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
When leading trips for Sierra Club or any outdoor operation, it is important to go somewhere that the leader wished to go. That way if the leader only ends up with a few particpants, at he/she is not disappointed with the outing, at least the leader is pleased.
So it is with “the Winds.” The dramatic serrated ridges and peaks with apropo names like Warrior, Warbonnet, Ambush and Raid strike the drama in one’s heart. The multi peak knife’s edge appropriately named Cirque of the Towers is a gem for those donning harnesses and armed with carabineer and rope. In fact the 110 mile by 25 mile road less Winds are dominated by the irresistible rock of the southern part of the range and by glaciers and tundra in the northern part of the range.
This being my third trip to the Winds, yet first in the southern part, I have intuited that a lot of us in the east don’t even know where the Winds are. The Winds run southeast to north west in the western part of Wyoming. They begin at South Pass, the famous pass of the Oregon Trail through the Rockies, and end at Togowotee Pass in the Teton National Forest. Most of the peaks were not climbed or named until the middle part of the last century. The Winds were explored by the steady Captain Benjamin Bonneville and the impulsive abolitionist General John Fremont, but it was the “mountain men” like John Coulter and Jedediah Smith who really knew the mountains in the early to mid 1800s. Although these were brave hardy men who knew the ways of the Earth like no other, yet they have a responsibility to the decimation of the beaver In the west. And like the egret plumes of our great state of Florida, beaver fur was primarily used for men’s fashionable hats.
The beaver is a “keystone species” around which other flora and fauna draw their life. At one time there were 60,000,000 beavers in North America, yet the beaver trade brought their numbers to 1,000,000. There is argument that the decimation of the beaver is the most important factor for the degradation to the environment of the west. These members of the rodent family with the smallest of mammalian brains, are a bridge between the aquatic and terrestrial worlds, and have adaption so they can see while underwater and hear and smell while swimming. They can fell over a 100 trees a day and know how to fell a tree at just he right angle into the water to make their dam.
You see, they sequester Nitrogen behind those dams. Then come the microbes, insects, amphibian, etc…see what I mean! These dams also are like our wetland filters in Florida…they clean the water and establish appropriate flows and levels. There has been significant research in the effect of beavers on water conservation and quality.
For those of you who are learning to lead, make sure you have a competent steady assistant leader. Rudy Scheffer, the Florida Chapter Outings Chair, was very steady with lots of experience. We seemed to operate like a well oiled machine. I am grateful to have learned so much from Rudy on this trip. I take pride in that two Florida Sierrans are able to go to Wyoming and lead a successful trip.
I challenged myself to do all the food for this trip. When I say that, most of the food was cooked then dried on my dehydrator. The value of this process is that drying keeps more of the nutrients in the food than freeze dried food and the dried food is lighter to carry. We decided to use have bear canisters for our trip, and they weighed only 8-10 lbs each. Also less fuel is need for cooking.
Why bear canisters? Our itinerary was set up for multiple layover days, and while we were hiking, I wanted to avoid rodents attempting to get into our food. I recall my reluctance to carry a bear canisters on my first Sierra Trip, yet the truth is that they are on the order of ounces and fit nicely in to most packs. As a leader, very important to protect the group’s food.
We were blessed with a fine group of participants, which is not always the case. Two of our participants were Ph.D s at Iowa State one of whom was a botanist. We did have problems with two participants, one critical from the start and another who felt it the prerogative to disregard the group’s pace. However, I felt that Rudy and the group and myself did a good job of keeping them in the group. As leaders, it is important to recognize that folks act out for a reason. Also, it is important to exercise some compassion for these folks and not allow that acting out to create their own self fulfilling prophecy about their isolative role in groups.
Day one was an easy climb through Fish Creek Park to a site on Dad’s Lake. My goal was to teach some natural navigation, and although I did not teach as much of this as I wished, we did teach some navigational skills. The itinerary was good for this for we had two days that we were to so some cross-country to climb Warrior II and Mount Washakie. On Day 2, my mistake was that I got the group up too late to climb Warrior II, for I felt that it would be good to rest. I think I should have surveyed the group for their feelings, or just make the decision to get up early to climb. Participants typically want to be challenged in some way. We were able to do some cross country and climb to the high alpine lake that the group thoroughly enjoyed.
Day three we moved north to Skull Lake and to higher alpine terrain. Then on Day 4, we arose and were able to summit Mount Washakie. I was exciting to lead folks to the summit over a cross country route. From Mount Washakie we could see Cirque of the Towers as if they were close enough to touch and Mount Hooker and Mount Bonneville to the north.
