Friday, August 31

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

First, the topic on every newscaster's lips this week: Hurricane Isaac

Pensacola was spared the worst of the storm. We had coastal flooding, some downed trees, and my home had a couple of power surges but no real loss of electricity. Read: lucky. Not everyone was so lucky, but that shouldn't stop us from poking fun at the Jim Cantore-esque media blitz.

Some of the thigh-slappingly funniest things I read this week:

What it's really like to prepare for a hurricane on the Gulf Coast. (If you think this is a joke. It's not.)

Did you notice? Newscasters like to call Louisiana "New Orleans" and often do not mention Mississippi at all. "That Land Mass Between NOLA and Mobile" decided to fight back to get Mississippi the attention it deserves.

I also got a good laugh out of what to wear to a hurricane (pants optional). Apparently AB Chao's fashion and booze-soaked hurricane posts set off a Twitter fight over what was and was not appropriate storm-related blog material.

My take on this: if we're IN the path of the storm, we get to poke fun at it.
As I said earlier this week, you can either laugh. Or cry.
Laughing > crying.
End of argument.

Drink up!

Two thirds of Americans drink alcohol on a regular basis, they prefer beer over wine or hard liquor, and the average drinker has 4.2 drinks per week according to a new poll.

The only other question the Gallup alcohol consumption survey didn't answer was "How can I sign up to field test your data?"

When I'm 102...

The world's oldest marathoner is also the world's oldest traveler, according to this week's news from Runner's World. My new life goal: to live to be 102 so I can beat his record.

(Maybe if I ask nicely he'll give me pointers on how to keep traveling and running into 3-digit age bracket? Imagine the AG award potential!)

Mapping our world

Did you know you can (virtually) walk through the White House or the Metropolitan Museum of Art using Street View?

Google maps is one of my favorite tool for travel. I street-view places before I arrive so I have a sense of the running route options. Are the city streets bustling with life or eerily empty? Are there sidewalks or will I be running in the gutter?

But I'll admit that I really hadn't thought about the incredible effort that goes into developing and maintaining those maps until I read an article that details the data and effort required to keep Google Maps up to date.

Quote of the week:
"A New Orleans credo: When life gives you lemons--make daiquiris."
Chris Rose, Times Picayune writer and author

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, August 30

Thursday thanks

Is it too cliche to say I'm thankful that all I got from Hurricane Isaac is a collection of minor coastal flooding photos?
Fishermen sitting on a flooded pier in Pensacola after hurricane Isaac

Pensacola headlines the morning after
Best wishes to all those in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama who are still dealing with icky Isaac.

PS - I installed a new comment system. Please send me an email  - coffeeb123 (at) yahoo (dot) com or message me via Facebook or Twitter if you have any trouble commenting in Disqus!

Wednesday, August 29

Junk(ie) miles

Three weeks of being sidelined by plantar fasciitis.

By now I thought I'd be crawling the walls because I haven't been running. I assumed I'd be bitter without my daily dose of endorphins/endocannabinoids. In fact, I worried I'd be a little like a junkie going through the DTs.

But lack-of-running-anxiety has not set in.
The shakes haven't started.
I'm not homicidal.
At least not yet.

So how have I stayed sane?

I filled my morning "running time" with other productive pursuits: prepping my class materials for the first day of school, submitting a journal article I've been working on for months, baking multi-grain pumpkin muffins, tying down the lawn furniture and then consuming frosty rum drinks.

But I still need my daily workout fix, so I've found other activities: swimming, yoga class, and a slightly modified "Ripped in 30" wherein I sub low-impact cardio for all of the jumping and plyometrics. (If I'm going to hurt my foot more, it will be on the track, not for a DVD, thankyouverymuch.)

So far, this plan seems to be working!

Ok. Ok...
I'll admit it.
I ran 4 miles on Sunday.
And I've taken a couple of long walks, which are supposedly no better than running when it comes to healing from PF. But one run in 20 days is a low I haven't seen in years. That counts as "not running."

Yes, I know I sound like a smoker who substitutes a straw for a cigarette and who chews nicotine gum for a fix... I know I sound like a drinker who says "I haven't had a drink in weeks! Except for one with dinner yesterday. But that doesn't count."

We all have our addictions.

And while the placebos are working for now...
I cannot wait for my next fix.

What is the longest you've gone without running?
How do you avoid withdrawal symptoms when you're sidelined from an activity you love?

Tuesday, August 28

Caption this photo

Gulf Coast weather is downright gorgeous in the days leading up to a storm.

One of the things I've learned from two years of living here is that people take storms seriously and not seriously - all at the same time. Sometimes in the same sentence.

