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Native Planting Outing With Ancient Islands Group of Sierra Club, Polk County Nature Discovery Center at the Circle B Bar Ranch, Saturday September 27, 2014

September 19, 2014

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 September 27. 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  Andy at 863-683-9600 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

Weeki Wachee Springs Run Wrap Up, June 23, 2014

June 26, 2014

A group of warm hearted folks paddled down Weeki Wachee Springs Run on Monday June 23, 2014.  The kids enjoyed plenty of swimming and some jumping out of the trees that make the run famous . Weeki Wachee, a first magnitude spring, is noted for it’s consistently clear water throughout the Run.

The Clear Water of Weeki Waccee Springs Run

The Clear Water of Weeki Wachee Springs Run

Lenora Quinn

Lenora Quinn

Folks arrived at the launch at Paddling Adventures as early as 730 am, and we unloaded boats and did our won Sierra Shuttle. We drove all calls and my car with the boat trailer to Rogers Park. The drivers came back in one car to meet the rest of the participants. We did the unloading and shuttle in record time. It is facilitative to get to the launch early because Weeki Wachee can be crowded even on a weekday. I dare not try to lead an outing on the weekend for motor boat traffic also comes up the Run. Using City of Winter Haven Kayaks and doing our won shuttle saves the participants a significant amount of money.


Alllyssa, Margo and Sharon on break

Allyssa, Margo and Sharon on break

The Boats

The Boats

So we had a nice leisurely paddle down the Run. Andy taught the group paddling stroke, this Run is a good place for beginners to practice strokes.  It took a while to take a break it seemed as though some of the sandbars may have washed away due to erosion.. Th children on the trip, Victoria, Lenora, David, and Jordon seemed to integrate well with the adults on the trip. SOme folks witnessed a babymantee. We have seen manatees the last three Ancient Island kayaks down Weeki Wachee.

Jordon enjoys the cool spring water

Jordon enjoys the cool spring water

The Leader during a break

The Leader during a break

These spring trips in the summer have been designed to introduce children and families to the  beauty of Florida waters. We attempt to go to places where the children can enjoy swimming.


Hangin on taking a break

Hangin on taking a break

Look for us on Wekiva Springs on July 21, 2014.

Paula, David, Chip and Greg on break

Paula, David, Chip, Kathy and Greg on break

a Whole New Beauty: Navigating the Gorgeous Green Swamp

June 26, 2014


Monday is a scheduled day off I use to explore places. When most people are going through the hustle bustle of getting to work or the demands of whiny kids, I like to have the woods and streams to myself. Lately I have been practicing land navigation through the Green Swamp, using map and compass skills in anticipation of leading a National Sierra Club Trip titled Wind River Intro to Cross Country. I have found the Swamp a mysterious place, one where I could get swallowed up and digested. I start at the Rock Ridge Road Trail Head in the East Tract of the Green Swamp and take bearings to various landmarks in the swamp. I like to work my way to the Withlacoochee River Basin.

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Even though I grew up in Louisiana., I did not spend much time in swamps. We were busy off shore fishing, camping and water skiing rivers in east Louisiana with exotic names such as Tangipihoa and Tchefuncte. In fact most Louisianans will swear the best water skiing river is the  Tchefuncte, with its slow moving black water and stately cypress tress.  But what the rivers and fishing did for me was to grow comfortable in the wild. But that being said I was unprepared for the swamps. My parents introduced me to the magic of the Rockies, a surreal and spiritual experience. There was something mysterious and god like about the sharp rock spires and terraces of snow along the faces. The air out west is a warm comfy blanket, and the openness of the mountains and prairies felt like heavenly infinity.



So for years I have been hooked on mountains. I hear from others too, their special places are mountains in North Carolina, Canada, Montana and Alaska.I have an infinity for those places that harbor animals that can take you out with a swat of their paw and contours where a misstep will plummet you to demise. God in Nature is a visceral experience, archetypal, making me feel small, humbled.  Later  I would dub myself a mountain snob. As if Florida was just not good enough.

