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Ancient Islands Group Outings Update, July 2015

July 16, 2015


August Planting Outing (Service Outing) Circle B Bar Ranch, 8AM-11AM, Saturday August 15, 2015. Contribute to our jewel of Nature Education, the Nature Discovery Center, at the Circle B Bar Ranch. We are beautifying the gardens around the complex by removing exotic, invasive plants and replacing those plants with Florida Native Plants. Please contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 or email for more information.

Rainbow Springs Family Kayak and Swim, 9AM, Monday August 17. We will kayak and swim gorgeous Rainbow River. Kayaks for rent $10, entrance feels $6, please consider $10 Sierra donation for a total of $26 per person. If folks want to caravan we will leave Lakeland at 7am and drive to KHole Park. Please contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 or email for more information.

October Planting Outing (Service Outing) Circle B Bar Ranch, 8AM-11AM, Saturday October 3, 2015. Please contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 or email for more information.

Annual North Florida Multi Eve Paddle on the Suwannee River, Saturday October 17-Monday October 19, 2015. This will be our 4th year and every trip gets better!! We are paddling from Gibson County Park to Lafayette Blue Springs State Park. Eight openings are available for this trip. The cost of the trip is $65.00 per person. This includes a kayak, PFD, paddle, 2 breakfasts (Sunday and Monday), 2 dinners (Saturday and Sunday), and campfire treats. Participants will need to bring their own snacks, lunches, and camping gear. Led by Dan Clark 863-812-0573

Sierra Club/Montessori Schoolhouse Family Camping Trip, Coleman Landing on Lake Kissimmee, Saturday November 7-Sunday November 8, 2015. Led by Rachelle Selsar. We plan on celebrating the outdoors at Coleman Landing on the Kissimmee River with airboating kayaking and eating significant amounts of BBQ. This trip is in development. Please contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 or email for more information.

December Planting Outing: Service Outing, Circle B Bar Ranch, 9AM-NOON, Saturday December 13, 2015. Please RSVP by contacting Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 or email for more information.


Overnight Beginners Backpack, Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. Saturday January 17- Sunday January 18, 2015. Led by Dan Clark 863-812-0573

Native Planting Outing With Ancient Islands Group of Sierra Club, Polk County Nature Discovery Center at the Circle B Bar Ranch, Saturday April 25, 2015

April 20, 2015

Please join us for the camaraderie and fun of  native planting at the Polk County Nature Discovery Center at Circle B Bar Ranch,  8am, Saturday April 25. We consistently have a great time planting native plants of Florida Please bring tools, but most importantly bring an attitude of connection with the best conservationists in the land, Sierra Club. We usually end up feeling a sense of  excitement and gratitude by contributing to this jewel of environmental lands and nature education at Circle B Bar Ranch.

One of the beat things is us new comers to conservation can learn from folks who have been around like Frances Marian and John!

One of the best things for those new to conservation is to learn from folks who have been around like Frances, Marian and John!

Families are welcome and typically have a great time doing this service outing! The conversation among Nature loving folks is often stimulating  discussions around how to help our planet heal, wildlife and absurd tales of crossing mountain passes in a blizzard!!

We will meet in the parking lot, just west of the Nature Discovery Center. We have a water thermos, but bring your water bottle to minimize the use of plastic bottles. Bring sunscreen, hat and a shovel. We typically will work 2-3 hours.

Although Ancient Islands Sierra Group will provide water, we encourage you to bring your own water bottle to minimize the use of plastic. Please bring copious amount of sunscreen and your own shovel and gloves.  Please RSVP  Gail  863-559-3260 or email at to claim your spot and for more information. Limit is 20 participants. Donations accepted.

Map to Nature Discovery Center at Circle B Bar Reserve

Cumberland Island National Seashore Backpack Outing, March 2015, by Gail Bagley

April 20, 2015

There aren’t many places where you can see wild horses grazing along the beach.

There aren’t many places where crumbling ruins of a 19th century Carnegie mansion sit frozen in time, within hiking distance of your wilderness campsite.

There aren’t many places where you can sit in the tiny chapel of a settlement once inhabited by the descendants of slaves.

Cumberland Island is the place where you can experience all of this and more.

Ancient Islands Outings participants enjoyed three days of pure joy at our recent Cumberland Island National Seashore Backpack trip.

The ferry ride alone is worth the trip!

The ferry ride alone is worth the trip!

