In 1972, what is now known as Ichetucknee Springs State Park was designated a National Natural Landmark. With the crystal clear water that meanders through a shaded canopy, I can completely understand why. Seventy-two is also the temperature, a constant common to all Florida springs. August 8, in the year 1972, holds its own significance, because my in-laws welcomed a son that day. And on August 8 of this year, last Sunday, we celebrated that birth by visiting the 72 degree waters of Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Welcome....to Robby's Birthday Floatilla!
We gathered a whole group of people: Rob, me, Olivia, Xandra, Chris, Chris's friend Val, her boyfriend Paul, and Paul's mom Elaine. The eight of us convoyed from Ormond Beach to the park, about a two-and-a-half hour drive, where we met up with my sister-in-law Sherry and nephew Chase. Along the way we rented innertubes, which were cleverly attached to the trunks of our cars. You see, that's what you do on the Ich: You go tubing.
After finding the north entrance to be closed...filled to capacity (750 tubers!) at 10:30 Sunday morning...we headed to the south entrance. We had really been looking forward to relaxing down the river from the northern entrance, which was supposed to take 3.5 hours. Instead we were looking at the 1.5 hour route from the south, and at first I felt like we were settling. Once we launched, though, that feeling changed.
At this point let me point out that Rob and I were together in a double tube while Olivia was in a child-sized tube. She had an initial freak out, but calmed down once she realized we were holding on to her tube and staying together. The rest of our group pretty much stayed together, breaking up and regrouping several times. Xandra opted to swim the river instead of tubing it, which was awesome. Whenever we got caught up in deadfall or worked our way out of the current, Xandra was right there to pull us back.
A few highlights:
That last picture is a view into the clear spring water. We were able to take it thanks to the new waterproof digital camera Rob gave me for National Pauladay. Now that we spend more time in and on the water, it gets pretty expensive replacing standard digital cameras (and car keys).
And because I had it, I took lots of pictures. Enjoy a few more:
Onward we floated. And then, right as I heard Olivia asking how much longer we'd be on the water, I saw it:
It was time to leave the river. *Sigh* We had the option to return to where we launched and enjoy a second float down the river, but we opted not to. Chase's lips were blue! So, we turned in our tubes and took the shuttle back to the parking/picnic area.
We planned to grill out and have a feast for Rob's birthday. There was a problem, however, when we realized the charcoal was back at home. There were several ideas and suggestions, resulting in Rob waiting for 20 minutes at the concession stand and being very angry and frustrated when they finally told him they were out of charcoal. Xandra and Val came to the rescue, walking around to other areas and asking people if they had charcoal to spare. They came back with a bag full, and we were finally able to enjoy our burgers and dawgs. Rob was even able to look for his beachball:
And the kids played:
Despite a few frustrations along the way, I think Robby's Birthday Floatilla was a great success. I succeeded in doing something I had previously been wary of, getting up close and personal with a Florida river without the safety of a kayak around me. And any day I can relax, have a new experience, and spend time with the people I love, counts as a great success in my book. Count me a very happy girl. And Rob....happy birthday, babe. I love you.