After spending the night in Pensacola we continued east...
First stop: Ponce de Leon Springs
This is what Ponce de Leon believed to be the "Fountain of Youth". Unfortunately it was a bit chilly for a swim but we did dip our toes in so they should last a long time.
Next: Falling Waters State Park
Florida is riddled with sink holes due to its Karst topography. That's a fancy word for limestone, basically. Florida was sea bed and is made up of shells and other marine life compressed into limestone. Rain water picks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and eats it way thru the limestone.
This is a large sinkhole made larger by a waterfall plunging into it. This is also the tallest waterfall in the state at 73 feet high.
After seeing the sinkholes and having a picnic at Falling Waters SP we headed on to
Florida Caverns State Park.
We're travelling in Angie's Mazda, "LeProtege," rather than LeTigre since we'll be returning to Austin in March to take care of some things (ie: taxes) and get Kipper. That means camping in a tent! Something we don't have much experience with. This was the first night. Looks cozy, right? It was pretty good but we do miss LeTigre's bed... (Angie misses the bed a lot, she doesn't sleep well on the ground.) Oh, and thanks to my brother David and his wife Pam, for lending us all their camping supplies!!
The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) did a lot of work in Florida Caverns SP during Roosevelt's New Deal plan, including building the visitor's center.
Remember those sinkholes? The cave at Florida Caverns was discovered in one.
In we go! When the cave was discovered it was just a crawl space for the most part. The CCC crews went into the narrow passages and, with the help of scientists, mapped the cave with gas lanterns! Then, without disturbing the cave formations and without any explosives, they dug the floor down by hand so that visitors could walk thru the cave!
They dubbed themselves "the Gopher Gang".
They also ran all the electric for lighting so that it doesn't have to be explored by flashlight. Here Angie poses with a large flowstone and some columns. They were dry at the time (not flowing) but there're some little pools at the bottom. Activity in the cave varies with rainfall.
Another flowstone. Our Ranger tour guide informed us that it's estimated that the formations grow an inch per hundred years! You can also see in this photo how the floor has been excavated down a few feet by the CCC, it was originally at the same height as the foundation of the flowstone formation. All of the work was done by hand!
A cave resident taking a snooze. This bat is about as big as your thumb!
Look close, what do you see? Yep, shells. The ceiling was comprised of shells and other stuff you'd find on the ocean floor. There was even a shark's tooth protruding from the ceiling in another room! The CCC "Gopher Gang" were careful not to disturb the ceiling and only excavated downward.
The "Gopher Gang" had clever names for the different rooms in the cave. This was called "the Christmas Room" because of a formation that looks like a Christmas tree towards the back of this photo. It was taken one step further with the colored lights. Stalagtites and Draperies hang overhead.
Our guide shines her flashlight on a drapery to illustrate how much they look like bacon.
After that all we could think about was food so it was time to leave.
Next stop: the beach!