Join for an exciting backpacking trip along the Florida National Scenic Trail when plants bloom in the spring. We are hiking 26.5 miles from Clearwater Lake north to Juniper Springs, over the course of 3 days.
This route will take over hilly sandy terrain, and the spring heat (see average temperatures Altoona, Florida) may make our travel more difficult. participants are expected to be in excellent physical condition.
What to expect
- A challenging trip
- Campcraft skill and naturalist discussion
- Delicious food prepared by the staff
- Respect and camaraderie by the staff
- Opportunities to swim at Alexander and Juniper Springs
- Wrap up cook out at Juniper Springs
- Just a whole lot of fun
When and itinerary:
- Thursday, April 24, 2014. Optional Camping at Clearwater Lake Campground. For folks driving long distances, we suggest camping at the Clearwater Lake Campground. We will attempt to shuttle vehicles that evening.
- Friday April 25, 2014. Meet at Clearwater Lake Campground, 7 AM packed and ready to step off. Hike approximately 10 miles to Alexander Springs National Recreation Area to swim. Get back on the trail and camp.
- Saturday April 26, 2014 Hike 8-10 miles to and camp. Campsite undetermined at this writing.
- Sunday April 27, 2013. Complete hike. Wrap up BBQ and swim at Juniper Springs. Depart at sunset.
Cost: Fees include food (6 meals,) parking fees, day use fees, and Sierra Club donation. Fees are $100 members and $120 non members. A complete breakdown of fees will be sent later. Participants must send in fees to reserve their spot, 50% of fees are non refundable. Fees can be sent to Andy Quinn, 215 E.Bay St., Suite 5, Lakeland, FL 33801, Write the check to Ancient Islands Sierra Club Outings.
JUNIPER SPRINGS PADDLE MARCH 2014
WHEN: SATURDAY, MARCH 8-9, 2014
WHERE: JUNIPER SPRINGS RECREATION AREA (map), 26701 EAST HWY 40, SILVER SPRINGS FL 34488
SKILL LEVEL: BEGINNER/INTERMEDIATE
COST: KAYAKS $10. SIERRA MEMBERS: $10 NON MEMBERS: $15; CONSIDER $10 DONATION PER PERSON $25 PER FAMILY
CONTACT: OUTING LEADER: DAN CLARK 863 812 0573
ASSISTANT ANDY QUINN 863 6839600
SPONSOR: ANCIENT ISLANDS SIERRA CLUB
DESCRIPTION: SATURDAY, BY NOON, WE WILL BEGIN PADDLING THE SILVER RIVER. DISTANCE OF THE PADDLE ABOUT 6 MILES. ON SUNDAY, KAYAKING AND HIKING ARE AVAILABLE ACTIVITIES. CAMPING IS AVAILABLE IN JUNIPER SPRINGS RECREATION AREA. DUE TO LIMITED CAMP SITES, MAKE YOUR CAMPING RESERVATIONS ASAP. SOME PARTICIPANTS WILL COME TO CAMP ON FRIDAY MARCH 7, 2013. KAYAK SEATS ARE AVAILABLE. TO RESERVE A KAYAK, CALL DAN CLARK AT 863 812 0573 FOR MORE INFORMATION, OR ANDY QUINN AT 863 683 9600.
The participants make the outing! Susan, Cheryl, Gail, Lenora, Butch, Howard, Barry, Dan and Andy would make this outing one to remember with their grace, warmth and friendliness. There was lots of laughter and good will. One of the rewards the outings staff has is community building through outings. Dan, Gail, Paula and I are grateful to have been associated with so many neat folks on outings. We were sorry Paula had to drop out at the last minute for her sister entered Hospice Care. Susan would comment later “what a wonderful group of people.” There was a nice blend of the experienced and not so experienced including one teenager. The weather was mild and rainy at times, and two full moon night hikes to the beach were exciting and exhilarating.
I picked this middle November weekend because the weather is typically cooler but not extremely cold. My concern would be wind whipping off the Atlantic, and significantly chilling participants. Groups can not build fires in the wilderness portion of the National Seashore. Bugs on the Island can be ferocious, and I felt the cooler air would ward the insects off. My assertions would prove correct…minimal bug problems and perfect camping weather..mild during the day and slightly cooling in the evening.
