Archive for the ‘Suwannee River’ Category

And we’ re on to Day 3 of our expedition on the Suwannee River. The first thing I remember about this morning was waking up about 5:15 a.m. and feeling the cold encroaching in on me as I slept in my sleeping bag( remember 20 degree bag), and curling up into a ball was not even working. I got out of the tent and headed for the bathroom portables, looking and listening for any sign that Jeff was stirring…. nothing. I arrived at the bathroom portables to find that the “wallshaker” air unit had the bathroom at 70 degrees- TOASTY!! I took a hot shower to wake up and enjoyed about a 40 minute break from the BELOW 20 degree temps. outside. My CORE needed that.

When I got back around 6:15 a.m., I woke Jeff and told him to go warm up in the bathroom. He took my word for it and headed¬†for the portables. I began getting my stove fired up as Jeffs’ MSR Dragonfly stove was malfunctioning and not working properly. When Jeff returned we enjoyed a hot bowl of Oatmeal together and some more instant coffee. Beautiful morning: Really Cold but beautiful!!!! After breakfast & camp breakdown¬†we packed up and headed down to the launching deck to get our kayaks packed and on the water. Jeff says ” Sean, check it out!”¬† and holds up pieces of ice that had formed around his hatch covers on his Necky Chatham kayak. We each took a “symbolic” bite from the ice and finished loading our gear and got onto the water about 9:15 a.m.

Goodbye! Holton Creek River Camp- Dowling Park Camp, Here we come! This day would prove to be our longest and most tiring day of paddling of the entire trip.  We paddled for what seamed like 6 hours straight- more like 3. never really stopping for lunch, but snacking on Peanut Butter/ Trail Mix and whatever else we could eat and still continue to paddle with. On this section of the trip we met with the Withlacoochee River(North) where it runs into the Suwannee just north of Suwannee River State Park. Not as strong a run off as with the previous days meeting with the Alapaha River. We stopped to rest for 10 minutes at the Suwannee River State Park.

We continued our journey down the river and started to notice the change in the river and scenery. The river starts to get wide and the banks get lower also the trees start to change from Oaks and Pines(hardwood forest) to Tupelo and Willows and become more numerous right at the waters edge. We saw 2 snakes on this day along the bank; a juvenile Black Rat Snake & either a Water Snake(non-poisonous) or some sort of Black Racer or Indigo Snake. This part of the river we began to have the dreaded “are we making headway/ where is the camp already” feelings of being on the water so long. Still very scenic but for me not as interesting as the beginning of the paddle.

When we finally reached Dowling Park River Camp it was around 6:30 p.m. all told we had paddled around 27-28 miles give or take a 1/4 of a mile. And had been on the river for around 9 hours and 15 minutes. We were so glad to see the camp, another 15 minutes and I think we would have slept in our kayaks sitting straight up!!!!

We liked the chickees here because they were about 20 feet off the ground on stilts. Neat change. I fired up the stove as Jeff unpacked our camp and we had a dinner that Jeff prepared– funny story– Jeff made me Cajun Salmon and wild rice(Mountain House), what he didn’ t tell me was the real name of dinner– Cajun Salmon INFERNO!!!!¬† He just sat there waiting till I got the third bite in—– @%*?ing SPICY HOT!! WE BOTH GOT A GOOD LAUGH AFTER THAT!! We also had to eat a second dinner to get our calorie intake back up after the long days paddle and exposure to the elements- and to put out the fire in my mouth!(Chicken & mashed potatoes).

Soon as dinner was done I played solitaire for awhile and we both called home to check in then fell asleep rather quickly after that. WHEW, Long Day is over!!! Next posting on Day 4 due out after the weekend. Can ‘t wait to tell you about Peacock Slough River Camp- something special to me.