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Family responsibility forced me to explore the local rivers of Florida. I have always enjoyed paddling on rivers and finding remote spots along Rivers to camp. There is something to making home next to running water that is calming and adventurous. And the cool refreshing, breathtaking springs! Miles and miles of cool clear water, where can look twenty feet below and witness turtles, fish and even frolicking otters and streamlined gators. And as I began to explore the waters of Florida solo, I began to challenge my fears about Alligators.

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See although I grew up in alligator land I really did not see many of them. It was a little spooky to see so many of them in Florida, and most outdoor folks acknowledge the exhilaration of witnessing wild animals is ten fold solo in the real bush. But my early outdoor training, and my mega experience out west taught me that they just wanted their own space. I have had an number of interesting calls with gators such as the time I was snoozing and fishing on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I  ran my canoe into brush and nearly  on top of one in the Hillsborough. Or the time I headed right into one on the bank of Juniper Springs.  Or using nature observation techniques to see them moving through the branches by the swaying of the tops of aquatic plants. Despite my growing confidence around these prehistoric remnants of a reptile, I was rather haunted by Ranger story of steeping on one in the muck Myakka State Park. She was thrown back on the bank for a considerable distance. They seem to like to burrow in mud holes in the cooler months. My concern was stepping on one in the swamp.

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Also of concern were rattlesnakes. However, the intimidation factor is quite low for me, having encountered 10-15 of them along the PCT mainly in California. In fact I am always quite excited to encounter one. , amazing at their brownness and triangular features that helps them to blend in with the dryness of rocks, dead wood and dirt of southern California. I even have story of being hounded by the infamous Mojave Green Rattler, while exiting the trail to get a tooth abscess attended to. I realized that the Eastern Diamond Back Rattlesnake love the palmetto prairie habitat of Florida, so I am looking forward to introducing myself to one of them.


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So I started in April, knocking the rust off my skill by taking short distances, easy loops through uplands. When I looked at my USGS map and all those swamp designations, the Green Swamp looked so daunting, formidable. My thinking was that uplands would be much easier to traverse than th swampy portions of the conservation area. What I did not understand was that the longleaf uplands with palmettos can be tangled brush over my head, that I had to fight  my way through. I had to re think my aversion to hiking sticks for I wanted my brother the Rattler to know I was in his vicinity.

Please don’t judge the following. On the Continental Divide Trail, it is just a matter of course that we walk through private property, crossing through barbed wired fences. Out west ranchers are a different breed and they tolerate those hikers.  My second hike in the swamp after some difficult uplands, I was heading north with a gorgeous meadow on my right flank. After some time I noted a farmer on a tractor on the distance. Then a “POP!” a shotgun fired. So that was either my warning or someone was target practicing. I went backwards quickly, crossed the fence and ate my banana. Respiration and pulse were normal, but I decided that I needed to respect property lines in Florida.



So I discovered that it is more fun and easier to hike in the swamp itself. The ground is cool and there are lots less obstructions. There are fascinating aquatic plants and cypress knees all about. The shades and hues of green are nothing short of miraculous. To be fair, I began at the end of dry season, and as I move through the rainy season the swamp is becoming more inundated and I walk to my ankles and knees in water. I am sure I will have a days in my hips to water. Yet the water is cool and the canopy cools the summer day. Several summers ago I noticed that when I returned from a river, the summer heat just didn’t feel quite as daunting. The swamp is refreshing, a cool breeze in the summer beat down. And my hiking stick is a reassurance for not stepping on a submerged gator.

I have walked along the Withlacoochee basin plenty before I started going cross country. The basi is so impressive with it’s open areas, plants with various hues of green and may cypress. Yet the first time I ran into the Withlacohee River crass country was exhilarating for I flushed two large gators into it’s waters. My predicament was that my route required crossing the  river, and I was not going to cross there. I went upstream and found a spot where it was only a foot deep and made the crossing.



