Another Huge Crowd For The Thanksgiving Trip
The annual Thanksgiving week-end trip again proved to be the most popular Fellow Traveler event of the year. This year's event saw twenty-eight people come to canoe a section of the Santa Fe, and eight more showed up for the meals. It was three dandy dozens! The group came from far and the canoeists met at the US 41-441 bridge just north of High Springs, but David Allerton directed us to a boat ramp off the highway but only a few hundred yards downstream from the bridge. After taking vehicles to another ramp known to David just a bit beyond the SR 47 bridge, twenty-eight people loaded into fourteen canoes and began the paddle. Cassie Robinson, Jason Robinson, and rookie Heidi Zellie put three into the Penobscot 16, rookies Dennis, Alathea, and Lani Lister loaded three into Art's Discovery 169, Greg Baker soloed the King's Prism, and Dan DeBrita soloed his Mohawk 13. Everyone else went traditional tandem.
The put-in was shallow and rocky, and it took a bit of finesse not to hang up, but within a few yards it was all smooth sailing on a shallow and clear river. The Santa Fe is often crystal clear, but the recent rainfall had given it more tannic color than is usual. The weather was relatively warm for late November, and the paddling went according to plan--at first.
The Santa Fe from High Springs to Ginnie Springs is relatively undeveloped, but after passing Ginnie Springs it is the paradise for those lucky enough to have a building lot.
The total distance to be canoed was a little less than fourteen miles, but the GPS was disheartening company. It showed a crow-mile distance of about seven and a half miles at put-in, but soon was proving that the group was getting farther away from the take-out (in crow miles). The boats were on the water shortly after ten, but US 27, which is supposed to be three miles downstream, was finally reached about thirty minutes after noon. There were a lot of other paddlers on the stream, mostly from Jim Woods' Canoe Outpost, and many of them had stopped at the US 27 ramp for lunch. But since it was lunch time, the Fellow Travelers ate there, too. It was still a sunny and warm November afternoon, and old acquaintances were renewed, and the rookies got to know the veterans.
After lunch, the entourage headed downriver. The winds began blowing, but the temperature remained warm. There were enough slight shoals and ripples to speed the canoes in a few places. Poe Spring and Lilly Spring were passed by, and no one saw the fabled river man, Ed. But just before reaching the park at Rum Island Spring, the travelers were blessed with a little more rain. It was a gentle rain at first, then it became a deluge. After a while, the rains eased, but throughout the showers the group kept paddling. Finally the GPS did reveal that the gang was actually headed in the general direction of the take-out.
There was no stopping at Ginnie Spring. The place was crawling with campers, some riding four-wheelers, some canoeing, some cooking, but none were seen tubing. After passing Ginnie Spring, the rain stopped. The banks become rather developed after that point, so the scenery is somewhat less interesting.
It was late afternoon by the time everyone reached the boat ramp just beyond SR 47. Art and Janice brought up the rear, but that is a senior citizen prerogative. The canoes were loaded. Some went back to the put-in to get the vehicles left there, and others went on to the campsite in the primitive area of O'Leno State Park
It is hard to fault the primitive area at O'Leno. There was a shed large enough for cooking, there was a nice place for a campfire, there was running water, and it had real flush toilets. The site had plenty room for all the tents to be pitched and still leave elbow room.
Joey and Carla prepared supper, aided somewhat by Karen Chauncey and Nelda Register. It was a feast of deep-fried chicken strips, green beans, and new potatoes. Dessert consisted of Little Debbie cakes and some pies someone (Maybe Karen) brought.
Dan DeBrita brought a load of firewood, and he built a very pleasant campfire. It was big enough to give some light and warmth, but not so big as to have a vicious air. And it hardly smoked at all. The campers, including those who just came to eat, sat around and told lies and passed the time. Tom Shipman, Jason Robinson, and Cassie Robinson played the fiddle, banjos, and a guitar.
Cassie sang, and she does that rather well. Charlie introduced his wooden-headed brother, Jason. At first Cassie and Heidi were offended when Charlie called him a dummy, but after the introduction they agreed the description was apt.
The night became cooler--after all, it was late November. Everyone went to bed. Doris and Tommy Shipman returned to their motorhome. John and Karen Chauncey went home with Ray and Nelda Register. Greg Baker left. Art and Janice slept in their Tahoe, and Carla slept in the truck. Everyone else--except Dan--slept in tents. Dan just slept outside beside the fire.
No one was up before daylight, and daylight does not come real early at that time of year. The King made forty cups of coffee, and it was all drunk. But the real treat was the breakfast prepared by Dave and Eric Moye. Their dad, Roy, was unable to make the trip, and it was probably a good thing he could not come. Past breakfasts have all fallen short of the Roy Moye standard, but that standard has definitely been eclipsed by the Dave and Eric Moye standard. There were scrambled eggs, grits, link sausage, patty sausage, gravy, biscuits, and a potato dish with onions, peppers, and whatever goodies they added. If the hillbillies could introduce Dave and Eric to ramps, it is hard to imagine what a breakfast could be. Saturday was rather cool, and breakfast took a while. By general agreement, there was no canoeing that morning. Everyone eventually packed up, and all agreed it was an outstanding adventure.