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Aqua Springs

Snuggled up tightly between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos, a little hidden gem lays in the Hill Country of Central Texas.

Opening the rear side of the truck I began unpacking my mesh bag full of fins, mask, regulator, the wet suit my instructor insisted on purchasing and two distinctively heavy oxygen tanks. After a long week of classroom work, my scuba diving certification was now in reach and nothing was going to stop me. I wanted nothing more than to jump into the lake and take my first dive.

No matter how heavy my tanks were.

Note to self, purchase a wagon.

Slowly dragging my gear to the lake, I found myself chasing a pair of black and gold monarch butterflies dancing with one another through the daisies. There I stood, on a dense dirt trail, gazing upon the greenery full of tall stalks of wildflowers and dandelions.

My fellow classmates finally began to trickle in a little past 7:30 a.m. The crispy dark brown tarp laid flat as I began to spread out the gear, finally the two heavy tanks came in handy. It could not have been fifteen minutes and the sun began to radiate from the tarp right back up against my face. My cheeks began to burn and sweat beaded on my forehead. I wiped my brow, giggled, and rolled my eyes looking at the wet suit. “It’s going to be entirely too hot to wear that thing.”

Sneaking away from the camp, I peeked over the edge of the lake. Looking straight down into the clear water; a school of minnows were playing with one another right along where the sand met the water. Not completely convinced of my instructor’s recommendation of the overly priced wet suit, I dabbed my toes into the fresh water and an exhilarating shiver came over my entire body; hairs I did not know existed stood straight up. “Isn’t it supposed to be 72 degrees? It’s freezing!” Feeling a bit silly, I turned around to see if anyone saw me jump. Sure enough, my boyfriend must have caught a glimpse as he stood there with the “I told you so” face.

The instructor and dive master for the day rounded us up and began to go over the guidelines. It was then I began to squeeze my freshly tanned thighs into my now appreciated wet suit.

Time flew by and it was now time. I arranged all my gear, suited up, and flopped along backwards to the edge of the dock before taking the big leap. SPLASH! I took the plunge and I instantly gasped for air upon first contact with the water. “Wow is that cold!” Icicles crawled in my veins, muscles went into spasm and at the surface, eyes dilated I motioned I was “Okay”. Desperately paddling around to generate any extra body heat, it was not enough to overcome the numbing sensation of this frigid turquoise colored water.

Eventually, I became a little more accustomed to the temperatures mother nature ever so gently provided. It was then and there the beauty became into focus. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Plants, fish, a completely different world; there was so much life under water. Further and further below, the more vivid the colors of the fish became. Handfuls of algae danced back and forth as the white steamboats paddled by. It was still. It was quiet. All I could hear was my regulator generating the oxygen to my lungs. This had been one of the first moments in my life to fully understand the word “breathtaking”.

After about 45 minutes in the water, it was time to exit and dismount. Having finally adapted to the water temperature, I had no intention of ever leaving this body of water; it was incredible under there. Being helped along the grate, I exited the lake, only to look back wishing I was already back in.

Upon dismount, I felt 50 pounds lighter and was instantly reminded of the beauty that also resided in this area. I took my boyfriend’s wet, pruned hand and began walking along the soft, dirt trail. It hugged itself just along the lake under the beautiful, drooping shade trees where we shared a kiss. Moss tickled our toes in between our flip flops right along the handcrafted, sculptured cement benches. I took a peek over his shoulder and could see miles of pure greenery. I tried to imagine how I could ever compare the beauty of what I saw before my eyes, above water, to what I had recently encountered below. It seems simple, but it is not. I challenge you to explain the difference of elegance and charm afloat to the delicacy and grace underneath.

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