Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Salt Springs – "A Magical Place Forever"?

My favorite memory of Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest is when I camped there with my high school soccer coach and his son, who was my teammate. Coach Young was from Jamaica and he had a diving light and a spear gun (which I never got to use.😢) It was winter and the water felt comfortably warm compared to the thirty-some degree air temperatures. We swam in the spring at night and the dive light would catch streaking flashes of mullet – fleeting explosions of mercury through the water. It was creepy swimming through large swathes of eel grass to get to where the spring boils were – they were the only relief from the submerged underwater vegetation because they were surrounded by limestone. 

My Dad and I also fished Salt Run for bass using special floating plastic worms that we purchased from my favorite tackle store in Welaka. I had a tackle box full of these brightly colored lures that I only used a handful of times. I don't remember catching anything there but my I'm sure Dad did. He always did.

My excuse for checking in on the spring this year was avoiding holiday traffic on the interstate. Truth is I've been itching to go back to experience the spring as an adult. It's just under $13 for a day use pass to enter the Salt Springs Recreational Area. There are campgrounds and a short loop trail through a swamp in addition to the facilities at the spring head. On this overcast December day there was only one other car in the parking lot and only two other individuals at the spring. Beautiful live oaks surround the institutional-looking buildings that front the spring – one a store (closed), the other a bathhouse. The spring basin itself, which is quite large, is enclosed by a large manila-colored wall. 

Another reason for visiting was to take look at the manmade infrastructure there. One of my interests is how our culture treats manmade wonders like Salt Springs. I once did a talk called "Piped, Pooled, and Protected" on the topic. In my estimation the Park Service's "enhancements" such as the wall around the basin made undoubtedly function well by preventing erosion around the spring head, but they don't foster a feeling of connection to nature. 

As I remembered the spring was full of interesting aquatic life – schools of mullet, blue crab, what appeared to be Jacks(?), as well as the occasional bass and bream. New to the spring was the invasive armored catfish that seem to be the scourge of any spring I visit in Central Florida. I call them Plecos, short for Hypostomus plecostomus. 

There were also at least a half dozen manatees just outside the spring head near the start of the run, hovering near the bottom of the shallow water just beneath the surface of the water. I have been told that the numbers of wintering manatees at the springs along the St. Johns River is increasing due to the degregation of Indian River Lagoon. One obvious change is the lack of submerged aquatic growth– all that pesky eel grass I hated as a kid. There was no visible eel grass or any plant life beneath the surface. I wondered what the manatees found there for substance.

I didn't bring my swimming gear so I was envious of the one lone snorkeler who floated among the manatees all by himself. The water felt warm, like it did when I was a kid, and I was filled with remorse for not schlepping my swim trunks, mask, and fins. 

If I remember my research correctly, early owners of the spring, including the Townsend family who owned Orange Spring, saw the potential of the unique saline characteristics of the springs there, but no one developed a spa on the property to my knowledge. In the 1970s the campground facilities between the spring and Lake Kerr were developed by one of the owners of Silver Springs. An interesting community still exists outside the Park Service's recreational area and it appears to be mostly retirees living the good life in Florida.

This 1925 article from a Miami newspaper suggests that Salt Springs did in fact have perceived "curative" properties and developers Glenn Curtiss and James Bright were considering building a spa there. The two would eventually sell their Miami Springs Hotel to John Harvey Kellogg as the Florida site for his Battle Creek Sanitarium.

I have often claimed that every spring in Florida that was developed commercially in Florida would at some point be touted as the Fountain of Youth. The claim is made in this 1970 article when it was owned by the Ray family who also owned Silver Springs.  

Vintage postcard of Salt Springs from an internet auction site

My favorite historical image of Salt Springs is author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings standing in a row boat with a blue crab dangling in the air at the end of a stick. Whether this was a posed publicity photo or just a moment of Old Florida loving captured on film, I'll never know. The photo captures what Rawlings' life in the area seemed to have been like or at least my perception of that ideal.

