hut and part of the spring where the TV show “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Bridges was filmed in 1958-1962

I know kayaking is all the rage, and I do like a good kayak trip. Sitting “IN” the water has its allure, but there is something about being in a canoe that I like so much better. Perhaps the canoe brings to my mind days of long ago when our ancestors hollowed out a tree to make something they could use in the water to get from place to place. Perhaps it is the hard work and ingenuity of those same people that I admire. Maybe it’s because paddling a canoe can be quiet and peaceful while it glides sleekly ON the water. Maybe it’s because using just one paddle to move the canoe around takes a certain degree of skill, and maybe it’s because using a double paddle on a kayak somehow feels a bit awkward. I’m not sure WHY I like a canoe better; I just do.

This week end we went paddling at Silver Springs State Park in Florida, where numerous movies were filmed. This place was THE theme park where Floridians flocked in days before Disney. This is “old Florida” at its best. Of all the springs I’ve traveled to, Silver Springs is my favorite because of the allure of the possibility of seeing wild monkeys, because of the beautiful butterflies flying about, because of the crystal turquoise waters, and because of the large blue fish found in the waters.

We started our canoe journey at the Fort King Paddling trail, a partially shaded narrow waterway flanked with beautiful foliage that looks like a jungle and is 1.1 miles long. This is an easy paddle, allowing one to stop, look, and listen, along the way. I love pulling over to the side of the waterway to close my eyes so I can hear the birds in the distance. Along the journey, old abandoned buildings that used to be part of the theme park on the site in previous days are dotted along the shore. Upon exiting the Fort King Paddling Trail, we entered the Silver River for an easy upstream paddle for a while in more open waters in the direct sun. Paddling by the hundred year old glass bottomed boats still in operation at the park gives a sense of continuity and connection to the past while peering into the depths of the water at some point where there are a few underwater sculptures (and site of the filming of a movie scene in the movie “Thunderball”).

Glass Bottom Boat photo courtesy of A. Farmer

After leaving the Silver River, we paddled again through a more narrow waterway like at the beginning, shady and flanked by beautiful foliage on either side and then under a bridge. The trip brought us in a circle to where we started.

map courtesy of Florida State Parks

I can’t help but draw a parallel of this circular loop canoe course to life in my mind while paddling quietly through the waters where Native Americans paddled before me. The shaded narrow waterway at the beginning of our journey reminds me of the protected years of our youth, where the “paddling” is easy. After the narrow waterway, when we entered the Silver River in full sun, I am reminded of our adulthood when we are out in a larger environment with more people and experiences, sometimes “paddling upstream” when things get a bit complicated in our lives from time to time. We are more exposed to so many things during this part of the paddle, including an alligator or two either sunning itself on the shore or in the waters to our sides like we are exposed many new experiences, both good and bad, in our adult lives. From time to time we are surprised and delighted upon seeing something unexpected like turtles sunning themselves on a log in the water while paddling, and we are surprised and delighted in our lives in general when we encounter something new in our adult years as well. After leaving the wider and exposed Silver River, we paddled back to a less complicated place in some ways, like the Alpha and Omega of our lives. Things are a bit simpler and quieter in some ways with less commotion as we age, and the narrow water way at the end of our canoe journey reminds me of those calmer years, closer to home, when we need quiet and tranquil “waters” around us more than ever.

Life is good; find a way to enjoy today. Carpe diem, friends………

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