Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Juniper Springs and the National Forest

You shouldn't be surprised that I would make sure and visit any National Forest if I am near one.  In Florida, this is the Ocala National Forest.  Owning the title of the Southernmost forest,  Ocala is 673 square miles of protected sand pine scrub, includes three first-magnitude springs, over 600 hundred  lakes and ponds, hiking trails, camping, and recreation areas.  The springs allow visitors to swim, snorkel, and scuba year round.

For this adventure, I chose to visit Juniper Springs Recreation Area which is one of the oldest springs located on the East Coast.  As I made my way into the park, I stopped at the pay station to discuss hiking and swimming.  It's a $5 fee to enter but well worth the price.  The lady seemed surprised I was spending the day alone, when will people not be surprised by solo travelers? I gave her a big smile, hopped back in the car and made my way to start exploring!

It was late morning but already getting pretty warm, so I decided to take a dip in the springs.  Ice cold water, but crystal clear, and surrounded by some of the most beautiful Florida nature I have ever seen.  I quickly made friends with a girl named Becca. She was about 14 years old and was there for swimming lessons.  Ok Kansas, Florida gets a point for that!  We briefly discussed where we were from and then she said, "Do you want me to take your picture?" A girl after my own heart.

After cooling off, I decided to venture on to the Juniper Springs Nature Trail, an easy hike along the well-known boardwalk that would take me through the dense canopy of palms and oaks, ending at Fern Hammock Springs.  I made a quick stop at the Juniper Millhouse for a bit of history, learning this was built in the early 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Along the way were hundreds of bubbling springs, both small and large, gushing out of crevices of the earth and known as Sandy Boils. It was an oasis in the middle of the desert like Big Scrub.

At Fern Hammock Springs and located under the footbridge that crosses here, is the largest sand-filled boil.  The bottom of the pool is filled with sand and aquatic grasses and the water has the most gorgeous blue-green color. This pool is kept in a more natural state surrounded by pine, palm, and hardwoods.  Swimming is not allowed here to protect the sand boils and natural character.  I did notice several turtles basking in the sun and a few fish swimming around. Alligators are often seen in the springs and in the surrounding areas.  Basically in Florida, if there is water, there are gators.  I will tell about my experience with a few of them in my next blog post, so be sure to follow along!

Before I left the park, I stopped one last time to take a dip in Juniper Springs.  Even though it was the coldest water I have ever felt, for some reason, it didn't bother me.  The beauty of the Springs was almost unreal.  As I drove away from the recreation area, I decided to leave the Forest heading out the opposite direction I came in.  I was on a mission to find a Ranger Station for more information.  I stopped at the Lake George Ranger Station and loaded up on maps and different areas of the forest to explore.  Camping here has now been added to my list!  Until next time Ocala, thank you for an amazing day!











Later Gator 🐊
Shona

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Friday, July 13, 2018

I Gotta Go Where It's Warm 🌴

If you read my last blog post, you now know I am full of fish tacos and rum so it was time to hit up another beach to spend the afternoon soaking up the sun.  Jensen beach delivered just what I needed as I laid out my beach towel, loaded up on sunscreen, and took in the salty ocean air.  The breeze felt amazing so even though it was 90+ degrees, it didn't feel that warm and besides, you have an endless supply of salt water to cool off in.  The boats in the distance I imagined were Pirate Ships, and even though they weren't, they offered a great view. So, I'd say the Atlantic is being good to me! And yes, I changed outfits...I mean, swimsuits.

Today was the first day I experienced Jensen Beach.  The sand is soft and it offers plenty of room for those wanting to spend the day there.  The water was cooler than Bathtub Reef but refreshing, clear, and a great place to paddle board, swim, or just float.  The waves here are bit more intense but once you get past the undercurrent, it's smooth sailing.  However, they do recommend you have some sort of flotation device if you are going to venture out too far...I'd say that's not a bad idea for safety reasons.  It's a great place to visit, so pack up a cooler and an umbrella, turn on some Jimmy Buffett, and bring a mermaid attitude.

Jensen Beach is also known as Jensen Sea Turtle Beach because of three different species of sea turtles that will nest here. Designated areas are marked off to protect the species nests, so remember that as you visit.  Jensen Beach is also part of the Treasure Coast because of the many shipwrecks in the 17th century caused by shallow waters and coral reefs. It is said that treasures are still being found even today.  Anyone up for a gold hunt?