I loved to write "compare and contrast" papers in school, I think it appeals to the analytical side of my brain I seemed to have inherited from my father. In comparing the Salt Springs of my childhood memories with the spring of the present day, there were some elements of consistency that were reassuring and nostalgic. It was an unexpected thrill to see the colony of manatees. But it was disappointing to see the lack of submerged aquatic vegetation that placed me as a kid. There is limited interpretation of the history and environment of the spring, just handful of panels in the breezeway of the bathhouse. The panels are well done, but very dated.  One panel dubs the spring a "Magical Place Forever." The lack of imagination in the built environment around around the spring, however, is anything but magical today. It's park-like setting doesn't enhance the natural features but rather simply contain them. I've often said that all Florida's springs are magical places and that is certainly true at Salt Springs. But we could do a better job of allowing that magic really shine with better curation of this marvelous place. 

Archival photo from the State Archives of Florida

Archival photo from the State Archives of Florida

Apparently no martini drinking allowed at Salt Springs

Is that a Jack swimming in the spring boil?

Design looks to be done in the 1980s based on the typography.

Lovely illustration of one of the spring's early inhabitants.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Datson Dairy: From Family Farm to Beloved Brand

Note: The following article originally appeared in the magazine for Pine Castle Pioneer Days in Orange County, FL in 2022.

When my wife and I moved into our nearly century-old bungalow on Lake Hourglass in 2004, I became interested in learning more about the history of the area. I was thrilled to find a vestige of the past in the form of a milk-bottle cap stuck in the corner of our attic, under the floorboards. The bottle cap featured a green cloverleaf design and text that read “Grade A Pasteurized Milk – Datson Dairies Orlando.” It was the first I’d heard of what I would come to learn was one of Central Florida’s oldest and largest commercial dairies. Little did I know that the cows from the dairy once grazed in pastures nearby; a century ago I might have been able to stand in my backyard and hear milk cows mooing!

The Datson Family Comes to Orange County

Burton Clarence Datson, or “B.C.,” moved his large family to Orlando from Las Tunas, Cuba, where the Datsons raised cattle between 1904 and 1915. B.C. was born in 1874 in Ohio, where he married his wife, Alice, who gave birth to seven children. After the family arrived in Central Florida in 1915, he established B.C. Datson & Sons Cloverleaf Dairy. At the time, B.C. had almost more children than cows – four sons and three daughters vs. nine cows, according to one report. In another account, the dairy’s original herd contained thirteen cows, purchased from Captain Brannon’s dairy on Lake Lucerne. 

The Datsons came here at a time when the dairy industry was evolving rapidly. The first milk cow in Orange County was also from Ohio, shipped by rail in 1884 to Amanda Ford. Orange County’s earliest dairies were small family-run operations where residents sold surplus milk to their neighbors. The age of the commercial dairy began in 1915 when C. Fred Ward installed coolers at his Lakemont Dairy in Winter Park to prevent spoilage. Three generations of Wards would continue to operate the dairy where the Winter Park Pines development is today. 

B.C. Datson would find similar success as a Florida dairy farmer, building what would become one of the City Beautiful’s most popular brands with the help of his four sons and a son-in-law. Their fledgling dairy prospered, and by the mid-1920s the Orlando Sentinel dubbed B.C. the “Milk King” of Central Florida.

B.C.’s Big Vision

B.C. grew his business by purchasing parcels of land around Central Florida and absorbing other small dairies. In December 1916, the Sentinel Star reported that a “B.D. Datson from Havana” had purchased a 1,000-acre ranch in Osceola County to create a “stock farm.” In  1918, he purchased the routes of the family-owned Shader Dairy in Fairvilla. (The Shader family dairy would continue to operate until 1949.) Around this time, B.C. also acquired 40 cows from the Hawkeye Dairy owned by Iowan R.T. Carris, as well as the property for which the Datsons would become best known – between Lake Hourglass and Bumby Avenue, south of Curry Ford Road (then called Conway Road). 

