Large Group Celebrates Father’s Day on Suwannee
Live Oak, FL--The Fellow Travelers were planning a trip especially so Art Shelfer’s niece, Katie Preissig, could demonstrate to her parents that she would indeed go canoeing. As it turned out, a schedule change forced Katie to work at Emory Hospital and she could not make the trip. But a lot of others gathered at the Spirit of the Suwannee Canoe Outpost on June 17 for a relatively short paddle on the Suwannee.
Since the trip would not be long, the put-in time was ten o’clock. Dave and Kim Lippy broke their “no canoeing past Easter” rule and came along, bringing two rookies, Bob Seay and Ray Greer. Donna and Jerry Ellis came--the river is in their neighborhood, anyhow. Art and Janice Shelfer drove over from Tallahassee, as did Daniel Butler. Paula Allen decided she wanted to be a regular, so she came from Thomasville. John Williams spent the night at the Spirit of the Suwannee and was ready to go. John and Karen Chauncey, Hamp Chauncey, and Mike and Haley Spiers came and brought five-month old Miley for the camping only. Roy and Justin Moye journeyed from Altamonte Springs. Donald and Gloria May rode with Charlie Stines from Moultrie in the Suburban Profane.
The weather was hot, but the humidity was lower than usual, so it was not an uncomfortable trip. The river was pleasantly low, and the blue skies were filled with fluffy cumulus clouds. A cooling breeze made the paddle enjoyable. The sandbars were exposed, and the reflections from the limestone banks reminded everyone that this was the Suwannee.
The paddlers were on the water by about 10:20 AM. John Chauncey began the day as bow man in Hamp’s canoe, and the rest of the Chauncey crew stayed with the vehicles. Dave Lippy had his lab for a partner. Paula rode with John Williams. There were several soloists, some in kayaks, others in canoes. Eighteen travelers were in boats.
The portion of the Suwannee below Suwannee Springs is not a prime location for spotting wildlife, and this time was not an exception. The entire trip was made without seeing the first alligator or deer.
The Fellow Travelers were moving along without really trying. By noon the group was within about a mile of the Boy’s Ranch, so it was deemed time for a break. Several people could not resist the water and waded the waist-deep water. Donna and John Williams began a water fight which did not totally cease until the trip was over on Sunday.
Once the break was over, the gang (called by Art the North Florida-South Georgia Naval Militia) headed for the landing at the Florida Boys’ Ranch. It did not take time to get there, and Karen Chauncey and Haley and Mike Spiers along with baby Miley were there awaiting the arrival. Mike and Haley also had their border collie, Truett, and their poodle, Kiki, with them. The three dogs (Trekker, Truett, and Kiki) behaved better than the people. John and Donna continued water fighting. This was the lunch stop, and everyone gorged on food ranging from sub sandwiches to sardines and trail mix.
Once lunch was eaten, it was time to paddle toward the camp. Karen Chauncey replaced John as Hamp’s partner. By 2:40 PM the last canoe had arrived at the Holton Creek camp. The camp is a project of the Suwannee River Water Management District, and Edwin McCook had helped steer the Fellow Travelers toward the site. It is brand new. There is a large sandbar to beach the canoes, and then a large ramp leads to the camping area. There are several screened shelters, each with a grill, electric lights and a ceiling fan. The camp has a large shelter with several tables. There are flush toilets with hot showers, and the bathrooms are even air-conditioned. The camp also has a campfire ring, and the walks are paved with large paving stones. The camp also has room for those who prefer sleeping in tents rather than the shelters, as several of the paddlers elected to do.
After carrying the gear to the camp, several of the campers went to play in the river. Others sat around under the shelter. Charlie had secured permission for Haley to drive to the camp, so she was there with Miley. Haley also brought the turkey frier and a lot of heavy gear.
Diane Stines could not canoe with the group, but she did come down for supper. Diane brought enough ingredients to allow Charlie to prepare a low country shrimp boil. It consisted of four pounds of smoked sausage, six pounds of shrimp, twelve ears of corn broken into thirds, thirty potatoes, and other minor ingredients. Not a spoonful was left over. John Williams baked strawberry shortcakes in the Dutch oven. Dave and Kim Lippy made a churn of vanilla ice cream. There were twenty-four mouths to feed, and that included Doug and Myra Carter, the campground hosts.
Diane also brought her Yorkie, Ami, with her. The four dogs again behaved better than the campers.
Once supper was eaten, Diane had to leave. The others, including the campground hosts, went to the campfire circle and sat around enjoying one another. Dave Lippy played several traditional songs on his dulcimer, including Rye Whiskey, Dixie, and I’ll Fly Away. There were a few lies told, and a few memories shared. The campers enjoyed the fire and the cool air of the night.
Eventually everyone departed and went to bed. Donna kept asking everyone if they snored, hoping to find a place to sleep where she would not be disturbed by the snoring. Everyone claimed to snore so that Donna would not sleep near them, so she and Jerry ended up sleeping in a hammock in the handicapped shelter. Some campers slept in the shelters and others occupied tents. The heat had evaporated, and it became downright cool in the middle of the night. The only sounds were the frogs and the snores.
No one was up before daylight, but Charlie did begin making coffee in the twenty-cup percolator. Luckily, he had brought a huge pump thermos so that the pot could be emptied into the thermos while another pot perked. The process was repeated four times.
Breakfast was the treat provided by Roy and Justin Moye. Eggs wre cooked to order, and two kinds of sausage were provided. Since this was a southern thing, Roy decided to make a few grits. He ended up making so many that he had to use the turkey frier to get the eight quarts of water boiling. Unfortunately, the campers had eaten so much shrimp, ice cream, cake, eggs, and sausage that a few grits were left over. Roy also had biscuits and jelly.
After breakfast the cars left at Spirit of the Suwannee were taken to Gibson Park. When the drivers returned, the canoes were loaded and the final stretch of the paddle began. The scenery continued to be beautiful, the wildlife scarce, and the weather continued to be hot but nice. John and Donna continued to water fight. Several of the paddlers braved the brisk current and forced their boats upstream into the Alapaha Rise Spring. This is a first magnitude spring and is believed by many to be the actual rising of the Alapaha River. The spring has very high limestone banks. The water is not as clear as the springs further downstream, but seeing it is worth the work.
The take-out at Gibson Park is within sight of the Alapaha Rise run. Soon everyone was off the river, the boats were loaded onto the trailer or onto vehicles, and everyone went home happy. Ray Greer experience an irregular heart beat on the way home and had to be treated at the emergency room in Lake City, adding support to the theory that fellow traveling is hard on the heart. Donald May has made a lot of Fellow Traveler trips, and he declared this one to be the best trip ever!