Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trip 45: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

State Parks visited: 41

Our little princess turned 7 in July!  Can you believe it?!  Neither can I!  What else were we to do but...celebrate!

After celebrating with cake and ice cream on her actual birthday, we let the kid pick out wherever she wanted to go the following weekend.  She is obviously mine (mermaids, anyone??) because she chose Weeki Wachee Springs State Park!

We got up bright and early and began the trek to the other side of the state.  Somewhere along the way we met up with Chris, Xandra, and Randy, and together we found a geocache outside the park.  Rob also saw something that interested him....

It was all Olivia could do to hide her embarrassment:

Once inside the gate we found an interesting sight:  a peacock that apparently had a wheelchair for a girlfriend.  Seriously, it strutted around this wheelchair and wouldn't let any other birds come near it!

Weeki Wachee is home to Buccaneer Bay, which is a water park, and also the world famous mermaids.  We opted to check out the water park first:

I must say, Weeki Wachee is one of the neatest parks in terms of layout.  It has the swimming area right next to the headspring, which is where the underwater theater is.  There is a rope dividing them, but still.  People come from around the world to see the mermaid shows, which have been going on for decades, and the fun of the water park is going on at the same time.  I think that's pretty neat!

Two of the slides let out right next to each other, and they were both very different.  One had the rider shoot out like a lightning bolt into the water, while the on the other one, the rider seemed to slip off the edge and plop into the water.  The quicker one was the bigger hit with our group, and I got a few pictures of them hitting the end of the ride:




Pretty soon it was time to break for lunch and check out the other side of the park.  We walked over and got a view of the headspring (theater) and the swimming area as a storm was rolling in:

In true Florida style, the storm passed quickly and we got seated in the theater.  The curtains were open and we got a bit of an early show, if only from a turtle:

Pretty soon the real show got underway.  It was a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's story with some of the Disney version mixed in...not breaking copyright, of course!

Someone sat in rapt attention, and I knew she was really enjoying herself...

After the show we were able to meet one of the mermaids:

And then almost got kicked out of the park because we didn't read a Do Not Enter sign that *wasn't* posted:

Next came an animal show, which consisted of seeing two snakes, a toad, and an alligator.  Exciting!!

Throughout the park are various cut-outs you can pose in for pictures.  We had quite a good time taking turns!

After another quick dip in the swimming area, we called it a day.  It was truly awesome to see such an interesting piece of Florida history while having a fun celebration as well!  We made one quick stop by the main entrance sign, and then we hit the road for home.  Olivia's birthday was a huge success, and she got to do the things she wanted.  I can't wait to see what adventure she chooses next year!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trip 44: Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park

State Parks visited:  40

The heat and humidity of our Florida summers can make very unfriendly companions during any outdoor activity.  Proper precautions, such as plenty of sunscreen and water, need to be taken so that you avoid dehydration, sunburn, and heat exhaustion.  We tried to keep all these things in mind when we set out for a Sunday hike, and I think we did pretty well!

We....Rob, myself, Olivia, Chris, Xandra, and a decently early start.  The goal was to hike a few trails, find a few geocaches, and then go tubing down a nearby river. 

The trails were pretty shaded as the sun rose into the sky.  The problem, however, were the trails themselves!  We had gotten a map at the trailhead and ended up having a backtrack a few times.  Unfortunately, the trails aren't marked exactly like they are on the map.

Still, it was a beautiful area for hiking:

Deer moss

Tar flowers

Pretty soon we had found a couple of geocaches:

And continued down the trails:

Those mushrooms look like eggs!

Robby made sure to look for his beach ball, but all he found were trees:

Chris climbed a tree.  Okay, a fallen tree:

And tussled with Randy:

Gravity won that battle.

I love my kid!  She posed in front of this pine sapling so we could see what she'd look like with crazy green hair.

But mostly we walked...

And walked...

Crawled under....


And observed the beauty of the nature surrounding us:

She was actually looking at this cleverly-camouflaged lizard:

Pretty soon we were back where we started, and it was finally time to rest and have some lunch.

While we were eating, one of the locals came out to visit:

I prefer tortoises over mosquitoes or ticks any day!!

And eventually, that was it.  The river tubing run was filled to capacity, so we had to cut our day short.  That's okay, though.  You really don't have to do everything possible to get a fulfilling experience.  It's a lesson I'm working on learning.


*No stamp?  That's right!  Wekiwa Springs was full, and Blue Spring doesn't have the stamp for this park anymore.  So...we'll have to go back eventually to Wekiwa for our stamp!