Memorial Day Trip A Big Party!
Ellaville, FL--The Fellow Travelers occasionally whip up a trip on short notice, and that was done for Memorial Day, 2005. The weather had been springtime beautiful, and the canoes had been dry rotting for too long. So it was decided to canoe a simple stretch of the Suwannee. The original plan was to canoe from Dowling Park to Royal Spring, but the Yana Blue Spring Park was closed for its renovation into a Florida state park. So the alternate plan of putting in at the Spirit of the Suwannnee campground, camping at Gibson Park, and taking out at Suwaannee River State Park was chosen.
Nineteen enthusiasts gathered on time at the boat ramp. Since John Chauncey was not going to paddle, there was no need for a morning shuttle. Despite some predictions for rain, the weather was superb on Saturday morning and remained so for the entire trip. There were four rookies--Danny Osborne, Steven Osborne, Tamara Benton, and Terrie Sheffield. Danny is a friend of Glenn Tankersley and Charlie Stines, and he and Glenn drove down together from Virginia to make the trip. They went by Jacksonville to pick up Steven, Danny's son who is a Navy Lieutenant and an Annapolis graduate. Tamara is a member of the dark side (Public Defender's office) in Bainbridge and had never sat in a canoe prior to the trip. Tamara had a rough night before making the trip as she found a bat over her bed in her Bainbridge mansion.
Mike, Haley, and Blakelyn Spiers took a canoe and left the border collie, Truett, with John Chauncey. Hamp Chauncey paddled his mother, Karen. Greg Baker initiated Tamara. The Osbornes teamed up as family. Joey and Terrie paddled another canoe. Donald and Gloria May partnered, as is their lot in life. Diane, Charlie, and Glenn rode threesome. The partners changed on Sunday as Greg and the Mays left, leaving Tamara to paddle with Glenn, and Haley and Mike swapped Blakelyn for the border collie.
The Suwannee below Suwannee Springs is a favorite of canoeists. The river has not become deep and wide enough to be plagued by large power boats. The tall cypresses and the hardwoods reflect into the dark tannic waters, and the sound of the water dripping in the cavities in the limestone banks is soothing. The sky was truly blue, and the clouds were the fluffy cumulus ones which conjure up childhood memories. Although the river was higher than normal, there were still lots of white sandbars. The paddlers stopped several times for some rest and river play. The water temperature was just right! Blakelyn was the only child along, but she was delightful company.
The entourage reached the landing at the Florida Sheriffs' Boys Ranch about noon. John and the border collie were awaiting the arrival. After a leisurely lunch and some play time, the boats again headed downstream. Paddlers see fewer animals on the Suwannee than on many other rivers, and this trip was true to form. However, there were numerous fishermen, and all claimed to be catching a lot.
Danny and Steven Osborne were both newcomers to the group, so they were assigned the Canadienne which is probably the fastest and easiest-paddling boat in the fleet. But is also perhaps the least stable. The Osbornes managed to show off its speed by staying up with the veterans, and to show off its instability by flipping it on a flat stretch of river. Steven is a sailor, and among the exploits under his belt is sailing a sailboat across the Atlantic. He and Danny were good sports about the dunking, and the warm weather dried the soaked clothes rather quickly. Since the camping gear was in the cars, nothing was damaged or lost.
The bridge at Gibson Park arrived around four o'clock. Just before the bridge is the spring run to the Alapaha Rise spring. Several paddlers braced the current and paddled to the spring, but the high water levels caused it to be tannic rather than clear.
John and the border collie were at the campground, as was a substantial portion of the Hamilton County population. The group waited for Lillian Baker to arrive before going to shuttle the vehicles because she had called Greg and was worried about running out of fuel. Once she arrived, the drivers retrieved the cars from the Spirit of the Suwannee parking lot. Lillian refueled the Expedition in Suwannee Springs, somehow managing to put 28.4 gallons of gasoline into a 28 gallon tank.
After the cars were brought to Gibson Park, the campers began erecting tents and getting the cooking areas ready. There were no community meals this time, although there was a lot of sharing. Greg has often said he was bringing Lillian's brownies on the trip, but he has always managed to forget them or squirrel them away for his own use. This time Lillian was there, and the phantom brownies were brought. They were really good, and came into varieties--excellent and superb.
After supper the usual lies were told. Greg refused to tell Tamara the Prince Albert story, and Charlie could not tell the town drunk story because a cousin of one of the town drunks was on the trip. Incidentally, this was Terrie's first trip, but she seemed to enjoy it, the crowd liked her, and she promises to come again.
The Mays and the Bakers went home. Eventually everyone went to bed. Tamara neglected to tell Charlie that there was no sleeping bag in her tent, so she slept without one until Charlie started preparing coffee for breakfast. Meanwhile, Glenn and the Osbornes had the extra sleeping bag in their tent.
After breakfast, camp was broken and the canoes loaded. Tamara had to ride with Glenn, but Charlie and Diane had only two in the canoe. Haley and Mike took Truett, the border collie, and left Blakelyn with John.
The weather remained perfect. There were stopping places for snacks and relaxation. A group of boys were swinging into the water off a high limestone bank. After securing proper invitations, the travelers stopped. Mike, Steven, Hamp, and Joey all made a few dives into the river.
It was not a long paddle to the boat ramp at the Suwannee River State Park. The vehicles had already been shuttled there before put-in, so it was just a matter of loading the gear and canoes and heading home. Mike and Haley offered to take Steven back to Jacksonville, thus saving Glenn and Danny several hours of additional driving.
On the way back to Moultrie, Glenn, Danny, Tamara, Terrie, Joey, Charlie, and Diane stopped at Cherry Lake for an ice cream snack. While there, Paul and Patricia Tolar happened by and apologized for not being able to mak the trip. Joy and Terrie then left, but the rest of that crowd went home and spent the night at Diane and Charlie'slenn demonstrated his chef skills by preparing blackened ribeyes. Everyone arose early on Monday. Tamara went back to Bainbridge to deal with bats, and Glenn and Danny started the long trip to Virginia.