It’s azalea season in Florida. Every year at this time, we talk about driving to Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, because it has hiking trails that pass through banks of azaleas on all sides. It’s a beautiful place any time of year, but it’s spectacular during azalea season. We talk about it every year, but we hadn’t actually done it since my now sixteen-year-old grandson was a toddler.
This year, something changed. My husband retired from his hated office job and became available for weekday adventures. Two of my grandsons are home-schooled, so they were available for a weekday field trip. I finally spoke up and said, “We should go to Ravine Gardens.”
Well, I had to add a specific day, because apparently nobody else in my family will take responsibility for such a heavy decision. I took a deep breath and said, “Tuesday. We should go Tuesday.”
No one had a problem with Tuesday, so we started making preparations. We picked up drinks and snacks and sandwich ingredients for a picnic lunch. We got my daughter to agree to have the boys up and dressed by nine o’clock in the morning – a major concession, but, hey – we were going on an adventure!
It was a lovely adventure. We got there early enough to enjoy a hike on the azalea trail before lunch. The kids were a bit nervous about the two suspension bridges, but they conquered their fears and learned to enjoy themselves. The sixteen-year-old even made a special effort to go up again all by himself, just to prove that he could do it. I was proud of him.
There are picnic tables all over the park, so we had no trouble finding a place to have our lunch. There is an automobile road that goes all the way through the gardens. We chose a picnic spot on the edge of that road in order to have easy access to our cooler, which stayed in the back of the van.
After we finished our sandwiches and snacks, we cleaned up our area and got back into the van to drive to the lily pond under the second suspension bridge. The boys had chosen that spot for their art project because it was so pretty. It was also interesting because the pond was full of big, fat tadpoles and lots of little fish. A sign warned of alligators but we didn’t see any. Maybe they saw the sign that said, “Alligators No Swimming” and obeyed it.
My grandsons used watercolors to create pictures inspired by the things they saw in the park. I don’t know why I didn’t realize there would be a painting break during this adventure, but I didn’t, so my paints were left at home. Oh, well…I had a lovely time relaxing in the shade while the boys created their works of art.
Even after our hike and our lunch and our relaxation at the lily pond, we still had plenty of time to get back to Jacksonville before rush hour, which was the only goal my husband set for this adventure.
I don’t think he would count napping on a bench at the lily pond as a goal.