Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Have you ever heard of Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park? Maybe not, but you’ve probably seen it in one of the many movies filmed there, including the original 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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However, we were looking for another creature when we visited the park, which is a haven for manatees.

As one of the largest freshwater springs in the United States, the park is open 8 a.m. to sunset every day with nine miles of hiking trails along with swimming and river boat nature tours.

We arrived in the rain, so we stopped and had lunch in the historic lodge, which has a few guest rooms and both a full-service restaurant and a soda fountain along with a gift shop.

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Due to the rain we didn’t have time to check out any of the hiking trails, but the weather did clear enough for us to take a guided boat tour.

Spoiler alert, we did not see a single manatee. However, there was no shortage of other wildlife.

There were flocks of coots puttering around.

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There were also quite a few white ibis.

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There were also plenty of cormorants diving for fish.

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The spring is also a haven for Anhingas.

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But we saw more than birds. The water is clear enough to see the fish swimming by, and of course, there were these guys.

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No swamp is complete without a few gators.

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This was my first time to shoot wildlife with the Leica Vario-Elmar-R f4.5 75-200mm zoom adapted to the Sony NEX-6. This was a lens designed by Minolta and rebranded for Leica in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Leica version still sells for around $300, but you can pick up the Minolta f4.5 75-200mm, which is the exact same lens with a different mount, for $25 or less!

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I found it to be a little lacking in fine detail with kind of scary, ziggety bokeh. (Yes, ziggety just became a word.) Would I recommend it? Well, I definitely would not recommend paying for the Leica version, but if you need a zoom to adapt to your mirrorless camera, you can’t beat $25 for the Minolta version.

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Although the river through Wakulla Springs State Park runs all the way to the coast, Edward Ball, being the millionaire industrialist that he was, managed to have access blocked, so don’t plan to anchor out and then take your dinghy up the river, which wouldn’t be good for the manatees anyway.

If we ever make it back to Tallahassee in the summer, we’ll definitely make another trip for a chance to hike the trails and swim in the “black lagoon.”

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2014 in review

We kicked off 2014 at Watergate Marina in Kemah, Texas watching the fireworks.

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We joined the crew of Antares for our first racing experience during the Galveston Bay Cruising Association Icicle Series Regatta.

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Meanwhile I was installing what has been our favorite upgrade to Gimme Shelter, a new 12000 BTU Flagship Marine air-conditioner and heater.

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As usual, we stopped by the spring Clear Lake boat show where we met this guy who dances with sharks. (FYI, all sharks in the show were sharks that had been rescued from research facilities and could not be returned to the wild. They were used in the traveling educational show until they could be placed in aquariums.)

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After that, I headed across the pond for a few days for work. My first trip to London, England. I met a very interesting guy named Leon McCarron at the Globetrotter’s Club, and I managed to fit in a photo walk with some friends from the Leica Forum.

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While I was off in London, Mary’s family came to visit, and they took Gimme Shelter for the first sail of the season.

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But with a new season of sailing came the usual necessary boat repairs. We had to repair the drain system on the anchor locker and run new lazy-jack lines.

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Then we met another set of adventurers who we’ve admired for quite some time, Pat and Ali Schulte, better known as the Bumfuzzles when they stopped by Waterford Harbor Marina on their way through Houston.

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We didn’t do as much sailing as usual this spring and summer because in June it was off to Mary’s hometown of Hamilton, Illinois for our wedding. Despite the torrential rains and a collapsed tent at the reception, it was a great day.

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Then from Illinois, it was off to Belize for our honeymoon where we spent three nights in the rainforest along the Hummingbird Highway.

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Then we spent three nights on the beach in Hopkins.

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Shortly after Belize we were back on the road to visit my parents in Independence, Kansas for the 4th of July. We found the thousands of lightning bugs more entertaining than fireworks.

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Meanwhile, our friends Tina and Ray had purchased a beautiful 56′ Carver, so we got to spend the summer cruising on a big boat and witness first-hand the process of a family selling their house and moving aboard for the first time.

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We started August with a sailing trip to Moody Gardens in Offats Bayou, Galveston.

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Mary also made a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana with her girlfriends.

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We then ended the summer with new bottom paint and a compound wax.

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In September we met my family for a long weekend in South Padre Island where we learned about sea turtles at the Sea Turtle, Inc. rescue center.

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Then in October it was off to the Texas Renaissance Festival where we spent most of the day drinking at the Barbarian Inn and most of the night singing with the pirates.

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Of course, Halloween came and went. Somehow we missed all the parties this year, but we did take the time to carve a pumpkin.

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In November we hosted an open mic jam and pot luck at the marina. While it was well-attended, we only had one musical participant, so it was more of a concert than an open mic. However, we still had a great time.

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The mild weather in November also required more boating — much more boating. In fact, we made multiple trips to Galveston aboard the Tina Marie Too and our first trip into the open water of the Gulf of Mexico.

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As Christmas approached, we found ourselves in Tallahassee, Florida visiting Mary’s sister. We made trips to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and to Bald Point State Park. We saw lots of wildlife, but not a single manatee.

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And that brings us back to the present. Tomorrow we head back to Houston where it’s back to work before we ring in the new year.

Who knows where 2015 will take us.