O’Leno State Park

Resurrection ferns, spanish moss, and other epiphytes grow high in the live oaks ~ and low, also, on limbs or trunks that have fallen down.

Resurrection ferns, spanish moss, and other epiphytes grow high in the live oaks ~ and low, also, on limbs or trunks that have fallen down.

Just north of High Springs, Florida, where I visited a dear friend, lies one of her favorite state parks. A new friend was heading up there after we met for breakfast to hunt for wild azaleas called pinksters, to see if any were in bloom yet in early February. I invited myself along and got a guided tour of one of several trails. We walked down the Santa Fe River to the end then back up the other side and crossed a swinging bridge to return to the parking lot. From there, he headed into the wilds and I hit the road again.

One of many bridges across creek beds wet or dry that fan out from the sink where the river disappears underground.

One of many bridges across creek beds wet or dry that fan out from the sink where the river disappears underground.

After strolling a beautiful path from the parking lot we came to the end of the line: the river disappears underground to emerge three miles away in River Rise State Preserve. My friend says this spins, most of the time; he shot a time lapse of the turtles spinning around the eddy. There they sit on the logs sticking out from the far shore.

After strolling a beautiful path from the parking lot we came to the end of the line: the river disappears underground to emerge three miles away in River Rise State Preserve. My friend says this spins, most of the time; he shot a time lapse of the turtles spinning around the eddy. There they sit on the logs sticking out from the far shore.

Looking upriver from the observation deck by the sink, you'd never know it was coming.

Looking upriver from the observation deck by the sink, you’d never know it was coming.

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When the river floods, these pools fill in some of the drainages leading out from the sink. Upwelling water also helps keep them full.

When the river floods, these pools fill in some of the drainages leading out from the sink. Upwelling water also helps keep them full.

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At the far end of this pool, a white plastic bag is stuck in a tree. Each spring my friend comes up in his boat and cleans the sink before the music festival.

At the far end of this pool, a white plastic bag is stuck in a tree. Each spring my friend comes up in his boat and cleans the sink before the music festival.

Live-oaks and deciduous trees arc over the trail through scrub that would be ripe for rattlesnakes in warmer weather. I feel safe letting the dogs run ahead on their leads.

Live-oaks and deciduous trees arc over the trail through scrub that would be ripe for rattlesnakes in warmer weather. I feel safe letting the dogs run ahead on their leads.

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Dan shoots me shooting him shooting dogs on the main bridge across the Santa Fe River. I think I came to a party here when I was younger, but I don't remember it quite this way. I remember it as an enclosed spring where we swam, and we saw for the first time, any of us, a rattlesnake swim completely underwater, at a level in the clear blue water parallel with us. I remember the amphitheater seating, the picnic tables, and maybe vaguely a walk down to the sink. but I did not understand the ecology as I do now; I did not comprehend the world yet in quite the expansive way I do now, after living out west. My boundary is bigger.

Dan shoots me shooting him shooting dogs on the main bridge across the Santa Fe River. I think I came to a party here when I was younger, but I don’t remember it quite this way. I remember it as an enclosed spring where we swam, and we saw for the first time, any of us, a rattlesnake swim completely underwater, at a level in the clear blue water parallel with us. I remember the amphitheater seating, the picnic tables, and maybe vaguely a walk down to the sink. but I did not understand the ecology as I do now; I did not comprehend the world yet in quite the expansive way I do now, after living out west. My boundary is bigger.

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Swim at your own risk; looking upstream from the bridge; watch for alligators; what's that shining on the far shore? Downstream, shortly, is the sink: water spins slowly into a giant hole in the ground; the river ends, briefly, before re-emerging downstream from various upwellings in sinkholes, creekbeds or culverts.

Swim at your own risk; looking upstream from the bridge; watch for alligators; what’s that shining on the far shore? Downstream, shortly, is the sink: water spins slowly into a giant hole in the ground; the river ends, briefly, before re-emerging downstream from various upwellings in sinkholes, creekbeds or culverts.

duh. Not to mention alligators and cottonmouths.

duh. Not to mention alligators and cottonmouths.

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