Post 3 of 3 (Days 5 thru 11 )
Fargo, Georgia to the Gulf – at Suwannee, Fla
221 river miles
DAY 9 – Gornto Springs (56mm) to Fanning Springs (36mm)
“The belly-button of the Suwannee”
Well,….. after ‘blending in’ for an evening at Port Gornto (always a zoo) my head hurt… “the sailors emptied the liquor hold last night” was my second thought as I rolled to my knees (my head hurt was the first), then prepared my gear for the days voyage.
In some sort of short, mechanical and hazy order I slid out into the middle of the river ahead of brothers Carl/Richard, head in the fog and “feet up”…… glad I had a V8!
This was the start to a Suwannee day in time, these days don’t pass often – probably for this very reason. I was indeed relaxed as my head would let me be, calibrated, and once again sitting atop the river’s sweet morning breath. The sturgeon that surfaced just after Holden Creek kept me from dozing completely, not like they eat swimmers or anything – I just didn’t want to wake up swimming .
Carl and Richard eased up through the fog 30 or so minutes later, and from there we paddled calm waters three-wide for several miles down the center of the river.
I think the kids carrying Spanish moss (‘red-bugs’) under their arms and in their britches (promoted by their parents) to the fire at Gornto held edge with most conversation, beating out the guy with a ‘twitch,’ a beer, and a doberman (the dog was nonthreatening).
We laugh, call it a ‘good time’ and paddle on.
It’s only fitting that on this morning we were surrounded by a heavy dew/fog blend, like a big old fuzz ball holding the sun at-bay. As far as the weather has been for us – other than a shower one night; the nights have been perfectly clear April mediocrity; our tents have been set each night without a ‘fly leaving us to stare at the stars while listening to the owls along the river, wdllooooo..
There are always ideas for decks to ponder
A few miles away Hart Springs was also under-water, but still possible to paddle into the public area – which was closed for activities.
The Suwannee itself felt much wider than of the mornings past
laziness was out in the middle, interest was along the shore – and all was calm. On my last two paddles through this area it was either battling the wind or hoards of boats/doggone people on the weekend. This was the calmest pass that I have made through here.
We continued paddling calm waters for 22 miles to Fanning Springs State Park, my camera was giving me some issues too – so it was put up more than used- which I was ok with (‘last call’). When nearing Fanning Springs there is a long stretch before the park that you hear the highway (and hear the traffic) – paddling through here always seems looong; it was no different on this day.
We made the park in the afternoon just before the second group of ‘Boys Club’ kids (this younger group from Pa.) – well behaved and sharing the same setting. The springs here have good magnitude and were open for swimming (no hot showers available). I took my bio soap – and it felt good to wash the Gornto off.
The Lighthouse seafood restaurant sits just across the road, “ballast.’ It was all the ballast we needed to settle in for the night; after the Gornto night – we each had water with our meals (2nd reason – hydration for the miles ahead).
DAY 10 – Fanning Springs (36mm) to Fowlers Bluff (14mm)
After a good nights sleep we gathered fresh coffee from the nearby convenience store, and were on the river early once again. Carl and Richard would bring up the rear this time – Manatee Springs was the half-way point to Fowlers Bluff.. so that was our direction/meeting point for lunch.
Its an ‘open’ water kinda setting, wide with the thick smell of the Gulf in the air.
gators too – just big lizards with teeth….
Manatee must be one of the larger springs because even with high tannic waters of the swollen Suwannee the clear stream still managed to push and define its way into the river….
On previous years we have seen manatee nearby – the only thing ‘ambling’ around today was Richard. The park was quiet leaving us to miss the ‘entertainment‘ of our last visit.
Not sure how the higher waters affect the manatee – but after seeing more than 14 last year, we didn’t notice any this year… The spring-head has a nice little concession stand (cold food) and bathrooms (cold-water) available. Camping is available too – but the distance from the landing to the camp sites makes it less desirable when ‘paddling thru.’
back out on the Suwannee
This section begins to ‘open-up’ towards the Gulf, once past Fowlers Bluff – the last 10 miles are pure paddle.
But Fowlers Bluff is a great stop along the way. Missy (owner) of the Treasure Camp really lays out the hospitality. The food is good and the setting is certainly the best to begin the ‘wind-down’ after a 210-mile paddle.
For 7 bucks you can sleep outside on a their mowed yard (take some yard fogger for the no-see-ums), if you make it though – you just have to stop and appreciate the paddle that is now behind you. Real good folks.
and we returned to adult beverages for our meal….
DAY 11 – Fowlers Bluff (14mm) to Suwannee, Fl – The Gulf
If it wasn’t the 10 days that had us ready to ‘bail,’ the ‘no-see-ums’ may have provided the reason…
The section from Fowlers Bluff to Suwannee provides few places to step out and stretch – so be prepared to paddle it in one sitting. Knowing the section can provide some variable (tide and wind) challenges and that we had the shuttle coming early – we left the restaurant before they opened (eight am for breakfast). After a shorter paddle than anticipated from Fowlers Bluff (3.5 hours) we arrived at Suwannee, Fl – on time, yet hungry for lunch. This place is a really neat little fishing town at the dead-end of hwy 349.
Only one restaurant was open – 2 miles away – a local (and legally blind) gentleman gave us a ride on his cart, while two local fishermen gave us a ride back to the camp in their pickup….
The shuttle arrived on time and we were sitting back at the Music Park and Outpost and our vehicles before 5 pm, now what?
Just so happened the Wannee festival was going on – so I hung around and soaked up some of the entertainment….