Thank You for reading and following along–Sean

Suwannee River Reflections-Day 2

Posted: February 19, 2010 by Sean Fitzgibbon in Suwannee River

No need to waste time with the formal greetings, lets get to the story telling! Day 2 begins like this: Jeff and I awoke to decent temperatures around 35 degrees fahr.- they were decent temperatures because of the awesome sleeping bags we had rated to 15 and 20 degrees which kept us quite toasty all night. We got up with minimal moaning and groaning. Next, Jeff and I fired up our¬†MSR Stoves and heated up the water for our instant oatmeal & coffee. As we sat in our “chickee”, we enjoyed breakfast in the woods with the rest of the wildlife. It is¬†amazing how good simple oatmeal and instant¬†coffee taste in the quiet morning wilderness before a day of paddling!?!?¬†

¬†¬†¬† We broke camp and were on the water by 10:oo a.m., the temps. still in the low to mid 40’s. The sun was shining bright on this day and made for a beautiful late morning paddle to the entrance of the Alapaha River where it meets up with the Suwannee.¬†AWESOME slide slip¬†Jeff and I both did as we played in the current where the two rivers meet. I could’ nt help but smile a BIG GRIN as Jeff and I both played(ferrying) back and forth¬†in the current for a couple minutes before resuming our paddle, headed to our second river camp- Holton Creek.

    We stopped for a quick lunch of Lipton Instant Soup- DID I MENTION IT WAS HOT SOUP!!! Really hit the spot. We continued paddling on down the river, making really good time. We passed several small waterfalls and an old Spring House that looked like something the Spaniards had built, complete with arches; on the south side of the river. Jeff & I stopped there to snap a few pictures- which I hope to eventually get on the site!!

¬†¬†¬† Also at some point during the day we were paddling and a USO hit my kayak!!!! Whats a USO you ask— Unidentified Swimming Object! Something swam up and bumped my kayak really hard. I know, I know it was probably a log right? Well it lifted me out of the water and I was teetering on its back until it decided to lower me and swim away. Jeff said he saw me on the back of something and it did lower me. I actually saw the swirl it left as it swam away. Don’ t know what it was, too cold for Gators, too far up river for Manatees, too early for Sturgeons????¬†

¬†¬†¬† As we paddled the last 3-4 miles of the day we came upon a familiar spot in the river– the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch. I have to explain that it was very sentimental to me because # 1 my Dad was a Sheriffs Deputy here in Pinellas County for 25 years and I could’ nt help but think about the¬†countless young men & women, he¬†& law enforcement everywhere have helped to straighten out their lives and become productive members of society. Reason #2 would be the simple fact that, I had stood at this very boat ramp as an 8 year old filled with wonderment and adventure daydreaming of what might lie down river and especially what creatures lurked just below the surface. Really neat to actually be living out one of my childhood dreams(at 36 yrs. old)!!! My family has owned land just off the river since 1978 and here I was finally getting to see the river in great length and detail, words can not describe the flood of feelings– WAY TOO COOL!!!!!

    After another 45 minutes or so we arrived at Holton Creek River Camp(18 miles roughly from Woods Ferry Camp) and unpacked our gear, set up our tents for the night in our 2nd chickee. We got the stoves fired up and ate a Mountain House Dinner- forgive me I forgot which one it was, maybe a pasta and Turkey? We then settled in for the night as this would be one of the coldest we had on the trip. We could not wait to get in the sleeping bags and escape the cold. If I had to pick a favorite camp on the river this would have been it. Just a neat camp setup and nostalgic the way the forest let in the setting suns rays and morning light.

    I would have to say Day 1 and 2 were my favorite parts of the river, very wild & very scenic. But there is still more to come so check back in a couple of days for the Day 3 posting. There is ICE involved on morning 3!!!!

                                             -Sea Turtle Sean

    Hola Paddlers!

    Well it has been almost 2 months since Jeff and I did our expedition down the Great Suwannee River. I decided I wanted to wait a while before I wrote my postings on the trip- giving the memories time to stew and ferment, so to speak. So here I am finally writing my thoughts and feelings on the trip.