Since I used this itinerary from a precious Sierra Leader and by looking at the maps, I had some concerns about our exit through East Fork Basin. I felt that the route would be drab and event less. With a consultation or two, that afternoon I did a scouting of the climb up to Mount Hooker and Pyramid Peak. I found that it was spectacular, and after running it by Rudy, we decided to stay at Skull Lake. On Day 5 we day hiked to the pass by Pyramid Peak and Mount Hooker that drops to East Fork basin. The group was enthralled by the views of Raid and Ambush Peaks, Mount Bonneville and the lakes in East Fork Basin.
On day 6 we retraced our route past Skull lake and Dad’s Lake. Two of us enjoyed and incredible swim in one to the lakes. There is nothing better than getting used to the cool water in alpine lakes while enjoying the incredible scenery all around.
The last night we had the most incredible lighting and thunderstorm…loud, scary and entrancing. Lots of fun bring under my tarp riding out this raging storm.
For three days we will frolic in the remoteness of the Upper Suwannee River. Beginning at Florida’s northernmost boat launch, we will paddle to White Springs, FL. Overnights will be spent beach camping on the Suwannee. We will travel approximately 34 miles.
Our journey will begin at the Roline Boat Launch in Hamilton County Florida. Day one will be approximately 12 miles. Day two, we paddle to Big Shoals State Park, approximately 16 miles, and Day 3 we paddle 8 miles to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.
Eight openings are available for this trip. The cost of the trip is $75.00 per person. This includes a kayak, PFD, paddle, 2 breakfasts, and 2 dinners, and campfire treats. Participants will need to bring their own snacks, lunches, and camping gear, and arrange their own transportation to the Roline Boat Launch. Participants are welcome to bring their own food as well.
The Suwannee River Management District restricts vehicles from overnight parking at Roline. Vehicles may be left at American Canoe Adventures in White Springs, FL for $3 per night, or at Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park for $5 per night. American Canoe Adventures has a shuttle to the Roline Boat Launch. They charge $15 per seat. I have reserved a seat on this shuttle. The Sierra Club has no association with American Canoe Adventures. Use of any third party services is completely at the risk of the user. The Sierra Club assumes no liability for third party services. Participants will need to arrange for their own transportation to the Roline Boat Launch, and overnight accommodation of their vehicles. Anyone who would like to inquire about parking and shuttle services, can contact John Hannum at American Canoe Adventures, 10315 SE 141st Blvd, White Springs, FL 32096, http://www.aca1.com, (386) 397-1309.
For registration and information, please call Dan Clark at 863 812-0573, or email: email@example.com. I will email the itinerary, registration and release of liability forms, and equipment list to all who request.
Most Sierra Club Outings are attended by able-bodied participants who enjoy hiking, paddling and camping at their own convenience. The “clients” of Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), however, are age 70 and older, and in many cases are housebound and dependent on VISTE volunteers for meals and transportation. For them, getting outdoors for sheer enjoyment is a rarity.
On an overcast morning in early June, I led a group of 14 VISTE clients, volunteers, and staff on the “2nd Annual VISTE Outing at Circle B”. Circle B Bar Reserve generously provided a tram tour with very knowledgeable guide, Bal, and skillful driver Bob. The weather forecast had been 70% chance of rain, but the entire tram tour was not only rain-free, but delightfully cool and breezy. Bal began with a helpful overview of the history of the Circle B property, which was jointly acquired by the Polk County Environmental Lands Program and SWFWMD to protect the floodplain of the lake and to restore the Banana Creek marsh system.
We passed through oak hammock, swamp and highlands. With all the recent rain, resurrection fern was gloriously resurrected! Bird sightings included red tailed hawk, limpkin, Louisiana heron, tricolored heron, common moorhen, snowy egret, white pelican (lots!), anhinga, sandhill crane, wood stork, glossy ibis, a family of wild turkeys, and eagles’ nest (over 700 lbs.). In spite of the unsightly rutting caused by wild hogs, we were tickled to see a family – mom, dad, and 6 little ones. Moments later, we passed a trapper’s truck! We are grateful to guide Bal and driver Bob; both are hardworking volunteers at Circle B (Bob is also a volunteer at VISTE!).
After the tram tour, our group enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch under a covered shelter. The Subway store at Grove Park donated an assortment of sub sandwiches, and Comfort Keepers of Lakeland (home care) donated side dishes, snacks, drinks and dessert. We thank them for their generosity. Outings are always MUCH better when food is shared!
It was a privilege to partner with VISTE for this exclusive Outing and to enjoy the great outdoors with their delightful clients, volunteers and staff.
Submitted by Gail Bagley, Outing Leader