At that time the Datson pasture, near the Dolive grove, was about two miles outside Orlando’s city limits. The Datsons also partnered with Carris on a commercial venture downtown – the Clover Leaf Milk Depot. Located in the Elks Club across from the post office on Central Boulevard, the Depot sold an assortment of dairy products from buttermilk to cottage cheese. By 1920, the business offered lunch as well as homemade pie and doughnuts. That same year, Carris bowed out of the Depot’s operation to focus on running the nearby Orange Cafeteria. His place at the Depot was taken by Robert Dawson, who was married to B.C.’s daughter Nell. Incidentally, Dawson was also from Ohio, but he had met the Datsons in Cuba, where his family was also in the cattle business. 


Pioneers in Pasteurization

Because of public concern about illnesses linked to bacteria in milk, government agencies began to give milk and dairies greater scrutiny in the United States during the early twentieth century. Due to the costs of the equipment need to pasteurize milk, many smaller dairies were unable to compete. According to a recollection shared by Pine Castle’s Ruth Linton, in 1921 the Datson dairy became the first in Central Florida to pasteurize milk, and many customers initially didn’t like the refrigerated milk it delivered because they were so used to “warm milk fresh from the cow.” 

Datson advertisements promoted pasteurized milk that was “safe, pure and wholesome,” untouched by human hands and produced by “well-fed contented cows” using the latest scientific process to “remove all germs.” The dairy was also the first in Central Florida to deliver milk by motorized vehicle and later was the first company in Florida to serve milk in single-service paper cartons. Embracing innovation was always part of the Datsons’ success.  

Orlando Booms and Business Blossoms

In the early teens and twenties, Orlando was growing rapidly, evolving from an agricultural community to one of inland Florida’s most progressive cities. A road-building spree helped to make the area accessible to tourists and new residents arriving by automobile. The first bricked street outside of Orlando was Conway Road near the Datson pasture. All around Orlando, subdivisions were being developed at a rapid rate to accommodate the growth. 

As the city swelled, B.C. Datson got involved in buying and selling real estate. He purchased property north of Conway Road from J.C. Hull in 1921 and platted it for a development called Conway Terrace. Hull’s father, William, was a pioneer in the early citrus industry and once owned 640 acres from Lake Lancaster to Crystal Lake Drive. 

In 1922 a company called the Tourist Home Realty Co. advertised lots for sale on the “beautiful Conway brick drive” that were formerly part of the Datson dairy farm. “The march of time brought the dairy closer to the doors of the towns-people,” according to a June 1924 Tampa Tribune article, and the growth of Orlando forced the Datsons to seek a new location “four or five miles away in the Conway section,” where they had purchased 1,000 acres. 

In May 1926, B.C. Datson announced that construction on a new $200,000 dairy plant, capable of processing 8,000 bottles of a milk a day, would soon begin at a location near the dairy’s production facilities on South Street. The Datsons had moved their milk-bottling operation to the South Street location in 1923, assuming the building formerly occupied by Cohoon Bros. Machine Shop & Cannery. 


Rebuilding After Tragedy 

A month after the Sentinel ran the story about the plans for the new dairy plant, the paper ran a front-page headline in all-capital letters: “B.C. DATSON IS KILLED IN AUTO ACCIDENT.” B.C. was returning from Ocala when his car overturned on a rain-slickened Winter Garden Road west of town. A column printed in the paper on June 8, 1926, three days after BC’s passing, called the dairyman an “able friend, builder, and earnest citizen” whose vision in “the bright future, faith in his city and country and state” contributed to the “upbuilding of this central empire.”