The last time I hiked, I made a lager loop, attempting to find a cross country route to a back country lake. Running out of time, I did not make the lake and took an bearing back to the road. Sometimes getting back is much worse that getting there. If my bearing was too far north, it would mean a lot of extra walking, and too far south I would never hit the road. After pushing through some uplands and getting a little frustrated with the incessant spider webs on trees, I found myself in a brush less area hammock of sorts. I then heard lots of faint squeaking noises. Then I recognized it…..a staccato grunt, and I recognized I was being warned by a wild sow that I was much too close to her piglets. The ground around me was torn up the sign of wild pits tearing up the ground in search of tubers and roots. Although the wild pig would represent minimal threat to me, I take caution when mamma says back away. So I moved briskly west, then southwest compensating for my movement  away from the pig family. I ended up right where I started on the road, noting that my rust was beginning to shake off.


Scouting Outing and Navigation Training Wrap Up, Sunday. May 25, 2014, Kissimmee River Section of the Florida National Scenic Trail

May 29, 2014

What a great morning for us to hike the FNST. Margo, Dan, Gail and I  went southbound from River Ranch and the Kicco trail head. I am wowed by this huge swath of conservation lands that make of the Kissimmee River basin.  We hiked for about three plus miles south,then turned around and came back. Highlights were gorgeous hammocks inundated with palmetto understory and towards the end a huge wetland that was relatively dry. We noticed that we were hiking through a huge field of bulrush and blooming arrowhead. The scouting served us well for we learned that parking would be better at the trail head at the end of River Ranch Blvd. There is no water available for the three miles we walked and when we do this section as a multi day backpack, we will have to camp further because of the water issue.


Dan and Margo breeze through a palmetto prairie

Dan and Margo breeze through a palmetto prairie

I was able to teach some basic land navigation skills. The skills are threefold; map reading, compass reading and GPS use. We focused the map and compass use, and using the sun as as back up to compass. The trip did me well for I will be teaching and practicing navigation skills in Wyoming.

Andy and Margo look over a USGS topographic map

Andy and Margo look over a USGS topographic map

On the way back I scared deer from its snoozing place, and it made quite a racket escaping through the tangled brush. I also witnessed swallow tail kite, probably not a rare occurrence in the Kissmmee River Valley. We will look forward to Scouting the FNST in the Avon Park Bombing Range next.

Earlier this spring we scouting the gorgeous Paula Dockery Trail (Greg, Andy, Sharon, Barry and Paual)

Earlier this spring we scouted the gorgeous Paula Dockery Trail (Greg, Andy, Sharon, Barry and Paula)


Kids Kayak and Swimming, Wekiva Springs State Park Florida, Monday July 21, 2014

May 15, 2014

When and Where: Meet  at  Canoe Launch,  Wekiva Springs State Park(see Map) 745AM.

How long:  Expect to be on the way home by 3 PM. The plan is to kayak down Wekiva Springs Run then upstream on Rock Springs, then come back and swim. However sometimes this outing is longer because participants are having such a good time swimming!

For: Kids and parents. Couples welcome. Unaccompanied minors welcome but the leader, Andy,  needs to know within 2 weeks of the trip.

Reservation: RSVP and send fees.  There is a $10 non refundable fee for your kayak. Send to Andy  Quinn, 215 E.Bay St., Suite 5, Lakeland, Fl 33801. Write your check to Ancient Islands Sierra Club. Kayaks are provided by the City of Winter Haven Natural Resources Division.

Contact: Ancient Islands Sierra Group Outings Leader Andy Quinn 863-683-9600 or

Bring: Water bottle, snacks, drink, sunscreen, swimsuit, wear clothing/footwear appropriate for the weather and that will be comfortable when wet.

Skill Level: beginner, no previous paddling experience needed. Andy will teach some basic Kayak strokes at the beginning of the trip.

Fees: Approximately $25 per person, slightly less for families. Includes kayak, day use fee,  donation to Sierra Club. The leader will send a breakdown of fees to the participants.


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