Way Down the Upper Suwannee River Wrap Up, October 11-14, 2013
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 ?