I'm not sure I can explain it well, but maybe this comparison will help: In my neighborhood about 10 percent of the homes are boarded up. Today that seems like overkill, but on Saturday it sounded like a good idea. My neighbors, on the other hand, hung delicate new wind chimes over the weekend. That just seems downright silly. If those chimes don't get blown away, we'll all wish they did after hour-upon-hour of clanging. *sigh*

The other thing I've learned is that no amount of t.v. watching or worrying is going change what's going to happen. Three days out the weather forecasters are saying a category 2 storm is headed right up your street. The day before landfall predictions are for a category 1 storm, 200 miles to your west.

So you might as well sit back, relax, and pour yourself a rum drink (after you check your supplies of batteries, food, and water, of course).
Now... how would you caption this picture?

My favorite ideas so far are:
  • Can you see the hurricane?
  • I don't even like hurricanes!
  • Have you heard the news? There's a hurricane on Pensacola Beach!
I suppose I shouldn't joke about these things. Even if Isaac isn't as strong as early projections predicted, any storm is serious. But it's better to laugh than to cry.

Stay safe Gulf Coast friends!

I'll be back to writing about running and fitness later this week...


Monday, August 27

Morning motivation

The Nike "thunder thighs" campaign is one of my all-time favorites for a reason.

It sums up my body image philosophy in a neat little nutshell: I'd rather have legs that can run a marathon than thighs that fit in skinny jeans... I'm damned proud of those muscles! I've worked hard for them! (Even if they do make clothes shopping a bitch.)

What's your favorite advertisement?
And what's your LEASE favorite ad?

Sunday, August 26

Calm before the storm

Yesterday was an absolutely perfect day at Pensacola Beach.

Today I'm tying down the garden furniture and packing a go-bag. (You know... just in case. This living right-on-the water thing has an occasional disadvantage.)

Tomorrow the winds will pick up.

And Tuesday night with Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac will be an adventure.

But for now... in the calm before the storm... I'm going to go out and soak up as much sun as I can.

(PS - I did go run this morning, despite nagging PF. And it was glorious.)

It's my party and I'll hike if I want to

As an August baby, this month I'm one year closer to a new age group!
(This should go in the "you know you're a runner if..." files. Only people who race look forward to the -0s and -5s birthdays.)

While other people might want to unwrap piles of presents, my favorite way to spend a birthday is to do something active. A few cases in point...

My 30th birthday was a bowling party.
Photo of women bowling circa 1950. No I am not old enough to be in this photo
Image source

Last year I was working on a 21-day yoga challenge.

This year Hubby and I went spelunking.

My parents, who refuse to get on the no-gift bandwagon, usually send me a new pair of running shoes, which makes us all happy.

I've gotten a few raised eyebrows over the years when people ask "What did you get for your birthday?" and my answer is "Nothing. We went out to _insert field trip here_ and it was awesome!" Not everyone understands, but it's my birthday and I'll hike if I want to.

First of all, there's plenty of evidence that exercise slows the aging process.

Second, as I get older, I can blame aches and pains on running rather than blaming them on "old age."

Third, every year older is one year closer to a new racing age group - which means I'll be the youngest all over again (at least for that year).

And last, but certainly not least, there's something to be said for staying young at heart and going out to play for your birthday.

What birthday traditions do you have?

Friday, August 24

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck! This week's themes: amazing feats of human strength and amazing examples of nature's strength (and a few jokes for good measure).

Like an after-school special, but better

Remember every teen movie and how the jocks are always jerks? Thank goodness real life doesn't conform to stereotypes. At Osseo High School in Osseo, MN the football team captain started a campaign to end bullying. (Don't we all wish every high school was this cool?)

Effing jellyfish ruin everything

Image source
Diana Nyad had to end her third attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida after being stung repeatedly by tiny box jellyfish. (We already know jellyfish are my nemesis. I think we should do like the Chinese do and eat more of the stinging little bastards.)

Frozen assets

A 70-year old climber took a nasty spill in the Alps that left him stranded on a ledge of ice. He survived for nearly a week by drinking melted ice and rationing a chocolate bar. Eventually other hikers heard his cries for help and arranged for a rescue.

The power of nature

Trail runners take note: new video from REI shows what a flash flood looks like. If there are flood warnings or you see (or hear) signs of a flood - get yourself to higher ground!

New fashion fad? Face kini!

While I fully support Chinese culture when it comes to jellyfish-eating (see note above), I'm not sure I'm ready to make the leap to "face kini" a full-face covering that protects the wearer from getting a tan. Unlike in the U.S. where a tan means health and wealth, tan skin in China (and in many other cultures) is associated with being a poor, peasant farm worker.
Image source
But whatever you think of the face kini, I think we all can admit that it's a healthier practice than the Florida mom who was arrested for taking her kindergarden-age daughter to the tanning salon.

