Beginning in the early 1970s, most summers were spent in the mountains of western North Carolina. Camping, hiking, tubing, river trips and escaping the heat of south Florida. In fact, these yearly trips led me to Western Carolina University where I spent my first two years of college life and met my husband of thirty-five years.
Many summers have been spent at our favorite campground, Deep Creek, a part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This year Meghan and Jon joined us for a few days of camping in Deep Creek.
Campfires and breakfast cooked on the camp stove are among the highlights of the trip, but without a doubt tubing on the river is what makes Deep Creek a repeat destination. I don’t mean to brag, but I was the only one of the four of us to stay on the tube…Betty Falls proved too much for the others.
Unfortunately, the constant rain shortened our trip, but it was reminiscent of Meghan’s first camping trip to Deep Creek at age 2 months when she was the only dry camper hanging out in the back of our station wagon while the adults huddled under a tarp over the picnic table making the most of a camping trip in the non-stop rain.
As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
Tubes of all sizes and colors line the entrance roads to Ichetucknee Springs, the state park popular with tubers for its six mile run from the head spring to the point where it joins the Santa Fe River. Beginning Memorial Day weekend, tubers can float down the river from three different starting points allowing for float trips ranging in length from 45 minutes to 3 hours.
However, tubing is not the only activity available at the park. Visitors can hike the Pine Ridge, Trestle Point, or the Blue Hole Trails. While the shortest of the three trails, the half-mile Blue Hole Trail leads to the largest spring in the park. One that was nearly deserted on our recent visit.
After eating a picnic lunch, and hiking to Blue Hole, we waded into the crystal waters of the Ichetucknee Spring with flippers, mask, and snorkel and explored the head spring.
The Ichetucknee and its run, the most beautiful landscape in the world. ~Archie Carr, A Naturalist in Florida
There were many tubers on the river, but since they are not permitted in the head spring there were only a couple dozen people swimming in the area with only a handful snorkeling in the waters farther from the limestone steps making it possible to enjoy the Ichetucknee Spring on a summer afternoon.
The Icketucknee’s waters bubble up out of the ground and flow like melted diamonds across a sandy bottom through a natural forest. ~Al Burt, The Tropic of Cracker