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Juniper Springs


An Oasis From The Heat

John McKinney

Florida Summers have temperatures consistently over 90 and there is a general mugginess in the air if you’re not right near the beach. In addition, there is a torrential downpour every afternoon for about 20 minutes. This is why it always amazes me how many people will spend their Summer days at Disney World in Orlando, a city in the middle of the state where there is no sea breeze to cool you. If it wasn’t for the incredible weather you get from late September until mid-May, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live here.

The first few weekends in May are often the last time you can camp, unless it’s beach camping, in Florida until October. Getting in one last camp before the Summer, my wife and I joined another married couple in the Ocala National Forest at Juniper Springs. It was definitely toasty but not too hot and there weren’t any thunderstorms to ruin our fun in the springs. This was a quick, one-night micro-adventure of a camping trip.

Saturday

Upon arriving Saturday morning we set up camp. I typically camp in a 2 person tent that barely lets me kneel without hitting the top. It’s the REI Half-Dome 2 Plus, I love it. My tent is light enough that carrying it on my back doesn’t cause too much stress. Our friends brought a 6 person mansion of a tent. They are strictly car campers so something large and comfortable is perfect for them. This tent had more than enough room for both couples and all of our stuff, this thing was massive.

The Florida Trail runs right by the entrance of Juniper Springs but due to the heat, it was in the high 80s, and lack of shade on that trail we decided to not take walk along that path. There are some short trails around the campground and the swimming hole so that’s what we stuck to. Though our trail was short, we did get to see some lush Florida forests and crystal clear spring water that almost looked fake. Along our path, we were treated to a bit of drama. There were a number of turtles reenacting the Titanic’s shipwreck scene by clinging onto a half-sunken log, afraid to make the descent into the icy, spring water. (read: sunbathing)

Not letting this reptilian warning dissuade us, we decided to take our own plunge into the chilly swimming hole. Even with the hot weather, this water was going to be cold. With water this frigid there is really only one way to cause your body to not scream in protest, submerge yourself as quickly as possible. CANNONBALL!!!

Our afternoon consisted of jumping off the diving platform, swimming races, and playing bocce ball back at the campsite. I do declare it was a pretty relaxing afternoon. As the Sun began to set we sat around the fire, chatting and telling stories.

Sunday

Arising early the next morning, my wife and I took a short hike before everyone else seemed to be awake. It was quiet and peaceful. The cooler morning air was refreshing. We rounded the corner on the trail and 10 feet ahead of us stood a dear. She noticed us almost immediately and bolted into the woods.

When we arrived back from our early morning hike our friends already had the morning fire going and were preparing breakfast. A lazy, Sunday morning of slowly packing up the camp followed and then just like that, our micro-adventure was over and it was time to drive home.

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