Routine shakeup

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Fantastic running "facts"

The Pavement Runner made up a bunch of funny (fake) running facts. Feel free to suggest your own.

Quote of the week:
"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth."
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, August 23

Thursday thanks

Life has been good this week.

My day job is in the glorious August lull during which I can actually get work done instead of being on conference calls about all the work that needs to get done...

Between conferences, work, and family visits, I have quite a lot of autumn travel coming up... balancing this travel schedule with my teaching schedule will keep me on my toes. (But in a good way. I live for the weeks that keep me on the move.)

The weather has finally, mercifully started cooling off here in Florida. Yes, this happened just as I had to take a break from running, but...

My PF-ing foot had no aches or pains this morning. All of the wonderful suggestions I received seem to be working. I'm going to hold off on running again until the weekend. (This 2-week break will be my longest in years, but I'd rather wait a few more days than rush back into running and have to take another couple of weeks off.)

That said... I am going to go for a long walk this morning to test out my foot and to enjoy the weather. If I make it through the walk pain-free, I'll be working a 6-miler into my weekend. If not, it will be back to the pool for me!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, August 22

Lane lines

Eight months ago I joined Kim's New 2 U Cross Training Challenge with the goal of getting out of my comfort zone.

During the first few months of the challenge I struggled at month-end to find something (anything!) to do easily that would count toward the challenge. (Yes, I know how silly that sounds.) But over time the challenge became... well... less of a challenge and more of a mindset.

This month I've already gone spelunking (a lifetime first!) and tried another new high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. But the crowning jewel in this month's fitness adventure list is a sparkling blue one.

With lane lines.
Image source
As I mentioned last month, I kept telling myself that I'd "get back in the water." I once was a triathlete. I once was a lap-swimmer. But the distance between now and "once" was growing wider and wider.

In July I finally dusted off my snorkel and went to the beach.

But I was still avoiding the municipal pool.

The reasons for my avoidance are varied (and completely ridiculous). Municipal pools can be crowded. They can be dirty (rare, but true). Mainly I was just unsure what the "swimming culture" would be at the public pool. The looming unknown was keeping me firmly planted on my stationary bike at home. After all, my living room is pretty comfortable and an interval workout on the stationary bike isn't exactly slouching.

But I missed swimming.

I missed the cool water.

I missed the rhythm of strokes and kicks and breathing.

I missed staring at a lane line in a field of blue.

I missed the feeling of grabbing the water and pulling myself forward.

I missed it...

... until Sunday.

I paid my $4.

I grabbed an open lane.

And I swam - freestyle and backstroke and breastroke - until my arms ached.

When I got home I checked my workout records and realized that the last time I swam... really swam... was more than two years ago. July 2010. (Gah! How did I let that much time pass?)

But once I was in the water, it felt as natural as if my last swim was last week.

Have you ever let a favorite hobby fall by the wayside?
What cross training would you recommend I try next month?

Here's the complete list of other CTC triumphs:

Tuesday, August 21

Postcards from Falling Waters State Park

About two weeks ago Hubby and I went spelunking at Florida Caverns State Park. On the drive home we realized we'd be passing Falling Waters State Park, and with plenty of daylight left it would be a shame to skip the opportunity for a state park 2-fer.

So here's the photo journey through Falling Waters State Park:
Falling Waters State Park
The park includes a series of elevated boardwalks over the limestone sinkholes. The walkways allow hikers to get close to the pits without falling in.
Placard explaining why you can't just hike through this forest...
The photo angles don't do justice to the size of the sinkholes. They could easily swallow a car and many are a hundred feet deep or more.
Sinkhole (one of many)

Another sinkhole and placard explaining the Karst formation
It was nearly impossible to get a photo that showed the depth of Florida's highest waterfall. The falls start at ground-level, and cascade down 100 feet into a limestone tunnel. A set of stairs with decks allow visitors to get about halfway down the falls.
The top of the waterfall
If you ever needed any perspective about how very flat Florida is, consider that the state's tallest waterfall doesn't cascade off of the side of a mountain or even a steep hill... it tumbles into a cave.
Waterfall information

On a deck about halfway down the waterfall
The park also has a short series of nature trails and a pretty-looking swimming area. (Note: Even though the swimming area was much nicer-looking than the "Blue Hole" at Florida Caverns, Hubby and I still didn't go for a swim. By the time we arrived, thunder clouds were moving in.)
Trail between the waterfall and the lake

Lake at Falling Waters State Park

Lake and swimming area (far side of lake)

Near the trailhead parking area there is a butterfly garden...
American Beautyberry
In the spirit of full disclosure, we spent as much time chasing butterflies as we did hiking in this park.