The ferry ride from St Mary’s to Cumberland Island in itself makes the trip worthwhile. The boat travels at a brisk speed along the St. Mary’s River through with tidal marsh on both flanks and gulls and pelicans flying in the distance. The trip takes about 45 minutes, and the day was mild to cool with overcast. We were able to spot some wild horses on the bank as we moved along the shore of the island. We were forced by the Cumberland Island National Seashore back country protocol to wait until we arrived to nail down an itinerary. I knew we would be at Sea Camp the first night. Sea Camp was excellent for this group, for all had driven up that morning from central Florida. In retrospect a better plan would be to camp at Fort Clinch State Park the night before to alleviate the stress of having to make the ferry in time. The beauty of coming up Friday morning was that the only people seeking a back country permit were a couple and our group. Our group were enamored by Hollis the NPS ranger A and his talk on back country permit and protocol. How refreshing to see someone who thoroughly enjoys his job as a servant of Nature! We were able to quickly move to our site and set up. As a soft rain began to fall, some of our group went to survey Dungeness Ruins, a mansion built by Andrew Carnegie, later flattened by arson. We made a nice fire, another advantage to staying at Sea Camp the first night. The group would reassemble to have dinner of pasta and pesto with shrimp. Lenora and Howard were enthusiastic cooks, with Howard jumping in to assist. That evening by the fire I gave an inspiring talk about John Muir, the founder of Sierra Club. Included in my talk was a section from his essay “On the Brink of Yosemite Falls, ” where he traverses the lip of slippery Yosemite Falls. On my sea kayaking trip with Outward Bound in the spring the OB leader Trish would give an inspiring talk about Kurt Hahn the founder of Outward Bound. I think that was is excellent idea, and hope to incorporate more John Muir or other conservation heroes talk in our outings.
Saturday was a slow start, mainly because our breakfast was labor intensive. Susan and Gail were patient with the chopping and sauteing, and Butch found a way to warm our tortillas for Huevos Rancheros. I like the ideas of fresher foods the first few days of a backpack. In the future I am going to have the breakfast crew up earlier, so we can get a quicker start to the day. The nice thing about the island is that the hikes are easy, and the trail well marked. We were to do the five miles from Sea Camp to the first wilderness site Hickory Hill. The trail takes one through a sea of saw palmetto understory covered by a blanket of oaks. The green lushness was striking, and one would think there may be something to the term “maritime forest.” There are several places where the beach is easily accessible from the trail. In fact we had a leisurely lunch on the beach near Stafford Beach Campground. I was surprised that the group ate all of the cheese, salami, bean dip, and Garden of Eaten Chips. Chocolate after meals always seems to be a winner.
We marched on to Hickory Hill, a non descript site just off the trail. Later in the trip Gail would comment that a more workable plan would be to base camp a Stafford Beach multiple nights, then day hike to the various highlights of the island. I learned from my last Sierra National trip in Wyoming, that participants can be quite fond of base camp and day hike. After a dinner of vegetable curry, Barry, Howard and I made a 1.2 mile jaunt in the dark to retrieve water . The group then took a full moon hike to the beach along the Willow Pond Trail. Several times we lost the twisty windy trail, and this leader found himself sinking in mud on those occasions. It appeared as thought the trail was back and forth paralleling the beach, meandering through a swamp. There was some noticeable yearnings from some folks to go back, but folks like Cheryl and Barry were excited and motivated to continue. We were rewarded on the beach with a striking evening sky scape amidst a moon reflecting off the surf. The walk back was a soothing stroll through the moon licked pines and oaks. We were amazed that 12 year old Lenora had stayed in the camp herself and had not been frightened to be solo in the woods!
Sunday we decided to day hike to the Plum Orchard Mansion, anther Carnegie mansion built in the late 18th early 19th century. Several participants decided to stay in camp and rest. Plum Orchard was built by Carnegie, all of the materials shipped from the north. Along the way we noted that Yankee Paradise backcounty campsite was far from paradise having with water issues, bugs and no scenery. We were fortunate to be able to walk up to the mansion and have a tour. We were amazed by the architectural ingenuity of Carnegie, for example a cellar with a long trough in the middle to cope with rising water and a high aquifer.While in the mansion it began to rain, and when we came out the rain had abated. We enjoyed the hike back, a mild overcast misty day, very enjoyable hiking. Some of the trail is on a boardwalk though a swamp. Back at Hickory Hill we enjoyed artichoke dip and walking carrot salad then made our way back to Stafford Beach. Once there we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Lenora made a fire, and some went to the beach. My highlight was body surfing in that cold water in the Atlantic. More incredible conversation around the fire marked by Dan and Gail’s sense of humor with Cheryl’s laughing, along with pea soup and sweet potato casserole for dinner. Another moonlit walk to the beach. A glorious day in Nature’s lap.
Monday we walked back along trail, the easy 3 miles back to Sea Camp. We encountered human conditioned wild horses on the trail. Some of the group thought Dan was going to bare back one of the horses to Sea Camp! We were happy to get to Sea Camp and eat our breakfast. We enjoyed the closing minutes of our trip near the launch and ranger station, waiting for the ferry back to St Mary’s. The ferry ride was glorious in the overcast sky and slight cool air.
