I took a day off work. It is shocking I know. But every once and awhile you need to unplug. I started taking yearly camping trips with a friend in January of 2021.  The pandemic was starting to take a toll on us.  Luckily, we live in Florida where we had more options than the rest of the country.  The thing about camping in January you can never be sure what the weather will be like. I ended up really enjoying the trip.  We decided to make it an annual thing. Fast forward to 2023’s camping trip.  It was in February. It was horrible.  It poured 80% of the weekend. We got one night of campfire and s’mores.  On top of being wet it was cold. My friend was a million times more positive than me.  One thing I know I cannot be cold and wet. We did see Manatee Springs. That included real manatees. My Mom loves manatees so by default I have a soft sport in my heart for them. I don’t remember ever seeing a Spring prior to this trip.  I am sure my parents have taken us to some in my younger years.  If you don’t get anything out of this please embraced God’s handy work. The world is being taken over by the concrete jungle. It is sad because God has created some truly magical places.  I thought manatee springs was beautiful. Fast forward to current day.  She reached out to me to see if I would be willing to try a summer camping trip to Juniper Springs in Ocala National Forest.  We would do a 7-mile kayaking run. I said “sure lets do it!” I am so glad that I took the opportunity.  We went with Chad from Chadillac Adventures and his girlfriend Kacey. My friend even invited another friend Suzy. There were five us in total which is different than just the two of us.  I am lucky to have met such wonderful people.

We traveled to the park the night before we did our run.  I am so thankful we did.  It gave us time to do some hiking.  There were multiple springs for us to check out. That included a few smaller ones in a river. Then there was a huge spring that allowed for us to swim. The spring was quite the ordeal. Once we arrived and set up camp it was thundering. Which means there was lightening somewhere near us. The spring was closed for all but 30 minutes of our first night. At that point I was pretty tired and didn’t feel like changing. It is Florida in the summer.  We were under a heat advisory. I just got in to my thighs. Let me tell you spring water is COLD. Any body of water near me during the summer is 85 degrees or higher. Since it was a live spring there were minnows. It was like going to the fancy foot spas that have fish that clean your feet. The other thing is I don’t do fish. It creeps me out. I did it anyways. One thing I started doing this year is jumping into cold water. It helps your muscles significantly. Free tip! If you have inflammation submersing yourself in cold water helps. The next morning, we packed up camp and decided to head to the Spring while Chad and Jen drove a vehicle to the end of the run. I am so glad that I did.  After cooling off in the spring riding in the kayak was not as hot. I am so glad I took a leap. 

Chad absolutely loves the Juniper Springs run. He warned us that people either love or hate it.  Well, I am here to say I might be the first to have an “in the middle” opinion about this run. I have my own SUP, I know what it is like to paddle.  This was a first in a kayak.  I wouldn’t recommend anyone using a paddleboard for this run. I am so glad I was in a kayak. It gave my back a break. It was not an easy run. There were so many twists and turns. They were hairpin turns in there as well as tons of trees.  The whole run is going with the current. Even though that makes it’s easier to paddle it makes it way harder to direct the kayak. Again, it was not an easy run. I couldn’t even count number of times I ran into the banks full of tree. It was worth every time. The water was so clear. I didn’t even know there were whole rivers that run that clear. We were able to spot so really cool wildlife. There were deer, catfish, snook, minnows, alligators, and some even saw an otter. It took us about four hours to complete.  If you have experience kayaking you would be able to do it somewhat faster. If I were to do the run around again, I would start earlier in the day. That way I could really just enjoy the ride and not have to feel like we needed to get back. I highly recommend taking a couple days off.  Get outside in nature. Turn off the electronics and enjoy what God created. The world can be absolutely beautiful. 


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