Yin and Yang at Manatee Springs

Manatee Springs State Park ImageSlow and fast are the Yin and Yang of our travels. Oftentimes we have difficulty striking the right balance between the two. Move too fast and we risk burnout. Move too slow and we get antsy.  Four days at Manatee Springs State Park risked staying too long. We covered its most interesting areas in the first couple of hours. But the advantage of spending time with a place is that you can discover things others might miss. By the time we left for good, we had such familiarity with the park that we knew where the deer liked to feed, where the turtles liked to sun themselves, and where the snakes liked to hide.

Manatee Springs State Park, FloridaEvery time we undertook the short hike from our campground we saw something different. Initially, we were captivated by the beauty of the fresh water spring. An average of 100 million gallons of crystal clear water bubbles up from underground aquifers every day and fills the turquoise-hued pool shown above. At a constant temperature of 72° the water is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and, during the cold winter months, attracting the park’s namesake manatee. Runoff from the spring meanders through hardwood wetlands before emptying in the Suwannee River. A pleasant boardwalk follows the stream for its entire length.

Manatee Springs State Park, FloridaWe were a little disappointed that we didn’t see more manatees. The potential to swim with the giant ‘sea cows’ in the deepwater pool is a major draw. Unfortunately, near drought conditions left water levels too low and above average temperatures gave the manatee other warm water options. So two solid months of perfect weather does have a downside. Our only sighting occurred in the river where they’d occasionally come up to expose their snouts for a deep breath before submerging again. It was a bit like our whale watching tour, only without the seasickness.

On day three we ran into Indiana Jones and his troupe of Canadian biology students who, instead of spending spring break getting drunk and naked, spent it planting trees and antagonizing wild reptiles. I wasn’t sure who to be more afraid of, the snake or this group of guys with obviously impaired judgment. Here they’re seen putting the cart before the horse, which in this case, means picking up a snake, and then consulting a book to identify it.

Snake Eating Squirrel ImageElsewhere, the circle of life was on full display as a different snake worked to consume an unfortunate squirrel. It’s a sad sight, but snakes need to eat too. And I’d no more wish for the snake to die of starvation than I wish for a squirrel to be eaten. But one or the other must happen. Life is hard and life in the wild is particularly so. Harder still was watching another squirrel observe from nearby. We couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking. Was he mourning the loss of a friend? It appeared so, to us.

Yin and Yang. Life and death. Balance is hard.

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4 Comments on “Yin and Yang at Manatee Springs”

  1. Camels & Chocolate March 21, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    You have no idea how long I’ve been dying to go diving with the manatees in Crystal Springs (or anywhere in that area). My parents have a timeshare in Orlando, so every summer when we go, I vow to make it to the springs…but that’s the worst time of year to find any manatees there, as they’re all out in the ocean then, so every year I vow to return in winter during prime manatee season. It’s yet to happen, but soon…

    Funny you mention whale watching: We went just outside of San Francisco (the day after the tsunami actually), and I spent the first three hours straight vomiting (after taking so many Bonine and ginger tablets, too). Not fun at all! Last time I go whale watching, no matter how magnificent it is!


    • Brian March 21, 2011 at 8:19 am #

      That photo you see is the closest we got to manatee all winter. And we’ve been in Florida for four months. We were in several places where they usually go during the winter, but I think this year was warm enough they stayed further out in the ocean or something. Good for them, bad for us.

      We went whale watching in Maine the day after Hurricane Earl blew past Bar Harbor. The trip out to where the whales were was a solid hour at 35 mph over 10-foot swells. We usually don’t get sea sick, but that was a rough trip.


  2. Jordan Campbell October 25, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    Thanks for a brief vision of home. It’s rainy and chilly in Washington and Florida in December sounds heavenly.



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