Stephen Foster Cultural State Park

towerWe have been really relaxed and visiting family and friends, so I have found every excuse not to write.  It seems fun can trump writing. Anyway, are staying at the Stephen Foster Cultural State Park located on the banks of the Suwannee (Swanee River Fame) River in White Springs, Florida, not too far from the intersection of Routes 10 and 75. White Springs Florida was previously know as White Sulfur Springs, and was renowned for the curative properties of the water back in the day.  It was said that the waters in White Sulfur Springs, White Spring, whatever, would cure everything from rheumatism and indigestion (not sure how they are connected) to dandruff and insomnia.  I suppose that back then people lost sleep over their dandruff.

Somehow science intervened and the place wasn’t the draw, it was in the past, and the town went belly up. Stephen Foster, who wrote some legendary music, “Swanee River”, “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”. “Camptown Races” are just a few, took eht name Suwannee  from an atlas, changed the spelling for his song, and the rest id history.  Foster died broke and penniless on the Bowery at age 37 after being abandoned by his wife and child. He never set foot in Florida. It was the geographical closeness to the Swanee/ Suwannee River that inspired the local devotion to Stephen Foster, probably that and the fact that the big tourist attraction went away and something was needed to fill the void.

doiramaThe constructed a museum containing dioramas extolling the romance of the old plantation system. Slavery and the romance of the old plantation system is a concept that I am still having difficulty getting my mind around.  Suffice it to say that the “Swanee River” is somehow the Florida state song. Google the lyrics and you may find yourself in the same place I’m at. They also have a huge carillon that plays Stephen Foster music at different times during the day. The music is still wonderful, it’s just that some of the lyrics should remain in the past. The interior of the carillon reminds me of Napoleon’s tomb in Paris, except more somber.  It must be a southern thing.

The previous day we were at Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island, one of the southernmost sea islands on the east coast (and a much nicer place greenery wise), and we drove fro there to White Springs to spend a couple of days in warm weather.  I’m sure that all my family and friends in the northeast currently have a different gauge of what warm is, but it’s been pretty cool in Florida since we were in the Everglades, a long time ago.  The weather was generally in the 50’s to very low 60’s with overcast and/or wind.

The weather on Amelia Island was very nice and it’s continued to be warm and humid here in White Springs. We are visiting friends in Atlanta this weekend, so it’s nice to goof off and be warm.  The park is generally flat and is a great place to bike, so this morning when the rain that was forecast didn’t arrive, we were off on the bikes. Near the river are the remains of the ‘bath house’ where everyone took the ‘cure’. On our way from Pensacola to Jacksonville, we stayed at the park for a quick stop and I was intrigued then by the building.

white_springWe took the long route to the attraction.  They have some very nice bike trails, but the documentation isn’t so good.  I could see the trails on my phone with Google Maps, and  I assumed that all the trails were the same.  When we hit the Florida Trail, a Florida version of the Appalachian Trail, the trail was no longer an abandoned road, but a narrow footpath.  We walked the bikes.

alligatorsWe arrived at the bath house to discover that all was left was the concrete foundation.  You know, one of those foundations they put in, in the 1900’s, a foundation that would last for all time.  Foot thick walls installed by the same construction company that built the Coliseum in Rome.  The building was constructed to keep the river out of the spring waters.  The Swanee is a ‘black’ river.  Deep channel, filled with water that is stained by tannins to the color of diluted India Ink, oh, and full of alligators.  Yes, thy have signs all over saying no swimming.  No kidding! I wouldn’t swim in that stew of black whatever, if you paid me.

poolThe spring may be there, or not, but the doors that keep the river out are long gone, and the building was filled with the black inky water.  I was hoping to see what the draw was back in the day. We pedaled back to the gift shop and exhibit buildings in hopes of purchasing a pin that was promised on out last visit, and catching a visit with the two blacksmiths, Jim Mandle, the raconteur, and Al Cameron, the blacksmith. No pin, no blacksmiths, so we headed back to the RV, ate lunch and relaxed.  There was a dulcimer concert scheduled in the carillon building, so we took that in.  The musicians were excellent and played a number of tunes on the dulcimer, piano and hammered dulcimer. We headed back and got back to the RV just ahead of an afternoon rain shower.

Louise took a walk and I did some web work, and then watched an online course on photography that I’ve been meaning to see for a long time.  Dinner was on time, grilled pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes and excellent.  All in all, an excellent relaxing day.