Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trip 3: Dunns Creek and Ravine Gardens

Parks visited: 4

Another weekend state park visit, and this week we managed a two-fer. The whole gang was together...myself, Rob, Olivia, and Chris...as we headed up Highway 17 with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts...ah, road food. Our agenda was simple: Take a hike! Dunns Creek State Park was our first stop. It's an unmanned park with a mile-and-a-half walking trail that leads to Blue Pond (which caused great discussion on the differences between ponds and lakes, which I still haven't learned. Odd). It was overcast, as the previous weekend beach trip had been, but the atmosphere was completely different. We were in a forest setting, for starters, but it's more than that. Our happy little band of travelers has fallen into a groove. We're comfortable around each other, and the jokes and merriment were more forthcoming on this outing.

Blue Pond is just that...a clear little pond in the middle of the forest. There are geocaches to be had, and we managed to find all we searched for. Oh yes, and we managed to be found as well...by several hundred ticks. They didn't spoil the serenity of our surroundings, thankfully, and we just kind of hung out and enjoyed it for awhile.

While Chris and I were searching for our final cache, Rob and Olivia saw a deer. I'm glad they had the experience, but Olivia especially. I know she'll take it with her, which is kind of the point. Funny...in the cache we found while they saw the deer, I found a magnet for the Florida State Parks. I know I'm doing something right.

How can you not want to spend time in a place that looks like this?

After enjoying a picnic lunch we hit the road again and headed for the People's Republic of Palatka. Okay, so it's really just called Palatka, but in my heart it will always be the People's Republic of. Many thanks to the late comedic author Lewis Grizzard for humor I didn't understand at the age of 12, but I knew where Palatka was!

Ravine Gardens are...ta da!...formal gardens based around a deep (for Florida!) ravine. It is famous for the 90,000 azaleas that bloom every spring and for which they hold a festival every March. Unfortunately we missed the blooms...only a sporadic flash of color...but that didn't take away from the beauty of the park. I've had the pleasure of hiking the trails here before, last summer on the very hot and humid 4th of July, and our weather on Sunday was much preferred.

Our hike led us down into the ravine, to an artesian well that flows through to the other end and created the setting. It's shallow and clear, and honestly it's one of my favorite places on Earth. We saw a hawk, and it hung out long enough for us to take a few pictures.

We walked to the other end of the ravine, across a couple of suspension bridges, around the Azalea Trail, and back up to the rim. A few highlights:

And finally, our day was done. Almost. We still needed to get our books stamped and prove we had been there. Since Dunns Creek is unmanned, Ravine Gardens provides a stamp for that park as well. The ranger station was closed but we managed to find a very helpful one after a brief look around (and after a conversation with one of the rudest park volunteers I've ever had...the only blight on our day). Ranger Jerry was so cool. He took our books and managed to find the right stamps for both parks. On top of that he even put scrap paper over the pages so they wouldn't smudge. Jerry rocks.

So, we've managed to spend another weekend off the couch and outside in the sun. We've argued less, enjoyed each other more, continued to forge our friendships, and we've had fun in the process. We're learning. We're teaching. We are doing something so right, and I never knew it could be so fulfilling.

Or simple, for that matter.

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