I guess if it’s out of this world, it’s the devil’s? I don’t get it, but I like the name.
Aug 17th • 2014
I’ve been inspired as of late to make better use of my time here in Florida. I’d like to imagine that I’ll be here forever, but the only absolute in life is change…and there are mountains out west. No, this isn’t an announcement that I’m moving. Rather, it’s an encouragement from myself to myself (and you if you’re willing) to explore our backyard. I have a suspicion that creating adventure in the quiet moments might be a worthwhile step in practicing contentment.
So, first on the list of local adventures: Devil’s Den.
This underground spring that dates back to the prehistoric era is outside of Gainesville, Florida in little Williston. There is space for tents or R.V.s, whichever camping style you prefer. And if you are a diver, then this is a must-see stop. Entrance to the site will cost you $10 during the week and $15 on weekends.
For the less serious spelunkers (like Brooke, Brittany, and myself) there is an option to snorkel. For a few dollars more, you can rent a diving mask, snorkel, and fins from the folks at Devil’s Den. The gear is necessary as no regular swimming is allowed in the spring.
In days past, Devil’s Den had a whole scuba diving pool set up. We learned later that the “swampy” swimming hole next to the picnic tables once featured clear water and diving areas as deep as sixty feet. Due to an invasive water weed, that area has been shut down until further notice. But never fear, the real crown jewel, the underground springs, are clear, beautiful, and still open.
The entrance down into the cave looks menacing at first…just beware of a few slippery steps and you’ll survive the descent unscathed.
Like any other spring in Florida, the water is cold. It’s a chilly 72 degrees year-round. Unlike those other springs, the location of Devil’s Den in an underground cavern adds a whole extra element of awe.
It also adds the necessity for lots of steps.
We shared the water with snorkelers and divers alike. An unexpected highlight was watching groups of scuba divers descend to the bottom of the cavern and then slowly disappear into cave entrances unknown to us. I think the total depth of the caves is 100 feet…but considering that I stayed surface-level, feel free to correct me.
After a couple of hours of exploring the cold clear water, we surfaced to quickly explore the rest of the camp before departing. The grounds include the spring, of course, the old scuba pool, and another pool for swimming.
The groundskeeper was the one to inform us of the dilemma caused by the invasive water weed. A trial solution was to introduce different types of fish to the environment in hopes that they would eat through the weed. There was blue catfish, koi, and more teaming in the water. They are still waiting to see if the fish can defeat the invasive weed.
We also came across a lot (and I’m not exaggerating) of banana spiders during our foray into the woods. A lot. An ungodly amount.
After Devil’s Den, we had brunch at Mother’s Pub and Grille in Gainesville. Super friendly staff and lots of seating…and a pretty spicy Bloody Mary.
I got a dish called “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” It was simple and perfect with just the right amount of cheese, bacon, and hash brown to suit. What is an adventure without food? Well…a pretty lame adventure.
Next door to Mother’s is Karma Cream. They feature vegan and organic options in baked goods, ice cream, and more. I love that these two restaurants are neighbors! Before anyone makes a fuss, let me remind them that vegan does not mean sugar-free. Case closed.
And they had cupcakes. Can you guess what I got?
Our final stop in Gainesville was suggested by Brittany Edwards and is oddly enough also named after the devil. Devil’s Millhopper is a giant sink hole and a geological state park. It also doesn’t feel like Florida. The deeper we went, the cooler the air. There weren’t a lot of bugs either. And due to the recent rain, the pit’s ecosystem had shifted. Hundreds of mini-waterfalls were plunging into the sinkhole. Eventually this water will make it’s way into the Floridan aquifer. For now, it made the experience slightly magical…and rainforst-esque.
Credit for this shot goes to Brooke. The stylish eye-wear is sadly not mine.
I can think of no better way to end a day spent in nature than with a “Parks & Rec” moment made real. As we were leaving the park, I happened upon the guest book. Please enjoy that first entry.
Should you know the author of that genius insert, please let them know that I’d like to be friends.