“I see trees of green, red roses too I see them bloom for me and you And I think to myself What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night And I think to myself What a wonderful world “
— Joey Ramone, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald
There are times we take for granted that which is right in front of us. It’s human nature. If we had to drive several hundred miles to experience the beauty of God’s creations which are right around us, we would share the photos with friends and loved ones on social media or by other means to elicit positive responses of the beauty we beheld.
I am not against travel. In fact, I am one of its biggest proponents and wish I could do more of it. So many times we don’t experience the glory of the world right around us, and there’s plenty of it.
I am going to share with you a few of my favorite places in our region here “Around the Banks of the Suwannee.”
The Big Shoals. Located north of White Springs on County Road 135 better known to locals as “The Woodpecker Route,” the Big Shoals make a good bit of noise. In fact you can hear the roar of the tannic colored waters of the Suwannee River rushing over the rocks before you actually behold a sight that you may think you would find in the mountains of north Georgia or North Carolina. The Big Shoals on the Suwannee River; what a sight to behold. I find, for me, that while the beauty is there all the time, one of the best times of year to hike to the shoals and enjoy their scenic beauty is in late fall or the winter, less bugs and cooler temperatures make for a more pleasant walk, although, a photo recently posted by friends when the Suwannee was lower had them all sitting in the indentations made by the rocks in the big shoals as the cool water washed over them on a hot day. The photograph looked so cool and refreshing, and I thought what a nice publicity piece for this stretch of unique natural beauty here in our north central Florida home. Visit the Big Shoals State Park, you won’t be sorry.
Peacock Springs or Troy Springs near Branford, Florida. Imagine the most beautiful and intense “blues” and “greens” of a Maxfield Parrish painting and imagine that the deep beauty of these colors are set among the dappled greens of moss festooned moss. Imagine that what you imagine as the coolest of cool on a hot summer’s day is yours when you step into the water and, that, at once you feel more refreshed and more invigorated. Imagine you don’t have to imagine because it’s real and it’s within a short distance from where you reside. Peacock Springs and Troy Springs located near Branford are soothing to the eye and invigorating to the body. If you don’t believe me, just travel there and “Step into the Water.” During the hottest months of the year, these waters provide recreation, refreshment, beauty, and just plain enjoyment to so many in our area. You don’t want to miss them. When I had friends visit years ago, we would spend a day going “spring hopping.” Traveling from one spring to another. Packing a picnic lunch and enjoying it at the site we happened to be when lunch arrived, these trips within 50 miles of my home and many a shorter distance never failed to provide enjoyment for my guests, and it gave me an opportunity to “showcase” what was beautiful and special in our own backyard.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs, Florida. Here on the banks of the Suwannee River, the State of Florida created a memorial to Stephen Collins Foster, Pennsylvania native, world renowned songwriter, who penned more than 200 songs that captured the American spirit in the 19th century. Foster immortalized our “own” Suwannee River without ever laying eyes on it. Here in the more than 1000-acre state park in White Springs, visitors can visit the replica of the once famous White Sulphur Springs “spring house” which was, around the turn of the 20th century, a “popping place” and one of Florida’s first major tourist attractions. Close your eyes and imagine scores of individuals who came to “bathe and take” the waters, many who were transported to White Springs at that time on one of the two or three excursion trains that arrived there on a daily basis brining fashionable visitors who stayed in the area’s resort hotels and bathed in the, then, first magnitude springs that had more than 30,000 gallons of cold water per minute boiling up from its heart and flowing into the river at White Springs. Visitors can also enjoy walking on a portion of the Florida Trail along the river’s banks at the park or you may want to sit and listen to a concert from the park’s carillon bells that play Foster melodies four times daily at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. You may dream an afternoon away beneath cool shade trees or walk and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery on this part of the river. It’s all within our reach here in our home “Around the Banks of the Suwannee.”
Falling Creek Falls. Now these beautiful falls located on Falling Creek in northern Columbia County about 8 miles north of White Springs off U.S. Highway 41 near the Interstate 10 intersection are truly beautiful. A lovely park boasting some of the most outstanding natural beauty of our area leads to these waterfalls. Sitting close to the falls in a quiet, bucolic setting, one can “drink in” the uniqueness and the blessings of God’s Creation. Not far from the falls is Falling Creek Chapel, which at one time was a United Methodist Church. Founded in the mid-1800’s the historic chapel, now opened for special services is evocative of a time when folks in small rural communities were bound by friendship, fellowship and faith. It is a lovely place to mediate, pray and worship.
We are living in a troubled world. As we watch television or view what is on social media, it is easy for us to, at times, lose ourselves in the negativity and the tragedy that besets so much of our nation. Now, more than ever before, we all need to “tune in” to the beauty of the world around us, celebrate and give thanks for it and share it those we hold dear. I recall an old poem:
“A bell’s not a bell till you ring it,
A song’s not a song till you sing it,
Love wasn’t put down in your heart there to stay,
Love isn’t love till you give it away.”
One way we can share what is in our hearts is sharing what is in our own “backyard” here in our beloved home and, not only sharing it, but taking pride in it and giving thanks for them each and every day.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.