Cumberland Island, Georgia, is located near the Florida state line, just across the Cumberland Sound from Amelia Island. A scenic wildlife habitat, the island measures about 17.5 miles long by 3 miles wide, and is Georgia’s largest, southernmost barrier island. It encompasses maritime forests, wild beach, freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes, and over 9,800 acres of wilderness.  It is a place of solitude and quiet.

Our group of 10, led by Gail Bagley and assistant leader Dan Clark, disembarked from the “Cumberland Queen” ferry on a chilly and windy Saturday morning and checked in at the Ranger Station for orientation and campsite assignment.  Then we hit the nearby picnic table to prepare our first meal – Curried Chicken Salad – which was quickly devoured.

A 3 ½ mile hike took us to our tranquil Stafford Beach campsite, where we were to stay for 3 nights. Stafford is a backcountry site that has a fire pit and is about 500 yards from a bathroom with non-potable water.  It is sheltered and shaded by a canopy of huge oaks, making it hard to imagine you are just a short hike from the beach.  We quickly divided up our chores, which included meal preparation/cleanup, setting up the tarp shelter, creating a hoist to animal-proof our food supplies, water purification, and starting a fire.  We set up our tents, pulled out the “kitchen” gear, and started preparing our Mediterranean Stew dinner.  Throughout the evening we heard a Great Horned Owl calling its mate.

What a great group of folks!

What a great group of folks!

We were up at about 6am Sunday morning, enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Steel Cut Oatmeal with fruit and nuts, then hiked 3 ½ miles back to the Ranger Station to meet our van driver for the Land and Legacy tour.  This tour is a relatively new (since 2011) way to enjoy Cumberland. We included it in our outing because it would have been impossible to hike the long distances to the sites seen- especially those at the northern end of the island. Our park volunteer/driver, Bernie, added much in-depth knowledge and understanding to our Cumberland experience.  He had previously been the resident caretaker of the island’s famous Plum Orchard Carnegie mansion, and had developed close relationships with the few residents who currently inhabit the island.

At the north end of the island we stopped at “The Settlement”, which dates back to the late 1880s, and is a small village of former slaves.  This is the location of the historic First African Baptist church – a tiny timber chapel that became famous as the location where John F. Kennedy Jr. wed Carolyn Bessette in September 1996.  Judging from the time we spent sitting quietly in the chapel and then taking photos outside, you might think we had visited Cumberland for this one experience!

Monday morning was a lazy one, and we were slow getting things moving.  Breakfast was a (rehydrated) hash brown/eggs/turkey sausage casserole.  Before breakfast, one of our participants had to leave the outing due to illness.  Dan was extraordinarily helpful and generous in escorting her safely back to the Ranger Station to catch the next ferry, while the rest of us hiked to the south end to explore the Dungeness Ruins.  Dungeness was originally a home built by Revolutionary Was hero Gen. Nathaniel Greene’s widow, Catherine.   In 1884 Thomas and Lucy Carnegie began building their mansion upon the Greene’s foundations.   We stopped along the way for a picnic lunch of tuna salad, and were thankful that a little lunchtime rain did not turn into an all-day downpour.

Stafford campsite is within 100 feet of the beach

Stafford campsite is within 100 feet of the beach

Tuesday morning was another 6 am rising time!  This was our last day and we did not want to miss breakfast, nor did we want to miss the ferry back to the mainland.  Instead of having breakfast at our campsite, we packed everything up, said “goodbye” to Stafford, and hiked back to the Ranger Station. There we enjoyed the luxury of picnic tables and potable water, and Dan prepared his famous and delicious blueberry pancakes.   It is interesting to see how differently backpacks are loaded on the return trip compared to the arrival.  On the return trip you have partially washed cookware tossed in with your camp trash, on top of your dirty laundry.  You just need to get it out of there.

One of my favorite aspects of any outing – especially those with new participants – is watching the teamwork that develops and builds each day.  Skills and interests grow as someone becomes the campfire person, another becomes the meal person, someone else becomes the water purification person, and so on. By the end of the outing, you have a well-oiled machine, as they say!

I believe one thing our participants would all agree upon is that Cumberland Island is a special, healing, one-of-a-kind place of solitude.  We are thankful that the property is protected by the National Park Service.  Cumberland was at one time on its way to becoming built up with hotels, houses, marinas and golf courses by real estate developer Charles Fraser of Hilton Head.  He abandoned his plans after Island residents joined with environmental organizations and the Department of the Interior to support the acquisition of Cumberland by the National Park Service.   We are thankful that Cumberland will remain in its wild, natural state, a destination for future Sierra outings.