What's your favorite state park or wilderness area?

Sunday, August 19

Weekend reading

With no runs on the schedule, I've done more reading this weekend than usual (which is saying something given that I devour about a book a week).

In an attempt to "do the right thing" in treating my plantar fasciitis, I swapped this morning's planned 12 mile run for almost 2 hours on the stationary bike.

(Have we talked about how boring it is to spend 2 hours on a stationary bike? No? Well. It's boring. By the time I was done, doing laundry sounded like an exciting change of pace.)

Fortunately I had a stack of good books in easy reach. The one (only?) benefit of equipment-based workouts over being outdoors is that I can catch up on my reading. Balancing a book while running would elicit funny looks from my neighbors. Plus, I'm not coordinated enough to pull off reading-and-running. I'd trip and break something.

But I'd have to be awfully drunk to fall off a stationary bike. Even while reading a book.*

So here's what I've been working on while pedaling away this weekend:

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time is my book club's next book. I am not sure I would have picked this up otherwise, but I'm halfway through and so far I really enjoy both the science and the storytelling.

I just finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity. This was definitely not a beach-reading book. The issues are complex, and the book is beautifully and compellingly written, even when it chronicles tragedy and loss. Fortunately my stationary bike is in my living room, so no one but Peanut notices when I make shocked faces/noises about my reading or my eyes well up with tears... If I were in a gym I'd just pretend it was sweat.

Also, last month author Liana Chin contacted me to let me know that her book Mom's First 5k would be available (for a limited time) on Amazon for free. I downloaded a copy, and finally started reading it this weekend. While I'm no longer in the beginner ranks, I recall some of the struggles Chin talks about. (I will post a full and detailed review once I finish.)

And last, but not least, I thought I knew most of the craziest Olympic history stories. But there are a few I missed...

*PS - Hardcore HIIT devotees will probably roll their eyes at my reading-while-working-out. I figure weekends are for long slow distance (running) so that translates to long slow (boring) biking for me right now. A variety of paces, distances, and intensities is key to a well-rounded training program.

Do you ever read while you work out?
What type of reader are you: one-at-a-time or multiple books going at once?
Any reading recommendations to share?

Saturday, August 18

Can do

This morning was the first Saturday morning in months that did not involve a crack-of-dawn alarm clock. The reason: no morning run on the schedule thanks to a bout of plantar fasciitis.

It's been six days of no running. By all accounts I should be going bonkers.

But here's the thing...
I stumbled across this quote and it has become my recovery mantra:
"When you catch yourself slipping into a pool of negativity, notice how it derives from nothing other than resistance to the current situation."
Donna Quesada, The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
I'm trying not to fight the situation.

  • I can't run, but I can catch up on my reading goals for the year.
  • I can't run, but I can spend an hour on my stationary bike in the cool sanctuary of my air conditioned living room.
  • I can't run, but I can spend a morning preparing class materials for the start of fall semester.
  • I can't run, but I can fill the refrigerator with fresh produce and make delicious meals like whole wheat pasta with broccoli rabe and spicy chicken sausage.
  • I can't run, but I can sleep in one day for a change.
  • I can't run, but I can go to yoga class for the first time since May.

There is only one "can't" but there are a whole lot of "can-dos."

(PS - Dear readers, please remind me of this mantra if I still can't run 3 weeks from now and the effects of good these intentions wear off...)

What can you do this weekend that makes you happy?

Friday, August 17

Weekly roundup: Friday potluck

Welcome to another installment of the weekly roundup we all know and love: Friday potluck!

Putting in their 2 cents

Owners of Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles are offering a cell phone discount... Customers get 5% off of their bill if they hand their handheld over to the host for the duration of their meal.

Would you ditch your device to save some dough?

New meaning of "Performance Enhancer?"

Last week CNN ran a story summarizing how sex may be beneficial for athletic performance, thus thoroughly debunking the myth that sex weakens an athlete before a big race or game.

To this new evidence that sex has no deleterious effect on performance, I say: Score one for science!
(Pun absolutely intended.)

Grammar matters...

Can I have a word with you?

Venerated dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster is adding new words to their Collegiate Dictionary. Additions include:
  • bucket list
  • energy drink
  • f-bomb
  • gastropub
  • man cave
  • sexting
...and being underwater (no longer only means getting wet).

A weighty issue...

