Sunday, March 21, 2010

About Nothing In Particular

I have an old friend, Pat, whose family owns one of the most desirable pieces of property in the entire state of Florida.  It's about 37 acres on a pensinsula where the Suwanee and Sante Fe rivers come together.  Each of these rivers are among the most beautiful in the nation.  Each fed by a hundred or more springs that dot the landscape in this part of the state.

For several years, I've been after Pat to go down there and look at the property, which she herself hasn't seen since childhood.  We made a pact that this Saturday would be the day.  Additionally, I had reason to visit Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville to check out their annual Spring Garden Festival.

Saturday dawned as a beautiful, Florida spring day.  Bright and clear with the temperature predicted to climb into the mid-70s.  A perfect day for a road trip.

Our plan was to visit Kanapaha early, before the big crowds arrived, and then cruise up to the Suwanee to check out the property.  Everything was going true to form.  We took the scenic route down through Keystone Heights which takes you through Gainesville and past the sprawling campus of the University of Florida.  However, when we reached the entrance to Kanapaha, the place was a mad house.  Cars lined the entire 1 mile drive into the gardens. 

I learned long ago that oftentimes you can find a good parking space at events like this by simply driving to the front door and taking the place of someone who was leaving.  Not to be.

In a long line of cars, we creeped by the overflowing parking area and were directed by clearly overwhelmed and mostly clueless teenage volunteers to a nearby city park where throngs of people were already cued for the yet-to-be-seen shuttle busses.  Believing descretion the better part of valor, we decided to junk the mission and head for the Suwanee.

We stopped for lunch at a quaint little restaurant in High Springs.  The ambiance and food were delicious as we sat outside enjoying the day.  It was there that I discovered the maps and Google Earth photos I had printed to help us find the property were of the wrong piece of land, on the wrong side of the river.  No problem, Pat said, a quick phone call to her brother up in Lake City would give us precise directions of how to find the place.  Besides, I did have the presence of mind to bring the Florida Gazetteer with me.

When Bob heard our mission his immediate response was, "It ain't all that easy to find."  "And I'm not sure this is the best time of year to go," he continued.  "The last time I was out there this time of year I killed three rattlesnakes and saw a dozen more."  "Besides, the river is way up and there won't be any beach anyway."

Well, rattlesnakes don't scare me much, but Pat wasn't all that sure.  We decided to at least see if we could find the property and assess the situation when we got there.

We crossed the Suwanee on SR340 about 40 miles from everywhere and indeed, the river was up and way into the trees.

After about 45 minutes of looking for the property, driving around in circles on remote dirt roads, we gave up.  It was clear that, even if we did find the property we wouldn't know it if we saw it.  Second goal scrubbed.

We decided to cruise up to Branford and check out Branford Springs.

The spring is located in a nice little city park with 50s era picnic tables and boat ramp. The spring itself was flooded by the river so there was no crystal clear "blue hole" in which to peer.

OK, can't see the spring, third mission scrubbed. 

Not to be deterred, we decided to drive down the east side of the river to the spot I had mapped and see if we could at least see the property from the other side of the Suwanee.  So, we headed south and soon crossed the Sante Fe River.  Our goal, Wanamake Point.

Along the way we happened onto an old peeling roadside sign: Ellie Ray's Fish Camp, Campground, Saloon and Package Store.  That's more like it!  Took a hard right down a dirt drive.

Ellie Ray's was just the place and we decided to stop for a brew. It's a classic backwoods honky tonk with a big deck overlooking the river. As you can see, the Sante Fe was as high as the Suwanee.

Mr. C's pocket rocket. As we were enjoying our beers, we couldn't help but overhear a conversation between an older man and woman, each of whom were hard of hearing, talking about their experiences with Facebook. It was all we could do to keep from laughing out loud.  I wish I had had my phone with me so I could have recorded it for you. Also don't know why, but I didn't grab a photo of Millie Rays. Just not thinking I guess.

We went on to Wanamake Point only to find that the piece of property I had mapped to allow us access to the river was now fenced, with No Trespassing signs on every third post. 

Mission four scrubbed.

We got home to find Katie fixing dinner. She had set up a nice table on the deck. A couple of martinis, a fine candlelight dinner with wine, good company... a day well spent.

Mission accomplished.


  1. "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, gang aft agley."

  2. I enjoyed the photos, and read in terrified anticipation of a rattlesnake encounter.

    But one thing is for sure, I won't be asking you to map-read on any future expeditions that I indulge in.

  3. Holte... There's an expression teh Marines use... adapt, adjust and something-or-other.

    Kylie... ditto, as you can see.

    Mo... I know it's a feeble defense, but the property description was given to me at a New Year's Eve party, many years ago. Since the family is interested in selling the piece, I though it could only be one since the other is encumbered by a conservation easement. Wrong.

  4. I love seeing shots of other people's days and sights. Really enjoyed sharing this particular trip, especially seeing as it had a happy ending....

  5. Property is nice to have especially when it's not snake infested and underwater.

  6. Really like the pics. Sounds like the day gave you lemons but you just made lemonade, it's all in the attitude.

  7. Matthew, JenJen... is was a nice day. Glad you like the flicks.

    Walking Man... LOL Where's your sense of adventure? Actually, her property was high and dry, only the white sand beach that is normally there was under water.

    Tex... Actually, the whole day was lemonade. In search of the missions became the mission.

  8. Looks like such a nice, relaxing day. I'm jealous!


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