thinning trail and where I had turned around and scampered back to a little wooden bridge.
So did my companion.
This was not the only incident of its kind. In the summer I had balked at exploring a deserted, leaf-strewn amphitheatre on Jekyll Island and I outright refused to consider the sink behind Sonny’s BBQ in Alachua. The sink is apparently reached by walking through what my companion describes as “ankle-high grass.”
What one person calls phobic, I call cautious. The caution comes from being in a new environment and also from the fact that I almost stepped on a snake in the driveway of my father’s house. Dad had just spent quite a bit of money having his driveway refinished and painted a pale sand color. Dad is militant about the appearance of his house and grounds; any speck of dirt on that driveway is immediately blasted away with a high-pressure hose. The driveway is that clean that you can see a smudge from five feet away, and yet, exiting my car, I put my foot down right next to a snake. And I was wearing flip-flops.
On its western and northern edges, Ichetucknee Springs is bordered by farms. When I stopped to take a picture of a couple of horses, it dawned on me that horses are far friendlier creatures than cows. Cows, despite their initial curiousity in the human species, are disdainful of it. Horses are not. It is nearly impossible to get a cow to remain still while the amateur photographer fiddles with a camera. Just when you have it framed, the cow will snort derisively, turn tail, and run. A horse, on the other hand, will simply stand and admire your incompetence with your equipment.
We didn’t have to pay again to access the north side of the springs. We parked and walked a few steps to the water. I was daring enough–with assistance–to jump from the steps to a little outcropping of rock that stuck up out of the water. Turning around, I made the leap back on my own, robbing my companion of another opportunity to be a Southern gentleman. This is part of the reason I am still single.
Here is where you can tell I am not from the country and that I am illiterate in all things machine. Is this supposed to be a hybrid locomotive-bulldozer? Regardless, it makes for a spiffy decoration.
I had never seen a spring before coming to Florida. They remind me of aquariums. I now understand aquarium decoration in a way that was not possible before. I rather like the idea that you can see to the bottom without having to be in the water. Here, you see from the reflection of the trees how clear the water is.
I used to have very expensive dreams of visiting Europe. I saw myself in Paris, eating pistachio macaroons and staying at the Hotel Costes. Thirty years is a long time to have a dream, so why not swap it for something more doable, like Ichetucknee? Ichetucknee sets you back only six bucks. Not the same, you say? Depends on who’s doing the saying.
At Ichetucknee, you are sharing space with a fish. Not throngs of sweaty tourists, irritable locals, and other hostile homo sapiens. In the summer, I’d not be able to make this observation, but in March you have the place mostly to yourself.
Imagine, my companion said, that you can see something the way the Indians did. He paused and looked off into the flatwoods. I’d never thought of it that way. I grew up near Plimouth Plantation and spent quite a bit of my youth being taken around replica-this and reconstruction-that. This was supposed to be educational and to help you get a better sense of history. I remember my brother screaming in terror at a wax figure on Old Ironsides and having to be taken off the ship in tears. Elucidating or not, history can be distressing and depressing. So can its representation. At Ichetucknee, there’s nothing to scream about, at least until the tubers arrive. We backtracked from the springs and, with me in the lead, headed down the trail to Blue Hole.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park (north side): ****
Great bathrooms, too!