After B.C.’s death, his four sons built upon the dairy’s success, strengthening the strong reputation they had created within the community. The oldest son, Clarence, took over leadership of the dairy, and a year after B.C.’s death the Sentinel reported that 610 cows in Orange County produced 1,200 bottles of milk delivered daily by Datson trucks. Clarence’s younger brother Theodore was the dairy’s vice president and general manager. Glenn would manage the family’s farms, and youngest brother Richard supervised maintenance at the plant. Brother-in-law Robert Dawson acted as treasurer and secretary. 

B.C. Datson's grave in Orlando's Greenwood Cemetery

From the Pine Castle Pioneer Days program

Growth and Innovation

In 1926, the Datsons incorporated as Datson Dairies, Inc., and as the business continued to grow, they often purchased milk from smaller local dairies. June Smith Sunday recalled driving a car when she was only 14 to deliver milk to Datson Dairies from her family’s dairy on Winegard Road. In order to squeeze the 10-gallon milk cans into the car’s trunk, the lid of the trunk had to be taken off.  

The Datsons continued to adopt new technologies, remodeling their South Street plant in 1937 by adding a four-step sterilization process for milk bottles and a new pasteurizer to improve milk quality. Ads boasted of a new system for sealing milk bottles – the Dacro Metal Disc Cap was promoted as a means to keep germs out. It was a Dacro bottle cap that I found in my attic. 

Innovation extended to the farm as well. In 1950, a Sentinel profile of Glenn Datson shared that he had his own herd of cattle on 2,000 acres of land east of the Pinecastle Air Base. On this land, Glenn experimented with growing alternatives to grain for feeding the cattle, including torpedo grass and white Dutch clover. The article quoted him as saying, “Feed a cow the way God intended it to be fed and you will have few sick cows” and concluded that he was proving that Florida dairy farmers could get more from their cows on feed produced in their own pastures. 


“Big Oaks from Little Acorns”

In 1935 Datson Dairies had seven trucks delivering milk to Orlando residents. By 1950 their products reached 31 cities in six counties. On August 16, 1951, however, the Sentinel announced that Datson Dairies had been acquired by the Borden Company. Theodore Datson was to remain in charge of day-to-day operations, and the new company was to be called Borden’s Datson Dairies. The Sentinel noted that the Datsons had sold their distribution network while retaining their pastures and herds. Clarence had hundreds of acres of improved acres in the Pine Castle area; Glenn had one of the county’s premier grazing spots east of the Pinecastle Air Base; and Theodore had land east of Glenn’s.

Part of the story of the Datsons’ success was their involvement within the dairy industry and local community. Theodore was involved in leadership of the Florida Diary Association and the Milk Industry Foundation on the national level. Clarence Datson served as chairman of Orange County’s Production and Marketing Administration Committee. Glenn Datson held directorships in the Florida Dairy Association, the Orange County Soil Conservation District, and the Federal Farm and Home Administration.

After the sale to Borden, Glenn was frequently singled out in the Sentinel’s agriculture section – in 1952 he built a “calf hotel”; his clover pastures were highlighted in 1953; his forage harvester was spotlighted in 1957; and he was the first dairy farmer in Orange County to use seepage irrigation on his pastures. 

Clarence and his wife, Ruby, were both active in the Pine Castle community; he was a leader in the Methodist Church, and she was a leader in the Pine Castle Woman’s Club. They both supported the Pine Castle Center for the Arts.


The Datson Legacy

Today the best-known local dairy is T.G. Lee, and the area surrounding its Robinson Street building has been dubbed the Milk District. But B.C. Datson started a decade prior to T.G. Lee, and Datson Dairies was once just as well known in the area. The family house built on Lake Hourglass in 1926, where the dairy once stood, is still owned by Datsons, and Glenn Datson’s son Charlie continues the family legacy in the cattle business. 

