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………


Now that the state of Florida is opening up little by little after the pandemic, my daughter, “Teen Traveler”, and I decided we were well overdue for a road trip. Living in Florida has its benefits, even though this time of year it is hot. VERY hot. We have some of the most beautiful springs with crystal clear blue water that I’ve ever seen, and we decided it would be well worth the two and a half hour ride to see them.

This time, we decided to travel to Dunnellon, Florida to see Rainbow Springs State Park. This park was originally a privately owned theme park destination in the 1930s , complete with a zoo, a rodeo, gardens everywhere, a boat ride, and a ride with leaf-shaped gondolas suspended from up high above the ground. After the theme parks in Orlando opened in the early 1970s, Rainbow Springs closed. Sometime thereafter (in the 1990s) , the state of Florida acquired this land and made it into a beautiful park, preserving the original three man-made waterfalls. At the time of our visit, two of the waterfalls were inoperable due to a maintenance issue, but the one that was still in operation was beautiful.

A cement and brick walkway circles most of the main areas in the park, but there are several wooded trails to walk as well.

cement path

We traveled mostly on the cement and brick walkways as well as the boardwalk paths, but we walked a little way on one of the wooded paths behind the overgrown butterfly garden, which is scheduled for refurbishment in the near future.

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” -Henry David Thoreau

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway on the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. ” – Henry David Thoreau

While walking on trail in the woods, however, we encountered a park sign alerting us about the presence of bears in the park, along with instructions about what to do if we encountered any bears. We decided to turn back toward the more populated areas. At this park, you can rent canoes and kayaks and can swim in the crystal blue water as well, although a sign alerts you of the possibility of alligators in the water. We decided to skip this fresh water swimming experience for the time being, as I felt it was a bit unsafe to swim in fresh water with others during the present corona pandemic.

We saw many beautiful flowers while walking about the park and were forunate enough to see a butterfly egg on the back of a leaf when we turned it over. Fascinating find.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

beautiful pink flower
ubiquitous berries in the wooded path
a splash of color in the distance

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he expects.” – John Muir

old zoo complex ruins

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” – Henry David Thoreau

pops of color along the trail

We came to this park mainly see the beautiful blue spring waters and the waterfalls but were delighted to see the beautiful plants and a glimpse of an unexpected butterfly or two. They say it is the “little things that matter,” and the unexpected “little things” in sum added up to a wonderful experience.

We exited the park, full of wonder and joy at all that we had seen, heard, smelled, and touched at this beautiful site when we passed by a little pond with the most beautiful green algae floating on top of it, which beckoned us to stop for a moment.

photo of pond taken by “Teen Traveler”

There was something special about this little pond that “Teen Traveler” and I felt simultaneously the moment we stopped. We looked at each other and both said that it was a place at which we could literally spend hours. It was so serene and peaceful. We decided to sit upon a rock at the edge of the pond, watching with the sense that something great was before our eyes. While sitting silently and experiencing this magic moment together, my daughter noticed a frog on the shore of the pond.

frog by the pond photo taken by “Teen Traveler”

It was one of those magic moments where the world works in perfect synchronicity for a time, where everything works together as it should. It amazed us that this frog was so perfectly suited for the pond, and the pond was perfectly suited for the frog. The camouflage before our eyes was amazing. The frog’s head was exactly the color of the algae, and the frog’s lower body was exactly the same color as the rocky sand beneath him. We watched the frog, and the frog watched us. None of us moved for a moment or two. While we were experiencing one of those things that just took our breath away, my daughter slowly and quietly pointed to the pond. At first pass, I thought I was looking at several leaves floating beautifully in the water before us.

“Could a greater miracle take place for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

At second glance, I realize most of what I was looking at were NOT leaves. My daughter pointed out to me that we were looking at frogs, and the frogs were looking at us.

frogs in the water photo taken by “Teen Traveler”

Counting quickly, we saw at least nineteen sets of eyes gazing upon us as we gazed upon them. There were frogs EVERYWHERE. It felt surreal, almost like we were in a film, maybe some perfect version of the world in a Disney film perhaps. I had never given frogs a second thought in my entire life, yet this was one of the most beautiful and amazing sites I have seen right before me that moment. As I sat quietly on that rock, watching the world unfold before me and enjoying life through my lens, I realized what we came for didn’t quite work out the way we planned, as two of the waterfalls were broken and the butterfly garden was overgrown and in need of refurbishment, yet the beauty and experience that surrounded us was one of the best Florida day trips we had experienced in a long time. Sometimes if we are flexible enough to open our eyes to what is thrown our way, we discover that life is beautiful, if we allow ourselves to see all the possibilities before us.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends……..