Ancient islands Sierra Outings Leader Dan Clark lead a hearty group of adults and teens down the Suwannee River from Roline Launch to Stephen Foster Stage Park. The high lights of the trip were a cohesive group, great food and a spectacular, historic, clean river. Dan and I, Howard, Cheryl, Margo and Meow had enjoyed multiple Ancient Island Outings together, and brought friends who would be welcome additions to Sierra Club Outings. Cheryl’s friend Jennifer turned out to be strong paddler and willing to do any task, and Meow’s friend Tori is a very connective young person, easy to be with. Larry is good at falling out of his boat…..whoops….he has great curiosity and is just fun. The group jelled from the beginning and participants were willing to engage any task to be accomplished. This group seemed to have a level of familiarity that lead to safety and comfort. There was great swimming and beach camping, lots of laughs and getting to know each other. Dan’s gentle, organized leading style led to an awesome outing appreciated by all.
We camped at Stephen foster State Park on Friday evening. Margo and her daughter Meow, with friend Tori, with Outings Leader Gail Bagley arrived at campsite 16 mid afternoon, then Dan, outings Leader Andy, Howard Kemp (who we are always attempting to recruit as a Outings Leader) and Larry Parsons arrived as the sun was setting. We enjoyed Shrimp Kabobs courtesy Howard and a warm fire in mild October weather. Howard would consistently help Dan throughout the trip to make things run smoothly. Cheryl and Jennifer would arrive later to enjoy really poor jokes around the fire. Cheryl’s and Margo’s laughter is robust and really helps groups to relax and feel at ease. Outdoor simplicity seems to encourage great laughter at ridiculous humor. Stephen Foster is a great launching site with its campground, primitive camping, clean showers and cultural attributes.
Dan employed a shuttle service to bring us, the boats and equipment upstream to Roline Launch. Dan did not feel comfortable with leaving participant cars at Roline Launch, and last year we had a tough time with our shuttle on the lower part of the Suwannee River. We launched about mid afternoon, and had an easy 12 mile float down the river. The weather was one of those warmish fall afternoons in North Florida where one can just feel the onset of brisk fall weather right around the corner. Margo and Meow had a natural curiosity about the river that is fun to watch and inspiring. We began looking for a site to camp around 5 pm, and after some investigation found beach camping. We enjoyed a warm fire, delectable food in beef stew, engaging conversation, laughter, and well deserved rest. Shortly after bedtime coyotes gave us a rousing serenade. Dogs from a nearby farm answered the coyotes with their own chorus.
The next day featured Dan’s Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes. Numerous folks remarked “these are the best pancakes I have ever eaten.” From now on “Dan’s Blueberry Pancakes” will be in Ancient Island Outings Lore. Our paddle for 17 miles was beautiful serene black water on the slow winding Suwannee. Our break featured a long, high white sand beach and most of us enjoyed swimming with the current in cool refreshing water.. Later that day as we approached Big Shoals, the only rapids in Florida of significance, the thundering water storming over rocks downstream was evident .
We were tired by the time we were in the midst of the short portage. Andy attempted the run over the Shoals and got bounced out of his supply canoe and had to rescue his boat. The campsite was perhaps the best in Florida, an evaluated perch over the thundering shoals of the Suwannee. Camping over the thundering river led one to feel like they were in North Carolina or Colorado. We were the only group there a testimony to planning our last night on a Sunday.
The last day included a short run down the last section of Big Shoals and some runs through smaller rapids. Larry was rewarded with an opportunity to fall out of his boat, I am sure that after some time he must have found it amusing and invigorating. We finished around noon on Monday with plenty of time to drive to Central Florida. All were satisfied, pleased and content. Perhaps next year Withlacoochee River (north) or Okefenokee Swamp plus some of the Upper Suwannee River ?
The Outdoor Leadership Series, beginning Thursday, October 3, 6pm-8pm. Topic: Where are we going and how to keep it safe!
I am excited to announce the Outdoor Leadership series, presented by myself, Andy Quinn, and the Ancient Islands Group of Sierra Club. Our intentions to give leaders the competence and leadership necessary to effectively lead Sierra Club Outings. However we welcome any person who wishes to develop skill in the Outdoors. Although the first seminar will be at Andy Quinn’s business office, 215 E.Bay St., Lakeland, Florida, 33801, the location will move about to meet the needs of the instructor and the group. We plan on having a great time teaching with experiential activities. Please consider bringing a snack item, and a small donation. Donations will be used to provide for the needs of leaders while on Ancient Islands Sierra Group Outings.
These seminars are designed to be fun, sharing connective experience. My hope is that folks will gain the confidence to explore places on their own with the right equipment and know how. Please consider bringing a snack item, and a small donation. Please RSVP Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-683-9600.
Here are some of the cool topics we will teach
- The best of fire building
- I can sleep anywhere, anytime!
- Creating a safe atmosphere for scared people
- I don’t have to spend my retirement on equipment
- Finding the best wildernesses
- Trip organization for Dummies
- I love to drink clean water
- Dealing with difficult participants
- Navigation 101