Our first daycation of 2016 included a 22 mile bike ride on the Nature Coast State Trail. We started the ride at the trailhead just off US 19 in Fanning Springs, south of Fanning Springs State Park.
From the trailhead we rode about three miles toward Old Town to the Suwannee River Bridge (just had to make a stop on the old bridge on the famous river) before turning back to pick up the trail to Trenton.
This portion of the trail was clearly labeled with mileage markers, something I appreciate, and bordered rural neighborhoods, farmland and Trenton Elementary School. Of course we had to stop at the school to check out their recently renovated 1930s gym.
The next leg of our ride took us to Trenton where we stopped at the Train Station for a quick snack before visiting the quilt museum and then heading back to Fanning Springs.
Somehow we we managed to avoid riding in the rain and then concluded our Gilchrist County adventure with a picnic lunch overlooking Fanning Springs where we were surprised to find a half dozen manatee swimming in and around the roped off spring. A nice bonus!
In the book Deadly Waters, author Gloria Skurzynski, compares manatee to giant potatoes.
Not a bad description, but a potato may be more active.
These creatures are so ugly, they’re adorable.
Every year seems to be devoted to a different animal: sea turtles, black bears, moose, killer whales, grizzly bears. Last year was the year of the manatee, starting last January at Fanning Springs State Park and then at Blue Springs, Homasassa Springs, Wakula Springs, and finally swimming with them at Crystal River.
One of the to-do’s on our 14 in 14 list is to visit at least 14 of Florida’s springs during the year. We agreed to only count “first time” spring visits so that Silver Springs, Blue Springs, and DeLeon Springs won’t be added to our official list. This insures we get out and see new places.
On the morning of January 1st, before we developed our 2014 list, we drove to Dunnellon to Rainbow Springs State Park and participated in a New Year’s Day first walk along the trails, but since that occurred before our 14 in 14 list, we decided to exclude it as one of the “first time” springs.
That decision elevated Fanning Springs to the first spring visit of the year. Our original plan to rent a kayak and paddle in the spring and the Swannee changed when we awoke to extremely cold temperatures. Donning long underwear and packing coats, scarves, and gloves we headed to Fanning Springs and were greeted by a sign stating the time 12:15 and temperature 40º.
Instead of paddling, we walked through the park and out to the Swanee River where we saw a couple of manatee swimming toward the spring in search of warm water and then struggled to eat our picnic lunch wearing mittens before leaving in search of a couple smaller springs.
At our next stop, Hart Springs, a Gilchrist County Park, we were surprised to find a family swimming in the spring. Sure they were wearing wet suits, and the water temperature remains 72º year round, but with the air temperature in the 40s, I can’t imagine going for a swim.
We continued to Otter Springs, another county park located a couple of miles away. The spring was not impressive, but the park’s located on the Swannee River with a campground, cabins, an indoor pool, and an impressive event center.
Otter Park may be a good base camp for a future Spring adventure.