Greetings from 50 feet under!
This weekend Hubby and I packed up the car and headed about 130 miles northeast to Florida Caverns State Park.
(Yes, folks, there are caves in Florida. Who knew?)
We arrived mid-morning. A ranger told us that we'd be able to join the 12:30 tour, so that left us with some time to explore the hiking trails in the park.
|Floodplain Trail at Florida Caverns State Park|
Properly lubed up with bug-killing juice, Hubby and I hiked the Bluff Trail and Floodplain Trail near the Visitor Center.
|Entrance to the Tunnel Cave|
|Exit (or far-side entrance) of the Tunnel Cave|
|Mid-tunnel view back to Hubby waving at the entrance...|
|Tree roots and slippery mud cover the Floodplain Trail|
The Floodplain trail follows along the edge of limestone bluffs over the Chipola River floodplain. The swampy land is prehistoric-looking and fascinating. The entire hike felt like a 1,000-year step back in time, complete with giant spiders and (what we're pretty sure were) snapping alligators.
|Swamp formed in the floodplain of the Chipola River, for which the trail is named|
|Path to the Visitor Center and entrance to the cave tour|
|Our tour group "oohing" and "ahhing" over the stactites and stalgmites|
|Word hint: Stalactites hang from the ceiling (thing "hang tite" so you don't fall)|
Stalagmites - with a "g" are on the ground
|Narrow passageway between chambers in the cave|
I should note that we were definitely not alone in the cave. The guide explained that there are dozens of creatures that call the limestone caves home. On this tour we saw cave crickets and an Eastern Pipistrelle bat. (I am a bat-lover by nature. Most bats eat mosquitos and other nuisance bugs. Therefore they are my friends.)
|Eastern pipistrelle bat hanging from the cave ceiling|
|Pools of water in the cave|
|Stalactites and stalagmites (tour group in the background for perspective)|
|The final chamber on the cave tour (I'm hiding in this photo - middle right.)|
Coming back out of the caves an hour later, the sunlight stung my eyes, even with sunglasses on. The ranger said that after about a month in pitch-black conditions, human eyes completely cease to function. (Skeptic's note: I heartily doubt that claim. Eye muscles may atrophy, but I suspect total "cave blindness" is a myth.)
The tour took about an hour, and left us with plenty of daylight to keep exploring the park.
In the far northwest corner of Florida Caverns State Park, another 2 miles along the park road, there is a swimming area known as the "Blue Hole."
Having read the park literature before our trip, Hubby and I packed our swimsuits in anticipation of a refreshing cool-down after our hike.
Unfortunately, we discovered that the name "Blue Hole" is somebody's idea of a cruel joke. The water was so brown, so murky that images of alligator attacks flashed in my mind.
I didn't either.
We hiked part of a horse trail until I was bitten by a horse fly. (Those little bastards sting! And they apparently bite straight through DEET. Damnit!)
On the drive home, we realized we'd also be passing Falling Waters State Park. So we stopped to check that park out, too.
I'll tell you all about that next week...
Have you ever been spelunking?
What's the most extreme place you've ever hiked or run?