Thursday, June 20, 2013

Searching for the Fountain of Youth

During the course of our travels we accidentally discovered Sumterville, Florida!
Not exactly the fountain of youth, but very close.
Elder Busath had to drive over to Sumterville, in the Leesburg Zone, to drop off a new AT&T phone because the reception on their old Sprint phone was so bad. What a surprise :) 
We had no idea what we were in for.  The two missionaries that live here saw us circling the area and called us on their faulty cell phone to give us specific directions to their place.  We actually did see a mailbox along the side of the road with their address on it, but it lead down a narrow, winding, sandy road.  So we did what people from Florida do, we made one U-turn after another. We were driving a truck and a trailer at the time and didn't think we could make it out even if we  did find them.  Well were we ever mistaken. The missionaries assured us that the road was plenty wide enough for us to turn around so off we went.  The road turned and twisted along the way, and even crossed what appeared to be the front yard of a neighbor and then it suddenly ended at the front porch of a small white trailer.  We later learned that the trailer was owned by a member of the Church who lived a few acres away.  It was in the middle of nowhere!  It was like a picture from a story book and we hated to leave. I have to admit I was a little worried about their safety being so far from civilization, but they informed us, not to worry, that the Evacuation Center was to the left of them just over the fence so their safety was no longer an issue

 A view from their backyard.

 Seriously I had to drag Elder Busath kicking and screaming from this place. 
He acted as though he had died and gone to heaven it was so peaceful and beautiful!
Speaking of youth, this Sister Campos on the left, from Utah and Sister Harrison, from  Bakersfield, California,  companions for the past 6 weeks. Sister Harrison was a Visa Waiter who was serving in Florida and who recently received her Visa and is on her way to Argentina.

Finally our first Preparation Day in a very long time!
The De Leon Springs State Park 600 acre main attraction is the headspring, with some 19 million gallons of water per day flowing from an underwater cavern at a constant year round temperature of 72 degrees and we thought it was just another swimming hole!
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill located in De Leon Springs State Park was a great place to have our Senior Missionary District monthly activity. They advertise a do it yourself breakfast prepared at your own table for only $4.95 per person.  Although you can be creative and add apples, bananas, blueberries, pecans, and chocolate chips for  $1.85 more.



                                             The Sherwood's on the right and the Marble's on the left look like they are ready to get started.

Delicious!!! And you even get to play with your food.

 Elder Moline really got into the hang of it.

To attract tourism in 1880 business owners changed the name of the area around the St. Johns River from Spring Garden to Ponce de Leon Springs.
Below is a picture proclaiming to be the "Fountain of Youth"
We found it!!!

Just a little history...

1835 the mill was destroyed by the Seminole Indians. In 1864 it was destroyed once again by Union Troops during the Civil War.  In 1920 it was rebuilt and now serves as the Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle restaurant.

The Visitor Center features the parks 6,000 history with the native America mound builders.  Bones and gray snail shells uncovered in the area are on display and prove of the centuries of occupation by native American groups who came to gather food. 

The 1830 Mill Wheel pictured below is said to have pressed sugar cane, ground corn,
and processed cotton.

Flood plain hammock trees flourish in the wet conditions Florida is so famous for.

Mushrooms anyone?

 Old Methuselah (below) is a cypress tree over 500 years old.  It is said to have survived the early 1900's when the cypress trees were cut for lumber to build homes and businesses.

 Our Senior Missionary District, from left to right, Elder and Sister Moline, Elder Busath and myself, Elder and Sister Sherwood, Elder and Sister Marble, Elder and Sister Bevans and
Elder and Sister Gebs.

 Just 45 minutes down the road from the De Leon Springs State Park is the Ponce De Leon Inlet Light Station Museum and since we were in the neighborhood we just couldn't resist.


The museum is one of the few Light Stations in the United States with all of the original keepers' dwellings and support buildings intact.  It was completed in 1887 and is a National Historic Landmark and has, for over 125 years, guided mariners safely to their destinations.

The Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse (front and side view) is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and one of the tallest in the nation. The tower tapers from a 32' diameter base to a 12' diameter top. The bricks are 8' thick at the bottom and 2' thick at the top.
Activated for the first time on November 1, 1887, the lighthouse was illuminated by a kerosene lantern inside a fixed Fresnel lens.

This is a picture inside the 175 foot lighthouse and there are actually 203 stairs to the top.  Yes, we really did climb to the top, and yes it was a little scary and it got very narrow
the closer we got to the top.
The top of the lighthouse!!! 
The view from the top is breath taking and definitely worth the climb!


 A stowaway!

 Our Kodak moment from the top!
Elder and Sister Sherwood joined us at the lighthouse.

 The Principal Keeper's dwelling.


In 1933 the Lighthouse Service electrified the tower and changed the beacon to a flashing characteristic.  A rotating third order Fresnel lens was installed



 In 1970, the Coast Guard established a beacon on the south side of the inlet and abandoned the lighthouse :(  In late 1982, the Coast Guard installed a modern beacon in the tower, and the lighthouse was officially returned to its original use as a aid to navigation.
We had a great day and arrived home just in the nick of time!
 Okay so we couldn't wait until the 4th of July! (Thanks Marili) After a wonderful day of sightseeing and spending time with friends it was cause to celebrate the last of our free time and
get ready for transfers.

Florida, teeming with wildlife, rich with history, an incredible place
 to be serving a mission for the Lord!
See you later, alligator...............

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