SPOTLIGHT: Rainbow Springs State Park
With the kids out of school, now is a good time to explore Florida's original water parks, the more than 700 springs that beckon with cool, clear water. One of the best is the Rainbow River, a stunningly beautiful system of springs about two hours north of Tampa. It's popular with snorkelers for its remarkably clear water but also for inner tube trips, canoeing, kayaking, camping and walking some of the most scenic nature trails in Florida. Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using Florida's fourth-largest spring for nearly 10,000 years. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the headsprings, where tubing is not allowed. Tubers launch at a special entrance on SW 180th Avenue Road about 2 miles north of County Road 484 in Dunnellon. For state park information, call (352) 465-8555. For inner tube rental see rainbowspringspark.com.
BRIGHT IDEA: Head lamps
With the days getting hotter, maybe it's time to switch on a light and try night hiking. Some nighttime runs, like this Saturday's Moon Over Croom trek on the Croom Trails at Withlacoochee State Forest north of Brooksville, require head lamps, for good reason. The primary advantage of a head lamp over flashlights or a lantern is that it leaves your hands free. You can pick up a Petzl Tikkina for less than $20 at outdoor stores or online, and it earns raves for long battery life at a bargain price. But if you spend $20-$25 more, you can get a durable tool with a dramatic beam distance. The Black Diamond Spot, about $40, is waterproof, which comes in handy with our unpredictable storms, and has a feature called Power Tap to adjust brightness with a tap of the finger. If you are headed to the Croom Trails, you'll find a well-marked 7-mile loop and glow sticks marking the course. Registration is $40-$70 at tamparaces.com for the 6 p.m. Saturday run starting at Tucker Hill Fire Tower, 26416 Croom Road, Brooksville. (813) 232-5200.
BUG HUNT: Mini lobster season ahead
Every July the coastal areas of Florida are flooded with lobster hunters trying to get their share of this year's bounty when the official mini lobster season kicks off. The next two-day mini season is July 27-28. Why are we telling you about this now? If you plan to head anywhere between Key Largo and Key West for the lobster mini season, hotels book up in advance, so start dialing now. The Caribbean spiny lobsters are masters of camouflage and can be hard to find. In Tampa Bay, lobster hunters have to work at greater depths, usually 80 feet or more, so divers and snorkelers head to the Keys where the lobsters can sometimes be found in 10 feet or less. The regular eight-month lobster season is Aug. 6 through March 31. If you can't get Keys reservations, try Jupiter, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami for lobstering grounds that aren't as crowded. Check myfwc.com for regulations and bag limits.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne[email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.