Moving to Florida

Moving to Florida from Canada was a crazy experience for me, in so many ways. It has taken alot of getting used to, in almost every way I can imagine: the weather, the culture, food, and just general attitude. But, it has been SUCH an awesome experience.

The weather, for one, was a ridiculous change and very hard to get used to. Now though, I really like it down here.
Because it’s the Fourth of July weekend I suppose I am thinking about what it means to be American. I am not a citizen, but I have been thinking about moving to Florida permanently after I graduate with my masters degree.
On one hand, I don’t think I will miss Canada’s winters. B.C. has pretty mild winters when compared to the rest of Canada, but it just seems like I’ve gotten used to Florida’s best retirement community, so to speak.
Maybe the concept of snowbirding is something I should consider?
My grandfather used to say that his favorite season is summer because, as he put it, you don’t have to shovel sunshine.
If I moved back to B.C. I think I would also miss the water.
I think that Florida has the best beaches. I love the ability to hit the road on a Friday even and be surfing by the time the sun comes up.
I also love shell hunting. Looking for shells in Fort Desoto State Park, or Honeymoon Island State Park, or my favorite, Anna Maria island, is unrivaled. Canada forests just can’t compete with those experiences.
On the other hand, I do miss the mountains.
Hiking to glacier lakes in the summer is such an incredible experience, I hope that I will live in a place again in my life where that is possible. But, if I lived here, I would have all access to all Florida Springs, which I’ve totally fallen in love with. 
Speaking of glacier lakes, I have been meaning to find a stand up paddle board (SUP) to use with Peso!
I first had this idea that it would be amazing to take him to Ichetucknee Springs and paddle down the river. Unfortunately that plan will not work out because I read that dogs are actually not allowed on the river at all, which was disappointing. But, there are some other options, and maybe we can still go hiking in Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

One thing that has been on my mind lately is hurricane season. It sort of snuck up on me and now here it is and I haven’t really given much thought to storm preparation, or what I’ll do this year in case of a hurricane. I guess I need to start thinking about that.

Like I think I said in a previous post, the idea of moving to Florida permanently has been on my mind lately. One good thing about B.C. though is that we do not have to deal with hurricanes up there! The idea of buying a house in Florida especially and having it vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding is nerve wracking for me. Some of my friends bought a house recently and they have been dealing with one maintenance nightmare after another. On one hand, the idea of locking in living expenses for the forseeable future and having financial stability is so appealing, but on the other hand, I always wonder whether it’s a good time to buy a house in Florida.

It seems like prices have risen really dramatically in recent years, and I wonder how the long term effects of climate change will affect this market.

Sure, lots of people have been moving from New York to Florida, but will they still do that when they can’t get flood insurance in Florida because insurance companies stop writing policies? Living by the water is definitely a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s a dream. On the other hand, it could be a nightmare. I guess that’s how those things go.

Ha! In the middle of writing this I had to take a break and go rescue some random beetle that wandered into my kitchen. Ironically I used a box from Terro, the ant bait, that I’ve been using to deal with a recent ant infestation, to safely ferry the little guy outside. I felt really bad about the ant treatment. The idea of systematically poisoning a colony of living creatures tore me up inside, but I don’t really want hoards of ants crawling across my kitchen counter top, either.

One thing is for sure, it was fascinating to watch the ants. They have such a unique culture, and observing them really made me think about how efficient and sophisticated their behavior is.

But, now I am talking about ants, and the morning pages time is over, so I will stop.

Best Springs in Florida

I’ve been working incredibly hard on a school project related to Ichetucknee Springs. In some ways I’m happy with it and in some ways it’s been a real struggle.

I think at some time during the next few weeks I’ll try to organize a trip to go visit the springs again.

An old university friend contacted me recently. She asked if I’ve ever been to the Florida Devil’s Cavern– I think she meant Devil’s Den. Luckily she wants to go! She’s a marine scientist in a slightly different field, but she shares a love for diving, the ocean, springs, and everything water-related.

