Forget 'Disney', this is the real Florida
August 2017 - written by Kristin
Alex put the key in the ignition and I held my breath. We planned a fun few days to drive up to Ginnie Springs and Devils Den but Chester (Alex’s converted camper van) hadn’t run in a few months. Thankfully after what seemed like the longest engine crank ever Chester roared! We made our way up I-95 at a speedy 50 mph (good ol’ Chester) listening to Alex’s road trip playlist, uncertain the whole time as this was my first experience of the old van in motion and not just as a place to camp out in.
Just as Google said “You have arrived at your destination.” I cheered “Yay Chester made it I’m so proud!” We parked at the Ginnie Springs welcome center and went in to rent a camping space and some tubes to go down the river. The lady at the desk informed us of which springs were the best and which one to stay away from because of mosquitoes. We hopped back into Chester and I jinxed us. He wouldn’t start. He made it all the way there and said nope that’s far enough. Luckily we found someone to give us a jump and we got the van to the camp spot. Not wanting to waste the day we immediately grabbed the tubes and headed for the river. Us being in Florida and it being the hottest part of summer we couldn’t wait to get into the water! We walked over and it was more beautiful than I imagined. The water was so crystal clear you could see everything below.
Now I knew that this was fresh water coming straight from the ground and I knew it would be cold but not that cold! I thought hey its 90 something degrees out here this will feel great!....lets just say extremely refreshing, if you think refreshing is jumping into an artic glacier. Now Alex is probably like you’re over exaggerating, but I’m just saying it was cold. We kicked our way to the main river and started our lazy float down. There could not have been a more perfect way to relax after a four hour van ride.
After checking out the springs along the river as we drifted down we headed back to camp to set up and make dinner. As we waited for veggies to cook on coals we set up a target and had fun with Alex’s compound bow. We enjoyed our fire cooked meal, cheered some beers, and then called it a night to get up early before anyone headed to the springs.
I was so glad we decided to get up early to go to the springs because no one was there and the sunlight on the water was perfect. We put on our snorkel gear and headed down the wooden steps toward the glass like water. Alex braved the cold better than I did, I took a little convincing before I took the plunge. The spring had a cave opening in the middle you could dive in to. You can see every corner and crook in the water it was so clear. Along the edge all the tree roots stretched below the water making hiding places for all the fish. Schools of curious tiny fish swam around us as we kicked our fins to stay afloat.
We walked over to check out another spring that is popular for scuba divers as there is a cave you can swim down in to. This spring is a little larger than the first one we went to and it was neat to see the divers below. The sun had not yet reached this spring, so after swimming around for a little while we decided to head back to the first one since the sunlight on the water was so beautiful.
Not wanting to leave the dreamlike little alcove we had to ourselves we headed back to camp with the excitement that our adventure was not over yet, and that our next stop was Devil’s Den Prehistoric spring! We cleaned up and magically Chester started up like nothing was ever wrong and we hit the road. An hour and a half drive later we turned into Devil’s Den!
This amazing find dates back 33 million years! Early settlers named the spring Devil’s Den because in the winter steam would rise up through the opening in the ground. We walked along the wooden walkway surrounded by various plants to an overlook where vines pour into a hole in the ground giving you a view of the cave below. The entrance to the cave takes you to a steep wooden staircase that leads to a small platform surrounded by bright blue water in the middle of the cave. Up above the opening brings in streams of sunlight illuminating the center of the cave. Slipping on our fins we dipped into the icy water our skin covering in goose bumps. The only light is in the middle of the cave but you can dive as deep as 54 ft along the dark edges to see some larger fish swimming below.
After enjoying swimming circles around the cave surrounded by stalactites we had to end our road trip adventure and head back home to south Florida. Our first trip together could not have gone better. We could not wait to start planning another!