Several weeks ago Chris went kayaking, with Xandra and Randy, in the Crystal River area. It's truly a gorgeous place and he wanted us to see the amazing beauty. There happen to be two state parks in the area, and so we decided to spend one Sunday doing some of our favorite things: kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, spending time with each other and the great outdoors.
Before hitting the state parks, we launched the kayaks from a little place called Hunters Spring Park. We wanted to paddle out to a place called Three Sisters Springs, which is an extremely popular area. Citrus County is the only place in Florida where it is legal to swim with manatees, and they love to hang out in Three Sisters.
The water was calm and the weather was fine as we began our short paddle. It's a residential area, and the houses were amazing! I'd love to live out here someday:
Pretty soon we came to a huge sign laying out the law of the land...er...river. Manatee swim tours are popular here and possibly the highest tourism draw, and that was quite obvious. Tour boats were tied off in several spots, but thankfully they aren't allowed all the way back into the Three Sisters area.
Sorry for the blurry quality of the photos....my problem with the waterproof camera is remembering to clean the lense off after I've had it under water, or having something dry and clean enough to wipe it off.
The passageway into the springs was dark and tree-lined, and when we emerged into the clear waters it felt, to me, like we had been let in on a very dear secret. We were there early enough in the day that there weren't hoards of people in the springs, but we knew it was just a matter of time. Unfortunately there weren't any manatees in this area, but that's okay. I enjoyed the chance to get out and experience the springs without the added distraction.
We found a good place to tie off the kayaks and, one by one, jumped into the water. For having a fear of this kind of thing, I'm kinda proud of myself!
Apparently Olivia was *very* excited to be there.
Rob made his way over to one of the spring boils...there are three, hence the Three Sisters designation...and got a few photos of his own:
Randy kept an eye on Olivia for me so I could join some of the fun:
I promise, I was not choking my husband in this picture, despite what he might tell you. :)
Pretty soon the crowds of people began to show up, so we took that as our hint to head out. I was hoping to see some of the manatees that frequent this area, and was pleasantly surprised to come across some on our way back.
The encounter was brief but magical.
We got back to Hunters Spring Park to find more crowds of people, but thankfully a picnic table and grill were open and available. While Rob and Chris cooked up some grub, kids from a neighboring party offered Olivia a cupcake:
After lunch and a little relaxation, we headed over to the Crystal River Archaeological State Park. It's home to several centuries-old mounds from local Native Americans, and I thought it would be a nice way to end our day.
We browsed inside the museum and then hit the trails to tour the mounds. There is also one large temple mound with steps up and a platform at the top.
This is a stele, which is a limestone slab believed to have been used for astronomical purposes. And if you look closely enough (and look at the next picture for reference), there's a face carved into it.
While we were inside the museum we had the ranger stamp our passport books. He went ahead and stamped them for the other local state park, Crystal River Preserve. Hmm. We hadn't originally been planning to visit the preserve, honestly, because there is so much to do there. However, since we already had the stamp, and it was literally around the corner, we decided...What the heck?
After a little horseplay, we took a quick look around.
As it turned out, the visitor center was closed. I was kinda bummed and really wanted a chance to earn the stamp we had gotten. So, we drove a little ways down the highway to the other end of the preserve. There are some hiking trails there, so we decided to do a little hiking.
Pretty soon it was time to head home. Our day started in an amazing, special place, moved on to an area of mysticism and intrigue, and ended in a beautiful natural setting. I only wish all our days could be spent like that.