For those who know me, I have always loved the water and especially underwater. That is why I became a Frogman. My favorite night time Dreams are that of diving and swimming underwater.
That said, fighting and recovering three different cancers over the last few years has begun to take it’s toll. I have gotten fatter, weaker, listless and more importantly it has begun to affect my spirit. It seemed like every spring and summer (time for enjoying the water), I have spent using all my energy to fight for recovery. Recovery has been defeating the Dream.
My grandson Tim is staying with me through the summer. He has not scuba dived since his dive certification a couple years ago so I decided that no matter how weak or listless I feel, I was going to get Tim and myself back into the water. Damn the current BCG treatment! I am going to get my gills wet and get some underwater photos of my grandson scuba diving that he asked me for and wanted very badly so he could post them on Facebook.
A great place to reenter the underwater world that is very clear, calm and a very easy swim and dive is Morrison Springs. Thankfully, Morrison Springs has finally cleared up after the heavy winter rains and flooding. I really enjoy diving in the very clear freshwater springs of Florida. It is true that the marine life of freshwater spring does not match the color and diversity of marine life in the ocean but if you look closely there is always something new to see in the freshwater.
So Tim and I set a goal to go diving at Morrison. We checked out both the 50cf and 72cf scuba tanks and they both were filled with air to the max capacity. We checked out our buoyancy compensators, regulators, depth gauges, fins and face masks. All were in working order and we loaded them into the back of my jeep. I got a little tired doing all the pre-dive work but thankfully I had a teenager slave to do the heavy scuba bottle lifting. The pre-dive work tiredness did concern me a little since I was going to dive the next day but I said we would dive no matter how I felt. I can’t disappoint my grandson!
Since all my recovery periods, I have been sleeping in late to at least 9:00 am or even 10:00 am every day. Well I wanted to get to Morrison Springs before the summer crowds of children playing, adults floating in inner tubes and kayakers clouded up the spring waters. That meant I had to get up early at 6:00 am in order to drive to Morrison and be in the water by no later than 8:30 am. YUCH, I despise early rising. There is no worm big enough to get me up early except for scuba diving.
My phone clock woke me up promptly at 6:00am and surprisingly I did not feel horrible getting up that early. Probably the dream of getting in the water made the early rise more tolerable. We got our last minute gear of towels, trunks and cameras ready. I fed the teenage food monster a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl so he would not starve to death during our hour and fifteen minute drive to the springs. The drive went very smoothly with little traffic on the back roads to Morrison.
We arrived at Morrison Springs and there were only a few cars in the parking lot and they were all a student group of scuba divers. Since I had been sitting and driving the car for over an hour, bladder cancer treatment makes it imperative that you relieve on time. I sent Tim to the springs to check the water clarity conditions while I was off to the spring park restroom. We met back at the car and Tim had a good report of great water visibility in the spring. We opened all the doors of the jeep and dawned all of our scuba gear. Tim had a very loose fitting wetsuit top which we knew would not provide him too much insulation. Tim was geared up and I gave him a pre-dive inspection. Then I dawned my gear and hooked up my huge underwater camera system to my buoyancy compensator. Just the camera alone was an extra 25 pounds of weight besides all my dive gear. I knew this would be a long and slow walk down the board walk to the water. I had not exercised in months so I knew getting to and from the water would be the hardest part.
I sent Tim off ahead and told him to get into waist deep water and wait for me. No need to slow him down in the getting hotter every minute sun. I took the walk very slow with the 25lb camera hanging in front and the 40lbs of gear on my back. I looked like a humpty dumpty shuffling two short skinny legs down the long wooden boardwalk. I did need to stop at least three times holding onto the boardwalk railing to catch my breath. Finally I made it down the last stairwell to the water and quickly into the water I went to join up with Tim. I went into chest deep water right away where the cool refreshing 69 degree spring waters not only cooled me down immediately but it took the weight of the gear off my body. Tim and I put on our fins and face mask with one last check of Tim’s dive gear. I started my watch timer and underwater we went swimming a short distance to the underwater platform for training divers.
Once fully underwater I felt the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders and body. Not only that, my neutral buoyancy allowed me a freedom of movement and peace that the world of gravity above the water does not allow. My fluffy, humpty dumpty body was completely weightless! We got to the underwater dive platform and stopped there to check my underwater camera settings and make sure Tim was comfortable in the water. I had to help him clear his mask and he seemed to have his ears cleared for the new shallow water pressure. I took a couple of photos at the platform and then off we swam to the Cypress Tree log that hangs over the top of the Morrison Springs cavern and cave. We had a special photo we wanted to take at the log.
I let Tim lead the way because I wanted to watch him closely but also to get some photos of him diving. He seemed very comfortable in the water but was having a little problem with clearing his ears as we descended. We made it to the Cypress Tree log and Tim sat on top and got his ears cleared for that depth. Water visibility was incredible. We could see the entire perimeter of the spring. I was surprised by the lack of marine life in the basin but I knew from past experience that all the fish would be around the perimeter in the shallows. I asked Tim to move over to the middle of the log so he was right over the top of the spring cavern. The unique photo we wanted to take was of Tim hanging upside down from the log and over the spring cavern looking like a bat hanging near its cave. Tim did it perfectly and I took several shots. Then we dropped to the bottom near the entrance to the spring cavern.