Seas the Day
Shona

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Bathtub Reef and Cocktails by the Sea

An early flight from KC had me landing in Orlando at 9 a.m. My Mom picked me up right on time and we were off to the beach!  A short drive to the A1A and we made our way to Bathtub Reef, a beach located in Stuart.  The reef system if located just off shore and is home to more than 500 different species of marine life, including endangered sea turtles. The reef is created by tiny sea worms and is not only unique but also very fragile. The worms cement sand grains together and as they build on top of one another and over time, this creates a reef system that breaks up the waves, giving it the "bathtub" effect. The reef also serves to aid in beach erosion caused by waves.  This bathtub effect is one of the amazing features of these protected waters.

The water here is very clear and the temperature was actually warmer than I expected it to be.  There were many people snorkeling around the reef to get a closer view of the marine life below.  And if you are into seashells, the beach is filled with many sizes, shapes, and colors. It's a beautiful beach that is great for swimming; it is less crowded, more relaxed, and offers picturesque views.  I could stay here for days.

After leaving the reef, we headed to grab lunch making sure we could be on a patio with a waterfront view.  Our search led us to Conchy Joe's, located on the Indian River near Jensen Beach.  Dozens of Seagulls lined the dock, a lonely pelican perched high waiting to swoop down for fish food, and the breeze off the ocean was perfect.  The cocktail menu was full of fruity drinks; island style. I opted for the Voodoo Hooch which is filled with Cruzen, Pineapple, and Mango Rum, Orange and Pineapple juices and topped with a pineapple wedge and did I mention was...super delicious.  Fish tacos with mango marinated plantains was the perfect light lunch for a sunny day!

Next Up, Jensen Beach!!










Time flies when you're having Rum 🌴
Shona

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

13.2...Minus The Bumper Sticker

You guys! I recently just finished my 4th half-marathon in Colorado and I am super excited to share this story with you!  Last year I had knee and hip issues...let's face it, I am in my 30's...ok, closer to hitting 40, but I was on a mission to continue running this race.  The Slacker Half Marathon has a special place in my heart.  It was my FIRST ever half marathon and it's in the beautiful state of Colorado.

I have been preparing for this race with physical therapy since November 2017.  Strengthening areas around my knees so that maybe when I ran this year, I wouldn't feel like I was going to die at the end! I began running only about 6 weeks prior to the race.  I started with an easy 4 miles and there was zero pain.  I think the PT paid off!  Plus, I was on a mission to better my time.  Last year was the worst time I have ever had, so I knew I had to kick it in to get my PR.

Race day!  It was a cool 39 degrees which for me is actually the perfect temperature.  The skies were clear, the sun was shining, and I just had a feeling this year was going to be the bomb.  I started in the first heat as always and my Colorado bestie was right beside me cheering me on the starting line.  I wish I could explain the view this race gives you; the Rocky Mountains, waterfalls, crystal clear streams, towering pine trees, and blue skies.  I don't think I will ever run a half marathon anywhere else...for me, it's about running in nature and taking in the fresh Colorado air.  Speaking of air, people always ask if that altitude bothers me, it doesn't. I don't know why, but let's face it, that is one less thing that I have to worry about.

Almost 6 miles in and I was making record time.  But also at 6 miles hits what I call the "hill from hell" and I always struggle with it.  Once I get past that, I am golden!  At mile 9, they are offering gummy bears and I may or may not have taken 2 cups of them...but this is when I just know I am almost to the end! Four miles to go and my adrenaline kicks into high gear. At this point it's about 60 degrees but feels much hotter as the sun is shining down on you.

As I rounded the last corner of the race sporting my KC shirt from Made Urban Apparel, I was jamming to Tech N9ne, and knew I was going to beat my goal time.
Time 2:27:37. I placed 656the overall, 71st in my age category, and 378th in my gender position.  I'll take it!!

Now, where's the beer? It's at Guanella Pass Brewery, that's where.  After the race, Alec and I headed to grab some local brews in Georgtown, which is where the race ends.  Opening at 11, we were first to get in and grabbed a seat on the patio.  Joined by Parker the Snow Dog, a one-year old Bernese mountain dog that I have been following on IG and who is a frequent guest at the brewery, even has a beer named after him.  Parker and his owner Dustin are well known in the Georgetown are so it was cool to meet them.  He has been named the Breweries Ski Dog, is the Loveland Ski Area Mascot and is frequently seen with the Broncos. Not to brag, but I was the first person from KC to have their pic with Parker, just throwin' that out there!  The brewery owner stopped by to say hi and everyone there was super friendly and helpful.  Parker even took the time to pose for a few photos, shades and all.

Take the time to explore the gorgeous little mountain town of Georgetown.  Be sure to stop into Guanella Pass Brewery; I recommend the Raspberry Blond, Season Pass Pale Ale, the Kataka Mountain IPA, and the Bernese Mountain Brown Ale. It's Parker approved!











Cheers to running and cheers to beer!
Shona

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