Recently my wife Heather and I were able to take full advantage of my new summer work schedule, which affords me three day weekends, to take a fun day trip to one of our favorite nature parks, the Blue Springs Recreational Area in Marianna, FL. The park holds a special place in our hearts as it is where Heather and I first met, fell in love, and later got engaged. When our kids were born we knew that we would want to take them there. The story that follows is an eye into what a typical travel day with twin 10 month old boys is like and includes some of the kinds of activities that we enjoy as a family together.
June 12th, 2020
I began the day, like most any when I don’t have to leave home at the crack of dawn to be in time for work, by waking up with the kids. Our twin boys are early risers typically waking up with the sunrise. After a few sleepy eyed winks, baby coos, and deep face crinkling stretches they are both raring to go. My first task whenever I am home in the mornings is to change their diapers so I took them one at a time and got them cleaned up. (Thankfully no number 2’s!) Then with that done to keep them from waking up their mom I took them to the living room to play doing my best to keep them occupied for the next hour or so until breakfast time. In between playtime bouts I took a few minutes here and there to brew some coffee, prep ingredients for Heather and I’s breakfast, and make the babies their morning snack. When the babies let me know that they were ready for breakfast (usually they do this by trying to crawl up my legs and yelling DA DA DA!) I placed them in their walkers and started spoon feeding them their oatmeal and fresh fruit which they scarfed down hungrily brandishing their arms and squealing the whole time. They love to EAT!
A few minutes after I had placed the kids back on the floor for playtime round number two I saw Heather pop her head around the bedroom door to check on us. Sufficiently satisfied with my paternal care she poured herself a piping hot cup of coffee and sat down on the couch to nurse the babies their second breakfast. With the babies occupied we began to plan our day. Our ultimate goal was to make it to the Blue Springs Recreational Area. The park is home to a magnificent crystal clear, first magnitude spring head which pumps over 65 million gallons of water each day into the Merritt’s Mill Pond. With the park only about a 25 minute drive from where live, we knew that we didn’t have to rush ourselves to get out the door. With time on our side we decided to take a morning jog with the kids so that we could get in a good workout and to allow babies to take their first nap of the day while riding along in the jogging stroller.
Upon returning from our run the day really began. My job was to pack the car, and as all parents know; when you have kids your car seems to somehow have no room for anything. Amazingly, I fit all of our items and baby gear into the trunk with room to spare allowing Heather and I to invite her sister, Sara, along for the day. An extra set of hands goes a long way with twins, so we were grateful for the addition.
Once we were packed up we hit the road; however before heading to the springs in earnest we made a pit stop for lunch in downtown Marianna at one of our favorite restaurants called Gazebo. Here my wife and I always order the same thing, the Savannah. A decadent sandwich loaded with freshly sliced turkey, bean sprouts, and cranberry mayonnaise all held together by two slices of toasted rye bread.
Freshly refueled, we made a bee line for the springs. Once at the park Heather, Sara, and myself each grabbed as many items as we could carry and set out to find a nice, shady spot to set up for the day. We ended up taking refuge from the sun along the banks of the spring over behind the slide area (the far left side of the image at the top of the blog). After getting the babies occupied in their Pop N’ Go we all sat back in our beach chairs enjoying the opportunity to relax, eat some snacks, and take turns making our various people watching observations . After several minutes the babies were getting a bit fussy being cooped up in their baby tent so we put on their swimsuits and took them down to the water. Remarkably, the babies didn’t seem to mind the cold and had a blast being whisked around in the water. When the babies had enough water time we dried them off and fed them; a short time later they were both ready for their nap. Once asleep in their stroller I was able to get away to the diving board area to have a little me time. The diving board is my favorite part about the springs. There is something so unimaginably fun about springing yourself up into the air, flipping, and then landing into the cool refreshing water. I can’t get enough! Previously, I had worked at the park as a lifeguard for 3 different summers and each time that summer came around I relished the opportunity to be able to work at such a remarkable place.
When it was late afternoon, we began to pack up our things and set our sights on getting back home so that we had plenty of time to help prepare a family dinner with my in-laws that evening. Before leaving the springs I took a few moments to enjoy the view from atop the hill. Standing there soaking up the sun’s rays and overlooking the sprawling marine phenomenon below I tried to imagine what the place looked like hundreds of years ago and struggled to comprehend just how many others had stood where I had at some point in time. From reading up on some history about early life in Jackson County, FL I learned that in 1685 Marcus Delgado, led an exploratory expedition in the area and said of the spring “we…reached such a large and excellent stream deep enough for canoes to actually issue from it…the spring is entirely surrounded by woods with many walnut, evergreen oak, laurel, common oak, sassafras, and some pine trees; around it are numerous huge rocks and habitable caves frequented by the Indians on their hunting trips for bear, deer, and buffalo, of which there is abundance.” Since then the area had become a haven for those traveling along what is known as the
“Old Spanish Trail” that charted a path from St. Augustine to Pensacola. Looking at it then, the weight of that history was overwhelming.
On the car ride home I remember thinking to myself that I was proud of us for being able to get out of the house and take our kids somewhere. Sometimes it can be very difficult traveling with kids, but it is so worth it! When they were born Heather and I vowed that we would not let the kids keep us from doing the things that we enjoyed, instead we would all find things that we could do together as a family. Although we can’t do everything just how we used to when it was just her and I; we try our hardest to make the best of it. At the end of the day I was so pleased with our experience and look forward to many more fun trips in the future!
Get out there!