Down the street from the 1926 house on a parcel of land the Datsons donated to Orange County, Hourglass Park is anchored by a large cypress tree, a reminder of the days when cattle roamed the shores of the lake. Near the opposite side of the lake, customers line up at Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream on South Fern Creek Avenue, completely oblivious to the area’s dairy history. The Pine Castle Little League plays on Datson Field just off Oak Ridge Road – another Datson donation to the County. But aside from a historical marker on Conway Road, the story of Datson Dairies today is relatively obscure – I only learned of it because of the discovery in my attic. As the population of Central Florida increased, dairy pastures and citrus groves were replaced by houses. The foundation of our community, however, is agriculture, and the legacy established by the region’s farmers and ranchers should not be forgotten. 

Past posts about Datson Dairy: 

• The Dairy around the corner (2012)

• Bring to piece it all together (2009)


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Freedom Walk 2023

This year, I resumed my annual Fourth of July photo safari that I nicknamed the Freedom Ride. I elected to do the "Ride" on foot, as the last time I rode my bike I ended up with a hurt back and made many visits to the Osteopath. Since my wife gave me her Apple Watch, my walks have been about going as fast as I can, in the time I have allocated for exercise. So today's walk was break from my usual breakneck speed. Today I worked on being present and taking time to notice that which I usually speed by. 

My first stop was Constitution Green in Downtown Orlando. I've been here before on the Ride, but the park is much improved. The park is centered around a massive live oak, listed on the City of Orlando Significant Tree Map as being (perhaps) close to 200 years old. The land was almost sold to developers, but thanks to the efforts of local hero Eric Rollins it is now a park. For me it is a reminder of the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution that we may take for granted. Read more here

My next stop was the sculpture garden next to the Orange County Administrative Building, another place I normally drive by and rarely stop to visit. The 2023 "Sculpture on the Lawn" exhibit includes a couple pieces I really like, and it was worth the two mile trek to get there. There is also a small native plant garden tucked the corner, so if you visit, make sure to check it out!  

I strolled next to Orlando's City Hall, a place that has a vast art collection. It was closed on the Fourth of July so I paused only long enough to get a quick pic of this piece of public art in the small park in front of the building. Sadly the water looks very green like most natural water bodies in the state these days. 

Walking underneath the 408, I captured an image of the Victorian-style Dr. Phillips House and the Art Deco (or Art Moderne) Wellborn Apartments in the Lake Cherokee Historic District. I was headed towards Orlando's premier collection of Craftsman style buildings, Hovey Court. 

The nine well-preserved bungalows were built in the nineteen-teens as guest cottages on Orlando's Lake Lucerne, home of the infamous Billy the Swan. It's one the few places in town where rocks from Florida are incorporated into the architecture. I love the Craftsman style and these rocks remind me of the great examples of Parkitecture I've seen in State and National Parks.

I then made a quick stop at a small creek at Al Coith Park in the Delaney Park neighborhood to visit my favorite Lotus plants. Although they weren't in bloom, their leaves are gorgeous even before they unfurl. 

On my return I snapped a selfie with my Firecracker bush, perhaps the most consistent blooming plant in my landscape at home. 

At a time when even the word "Freedom" means different things depending on your political perspective, I chose today to celebrate my independence by attempting to be mindful and aware of the everyday beauty that surrounds me. As the elders in my life age before me, I am increasingly aware of the freedom I still possess and the choices I still have available to me. I am grateful for the freedoms that are mine and the blessings that I tend to take for granted. 

Happy Independence Day! 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Rhode Island hydrotherapy: A new twist on an ancient practice

Image from Bodhi Spa Facebook page

Hydrotherapy today seems divided into two distinct modalities: rehabilitative therapy used for recovering from injuries and spa treatments dedicated to relaxation and rejuvenation. The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, once a hotspot for health treatments using water, now bills itself as a "tranquil sanctuary to relax, rejuvenate, revitalize and reconnect the mind, body and spirit to enliven the senses." But the Pinellas County resort near Clearwater is perhaps the state's best connection to a spa of the past – water from one of the the mineral springs is still utilized and the history of the facility is on display in the spa's "History Hall." 

