A Chilly Plunge and Library Hens in Wakulla Springs, Florida

Cold Swims and Library Chickens, Say what? www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of colourful hens in a chicken run outside of Wakulla County Public Library

By Florida standards, it’s getting chilly out there, so an indoor destination is just the thing. And while we’ll never argue against library visits, we think you can still fit in an outdoor swim, even in the “cold”  Florida autumn.

It's never too cold for a 21-foot jump at Wakulla Springs. www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of dive tower at Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida

Wakulla Springs, Florida

The place is deserted compared to our June visit ten years ago. The day is a little cool, but the cold is nothing compared to the weather in Kingston,  Ontario this time of year. The water is just as clear as we remember it though, and the giant diving platform stands there, as inviting as it did before the kids came along. But the mama bear in me holds the children’s hands a little too tightly as we climb the stairs to have a better look.


Dive Tower at Wakulla Springs, Florida. A boat can be seen in the distance.


And there, just under the surface, we see it: what looks like a giant fish, but is actually a marine mammal: the awe-inspiring, slow moving manatee. All we see is the top of it, and M-girl looks on fascinated as it “comes up” for air. Even then, all we see is a tiny bit of the top of its head. We’re still mesmerized by the creature.


Manatee at Wakulla Springs-, Florida, as seen from the dive tower


Dan looks mischievously at the 21-foot-high diving platform, and I know he means to jump. So do I, but the children need watching, so we take turns. For now, the kids are happy wading in the water near the sand, trying to “catch” fish in their sand buckets.


Three children wading in the water at Wakulla Springs.


As Dan approaches the platform, the tour boat is just coming around the bend. We hear cheers of “Do it! Do it! Do it!” coming from the boat, and without hesitation, Dan makes the jump. The water is cold, but it was worth it.

After Dan dries off and is ready to watch the kids, it’s my turn to jump. I did this ten years ago, but you forget how high this thing is. What I imagined would be a simple pencil dive turns into something not quite as graceful, I’m sure. But it was still fun. By the time I jump, other people have gathered to try it as well.


bird at wakulla springs, florida


G-boy is now convinced he also wants to jump. 21 feet is way too high for a 6-year-old, but the first storey is much shorter, so we agree he can jump from there. In he jumps, and I’m there to catch him. He’s cold, but he doesn’t care. He jumps in several times, and then we swim around for a bit. Once he gets out, I stay in the water for a wee bit longer. Sure, the water’s cold. But Lake Ontario is colder. In all,  there were probably about 10 people brave enough to face the cold water that day (including us).


Trees and water at Wakulla Springs


As we make our way out, we run into  a couple carrying an impressive underwater camera. They say we’re troopers for being in the water so long, and they let out a collective “oh” as we explain that we’re Canadian. Twenty years ago, I probably wouldn’t have jumped into this chilly water. But after living over half my life in a cold climate, I’ve embraced my Canadian citizenship fully. I still dislike winter—no denying that. But a little chilly swim on a less-than-warm day is actually kind of fun. 

Before leaving Wakulla Springs, we stop in at the lab, where mastodon bones are on display. They are so massive,  and looking at them is somewhat humbling. The children love learning about these animals and are amazed that something this large once lived right here in Florida.


Mastodon leg bones at the lab in Wakulla Springs, Florida


Wakulla Springs is a lovely spot, and it’s even nicer when it’s a bit warmer out. We’ll probably be back some day.

Hens in Unexpected Places

The next day we visit the Wakulla County Public Library so I can get some work done.  To our surprise, we are greeted  by hens, who are apparently sure we’re bringing them a treat. The colourful chickens come out of their coup, making their way quickly through their chicken run, before stopping in front of us, waiting expectantly for something we don’t have in our hands. One of them quickly loses interest and returns to the coup, but several others just stand there, looking on. After observing he chickens for a while, we make our way inside.


Chicken Coup at the Wakulla County Public Library


The Wakulla County Public Library is a lovely, cozy building, with several interesting things to take in. The love of quilts here in Florida is once again apparent, as a quilt is also displayed  here, this time enveloping one of the  building’s support beams (sorry, I forgot to take a photo).

On top of some short bookshelves, just below eye-level, sit intricate, completed puzzles of various types. A giant Mickey Mouse picture is impressive enough, but upon closer inspection, you can see that each piece of the puzzle actually consists of smaller Disney pictures, all coming together to create the iconic cartoon character.


Completed Mickey mouse puzzle on top of a bookshelf at Wakulla County Public Library, Florida


How the people who put these wonderful things together have the patience to do it will always be beyond me. But in a way, that’s a good thing: I admire these feats even more, because it’s not something I have the skill (or desire) to complete.

Another neat aspect of this library is an “Adult Reading Room” that inspires me to one day build something like it in my own home (except mine will be for both adult and children, of course). On one side of the room stands a wooden cabinet, atop of which have been placed a beautiful owl sculpture and a friendly-looking potted plant. Beside the cabinet is an antique globe, and on either side of this display sits a comfortable chair. On the left side of the room, the wall has been covered with shelves displaying magazines, and across from the inviting chairs is a table with a partway-done puzzle. A well-placed rug completes the look of this inviting room, where anyone wanting a quiet reading space can enjoy their pastimes.

Adult Reading Room at Wakulla County Public Library


There are several interesting displays at this branch, including a glass case of antique toys found by the local metal detecting group. It’s interesting to see how playthings have changed over the course of the last century.

The children’s area of this library is lovely, and the kids’ only complaint is that we didn’t spend enough time there. Unfortunately the library closes at noon, and so our time there was short.


Kids' area Wakulla County Public Librar


But the complaints quickly die down when the children see what Dan is holding: treats for the chickens we met earlier. As gross as those treats look, the chickens love them, of course.


Three children look at chickens in a chicken run at the Wakulla County Public Library


For 50 cents, you can buy a container of freeze-dried mealworms and feed it to the resident hens. What a fun way to raise funds for this unique book lover’s spot. The children delight as the chickens cluck and wait impatiently for their treats to come raining down.

After a great experience in Wakulla Springs, it’s time for us to move on to our next destination.

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