So, I’m thinking this might be the plan:

Tube Ichetucknee

Camping near Ichetucknee Springs

Maybe stay in an AirBnB near Fort White if we can find a good one.

I need to make a reasonable travel plan and itinerary out of these, but this is definitely the wish-list!

  • Ginnie Springs
  • Silver Glen Springs
  • Salt Spring
  • Rainbow Spring
  • Crystal River
  • Devil’s Den
  • Blue springs
  • Poe springs

I’m hoping that maybe we can scuba dive in Devil’s Den. I need to check the prices and cave certification details.

Jupiter Florida

Jupiter Florida Inlet Lighthouse

Jupiter, Florida

Jupiter Beach, Florida is a fantastic, hidden little Florida paradise. It’s a quiet, cute sea-side town situated right on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Well, it’s not a total secret any more. It’s often featured on lists of the best small towns in Florida, But, it’s not over-run, or ruined yet, either.

The town has a really great, unique flavor to it.

Living in Jupiter Florida is generally very nice. Most people who live there say they never want to leave. We noticed that locals really seem to love their home, and are happy to share recommendations. Folks told us about hidden paddle boarding spots, and where to go for post-paddle/surf food.

The population is relatively low, with a little less than 60,000 residents. Like most of Florida, the population declines in the hot, humid summer and grows very winter as the weather setting switches from “Oppressive” to “Delightful”. There is the hurricane season to think about, but that’s a concern you’ll just have to live with if you want to live on the beach.

Of course, not everyone thinks that Jupiter is heaven on Earth. After all, preferences, values and opinions vary from person to person, and not everyone loves the slow, chill surfer life. Some people feel bored with the lack of stimulus, and said they prefer the nightlife of Miami/Ft. Lauderdale night life further south.

One very refreshing thing we noticed is that folks in Jupiter seem to really value their home, their environment, and want to take care of it. Maybe that’s because their home is so easy to appreciate? Jupiter is blessed with amazing waterways and fragile marine ecosystems at every turn.

Beyond the water, the beaches and great paddle boarding, Jupiter also has deep roots and history. For example, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse—a classic, beautiful, old red lighthouse— goes all the way back to 1860. It shows that even a hundred and something years ago, people were sailing around and enjoying the lovely waters of Jupiter. There’s also a historical pioneer house from when Florida was first settled, and a WWII US Navy museum.

Jupiter Florida: A deep sea fishing boat in front of Jupiter lighthouse
Deep sea fishing in Jupiter florida

The cost of living falls is on the high side, especially when adjusted for earning potential. But, it’s still relatively affordable when compared to most Florida water-front real estate, and especially when compared to markets like California or Hawaii.


Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Wow! Things have been so busy lately. Where do I even start? So much has happened since I posted last.

I guess the biggest thing and really the source of all the other business, is that my research team was picked to chaperone a series of undergraduate field groups. It was an incredible opportunity and we were able to go on some amazing outings!

Everything I’ve done since the last update

  • Attended several ecology symposiums based around Florida environmental research.
  • Learned about the threats to Florida’s aquifer and extensive spring network.
  • Got to go camping at Ichetucknee Springs State Park, which was incredible!
  • Our group went for a midnight paddle/kayaking Ichetucknee River
  • We helped volunteer in an informal garbage-removal project
  • Visited and went camping at Ginnie Springs
  • Had a blast visiting Silver Lake Campground
  • Snorkeled off of Fort Lauderdale
  • Had (what felt like) a near-miss with Hurricane Dorian

It has been such a busy couple of months! I feel like I dropped the ball with this blog project. I was really hoping that I would write here consistently and use this as an online daily writing exercise, but I just really don’t know when that will be possible. But, at the same time, when I think back to everything I’ve done in the past six weeks, it’s really no surprise.

My favorite things

I think that of all the things we did, my favorite events were a tie between camping at the springs, especially in the cute Ginnie Springs cabins, and kayaking in Ichetucknee Springs. Although, freediving in Blue Hole was probably a highlight of the trip too.

