Posts Tagged ‘Suwannee River Wilderness Trail’

After a long week at work (>## hours) due to my involvement with our Environmental Film Festival, I looked forward to hanging out, coaching, and paddling.

Saturday the Symposium at Sweetwater Kayaks was rocking with so many new faces meandering around taking classes.

My roll and pleasure at the symposium was to co coach with Sean on Kayak camping/cooking.  We worked it in a “round-robin” style.  We began with showing a bivy sack, then hammock, to a small tent that needed to be staked, then transitioning to my favorite free standing tent (Mountain Hardware’s Skylight tent).  As one of us talked the other would pack the previously mentioned shelter and its coordinating sleeping bag and pad into a NDK Explorer.

We illustrated different types of camp lights, and cooked on several types of stoves.  Everyone also enjoyed eating our dishes.  And all of that even went into the kayak.  The guests were amazed at the ease to packing a kayak.  And I was amazed that the racks we used to support the kayak held up to the weight of all of the gear!

Sunday I co coached with Greg Stamer.  In the morning we did Greenland Open Water.  Greg asked me to do a put-across-bow-pry maneuver.  I have done it many times in my Chatham 17 and Russell’s Greenlander Pro to quickly turn the kayak up into the wind.  However, I was paddling a NDK Explorer for the first time.  I was a too aggressive with the paddle placement and flipped. LOL.  The water was refreshing and I rolled up on the opposite side of the kayak.

In the afternoon I taught bank-base Greenland rolling to two paddlers; whereas, Greg taught deep water Greenland rolling.  The two students I had never rolled with a Greenland paddle.  I have a few tricks in helping students and they both ended the class with a roll.

As the day concluded I was given the opportunity to paddle a canoe down the Suwannee River.  I have enjoyed the Suwannee every time I have hiked along its banks or paddled it.  So after negotiating a deal with my wife I joined the coaches and students for some 3 and 4 star canoe training.

Monday afternoon we drove to Stephen Foster State Park.  The traffic was thick and had a mind of its own.  At times I thought these metal beasts that clogged the asphalt river did not want to release its captive prey to enjoy the splendors of the river that we so desperately were trying to get to.

We finally arrived just before sunset and I then discovered how nice cabin # 4 was.  The cabin has a large screened in porch, rocking chairs, tables, a complete kitchen, and fire place.  We ate and sang, it was better than a night on the town.  We had two guitar players with us Russell Farrow and Nigel Foster.  Phil Hadley also graced us with song.

Tuesday after breakfast we explored Stephen Foster State Park, drove up to see Big Shoals, and then dropped off the automobiles at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (our take out point).

The rapids at Big Shoals were not dramatic. I saw a gopher tortoise burrow.  But that was not the biggest discovery of an endangered species.  We discovered a Skunk Ape. And he was happy to pose with Chad and me.  Usually Florida Skunk Apes are shy and elusive but he liked people who canoe on his river.  He was especially fond of one of our members.  We all had a good laugh when they exchanged hugs.

It was midday when we started to paddle from Stephen Foster to Woods Ferry River Camp.  It is a short paddle of 9 miles downriver to Woods Ferry.  With current I figured it would only be a two and a half to three hour trip.  I was wrong.  It was a leisurely five hour journey. We all played with edging, tested the efficiency of blending strokes, and tried each other’s canoes and paddles.  We had lunch on the river about 90 minutes into the trip.  I was originally concerned with paddling in a kneeling position; but, I was not experiencing numbness in my feet, knees, or low back.  It was almost five o’clock when we paddled through some rapids and arrived at Woods Ferry River Camp.

For dinner we ate STEAK! I have never eaten steak for dinner during a kayak trip.  We ate very well that night.  And were well hydrated.  There is an advantage to having all that storage in a paddle craft.  Yum – big boat, big tasty meal.

Then we gathered around a fire pit in front of a chickie (screened sleeping platform with electricity and ceiling fan).  Nigel has a great voice and knows some fun songs.  Phil was rocking.  And Russell played ‘until his fingers bled’. Who needs electric entertainment when you have an opportunity to paddle with cool people?

I slept well after my first day of paddling a canoe.

Wednesday after eating and breaking camp we paddled up river to refine some skills in the rapids.  Phil Hadley and Jen Kleck are excellent coaches.  We worked on moving the canoe up river, recovering in eddies, and what to do in the event of a capsize.

Standing up in a canoe and polling it up river was similar to my experience to punting on the river Cam along the banks of Cambridge University.  Well, not really.  The only thing similar was to remember to yank on the punt/poll if it got stuck and I had to remember not to lock my knees.  We also used the painters on the canoe to ferry it up through the rapids.  Then we practiced paddling up and spinning the canoe in the rapids.  I would like to say I was smooth like icing a cake.  But I now know what I need to do to improve.  We also had one volunteer to capsize a few times.  This gave us all the opportunity to safely practice some rescues.

After class we paddled to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.  It was nice to get out of the canoe.  Kneeling for two days had started to feel more like penance than pleasure.

We collected our kits and headed to Paynes Prairie State Preserve.  We stayed at the campground for the evening and then drove to canoe up Silver River.  Sean and I have kayaked Silver so many times I think I could navigate it without a headlamp on a star free night.

My friends had never been on this river and the local wild life made it a wild morning.  And I will share all about it in a future post.

– Jeff

Good Day Paddlers,

Here it is Post #3 in our expedition series! In this post I am going to cover our initial arrangements to get where we are going, who is taking us to the launch site of our journey; why we chose them(shuttle), and a brief description of our start time and place. Followed by where we hope to be by the end of the first day of our paddle! Also a brief summary at the end telling you where we hope to be each day of the trip, and the # to call to arrange your Rivercamp places to stay!

