I heard them long before I spotted them.
After scanning the shoreline for a few moments, I saw furtive movements. About 20 rhesus monkeys were along the shoreline. Their shrieking stopped when they saw me, but after they realized I was no threat and no food was forthcoming, the continued playing, squabbling and eating. I let my bow nestle into the vegetation, grew quite and played the voyeur, watching their monkey business and listening to their shenanigans reverberate through the surrounding forest, answered by strange bird languages that struck my ear as something that might come from a mutated cockatoo.
After watching the monkeys for a while, I made my way up to the springhead, giving the gators along the way a wide berth. The springhead is astounding, as much for the Florida tourist kitsch that has erupted around it as for the sweet, transparent water rising up out of limestone fissures. Fortunately, the park is only a small portion of the paddle, and most of it feels more like navigating a Tarzan movie than watching fat Midwesterners gawk at alligators.
This was my second time paddling Silver Springs, and clearly it didn’t disappoint. The weather was perfect — cool and sunny — and I had long stretches of water entirely to myself. The 9.5 mile paddle was sublime, the perfect antidote to the winter gloom I’d fled in Knoxville. Below is a detail of my GPS route at the springhead, and here’s a link to a few more photos from the paddle.