A Freediver in Florida's Blue Hole
Snorkeler in Florida’s Blue Hole Spring, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Photo source: Flickr

The only downside: Alligators

The only downside to our time in nature– and I’m thinking specifically of Ichetucknee Springs here– is that some of our group was terrified of the idea of alligators in Ichetucknee Springs.

Florida Swamp with Green Algae

I made the mistake of telling them that they’re unlikely to see alligators, but they’ll almost certainly see snakes. It felt like wrangling little kids, honestly– by their reaction you would never guess that this is a group of undergraduate biology and ecology students! Honestly, it was sort of embarrassing… But, anyway, they finally got over their fears and we all ended up having a great time. The temperature of the spring water was perfect.

The other downside: I didn’t see any alligators

I didn’t tell any of the group because I didn’t want to cause a panic, but I was secretly hoping to see an alligator in Ichetucknee Springs! I know the danger involved but it is so exciting for me every time I get to see one up close. But, I always remember about the alligator attack in Blue Springs and use that knowledge to keep me from making a stupid choice.

Alligator in Florida Spring
Searching for alligators in florida springs

Florida Springs

Yesterday we returned from our field study trip to Ichetucknee Springs. The whole state park is so beautiful, I think it’s one of the best in Florida. I especially love Blue Hole. That color of electric blue is seriously one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring things I have ever seen before.
But, as beautiful as they are, more than ever, I am afraid. I am afraid for our planet and nature.
Florida’s springs are in truly danger. Although their history is as old as the Earth itself, humans must intervene now to prevent permanent damage and loss.
The springs will exist- unless we succeed in truly draining them all by dropping the water table!
But will they retain their beauty? Is a spring that’s choked off by toxic algae still the same spring? Will they be usable to humans?
We went to one spring, formerly a popular attraction, called White Sulphur Springs. It is an old bath house that people used to use for mineral healing. It is completely drained now. The spring levels dropped and now it’s just an empty pool, which is heart breaking and scary to see.
Florida’s springs and waterways are under assault from many directions.
First, the most insidious threat is that of over-consumption of water.
In the year 2019 it is unfathomable that big agriculture insists on using archaic and wasteful irrigation technology. Superior technology, like drip irrigation, and vertical farming techniques, must be adopted.
I read an article last week about the rubber stamp approval process that big ag gets in Florida to dig a new deep-access irrigation well.
It is disheartening that our representatives are so out of touch with the reality of our ecological disaster.
If big agriculture in Florida adopted sensible and honest approach to water management we would all be in a much better spot for the future. Why is it so hard to adopt modern irrigation principles? The truly unfathomable thing about the situation is that not only would farms be more productive if they switched to sensible practices, but they would be more profitable as well! 
Secondly, nitrates. I cannot believe that so many people still consume beef when it’s so clearly devastating for our environment. We drove past a feed lot and it was horrifying to see the amount of animal effluent that is leeching into our groundwater. 
The amount of water required to raise cattle is completely unjustifiable in the modern era. When will people come to their senses and stop engaging in such destructive lifestyle choices?
We met our new neighbor last week and I had to bite my tongue as she told us about her plans to fertilize her entire yard. We only just met her, I don’t want to be the one to start the relationship off on a bad foot.
I forget sometimes that it’s not common knowledge that fertilizer is toxic to our ecosystem, and that releasing nitrates into groundwater is like showering algae with growth hormone!
Michelle, who was with me for the conversation, suggested afterward that we should not say anything directly, but should slip an algae awareness brochure into her mailbox.
And lastly, I am so worried about our river’s future in terms of children’s appreciation for the natural environment.
While at Ichetucknee we saw countless children running off-trail and causing soil erosion. Don’t they know better? Of course they don’t… but their teachers and parents should. Where were they, while these kids were running wild and demolishing a fragile ecosystem?