Jeff and I bounced around many thoughts & ideas on how we should get up to the Suwannee River area(about 4 hr. drive from Pinellas Cty.-our home). Originally we were going to drive separate vehicles and park 1 in Branford & 1 in White Springs so we would not have to spend money on a shuttle service. After much bickering like an OLD Married Couple we decided that we not only would spend more on gas than if we only took 1 vehicle, we would also have to worry about safe parking of 2 vehicles- not to mention thats twice the pollution-( not that we are totally green, but we try to keep our impact on the environment down as much as possible).  We agreed(not like a Married Couple) that we should price out the shuttle service and see if we could get up to White Springs from Branford(1 hr.5 min. give or take), thus only leaving 1 vehicle to worry about and saving gas/money & lessening our impact on the environment.

I made a few phone calls and we soon settled on AMERICAN CANOE ADVENTURES as our outfitter of choice for our  shuttle ride.

They are very fairly priced not to mention Mr. Wendell Hannum  the owner was very accommodating & they have a very informative website and can even do all the planning of an expedition or a day paddle for you, I also must mention that I called a couple of weeks earlier and spoke with a very nice young lady who gave me the initial price- her name Corinna (hope I spelled it right). I will be giving them half with my credit card by phone and the other half when they come get us in Branford on Dec. 27th.   Price: less than a GOOD PFD (life jacket)!   Distance:  like 40 or 50 miles!

So as it stands now we will be leaving Pinellas County at O4:00 or O5:00 hrs. “What does the “O” stand for? O my [Gosh], it’s early! (Adrian Cronauer: Good morning Vietnam)

adriancronauer

On Dec. 27th and heading to Branford in one of our vehicles. We hope to arrive at our safe parking destination and ending point of the expedition at between 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. Mr. Wendell should arrive to pick us up around 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. , to whisk us off to the starting point of our expedition. Hopefully if all goes well we should be in White Springs at the U.S. 41 bridge within an hour or so to launch and begin the trip down the AWESOME Suwannee River, as stated on American Canoe Adventures Website- the Paddle of a LIFETIME!!

Jeff and I hope to be at the Woods Ferry Rivercamp by the end of the first day,(paddling distance 12-13 miles) remember we only have half a day to make it to camp/dinner and sleep! We will be up bright and early the next day for a full day of paddling!

Our chosen  schedule, if you want to call it that should be as follows::

  • Day One-  Woods Ferry Rivercamp
  • Day Two-  Holton Creek Rivercamp
  • Day Three-  Dowling Park Rivercamp
  • Day Four-  Peacock Slough Rivercamp
  • Day Five- Adams Tract Rivercamp

All of these camps should be roughly 20 miles apart from each other, in the event we do not make it to the camps; we will be primitive camping on the side of the river bank.  To reserve the camps the # is 1-800-868-9914 or go to the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail website.  I hope you all enjoy the latest post in our series and please keep reading, YOU the Paddler/Reader are why Jeff and I write!

Excited!  -Sea Turtle Sean

Next Post in 8 Days- Expedition Planning : The Menu!

YO!

Well here it is post #2 in the Expedition Series, just as promised. This post is going to focus on the actual route we are going to be paddling and how the choice to paddle the section of river we are doing came about.

When Jeff and I first decided to paddle the Suwannee River, we thought about doing the entire length- a distance of 213 miles. Starting in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and ending at the Gulf of Mexico, in the Big Bend region of Florida.

Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

After doing some research the biggest factor in deciding not to do the whole river was a time limitation. The trip has been made in 15 days at a steady pace and possibly as fast as 5 days at a marathon sprint(non-stop  paddling, done by Terry Tomalin, George Stovall, Kasey LaLomia & Jon Willis, Dec. 2001 ). Jeff and I like to enjoy our time paddling so trying to do the whole river in 5 days was out of the question!!

Reason #2 is there are large class 3 rapids just north of where we decided to put in, and we do not want to destroy are precious Sea Kayaks! The 3rd reason is the Suwannee River Wilderness Paddling Trail starts just south of those rapids in a town called White Springs, and I found out it is the most scenic part of the river anyway.

The 91 miles from White Springs to the little town of Branford being the most scenic and uncrowded part of the river as well as being the best part of the Suwannee River Wilderness Paddling Trail had our minds made up!! We can average anywhere from 15 to 25 miles a day paddling, that puts us at just about 5 days worth of paddling. PERFECT!!

Another cool deciding factor was awesome camping opportunities along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, about every 15 to 20 miles they have either a Hub town or River camp- each camp has 6 roofed and screened decks for sleeping. At this time they are—- FREE to the paddling/camping public. The Hubs are usually at a State Park or Town where you can pay to camp. In addition there are many white sandbars/beaches to pitch a tent on for primitive camping. This makes it SOOO EASY that a Cave Man can do it!(SORRY GEICO) Ha Ha Ha Ha.

Guess What? That still leaves us 122 miles of river that we can always go back and do at a later time in life when we run out of other places to paddle- YEAH RIGHT!

So there you have it, now our destination and the route in which we will be paddling has been revealed! I hope our readers are getting at least half of the thrill and excitement Jeff and I hope to get from all this expedition stuff. I also hope this is helping and inspiring other paddlers to “Have a Thought” and “Plan a Trip”. Then GO Out and Get R’ Done!

Still Planning- Sea Turtle Sean

Next post in the series in 8 days; Expedition Planning: Making Arrangements.