Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park

We are now at the very last of our reserved parks - from now on we'll just be pulling in wherever we want to on the way home. It's always kind of sad for us when we get to the last of our pre-planned locations - it really means our trip is almost over. Although I have to say (and, believe me, I am NOT complaining) but it actually is REALLY pretty hot down here. It's been in the mid- to upper-80's pretty consistently and, although we really love the warm temps, it definitely saps your energy a little bit. We are actually a little bit ready to move slightly more north. We have reservations here through next Monday, but we're talking about leaving this park a little bit early and getting into Georgia at least.

But, in the meanwhile, this park is REALLY pretty. It is a state park, located in White Springs, which is about 70 miles straight north of Gainesville, and probably 30 or 40 miles south of the Florida state line. The park is a regular state park, in that it has a campground (an exceptionally pretty one, actually) and it's on the bank of the Suwanee River so we can fish and kayak, but it is also a cultural center to celebrate the Florida folk arts and the music of Stephen Foster. There is a really pretty museum dedicated to Stephen Foster and his music, his life, etc. There is also a beautiful bell tower (or carillon) that plays every quarter hour during the daytime and has a bell concert at 10:00, 12:00 and 2:00. Very pretty. There is also a "craft square" which is a group of about 5 or 6 little cottages that have various folk artists, like a blacksmith, a basket weaver, etc with local artisans displaying their work. Not every cottage is open every day, but normally two or three of them are. The park grounds are exceptionally pretty, with beautiful landscaping throughout.

On Saturday, the little town of White Springs, along with the state park, celebrated their annual "Azalea Festival". We were kind of looking forward to it - there was going to be a bunch of live music, food vendors, craft-maker displays, etc. WELL... I guess it was ok, but it was a REALLY small festival with probably only a couple hundred people total. We walked around town a little bit and then came home and watched March Madness games instead. I think we were expecting something a little closer to our Tulip Festival...wrong!

Today we put the kayaks into the Suwanee River and paddled a little bit, but (to our surprise) there were actually some little RAPIDS on the river - it was fun going DOWN the little rapids, but not so much coming back up! Yikes! Even though they were VERY little, it was a HECK of a lot of work paddling back up. We think we figured out a way to go a few miles up the road to a park, leave the car there, paddle down the river TO the state park, and then take our bicycles to get back up to the car. I know - it sounds kind of complicated but it really isn't. We're thinking about doing this little adventure on Tuesday - I'll let you know if we survive! I don't think white water rapids will EVER be in our future! Oh, and we spotted a pretty big alligator laying on the side of the river while we were paddling - I'm throwing his picture onto this post. Normally we see alligators laying on dark, muddy banks, kind of hidden from view, but this guy was laying on a bright, open stretch of white sand - kind of different!
One of the things that's really nice about this park is the flowers - they are EVERYWHERE. It is full springtime down here, so everything is blooming. I'm attaching a few pictures, but they don't begin to give an idea of how MANY flowers there are. Really beautiful. One of the things we hate about heading north is we have to watch all the green colors fade out and everything revert back to grays and browns - it's hard to leave springtime behind and move back into winter! But, I do have to admit, we are probably both beginning to get just a TEENSY bit homesick. It's kind of nice how that works out - a month ago would have been too early to go home, but in another week or two we'll be ready. But in the meanwhile, we're sure LOVING it!

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