Thursday, July 30, 2015

Visiting The Florida Caverns in Marianna, Florida

When we think of Florida we think of sunshine, white sunny beaches and palm trees.  So it may be surprising to learn about the Florida Caverns State Park.  And, it is interesting to know that these are the only caverns in Florida.

The Florida Caverns are located about three miles north of the little town of Marianna on State Highway 166.   

Driving west along Interstate-10 out of Tallahassee,  we arrived at the caverns in about an hour-and- ten minutes.  The Park is located about 60 miles from Tallahassee.

Years ago when our children were little we brought them here to the Caverns.  Now that we have  grandchildren we thought it would be fun to take them to see this interesting phenomenon also.

As we pulled into the parking lot we saw this sign indicating that the very parking lot where we parked was once the site of an Indian Village many many years ago

There is an entrance fee into the park of  $5.00 per vehicle.  There is an additional fee for touring the Caverns.  The tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for ages 3-12, and little folks under 2 were free.

This is an extremely popular tour ... We called to see if we could make reservations and were told they did not accept reservations.  Tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis.  They suggested we  arrive early around 9ish because the tours sold out early for the day.

It is also good to know that there are no tours of the Caverns on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The guided tours leave at the top of each hour.  Our guide, a Park Ranger,  met us and gave some preliminary information and instructions.  He told us the tour lasted about 45 minutes and that it is  considered moderately strenuous.  He also requested that there be no touching of the walls while down in the Cavern.

After walking along a trail for awhile we arrived at this long stairway 
going down down and down leading to the Cavern entrance.

It looked like a huge cave as we all gathered inside.  The tour begins about 60 feet below the surface.   Considering that it is Summertime in Florida and the outside temperatures are usually in the 90s it felt relatively chilly in the Cavern.  We were told the cave remains at 65 degrees all year long.

The passageways were well lit.  All of the rooms in the Caverns had the most interesting formations.

Yes, as seen in the below photo this is a passageway where you can walk through.

Our guide told us that these amazing formations have been part of a process that has been forming for over 38 million years.  Slowly over the hundreds and hundreds of years water dripped down from cracks in the ceiling creating stalactites and stalagmites, etc.    

We were told that archeologists have discovered human footprints and artifacts left behind by ancient Indian hunters who passed through more than 1,000 years ago.

Several times as we walked along on the tour,  we were asked to bend down and stay that way while we were walking,  in order to get through the tiny passageway.

I asked the guide to tell us how the Caverns were discovered.  He told us that the original entrance to the cave was discovered by accident.  

In March of 1937 a government surveyor found where a tree that had fallen over during a storm had exposed a new cavern.  The roots took up the earth with the tree and left a hole in the ground.  When he crawled into the hole he discovered the amazing formations that we see today.

The Caverns cover almost two acres.

After the caverns were discovered it was decided that the area would make for a wonderful tourist destination.  In 1937 they  began excavating and creating the paths visitors walk on today.

We were told there was evidence found that the Confederate soldiers 
 visited this area during the Civil War.

There are numerous other caves in the park that can be seen along the nature trails and roads through the park.  Most of the caves are not open to the public.  However, one of the parks nature trails leads directly through the unique Tunnel Cave and this cave can be  explored if you have a flashlight.

As we left the Caverns there was a steep walk back up toward the Gift Shop and to the parking lot.

There is a lot more to do in the park than tour the Caverns.  The park has 1300-acres and offers miles of hiking trails, campsites,  picnic areas,  equestrian trails, fishing, bicycling and there is a playground for the children.

Thanks for joining us today on the tour of The Florida Caverns.  If you are ever in the North Florida area,  driving along Interstate 10,  I hope you have time to tour this amazing area. 

Wishing you many blessings wherever you may be!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summertime Mountain Adventures

Wow! have we been busy ... We have been spending lots of fun time with family during this most beautiful Summertime.

We headed to the mountains in Robbinsville, North Carolina which is one of our favorite places to go with the children and grandchildren in the Summertime.  They love it and so do we.

Years ago,  before we ever thought about grandchildren,  we built a relatively small cabin deep in the Snowbird Mountains of North Carolina.  If we had known how much our family would expand as the years went by, and as the grandchildren came along,  we would have built a much bigger place for vacationing.

