Today’s planned feature, “Random Roadside Florida,” has been supplanted by a new one. “Backyards, Backroads, Backwoods” contains those items that aren’t roadside attractions and that are generally off the tourist trail. In some cases, you have to dig pretty deep to find them.
In the backwoods category we find Silver Glen Springs. I heard about this place from the guy who runs Lunker Lodge in Georgetown. He said it was the best spring in the Ocala National Forest and he was right. Silver Glen is just down the road from the more popular Salt Springs, but unlike Salt its neighbor spring is not run by a concession. What this means for you is Port-a-Pots instead of regular toilets. Silver Glen is the most attractive springs I’ve visited. A large swimming area is surrounded on three sides by shady forest and its rustic quality is more in keeping with a summer camp than it is a place of entertainment. Watch out for bear, alligators, cottonmouths and all the usual hazards of forest springs. All we saw were vultures picking shards of burnt meat off a grill.
We got to Silver Glen at around 7 PM and found it deserted except for a couple of young men whose accents led me to believe they were visiting from Austria. I have no idea how crowded Silver Glen gets at other times.
Salt Springs, just a few miles to the north. Salt Springs has a new concrete wall built around it. Hundreds of mullet cluster around the individual springs. Watch out for some oddly placed steel or iron pegs in the water at the bottom of the stairs.
We met some interesting people at Salt Springs. A couple from Miami was househunting in nearby Ocala because they were afraid to continue living in Miami. I asked them why. They said they were afraid people would rise up and they, a white middle-class couple, didn’t want to be in the middle of it. Another couple, from Jacksonville, were considering househunting in nearby Ocala because they felt the crime rate in Jacksonville was too high. They, too, were afraid of an uprising. Across the way, a skeleton-skinny, deeply tanned man was doing devotions while wearing a loincloth.
Here, Mr. B. tests the waters. I could not convince him that his life was incomplete without a shocking pink inflatable chair.
Looking out from the spring run. Someone told me that “they took an eleven-foot gator out there a couple of weeks ago.” Nevertheless, people wandered beyond the boundaries.
Skipping to the northeast, and part of something I should call “Picture Postcard Florida” for both its natural beauty and for my attempts to make it look like a vintage postcard, we find the Fairchild Oak in the Bulow Creek State Park. It is unclear how old this massive tree actually is: the state park Web site says four hundred years, but two conflicting plaques in the park say two hundred to three hundreds years and two thousand years. The first plaque seems to make light of the second one: Hey, folks, we were only joking! Ha ha ha! It only LOOKS two thousand years old. Gotcha!
The tree is not reason enough to visit the park. You should visit the park and its surrounding areas for the stupendous greenery and marshy saltwater canals. They are a glorious example of humid subtropical vegetation.
A short but wonderful drive around part of the Ormond Scenic Loop produced this photo of a downed palm in the saltwater creek.
Two views of a weathervane on Route 441 north of Orange Lake. We stopped because Mr. B. spotted a large rainbow in the distance.
Local butterflies at Kanapaha Park.
A turtle in the rock pond at the St. John Town’s Center in Jacksonville.
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam! Buffalo patties on Paynes Prairie. I insisted Mr. B. stay in the frame for purposes of scale. This was some hefty dung. Beyond Mr. B. is a buffalo bed (the dirt).