Friday, August 6, 2010

Orlando without the Mouse: Wekiva Springs

Prior to arriving in Orlando I did an online search of places to go and as you probably know, we are fans of State Parks. That was how I found Wekiva State Park. It is a undiscovered gem near I-4 which the locals know is well worth the trip. As always, click each photo for a better view.

The Springs bubbles up from the Florida aquifer and stays a constant 72 degrees F which can be cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter. For a mere $6 per car you are allowed entrance into paradise. But, be warned, plan to go during the week because over the weekend it is crowed with locals and once the park has reached capacity the rangers will turn you away (a real nightmare because you have to go through a long line up to the ranger station only to have them divert you right back out).

There are trails, either packed earth or boardwalks, throughout the park that will give you a glimpse of the real Florida.

You get a chance to see how the area changes with the birth and death cycle of trees and fauna.

And of course there is wild life. The website mentioned turkeys and bears, but when we went I guess they where hiding out from the heat. What we did encounter was this gray Squirrel we called "Peggy."

And when they say don't feed the wildlife, they mean it! Alex started feeding little Peggy bits from a cracker he had in his backpack. At one point he bent down, still holding the cracker, to continue feeding Peggy and I guess she decided that she didn't want the little bits he was providing. She grabbed the whole cracker scratching his finger in the process and clucked at us after she had it. We decided not to put up a fight and resumed walking.

In addition to the trails and swimming in the spring there is a river that runs from the location. You can rent a boat to travel out into the wilder, unseen portions of the park, which is an adventure in itself.

It was a great experience, despite the heat, that of course we could not resist... but that will be covered in another post.

The website said you could scuba dive down into the spring which we were not prepared or trained to do. The next best thing was a picture and a video clip where you can get as close as possible to doing that.

You can hear the ranger say on the video that I needed a special filter to get a view down into the spring. I love proving people wrong... while not perfect, it does give a clear view both down into the spring and a sense of how the water is continually bubbling up.

And so, if you are ever in the Orlando area and tired of the crowds and overpriced events. Give Wekiva Springs a try. Nature has by far outdone the mouse!

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