Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blue Springs and the Manatees

Our last full day in Orlando, we rented a car and went to Blue Springs State Park. When I was younger, let's say it wasn't 25 years ago, Kyle, Ben and I did a summer trip from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., then down the coast to Florida, and back to Minnesota.  We were poor and operating mostly out of a car with a tent and some bicycles, so we did a lot of camping at ad hoc locations.  One place we stopped was Blue Springs, renowned as a wintering area for manatees.  Around mid-November they shut down the swimming because hundreds of manatees swim into the spring area to enjoy the relatively warm 72 degree water coming from the spring.  But on November 1 swimming was still open and there was a chance we'd see a few.  You're supposed to stay away from them as the rangers have had problems with teenagers carving their initials into them (yes, really) and pushing the babies away from their mothers, but even when you don't go near them, they like to come give you a shove and swim under you, and roll around in your space.

There are alligators in the area as well, although for the most part they seem to stay away from where the manatees are.  I suspect they lose to the manatees in any shoving match.  And the water in the spring area is so clear you can see everything in your space.  Over the "boil", the spring, which is like 120 feet deep and has a constant stream of scuba divers going to and from it even on a slow day like the day we were there, you can see down to where all the water is welling up to push you around which is a bit creepy.

Near the entrance to the spring area, where it joins the river and the water is more brackish and full of weedy places to hide, there are many warnings about the alligators.  They don't want you to miss them.

Although Eryn's not scared of any damn sign.  I think I see some eyes in the water to her right.

The water is even clearer than it looks in this picture.  All those brown things are big three foot long gars.

The staff pointed us at a geocache that doesn't seem to be in  Perhaps it's because it's full of two kilos of cocaine?  I jest. Those are two bags of rock/sand, and the cache was some sort of Sea World cache.  Eryn grabbed a coin and bracelet, but there was no way to log the find.

Let us get to the actual manatees.  Here are the two that were swimming with Eryn and I.  A mother and her pup.

It's not well known that manatees are particularly susceptible to mind control.  Here I do my best to start my manatee army of evil by implanting the mental suggestion that they go forth and do my bidding.  If you're an enemy of mine, I'd stay away from any temperate waters and avoid any manatees dressed as mermaids.

They seemed to particularly like Eryn and would follow her around.  She was a little nervous when she was out in the open water where she couldn't touch the bottom, but there was a nice set of steps you could sit on, as well as some shallow areas with rocks.  In this picture she wasn't going under to look at them first.  They were definitely coming over to stare at her.

Go forth!  Do as I command!  In this picture do I look as cold as I felt?  72 degrees isn't freezing, but it's not exactly swimming pool warm, and there was a good breeze blowing branches out of the trees that added to the chill and called up goose bumps on my pasty white Minnesota skin.

Pooteewheet checking out the manatees.  They made it a point to wander back and forth underneath her.

The steps I was referring to and the manatees getting a close look at Eryn.  She says this was her favorite part of vacation.  Even better than the roller coasters and Harry Potter world.

My favorite picture was one I could have taken in Minnesota.  SQUIRREL!!!  I think it lends itself to putting a word bubble on it so I can add silly captions.

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