¬†¬†¬† Jeff and I got on the road the first day without delay at 4 a.m. and had plenty of time to spare to make it to the shuttle point on time. When we arrived in Branford at the Agriculture Station, after 4 hours of driving;¬†the temp was around 50 degrees and there was a light misting sort of rain falling. Yes its true even as experienced paddlers we get those- “should we be going & did we pack enough warm clothes”- types of second thoughts. I was starting to get those thoughts as we piled our gear up in the rain and unloaded our kayaks from my¬†SUV. We waited 2 hours¬†for Mr. Wendell from American Canoe Adventures to pick up and take us to the put-in point(White Springs). The shuttle went off without any problems and after about an hours drive,¬†we were soon floating down the Suwannee River in the cool air¬†with¬†overcast skies and light rain on & off. We paddled our first 13 miles down the river¬†along giant rock ledges and white sandy beaches¬†and made it to Woods Ferry River Camp!¬†What an AWESOME camp and our host “Gator Bill” was very nice and accomadating. I took a hot shower that night and almost froze to death(not really) but it felt like it when I got out- YOU should have seen how fast I put on my clothes and the sounds of ecstasy¬†I made¬†as the layers started to warm me up.

¬†¬†¬† Jeff and I set up our tents in our screened in “Chickee” and made one of our Mountain House Dinners- I think it was Cajun Red Beans and Rice. We then cleaned up and I played Solitaire with a deck of cards I brought¬†and Jeff called his wife-Mrs. Stacy! I had already checked in with my wife earlier-Mrs. Shelly. I drifted to sleep with the wonder of a child with thoughts of the next days paddle and what we might see and experience.¬† Oh, Yes it is very nice to know you will have a designated camp each night; not that I mind primitive camping, its just nice to know your sleeping someplace legally and somewhat safe! Hope you enjoy reading this and I will follow with Posting 2 in about 2-3 days!

                                           -Sea Turtle Sean

What can I say, I obviously must have been a very GOOD boy¬†last year! My older sister Mary told me so!! For Christmas and my Birthday (Dec. 21st) ¬†she bought me a North Face Cats’ Meow¬†20 degree sleeping bag. This present could not have come at a better time for it was given to me¬†on Thanksgiving weekend, and as some know will have been used on¬†the Suwannee River Expedition!

Well, I am back from the Suwannee River Expedition and have had ample time to pack, sleep in, re-pack many times over, and launder my Cats’ Meow sleeping bag!¬† So lets get on with the gear review:¬† One word LIFESAVER!!!!¬† This sleeping bag made for a very pleasant trip and the trip could not have been done without it!! IT truely is the Cats’ Meow!!!!!!! We had sleeping temperature averages of about 25 to 30 degrees and at least one night of under 20 degrees! I will admit I did get a little chill on the under 20 morning right at the end of the night/daybreak. Had I added my extra sleeping bag liner(not incld.), I probably would have been fine!

Lets start with the specifics that I liked about the Bag:¬† 1. VERY WARM and Comfortable with the soft silky lining.¬† 2. Pocket on the chest fit my cellphone/light/alarm clock perfectly.¬† 3. The drawstring to seal up around your face is easy one hand operation¬†& the material¬†is stiff enough that it doesn’ t feel like it will slide around¬†and choke you¬†out in the middle of the night, if it has ever happened before; you will know what I’ m talking about! 4. The ease of washing when I got back- loaded it into an ¬†industrial front load washer at my Moms house on gentle cycle. Spun it out on delicate and let it air dry. PERFECT!!

I would recommend this sleeping bag if you need a good quality 3- season¬†bag at a reasonable price; around $165- $175. I also liked the fact that the bag comes in Black & Atoll(blue) with black lining so it doesn’ t show soiling. Has a glow in the dark zipper tab and comes in RT. or LFT. hand zip configurations. Comes with a stuff sack¬†AND large laundry/storage bag. The bag is Synthetic filled as opposed to Down filled, my sister chose synthetic because it will still retain up to 80% warmth even when wet. Here is a link to North Face and the Cats’ Meow to read up on specifics!

Things I did not like:………………….Nothing! Great Product for the money!!!! Bottomline:: Mary my Dear Sister……. You did GREAT!!!! I Love You!

-Sea Turtle Sean