By Gail Bagley, Outing Leader


Lake Wales Ridge State Park Beginner Backpack Outing, February 28-March 1, 2015

March 18, 2015

By Gail Bagley

Have you wanted to backpack but didn’t because of inexperience? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have an easy one-night “beginner” trip where experienced backpackers help you learn basic backpacking skills? That is exactly what the Ancient Islands Outings offered the participants on our Feb. 28th Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Beginner Backpack outing.

Start of the trial with Gail, Melanie, Rakib, Tom and Mary Kaye

Start of the trial with Gail, Melanie, Rakib, Tom and Mary Kaye

Four adventurous participants- Tom, MariKaye, Melanie, and Rakib- plus leaders Gail and Andy- assembled at the Paula Dockery trailhead Saturday afternoon, then proceeded to hike about 3 1/2 miles- some along Livingston Creek- to our Lakeside primitive campsite.

LWRSF consists of four tracts. Portions of the land were purchased with Florida’s Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program funds. As the name suggests, the land is managed for recreation, protection of endangered and threatened species, and maintenance of natural communities. Our outing was in the Arbuckle Tract, which is located 5 miles south of Frostproof, on Lake Arbuckle Road.

Andy teaching foot care

Andy teaching foot care

The hike took us through scrub oak and pine forest and Tom helped identify a number of warblers and other song birds along the way. We had known in advance that it might “sprinkle a little” this weekend, and we had prepared by bringing rain gear. That was a good move! The closer we got to the site, the bigger and darker the clouds to the East grew. When we reached the end of our trail we were stopped by a stream between us and the campsite. Thankfully there was a fallen palm which had been previously placed across the stream and which enabled us to nimbly cross to our campsite.

A light rain started just as we arrived. Assistant Leader, Andy, taught the first lesson: put up the tarp shelter! When that was done we scurried to set up our tents. In the drizzle, we devoured a yummy dinner of southwestern chili. Leader Gail had previously cooked and dehydrated the chili at home, and it was easy to prepare at the campsite by simply treating and heating water from the creek, then rehydrating the chili. Dehydrating food in advance makes it conveniently lightweight for backpacking and prevents spoilage. It was remarkably tasty!

With amazing teamwork, participants gathered firewood and soon we were enjoying a roaring campfire. This was a welcome treat, allowing us dry our hair and clothes. We shared stories, sang a Native American song led by Melanie, and poked at the fire. Before we retreated to our tents- warm, dry and cozy- we spotted the moon peeking out from the clouds. The rain was passing!

Andy and Rakib on the trail

Andy and Rakib on the trail

When we arose Sunday morning, the sky was gloriously clear and the temperature was perfect. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast of steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon, nutmeg, fruit and nuts. Hot coffee was prepared with treated creek water. After breakfast, Andy took a few minutes to teach a lesson on foot care. It is critical to take care of your feet while backpacking; you can be quite miserable if you don’t. Wet skin increases friction, and friction causes blisters. Dry, moisture-wicking socks and comfortable “broken-in” shoes are essential.

Since we had plenty of time, we did not have to rush to leave camp. We cleaned up, extinguished the fire, put on our backpacks and headed out. The trail was a bit soggier from the rain, but not enough to cause any problems. New flowering plants had popped up on the trail that were not there the day before. When we arrived back at the trailhead, we did what good Sierrans do – we picked up trash and left the trailhead area cleaner than we found it. A leisurely lunch was enjoyed as we sat by the creek; then we said our goodbyes and headed home. Participants were all good sports about the weather. They talked about their new backpacking and camping skills, and were excited about putting them to use on future trips.

It is our hope to have more “beginner backpack” outings, so please think about it if you want to give backpacking a try!

Outings Update February 2015: A List of Upcoming Outings

February 25, 2015
Hangin on taking a break

Hangin on taking a break

Overnight Beginners Backpack, Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. Saturday February 28- Sunday March 1, 2015. Led by Gail Bagley, 863-559-3260 or

Multi Evening Cumberland Island Backpack, Saturday March 28- Tuesday March 31 2015. Led by Gail Bagley 863-559-3260 or

April Planting Outing: Service Outing, Circle B Bar Ranch, Saturday April 25, 2015. Please RSVP by contacting Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600 or email

Kayak and Camp, Rock Springs Run, Orange County Florida, Thursday May 21- Saturday May 23. Contact Andy 863-683-9600 or for more information.


The Satisfied Hearty  Group of Backpacker's a Trips End

The Satisfied Hearty
Group of Backpacker’s a Trips End


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