While Body Mass Index (BMI) is not a perfect measure of obesity or health, new stats from the CDC are shocking: more than 1 in 4 American adults is obese.

Two clever ways to combat obesity: introduce more standing desks (into the classroom, workplace, and home office) and replace junk food in vending machines with healthy alternatives (like mixed nuts and dried fruit).

I know I shouldn't laugh, but...

And last, but not least...

Kyria at Travel Spot adds to the "you might be a runner if" humor with a compilation of (ultra)runner jokes.

Quote of the week:
"Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it I wash my mouth out with chocolate."
Charles M. Schulz

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, August 16

Thursday thanks

This week I'm thankful for the online community...

Bell Telephone switchboard circa WWII
Image source
I truly appreciate all of the advice and encouragement on yesterday's injury post. The support of the blogging community never ceases to amaze me.

I also appreciate a random tweet from a total stranger. This tweeter liked an article I wrote for That 47 character note plus re-tweets tripled my daily article traffic. Given that Examiner's earnings (like so many other web-writing-gigs) are largely traffic-based, the bump was a pleasant surprise.

I also just cracked open a book on the history Family, Sex and Marriage in England* that was recommended to me by a friend of my friend, through a chain of "please send me your best reading recommendations on this topic" emails. Forty pages into the book, I can already see why this text comes so highly recommended, yet it turned up in none of my earlier searches.(*The book is material for this fall's Sociology course...)

Love. The. Power. Of. Networks.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, August 15

PF strikes again

I've been avoiding admitting this out loud, but the poking pain in my right foot refuses to be silenced any longer.

It looks like I am the latest victim of the evil PF monster.

This is new to me.

Years ago I had IT band issues, and figured out how to beat those. Last summer I strained my calf in a jellyfish sting incident, and I rested and iced my way to recovery. I've had more than my fair share of blisters, and I've lost toenails. But plantar fasciitis has never been in my personal injury vocabulary... until now.

At this point it's not debilitating, just annoying. But I'm starting to notice aches in my hip and calf, which are telltale signs that my sore foot is mucking up my stride.

Podiatry Today notes that:
"Treating plantar fasciitis is challenging for any patient but it is much more difficult in the running population due mainly to the runner not wanting to take any time off from running."
Go figure.

But, I'd rather nip this in the bud before it gets worse, so...

... as much as it pains me to type these words: I'm going to cut back on running for the next couple of weeks, ice my instep, and massage the sore spot with a tennis ball.
Meet Tennie, my new training partner

Any other recommendations would be warmly welcomed!

(In the meantime, I guess it's a good thing I've got the New 2 U Cross Training Challenge to keep me distracted.)

Have you ever dealt with plantar fasciitis or similar injury?
What are your recovery secrets?

Tuesday, August 14

Postcards from deep underground

Hello friends!
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
We covered ourselves liberally in DEET. (After 2 years in Florida, my beliefs about eco-friendly insect repellent have gone the way of the tyrannosaurus.)

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
The Floodplain Trail leads hikers right through a tunnel cave. The tunnel seemed pretty innocuous - you could see the light at the end (no proverb/pun intended).

Exit (or far-side entrance) of the Tunnel Cave
But mid-tunnel was dark enough that the muddy puddle I stepped into came as a complete surprise. (Glad I was wearing my shiggy shoes!)

Mid-tunnel view back to Hubby waving at the entrance...
Back outside the cave, the trails were slippery, tree-root-riddled, ankle-twisters. Hiking required constant attention to the trail underfoot. The Bluff and Floodplain trails are definitely not trail-running trails.
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
After our brief hike, we headed back to the Visitor Center to wait for our tour guide. Then we descended into the deep, dark underground.

Path to the Visitor Center and entrance to the cave tour
(Seriously, the tour guide turned off the lights for a moment while we were down there and it was - quite literally - pitch black. Not a bit of light seeps in through the solid limestone walls of the cave.)

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
The caves are still actively forming new features, with water dripping from the stalactites and pooling on the floor. The pace of change is glacial, but the touch of a single human fingertip can deposit oils on the stone fomations that will stop their growth forever.

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.
The pond, formed by a natural spring, is great for wildlife watching. We spotted turtles, birds, fish, and dragonflies... But you'll notice (photo above) that despite the equipment, no one is swimming in the water.

I didn't either.
The river that runs out from the Blue Hole is picturesque, and wide, flat multi-use (horse/bike/hike) trails fan out from this location.

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!)
So, having accomplished far more than we originally planned, we decided to call it a day. (Read: I wasn't sticking around to become fodder for more horseflies.) I would, however, strongly recommend a winter trip to Florida Caverns to run the multi-use trails.

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?