I've written about experiencing hydrotherapy and two of the most famous watering places in the world: Hot Springs, Arkansas and Bath, England (in Florida's Healing Waters).  And in addition to the spa at Safety Harbor, I've bathed at Florida's other vestiges from the state's Golden Age of Bathing: Green Cove Springs and Warm Mineral Springs

When researching things to do for a recent vacation in Rhode Island I came across the Bodhi Spa in Providence and their product called the "Water Journey." So when I had the opportunity to try it, I jumped right in.

Heat Up. Cool Down. Relax. Repeat.

Hydrotherapy is the art of healing through the application of water in any form; hot, cold, steam or ice. Hydrotherapy has been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Many historians believe Egyptian royalty were the first to indulge in its health benefits, while others believe it dates back even earlier to Asia, where therapeutic waters were used to cleanse the body and soul of impurities. – from the Bodhi Spa website

The Water Journey is a hydrotherapeautic system consisting of the following regimens:

• Therapeutic 104˚ Epsom Salt Pool
• Mineral Rich 98˚ Dead Sea Salt Pool
• Stimulating 55˚ Cold Plunge Pool
• Aromatherapy Steam Room
• Detoxifying Infrared Sauna
• Traditional Finnish Dry Sauna
• Relaxation Area
• Outdoor Zen Garden Space

The order with which one proceeds through the Journey is printed on large sign over the Dead Sea Salt Pool. The principle is similar to the ritual seen in Scandinavian countries where after a session in a sauna, individuals jump into icy cold water. For this Floridian, jumping into the 55˚ Cold Plunge was something I pondered with great trepidation; most of our springs are a 72˚ in comparison, and that feels icy-cold. So I approached my experience with a mixture of excitement, interest, and honest-to-God fear!

Image from the Bodhi Spa Facebook page

New Age Ambiance

I made reservations the day before and we found the location in what seemed to be an up-and-coming neighborhood near Providence's Federal Hill. My wife, who took the waters with me in Hot Springs and in Bath, chose to sit this one out  – perhaps the 55˚ Cold Plunge freaked her out too!

A contemporary-looking facade fronted a waiting room decorated with rock crystals and Buddha statues – typical decor one might find at a yoga studio or new age book store. I was given a robe, flip flops, and locker and then escorted to the dressing room, which was considerably fancier than what I experienced at the vintage bathhouse in Hot Springs. I changed into my bathing suit and entered the door into the hydrotherapy area which was occupied by maybe a dozen other bathers, mostly women. I noticed quickly that I forgot to remove by glasses but I decided to keep them on in order to be able to read the sign detailing the order of the Water Journey regimens. That was a mistake.

Image from the Bodhi Spa Facebook page

Plunging Ahead

I started with the 98˚ Dead Sea Salt Pool, which looked like a large Jacuzzi and was already occupied by about four women. I observed immediately that the whisper policy stressed on the website, was not being observed and that there was a lot of talking going on. The water temperature was very comfortable and I noticed that the jets in both salt pools were stronger than what might experience in a typical hotel jacuzzi; they were strong enough to knock you out of your seat! I couldn't notice any discernible difference between the 104˚ Epsom salt pool and the  98˚ Dead Sea salt pool. But soaking in both of them were very pleasant. 

Like the powerful jets in the salt baths, spray "douches" in traditional hydrotherapy
administered powerful jets of water believed to have restorative benefits.

Balneotherapy is the practice of immersion into mineral water, historically originating from "hot springs, cold water springs, or other sources of water, like the Dead Sea," according to wikipedia. The ancient Greeks built temples over springs, the Romans erected elaborate baths all over their empire, cultures all over the world have been taking the waters for thousands of years. The salt pools at the Bodhi Spa are the latest version of this ancient tradition. 

