On Saturday January 16, 2016 at 7:30 am, Garrett A., Kaleb M., Cutler S., Will T., Carter W., Zhenia M., Brian H., Gabe N., Shaan P., Nick W., Joey D., & Jack D., accompanied by adults Brandie A., Paul M., Meg B., Lindsey S., Barry S., and James P. met at Friendship Presbyterian Church to load up the trailer and prepare for the journey to Crystal River, FL. We departed the church around 8:30 am, and after a brief stop for ice, we headed south making several stops for gas and restroom breaks along the way. We ate lunch at various fast food locations in Tifton, GA and set out again on our journey. We arrived at the Crystal Isles RV resort at approximately 4:30pm in the afternoon. After checking in, we made our way to our campsites. Several scouts immediately noticed the pool, giant chess board, volley ball net, and ice cream stand as we drove through the campground. We had four spacious campsites all together in an area along the back river in a wooded and palm tree covered area. Scouts quickly set up camp and decided to put up the pavilion in the middle campsite to serve as a central meeting/cooking area. Led by patrol leaders Garrett A., and Jack D., scouts quickly set up personal gear and began preparations for dinner.
Patrol 1 enjoyed a yummy dinner of walking tacos while Patrol 2 feasted on beef stir fry and rice. After dinner and KP, a majority of the scouts opted to head to the heated swimming pool under the supervision of Paul M. and Brandie A. to enjoy a little bit of night swimming. A few scouts decided to forgo swimming and turn in early to be prepared for an early start the next morning. At around1:30 am a fierce thunderstorm moved in with intense winds flooding the tents of both scouts and some adults J The patrols secured the campsite that night before lights out in preparation for the storm, so there was minimal damage to camp.
On Sunday (1/17) Scouts were up early at 5:30 to prepare to leave for the snorkeling activity. A fast, no cook breakfast was enjoyed by both Patrols and consisted of a variety of cereals along with Bagels, cream cheese and fruit and juice. We departed for the docks around 6:35am. The annual Manatee Festival was in full swing so the 6-mile journey to the dive shop was riddled with road closings and barricades that required several course changes but we made it in time to catch the small boat that took us to the dive shop. Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by members of the dive team and given instructions on the day’s activities. We had to watch a short video on Manatee Manners so that we knew how we were to behave (and not behave) in the water around the manatees. We changed into wet suites, stored our gear, and board the boats divided by patrols. After and cold and short ride we arrived at the main springs and were instructed to enter the water. It was still dusk and the water was cold, will little visibility. After swimming around a bit without seeing any manatees, we boarded the boat and traveled to a location they called House Springs. The water was much shallower, warmer and clearer there, and that is where the manatees were congregating. Some manatees were playing, some were eating, and others were sleeping. You could see the scars and mangled tails of some who had previous motor boat injuries and others were covered in barnacles indicating advanced age. One manatee even had a research tag you could see from above the water. They were truly magnificent!
When it was time to head back to the dive shop, we boarded the boats and were given hot chocolate to warm us up. It was very, very cold on the ride back as the temperature was in the 40’s with a significant wind making it colder. We arrived back to the shop to change into dry clothes and were rewarded with hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and drinks, grilled on site by the dive shop staff. Even though it was only 10:30 in the am, this group was starving and the hot lunch was just the trick!
We arrived back to the campsite around 12:30. Scouts enjoyed several activities for the remainder of the afternoon. With adult supervision some went back to the pool, other scouts played chess on the giant chessboard, threw frisbees, or enjoyed a nap or enjoyed ice cream and milkshakes at the ice cream stand. Paul took this time to work on some advancement requirements with the younger/newer scouts. Dinner preparation began early around 4:00 pm as most were hungry due to the early lunch. Patrol 1 enjoyed grilled BBQ pork chops, green beans, salad, rolls and fruit. Patrol 2 enjoyed chili, corn bread and fruit. They entire group enjoyed yummy s’more pie prepared by Kaleb M. After dinner, we had a brief worship service with song and prayer, enjoyed skits, listened to Paul play music on his flute, and enjoyed scary stories by Paul and James P. Scouts dissembled the pavilion and loaded the trailer with all equipment not needed for breakfast before turning in.
On Monday morning (1/18), we got up at 7:00 am to prepare to break camp and eat breakfast before an 8:00 am departure. A cold breakfast of cereals, fruit, bagels and cream cheese was had by both patrols. Before departing the campsite, the adults took advantage of the hot fresh coffee provided by the campsite in the club house to refill their travel mugs before heading out. We enjoyed a lunch stop in Valdosta consisting of Little Caesars Pizza and Arby’s. Little Caesars gave permission for us to picnic on the floor of their lobby…what a sight! One man came in to order a pizza and talked with a few scouts about his experience in scouting and the adventures he remembered having!
We arrived back at the church around 5:00 pm and quickly unloaded the trailer. We had a wonderful adventure and can’t wait to go back!