Water flow from the spring was pretty strong so I did not attempt to take Tim into the cavern. We hung around down below to take some pictures with the cavern ledges in the back ground and then
headed back up to swim the perimeter of the springs. I did notice that Tim was shaking pretty badly. I used underwater sign language to ask if he was cold and did he want to surface and stop the dive. He put on a brave face and indicated he wanted to keep diving. We went back the the log and there we took several other photos of Tim modeling underwater. Tim was still shaking. He did not have same blubber insulation that I had. We swam around the perimeter of the springs and saw some very large Chain Pickeral and various Bluegill and Sunfish. The Florida Largemouth Bass still seemed to be hiding out.
We took some more photos of him near the Cypress Tree root systems in the water and over by the dive platforms. We made it back to the training dive platform and noticed that there was a large amount of Bluegills and Sunfish hanging around under the decking. We chased the fish all the way around the platform deck. Finally, I decided that Tim was shaking too badly so we swam to shore so he could get back into the warm sun. I dreaded surfacing and getting back into the world of gravity but I had to get Tim out of the water. I sent Tim ahead to open up the jeep. I took my time very slowly climbing back up the stairs and the long boardwalk trek back to the jeep. Once again I had to stop three times during the return walk to catch my breath but I made it safely back to the jeep. Immediately I put the 25lb camera down and took off my scuba tanks with Tim’s help. What a relief! I took off my hooded vest and grabbed my snorkeling underwater camera with a Go Pro video camera. Together they both were lighter than five pounds. What a relief.
Tim decided to go to the beach and warm up laying out in the sun while I went back into the water to take some marine life photos while snorkeling the river and the spring. As usual, I spent another hour snorkeling looking along the shoreline of the river and spring where all the fish and turtles hide out. To my surprise the river had not fully cleared up from the winter’s flood waters so I did not go very far down stream. I only saw one turtle hiding out amongst the silty bottom. It knew I saw him because it would keep swimming to a new location and stop. I decided to swim back to the much clearer waters of the spring and on my way I saw a multitude of very large Chain Pickeral hanging around in groups of two in the shallow waters and the tree root systems. I must have seen at least twenty large Chain Pickerals before I made it back to the springs.
As I swam the shallow waters adjacent to the spring, I finally started seeing some very large and fat Florida Largemouth Bass. One
was so fat it almost looked pregnant, which it may very well have been. I swam through the Cypress Tree root systems and saw a multitude of bass, bluegill, sunfish and schools of mullet. What I did not see this time were any large Grass Carp. There were lots and lots of schools of guppies hanging around the tree roots. As I looked closer at one of the tree stumps I found something very unusual and not characteristic of freshwater marine life. I hung around snorkeling down several times looking at this unusual scene of spikes sticking out of a tree root with a set of eyes that would pop out every now and then. I finally realized that the spikes were the whiskers of a small dead catfish trapped within the root system. The catfish whiskers looked like white spikes of a sea urchin in the gulf or ocean. The full body of the catfish was stuck up behind the tree roots like it was stored there.
I could not figure out what the set of eyes where that were right next to the catfish whiskers. I later discovered after looking at my photos that those were the eyes and nose of a Soft Shell Turtle poking it’s head out right next to the catfish whiskers. I had never seen a Soft Shell Turtle before at Morrison Springs so that was new. Then I could not figure out
why the Turtle head was hiding behind the Catfish whiskers. My best guess is the Turtle had the dead catfish stored in the tree root system and was eating the catfish. That was another strange site. Plus I could not figure out how that Soft Shell Turtle could stay underwater that long without coming up for air.
The 69 degree spring water was finally getting me a little cold so I decided to end my snorkel time and go back to the heavy world of gravity. Good news was that the dive and snorkel seemed to re-engerize my body. I felt restored and more energetic!
Before we left I did send my UAV drone up into the air to get some aerial photos of Morrison Springs while the spring water was very clear. I don’t think any of the people sunning or swimming realized there was a drone 200 feet above there head. I got a couple of good aerials of the spring and we packed up the jeep and left the park. I knew I had a teenage monster that needed feeding so we stopped off at the recently re-opened Rabbit Creek Cafe formerly the Red Bay Cafe. The cafe looked much the same as before but with different menu and a quite colorful single owner, Alabama Charlie. I ordered a breakfast meal and Tim ordered a BLT with french fries. They were the most unique looking and good tasting fries I have ever eaten. What made the cafe though was Alabama Charlie. I tried to squeeze out of him what his last name was but he said it was a secret. He had lots of interesting stories about knowing the King of Ghana and many celebrities that own Ferraris and Porches. His cafe is a rally point for many of their rallies. He is also publisher of the Black Tie Magazine and he has a photo studio in Destin, FL. As I said he had lot’s of colorful stories and the cafe food was good.
That ended our Morrison Springs dive trip and I am very thankful the good Lord gave me the strength to complete the dive with Tim, renew my Dream and energize my recovery.