Stricklandia

Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Diving in the "Quaribbean"

Formerly farmland, Dutch Springs began in 1933 as a limestone quarry for use in cement manufacturing. Shortly after mining started, water began to seep into the quarry, and pumping operations became necessary to keep the water out. When the cement company went out of business in the 1970s, the quarry—100 feet deep in some places—flooded and became a lake. In 1980, the property was purchased and converted into one of the nation's largest freshwater scuba diving parks.

But enough with the history lesson.

Last weekend, I joined my my New York City-based dive club, Oceanblue Divers, for the local diving season kick-off event at Dutch Springs (or, as some lovingly call it, the "Quaribbean"). A core group of us camped out and stayed the whole weekend, while most divers came for the day on Sunday. The latter missed most of the fun.

While the city baked under oppressive heat and humidity, we pitched our tents in the cool shade of a grove of trees, and cooled off in the quarry's cold water. In fact, the experience made me think of the trip to Spa Castle a couple of weeks back. There, Cassie and I moved back and forth from hot spas and saunas to iceboxes and cold-water pools. This weekend, we melted in 100-degree/100%-humidity air, then went diving in water that dropped to as low as 44 degrees in some spots. Talk about cooling off....

The diving is about as interesting as a quarry can offer—you can see the usual suspects like a sunken school bus and Cessna, as well as a Sikorsky helicopter suspended in the water column—but for me, it's the camping that adds color to Dutch Springs visits. This time, the colorful moments included Doris leaving her regulator at home... Peter channeling Bob Dylan around the campfire... Chuck channeling MacGyver to grind some coffee beans... Neil sharing s'mores and the stories behind them... Chris taking us behind the scenes of the Alaska Experiment... and last but not least, the staple for any Dutch Springs trip: Cassie's awesome crunchy chocolate chip cookies.

Some divers look down on Dutch Springs in disdain. If you consider a "Dutch Springs experience" strictly in terms of the diving—cold water, kooky wrecks, less-than-stellar visibility—I can understand why. But like any dive trip, camping excursion or any other type of recreational activity, it's the people that make it truly enjoyable. And, from this perspective, it was a great weekend.
 

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