23 Aug 2019by Celia D. Luna
How to gracefully survive the Juniper Springs run.
We did survive the Juniper Springs run but it wasn’t pretty. I’m going to give you some tips of how you can do it gracefully and painlessly.
My daughter Luna and I went camping for the very first time this summer. We were two girls with zero camping experience ready for an adventure. I planned just enough to know we would not die of heat but I left the rest to the unknown and I was fine with that. What was super clear from the beginning was that first, we wanted to play in the water. And second, we wanted to rent a van camper. My obsession with #vanlife was getting out of control and I needed to experience it. This was the perfect opportunity.
We first camped at Alexander Springs for a couple of days. Our first night was terrifying. My daughter wouldn’t stop telling me scary camp stories! I had to force myself to go to bed which rarely happens because I’m usually the one that falls asleep first. On the other hand, the spring was so beautiful and the water SO clear!! It was a bit cold for these Miami girls but we got used to it. Especially after hiking the Timicuan Trail right next to it. I still don’t know if I liked more seeing all those cool plants in the trail or jumping in the water after the hike.
After getting acquainted with camping, we drove 15 minutes north to Juniper Springs. I knew Juniper Spring had one of the bests canoe runs in the country and that it was not meant for beginners. We felt adventurous and learned with the punches (literally). I thought I would make a list of 6 things you can do to survive The Juniper Springs run a little more gracefully than we did:
- The latest you can launch your canoe/kayak at the Juniper Spring run is 11:30am. They’re very strict about this because they don’t want you in the run after sunset. They open at 9am so make sure you get there on time! The cost is $42.00 (canoe) or $47.00 (tandem kayak) + tax. They also charge you a $20 deposit for canoe use. They give it back to you when you leave the park.
- If you’re not too physically strong like us; loading your canoe/kayak can be a task of it’s own. I suggest to ask someone to help you to put your canoe/kayak in the roller cart. Canoes are particularly heavier than Kayaks. Also, the boardwalk between where you pick up your canoe/kayak and the place where you start paddling is LONG and narrow. So maneuvering your cart will be fun or frustrating. You get to pick! 😉
- The run is 7 miles long! You will be paddling for 4 hours so bring food! The park doesn’t allow you to have any type of packaging to make sure you don’t harm the environment. So pack your sandwiches or whatever your bringing in clear containers. They will check what you bring.
- Canoe or Kayak, which one should you pick? We learned that canoes are more comfortable for people that bring gear and people that like to seat with their knees bent. Kayaks are better if you’re not bringing any stuff with you and if you don’t mind your legs straight out in front of you. We picked a Canoe for us because we thought it would be easier. Apparently, it’s more comfortable but not necessarily easier than kayaks.
- How to paddle on a canoe? We heard that the more experienced paddler and the heavier weight should go in the back. We had a problem. Luna is the more experienced paddler but she weights less than me. I put her in the back for a minute and that did NOT work. We crashed and couldn’t control the canoe. Things were way better when I was in the back (heavier weight) and Luna was in the front. I had four hours to learn how to paddle and believe me, I did! Especially after seeing two alligators staring at us.
- Which brings me to the last tip: there are alligators in this run, so do not go for a swim. I almost did! The photo below is proof that I didn’t know what I was getting into. I chickened out when I didn’t see anyone else in the water. Seeing the alligator from the canoe was terrifying but exciting at the same time but I would’ve died if I had seen the alligator swimming next to me.
This trip was full of firsts for us and we loved it. Would I do it again? I’m pretty sure I would. I have the knowledge now and so do you!