Green Cove Springs

While driving to Jacksonville to visit Sarah and Daniel, we passed a sign in Green Cove Springs pointing to the Spring Boil.IMG_7760 Well, of course, there’s a spring in Green Cove Springs. We found it, located across the street from City Hall.

The natural sulfer spring flows into the city pool. And I love the spring data on the sign indicating the depth of the spring, the water temperature and flow as well as an analysis of the minerals. How strange!

The water moves quickly through the public pool where it exits and travels a couple hundred yards to the St. John’s River.

I guess the goal of visiting 14 springs in 2014 was not ambitious enough. Springs Park makes number 17!

12 Down; 2 To Go

My love of ferries resulted in the addition of a ferry ride to the list of 14 in 14.

When I realized that there was not only a ferry I hadn’t ridden in the state of Florida, but that it’s located in Marion County, I insisted that riding the Fort Gates Ferry was a must.

On our return from Jacksonville we took CR 308 in Putnam County to the Gateway Fish Camp where we boarded the two car ferry powered by a tug boat mounted to the side. The ferry operator collected the $10 fare, guided us on the boat, blocked the wheels of the vehicle, and then we were off.

A ferry has crossed the half mile stretch across the St. John’s River for some hundred fifty two years, and I’m not sure the boat used isn’t the same one in use for the first crossing.

After the short ride across this wild portion of the St. John’s, we disembarked on the west bank of the river and continued on our way home following the bone jarring seven mile dirt Forest Roads 62 and 29,part of the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, to US 19 in Salt Springs.

Looking for a chance to step back in time? Then you may want to consider taking a trip on the Fort Gates Ferry.

 

Hontoon: A Different Kind of Island

IMG_3404Sanibel Island, Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Amelia Island, St. George Island…what do they all have in common? Sand, salt water, beach…not so with Hontoon Island. Instead, Hontoon Island State Park is located in the St. John’s River far from the Atlantic or Gulf and Florida’s famous beaches.

The only access to the island is by private boat or the park ferry. The ferry is limited to passengers and pets, no vehicles. And since I love ferries, that’s a bonus!

Boating, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking are popular activities for park visitors. Picnic areas include tables and grills as well as a playground. No fishing this trip, but Meghan and Jon paddled eleven miles around the island and John and I motored up and down the St. John’s exploring as far south as Blue Springs and as far north as the bridge at S.R. 44.

A three-mile nature trail follows the Dead River and leads hikers to a large Indian mound at the southwest corner of the island. We hiked each day, once to the Indian mounds and a couple times to the nest of a bald eagle trying to get a good view of the eaglets.

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We enjoyed camping in the one of the twelve tent sites, but since no cars are permitted on the island campers load their gear in wheel barrows and then the park van transports tents, sleeping bags, ice chests, firewood, food and other items to the campsite with a strict limit of one trip per site.

Cooking out, roasting marshmallows, relaxing in the hammock, playing bocce ball and board games occupied our time at the campsite between hiking, canoeing, and boating.

In addition to the tent sites, Hontoon Island has 40 boat slips for boat camping and six rustic cabins. We’re trying to figure out how we can boat camp since it looks like the perfect way to stay on the island, sitting out on the dock in the light of the full moon…we’ll need to find a boat to rent…buying is not an option.

The Hontoon Island Friends held a cookout with live music on Saturday, and not only did we buy tickets to the cookout, we ended up members of the Hontoon Island Friends. Guess they’ll be contacting us to volunteer for future events.

Palatka – Mural City

Sarah and John on the porch overlooking the St. John's River at Corky Bell's seafood restaurant.
Sarah and John on the deck overlooking the St. John’s River at Corky Bell’s seafood restaurant.

For years we spent time in Palatka every summer at softball tournaments. I never looked forward to the Palatka tournaments. I always complained there was nowhere to eat and nothing to do to pass time between games. We camped at the softball field, ate ballpark food, and packed our own toilet paper because Palatka softball won the award for the worst restrooms in the state.

 

 

 

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How I wish I’d investigated Palatka further. I’ve found one great restaurant and another I want to try, a beautiful state park, and a mural tour through the city, and how come we never went down to the St. John’s River to relax between games and have a picnic? We really missed it.

 

This past weekend we met Sarah in Palatka since it’s about halfway between Ocala and Jacksonville. We walked through Ravine Gardens State Park before meeting Sarah for lunch at Corky Bell’s. Then on our way out of town I noticed one of the murals and stopped to take a picture. Before I knew it, I stopped to check out a second, then third, and then more murals.

Wildflower Mural
Wildflower Mural
Wildlife Mural
Wildlife Mural

The Conley-Snyder Mural Committee provides a mural map that can be used by visitors who want to take a walking tour throughout the downtown area.

Palatka Railroad Murla
Palatka Railroad Mural
Columbine on the St. John's River Mural
Columbine on the St. John’s River Mural

I never thought I’d say I can’t wait to go back to Palatka, but I can honestly say I’m looking forward to it.