But, the family does not seem to mind as they bring their sleeping bags and tents, and we all crowd into the cozy little cabin. 

We arrived a week before everyone else, and as usual I enjoyed taking my camera and trying to snap some pretty photos.  This first sequence of photos will show you just how different the view can be each day from the front porch of the cabin:

 We arrived on a most beautiful day with totally clear skies as you can see below.

As you can see each day the view is different

This photo was taken shortly after a heavy rain.

And then another misty day as seen below.

In this photo can't you just feel those early morning cool breezes coming across the mountain!

On this day there was a lot of fog down in the valley.

These pretty little flowers were blooming all over the mountain.

And, we spotted several of these pretty purple flowers also.

This is a photo taken across from our cabin from the beautiful Snowbird Mountain Lodge.  Looking back toward our mountain, if you look closely,  you can just barely see the tin roof of the cabin shining in the sunlight.  (It is a little white dot in about the middle of the photo.)  As you can see, our little cabin is located in the middle of nowhere.

We went into the small country town of Robbinsville, North Carolina to see what was happening on 4th of July weekend.  We were very interested to see the small town festivities.  

I could not resist getting a picture of these pretty flowers. 

It is always nice to see Old Glory on display especially on the 4th of July.

The band was playing and the locals were watching from the sidelines 
as there was dancing in the street,  and even the little folks were dancing.  They were sooo cute.

Later, back at the cabin, I just had to snap a photo of grandson John Scott decorating a cake with strawberries and blueberries in the pattern of the American Flag.  

We had signed up to bring one of the desserts for the local mountain neighborhood 4th of July party being held down on the creek.   He sure is a good helper in the kitchen.

During our stay at the mountains we had a significant amount of rain.  
In the below photos you can see how the water in the creek is flowing rapidly.

All the kids and grand kids decided to try out tubing down the Snowbird Creek in Robbinsville, NC.

 The tubing truck took them up high in the mountain and they floated down 
the creek in these bright green tubes.  Can you see them coming down the creek?

Brothers John Scott and Will after finishing the trip down the creek.  They had a fun time! 

The next day everyone decided to go for a little more serious 
adventure by rafting down the Whitewater Nantahala River Rapids.

Nantahala River.

The whole family has made this trip before and they always have such fun.  BUT, the real adventure begins as they have traveled down the whole Nantahala River,  and just as the trip is almost over,  they must go through the very rough whitewater rapids.  This is always a good test to see who stays in the boat.

We have two sets of family members traveling through the rapids on this day in separate rafts.  The Nantahala River Company has provided a place to sit and watch the boats come through the rapids.  I do not have a telephoto lens,  but you can still see the first boat approaching the rapids ...

In this first raft are two of our daughters and the two youngest can see one of the grandchildren in the front on the right as the boat goes through the rapids.

And here they are all smiles as they realize they have made it through the rapids ...
You can see the guide in the back of the boat on the right side.

And, now you can see the second boat approaching ... All is well as they start into the rapids.  In this boat is a set of four brothers.  John Scott 18,  Will 16 in the back of the boat.  Preston 13 on the right, and Lawson 10 on the left in the front of the boat.

So far so good!

As you can see they are having a great time.

The Nantahala River Company has a photographer positioned to snap photos just as the boats come through the rapids.  The next three photos were taken by the Company photographer.

As you can see as they come through the rapids all is well ...  Look at Lawson on the left smiling!!

And within an instant there is Lawson overboard as they go through the rapids.  SEE HIS FEET sticking up in the air from the water on the left side ... Look at his brothers faces!  At this point I have stopped taking photos and only thinking of Lawson's safety ...

Lawson's brother John Scott swiftly grabs Lawson and holds tightly 
until he can again climb back into the boat.

In the below photo is Lawson with his puppy dog "Molly" and the three brothers who made the boat trip down the river with him.  In the navy t-shirt is big brother John Scott who pulled Lawson to safety.  His mom was in the first boat with her sister and Lawson's cousins and his dad sat with us on the sidelines watching them come through the rapids.

Lawson said he had a really great time and was not worried at all when he fell into the water.
As the old saying goes:  "All is well that ends well."

It is always such fun going with the family to the mountains and I love taking my camera  trying to capture some of the beauty all around us.

I hope you are having a wonderful fun-filled Summertime,  and that you have many blessings wherever you may be.