By Thomas Waters
Peace and tranquility, while communing with nature, good friends, and family is generally seen as a rare luxury. However, it does not have to be.
Florida living provides residents with an abundance of historic, athletic, ecological, recreational, spiritual, and plain fun activities that are inexpensive and close to home. Most activities can be enjoyed as day trips and can be more exciting than a typical day at the beach and many of these venues are closer than one would think.
A little more than a one hour drive from Jacksonville, just a few miles west of Lake City and Gainesville, is a little gem of a town named High Springs. Amidst old Florida charm within a downtown district containing restored historic buildings, High Springs boasts trendy new gourmet restaurants, surrounded by antique shops and other eclectic curiosities. On the outskirts of town, are numerous areas of pristine natural areas and prehistoric geological and ecological relics.
Last weekend was one of the best days to get out and enjoy the extremely nice weather.
Joined by friends, I recently remade the trek to introduce a small group of friends to canoeing. For most, they had never been in a canoe or even knew how to swim. Fortunately since the average depth along the river is only 3 to 4 feet, few were scared off from the adventure.
Reservations were made at one of the many area river outfitters. They accept online reservations, provide all of the necessary gear, and even provide shuttle service to transport you back to the outpost at the end of the trip. It is necessary to undergo a safety orientation, review maps, pay a minor fee, and you are off on a uniquely relaxing adventure of a myriad of water sports including canoeing, kayaking, tubing, snorkeling, caving, fishing, wading, etc. There are also many different types of excursions to select, including a monthly Full Moon Tour.
Our entourage included a variety of canoe configurations including room for children, additional adult passengers, and cargo consisting of coolers and lunch baskets. All types of fishing and wildlife was observed along the ride in between canoeing and dips in the natural fresh-water springs of the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe Rivers at High Springs.
After a full day on the river, our group capped off the afternoon by enjoying music and gourmet dinner at the Great Outdoors Restaurant.