Goal 14: Visit Ponce de Leon Springs

Last week I had the good fortune to complete a goal with one of my best friends! Gen is an old college roommate and ROTC buddy who came down to Florida for a wedding. Thankfully, she was able to stay with me for a few days. Since she had already spent a lot of time exploring the white beaches of Florida, I figured that I would take her inland a bit so that she could she a different side of this state…though, admittedly, I also wanted to complete one of my 101 in 1001 goals with someone who reads my blog 🙂

The crystal clear waters of Ponce de Leon State Park! Perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing year round.

The crystal clear waters of Ponce de Leon State Park! Perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing year round.

So, off we went in search of the Fountain of Youth! Or, to be more accurate, one of many supposed “Fountains of Youth” in the state of Florida. Northeast of Pensacola is a crystal clear spring that produces 14 million gallons of 68 degree water each day. It was named after the explorer Ponce de Leon, who was said to have come to Florida in search of gold and eternal youth.

Gen! My perfect exploration buddy and provider of guacamole dip and chips.

Gen! My perfect exploration buddy and provider of guacamole dip and chips.

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Enjoying the sunshine, and getting ready to swim.

The temperature that morning hovered around the 90s, and we figured that it would be a wonderful day for a swim. To us, 68 degree water sounded wonderful. Maybe it even sounded a bit too warm. For some reason, we both thought that this would be like swimming in bathwater.

We had no reason to worry though. We wound our way through the hoards of screaming middle schoolers and sat on the edge of the water. Dipping our toes in, we quickly realized that 68 degrees is really cold. In fact, I thought it felt like the glacial runoff I found in Alaska. We tried to slowly lower ourselves into the water, but it made the process so much more agonizing.

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So, we jumped.

It was quite the shock to the system, and we hurriedly climbed out in hopes that we’d eventually warm up.

“Do you feel more youthful now?” I asked Gen with a shiver.

“No,” she said. “I think I actually took a few years off my life.”

Still wet and cold, we moved to the more shallow end. Our legs were already pretty numb, and they quickly adjusted as we waded around the tree in the middle of the pool. Tiny fish swam around us as we moved down stream, following the water until it drained into a larger, dirtier river.

The water from the spring flows down this small river. The water is so clear that you can't tell it's moving until a leaf or waterbug floats by.

The water from the spring flows down this small river. The water is so clear that you can’t tell it’s moving until a leaf or waterbug floats by.

Here is where the clear water flows into a rust-colored offshoot.

Here is where the clear water flows into a rust-colored offshoot.

Even though the water was cold, it was nice to finish this goal. I was drawn to the idea when I found a picture of the park on Roadtrippers while planning our cross-country trip two years ago. I will most definitely go back, and next time I might bring some fishing gear and try my luck! Maybe then I’ll be able to complete goal 28 – catch and eat a fish!

 

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