Well well well. Two whole months have passed since we've returned from West Coast Tourrible. And what a two months they've been. I've spent the past 60 days packing my house, moving my house one small truckload at a time, remodeling Travis' house, reapplying to grad school, working part time for a farmers market, and feeling generally crazy. But it's pretty much finished. The house is not only liveable, it's cute.
Also, I find out VERY SOON whether I get into the new grad program I applied to. I visited with seven professors, wrote a killer Statement of Purpose, and I meet the minimum academic requirements. So Family, Youth and Community Sciences, don't let me down!
So after all the work and stress and general awfulness of moving, I was super ready for a trip away to the river. We borrowed a canoe from Travis' friend and took off for Ocala to visit Silver River.
Silver Springs is another remnant of Florida's pre-Disney heyday. Before the Mouse moved in, Florida was covered with tourist resorts like Weeki Wachee, Wakulla Springs, and Rainbow Springs, which promised health restoring spring waters, natural beauty and exploration of the wildest state on the East coast. But Silver Springs was the first Florida tourist site, enticing visitors even before the Civil War and featuring its glass bottom boats as its main attraction. Throughout the years they added to it, building a reptile center, an amusement park, a water park and even invited a Seminole village to settle on the property.
All that's left of that hullabaloo is the glass bottom boat tours and a water park, and the water park was closed since we visited after Labor Day. Thankfully, we were left with a quiet day on the river.
This is the part where I get to thumb my nose at all my friends who have moved away to the frigid northern reaches of our country. It's November, ya'll, and this is where I live.
Another thing about where I live is we have our own whole category in the Weird News section, so actually it wasn't really that surprising when we came upon a troop of feral monkeys who were making a lot of noise jumping from tree to tree doing their monkey thing. Back in the 1930s a tour boat operator released them into the wild to add a little extra something to his Jungle Tour, and for the past 75 years they've settled down to form their own little Florida branch of the Rhesus monkey family. No big deal.
For whatever reason the State Park has banned swimming on the river because of alligators, which doesn't make sense to me because pretty much EVERY RIVER in Florida has alligators. We only saw a few on this trip and they weren't even very big, just like five feet long. It was clear and sunny and the water felt warmer than the usual 72 degrees, and really, when's the last time alligators has stopped us from swimming? Um never.
The water still looks beautiful and clear, but of course Silver River faces the same issues the rest of Florida's rivers are plagued with: overuse and pollution. Now that the head spring and river have been taken over by the state, more visitors than ever come to the park, eroding riverbanks and trampling rivergrass. Septic tanks and agricultural runoff bump up the nitrogen levels, encouraging algae growth which chokes out native plant life.
HOWEVER, I do have some good news to report, the one glimmer of hope I'm clutching onto on this day after the 2014 gubernatorial and midterm elections: Floridians passed the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, which will put one third the revenue collected from real estate fees toward conservation practices.
We may have re-elected a dead-eyed reptilian as governor, but at least the political climate here seems to be in favor of protecting the the backbone of our local economy: our natural places.