Category Archives: Florida

Florida Mountain Biking???

G0452563When we hit the mountain bike trails in new destinations we find ourselves always comparing them to the trails at home in Whitehorse, where our trails have been recognized with “top” Canadian and North American status by a number of organizations. What the Santos trail system (Ocala, Florida) lacks in elevation it makes up for in wood features, which we really enjoy. After our great visit here 2 years ago, it was a “must do” for this years trip to Florida!

We were excited to play in the new skills park that has been built right at the trailhead – lots of small jumps/table tops and various sized skinnies. Hunter, as usual, was the master of the skinnies and was able to complete even the most difficult by day three.

Most of the trails are a mix of dirt and sand with some roots and chunks of coral. Those that are deemed most difficult are due to the technical nature vs significant up or down hill sections. Thanks to some good trail design they even have really nice flowy sections that you can bank your turns on even though they are perfectly flat in terms of terrain.

The more difficult wooden features are in the “vortex” area of the Santos Trails. You can experience various sized wooden drops that culminate in the roller coaster and the new wooden corkscrew feature that requires you to really manage your speed, breaking and descent angle all at the same time.

G0542703One of the best parts of the Santos trail system is the fact that there is a state campground right next door. Nice clean sites with power and water and a simple bath house with large showers. It is almost always fully booked on the weekends (you can make reservations) but only moderately used during the week. This is a great stop for anyone travelling through and needing a day of biking or as a destination as part of a Florida trip.

Exploring Devil’s Den – Florida’s prehistoric spring

DSCN1519Devil’s Den, one of North America’s most prehistoric places, is an underground spring inside a dry cave in Central Florida. The remains of many extinct animals from the Pleistocene Age (2 million – 10,000 years ago) were discovered at Devil’s Den, including the bones of early man, dating back  to 7,500 B.C.. With year round 72f water, it is a fun place to scuba dive and snorkel anytime.

Once you pay and enter the actual park, there are picnic tables and shelters to use to store your stuff. Once you and your gear are organized, you head through the entrance and down a single set of stairs under ground.

The cavern or sinkhole is about 20 feet under ground. There is a fairly wide opening that lets in sunlight, which helps you see things more clearly.

At the bottom of the stairs is a multi-level platform that you can stand on to get flippers on and then enter and exit the water. This place is heavily used for Scuba lessons so there are many features, like varying heights of decks, that align with the different skills and instructional needs of Scuba instruction.

We had fun snorkelling around and checking out some turtles and various fish. It also gave Hunter a chance to practice diving down and being comfortable under the water. More than anything it left us thinking about another dive/snorkel trip to a tropical place with colourful reefs – one more thing to add to the planning list!

The Devil’s den has camping on site for both RV’s and tents. The RV sites have electricity, water and sewer and there are shower facilities up near the main site that can be used. There is also a swimming pool that seems to be focused on scuba training but could also be used to just play. It was a fun overnight stop for us and it seems that dive enthusiasts come and use this for a base for multi-week dive vacations that explore the various springs in the area.



E-ONE Firetruck factory tour

hunter & e-one signE-ONE Firetrucks is a worldwide designer & manufacturer of Firetrucks, located in Ocala, Florida. We phoned them up to see if there was a chance of getting a tour as part of our homeschool activities and they generously said YES – Hunter was on cloud nine and bouncing off the walls in anticipation!

hunter & fire truck out front

It was really interesting to see how a firetruck goes from design right through to completed testing and sign-off. There are an amazing number of small details throughout the process, even just picking the colours and lettering!

hunter & stickersE-ONE is vertically integrated and makes everything on and in the firetruck except for the engine. They also do all of their own repair work. It was a wonderful experience and we really appreciate their generosity.

Manatee do-over brings success!

manatee 1With all of the recent cool weather, one of the upsides is that the manatees have travelled from the ocean to the inland springs in search of warmer water. We figured we would go and check it out since we were back in the neighbourhood!

hunter snorkeling with manatees

Tim, Hunter and Grandma Liz headed out to the Weeki Wachee River (I am benched at home due to bruised ribs due to EPIC crash on Friday) on Monday. It is a short paddle up from a small park and you reach a deep water hole where the water is significantly warmer. It was somewhat busy with 4-5 other kayaks around and the sun was shining so it was lots of fun to swim and hang out with them…

Today they drove up to Crystal Springs to check out the manatee population there. It was a bit more crazy with respect to other people (aka tourists) in search the elusive manatee. It was also a bit chillier, with cool winds and a momentary thunderstorm!

With all those people the water was fairly stirred up so visibility was much lower.

manatees CR1hunter snorkeling CRAfter our first strike out, it was great to get to see these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. They are just so gentle and peaceful to watch!

The Civil War comes alive at the Brooksville Re-enactment

hunter & union troopsIt was serendipity when we learned that there was a civil war re-enactment in Brooksville, just down the road from Grandma Liz’s house. It was a good enough reason to head back down to Brooksville to visit for a few days to catch some warmer weather.

It is the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and this seemed to be quite a large re-enactment. We got there late morning, just in time to catch the cannon shooting contest (yep  – 2 cannon’s aiming at targets!).

We enjoyed wandering the rows of vendor tents and checking out the period clothing, the weaponry and all the miscellaneous things that go with life during the civil war times.

We really enjoyed being able to wander through the Union and Confederate camps and get a real sense of what life was like during the civil war.

We stayed for an hour watching the battle. Although it is “scripted” the actual decisions on the field are real-time decisions made by the Generals. It was definitely interesting to watch, although we were all surprised at how long it took for some of the soldiers to start to die with all the shooting that was going on!