The Baths of Caracalla

In Florida, the Gilded Age spas at mineral spring advertised healing a long list of ailments including consumption (tuberculosis), gout, rheumatism, dyspepsia (indigestion), skin disorders, and a wide assortment of other ailments. According to the Bodhi Spa website, their Dead Sea Salt Pool offers relief from fibromyalgia, skin conditions, and Type 2 Diabetes. The Epson Salt Pool helps sore muscles recover after work outs, reduces pain and inflammation, and reduces anxiety and depression. 

After soaking for about 10 minutes, I showered and headed for the Aromatherapy Steam Room.

Steam Room and Sauna

Steam baths origins go back to the ancient Romans; I remember seeing the remnants of the thermae in Bath, England, at the Roman baths there. According to wikipedia, a Hammam or Turkish Bath is steam bath or place for public bathing found in the Islamic world using hot dry air for cleansing and therapy. Steam baths or banya found in Russia and Finland, traditionally create steam with a wood stove.

Advertisement for the Turkish Baths at the Hotel Alcazar in St. Augustine

The Aromatherapy Steam Room at the Bodhi Spa has an overwhelming smell of eucalyptus. When I was a kid and had a cough my mom would rub Vick's VapoRub on my chest and put a humidifier in my bedroom. It was a similar sensation, but amped up quite a bit. I've been in steam baths at Hot Springs and Safety Harbor, but this one seemed hotter. I'm not sure I made it the entire eight to ten minutes on any of my circuits through the Water Journey. It was just too hot. 

The traditional sauna was hot, too, and I made the mistake of keeping my glasses on. It was hot enough to actually start melting the emulsion on the lenses and make the frames almost unbearably to wear. When people compare Florida to a sauna, they aren't even close. 

But the purported benefits of both rooms are impressive: they relieve stress, remove toxins from the skin, clear up congestion, help heart health, improve sleep and basically sweat out all the bad stuff from your system. I did find that my sinuses seemed to clear up .... until I took a hydration break and drank the icy cold infused water. It was cold enough to make me congested again. 

Plunge pool at the Roman baths in Bath, England

The Big Chill

My family has a history of bad heart health and I must admit, although I am in perfect health (aside from allergies), that I was afraid that going from extreme heat to freezing cold water might make my ticker explode. Again this notion of bathing in icy cold water goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who thought it was good for one's health. An expert in an article on Outside.com says that experts claim that a good cold plunge releases hormones and adrenaline and is even a good heart workout.  But other experts in the same article say that benefits are imagined at best and it could even be "potentially dangerous."

So I stepped into the frigid, icy, freezing, way-beyond-chiiiilly water, very gingerly (at best.) Did I mention that the water is 55 degrees? That's almost twenty degrees colder than a spring in Florida. Pain. That's how I describe the experience. Needles poke your muscles which begin to hurt. I tried to stay in the recommended 30 seconds but it was hard because it's human nature to avoid pain. Each circuit I tried to make it deeper into the pool and I must admit I never made it all the way in. Other bathers were able to submerge their entire bodies but I rationalized the they must be native New Englanders, used to icy-cold water. But not for this Florida boy. Nope. No way. 

Image from the Bodhi Spa Facebook page

The Water Journey

Other spas I've visited have had similar regimens, but this was the first spa I visited that had no historical connection to famous baths. In a way this was merely an updated version of what Roman senators could have experienced at the Baths of Caracalla in the year 221.  I think I expected a zen-like, restorative session, but the whole time I was thinking how I might write about the Water Journey and I never completely let down my guard. I felt relaxed, but I think it could have been a different experience if it had been quieter and more peaceful inside the spa. 

But there is something to recreating an ancient ritual performed by different cultures across the globe. In other parts of the world, many still believe that water in all its forms has the power to heal. I am fortunate to live in Florida, with largest array of first magnitude springs on the planet and the opportunity for a dip in a cold spring is just a short car ride away. And it's a glorious 72 degrees year round. 

Ginnie Springs