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Post 2 of 3 (Days 5 thru 8)

“LAST CALL”

(riding high water)

Fargo, Georgia to the Gulf – at Suwannee, Fla

221 river miles

Day 5, Holton Creek (140mm) to Dowling Park River Camp (113mm)

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Woods Ferry through Holton Creek is one of the more interesting sections of the Suwannee; over the eons the river has cut its niche through the visible limestone bedrock – after that the shores widen and soften towards Interstate-10 and the Dowling Park area.

The floor of the 16×16 elevated and screened room of the river camps the past two nights seems harder to get up from after sleep than the ground has, not sure the reason.  True rest at Holton Creek was compounded by that ‘ding-dong’ squirrel trapped in the attic – had me up and paddling early.

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The river-camp folks have been real good about letting us divide up using two platforms (2 per platform) I’m sure with more traffic it would be different. But for more than the squirrel reason I was glad to be on the water early absorbing the ambiance.

With other folks ‘groups’ just seem naturally slower to get moving (hence the ‘”bacshortly” moniker), so once again I quietly slid off the shore like a 14′ gator to collect a few of those placid moments that only the mornings can provide.

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I have found that if you are out there early…

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you might find families camping, even fishing together along the banks,

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you can find stairs leading into the mirror-like water…. This was a high-water period (60′ at White Springs) and after paddling it sever times before it was interesting to see how folks had ‘fared’ with their dock/deck building theories…. some better than others

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Prior to Gibson pk, I paddled over the normally high walkway of Shelley Run boil, it was hidden under the tannic water

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Along the way there are rope swings dangling from grand old oaks, always swaying my thoughts to cut-off blue jeans and those small but dated bathing suits….

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The Suwannee river State Park encompasses the history of a cemetery along with a Civil War earthen embankment used to protect the railroad during that conflict..

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After the historical railroad crossing and old hwy-41 the river ‘opens-up’ and begins to slow as it ‘flattens.’ Under normal conditions a shoal is present to paddle through – with this high water, it’s pretty much invisible.

This is the first area where you start to feel a longer and slower river, for the most part its just a matter of keeping the mind busy as the arms continue without thought.  With a fleeting nights sleep the night before I pretty much stayed awake by paddling.

Having a 200# sturgeon surface just out of paddle reach will wake you up too – big/ugly and with teeth! Just below Holton Creek in the stillness of the morning – I suppose it was this far upriver from the high-water..

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The 27 mile stretch between the Holton Creek and Dowling Park river camps leaves little time for lingering, but a quick MRE fits in just fine.

The other paddlers and I share the leeway to ‘paddle-on’ at any given moment, when anyone suggested a ‘change-of-plans’ or idea for the day the answer was always the same; “Its your trip, go for it!”

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My gyro seems to be intrinsically set at ‘keep the paddle moving,’ I really like time on the water.  While on the Mississippi I hated to go to sleep each night, just wanted to soak up every ‘dab’ of  the experience that I could.  Now, on the Suwannee once again – I was really appreciating the sound flow of the higher waters – play in the mornings, a lazy drift in the afternoons, early camps.  It also helps to know a little of the area’s history, or simply noticing any changes from previous years helps to enlighten as the time ‘fly-by.’ I also had time to figure a little about a ‘smart phone’ – liking the weather and GPS capabilities of it.

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After the ‘broad’ feel of this section the past two years, I was surprised to arrive at the Dowling Park River Camp before 3pm.  It was nice too, to be welcomed into the area with the church-bells from the nearby Advent Church facility. Jeff was the ‘host‘ – a BMW rider spending time as a host between travels. Volunteers, thanks for what you folks do.

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The Brothers were more relaxed and enjoying their float/paddle kinda pace, I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon too – hot shower, feet-up; recovering from that sleepless ‘squirrel in the attic’ night.   Carl/Richard arrived about 6pm.

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DAY 6 – Dowling Park (113mm) to Adams Tract river camp (85mm)

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Time to move on from Dowling Park river camp.  The place has always been hospitable, a good feel to it – same this visit.  Two options for the day; Peacock Slough, or Adams Tract 10 miles further…….

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Once the morning fog burns off its about running the shade line… more rope swings

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More decks, Vacation Rental by Owner (#134667)

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and Decks taken over by vines

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Steel decks with buzzards…

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The Blue bridge of hwy 51

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just after the ‘blue bridge’ is Bathtub Springs – abit under water now, it struggles to hold the Suwannee back with its clear head-water.

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Then on down the way and a little past Peacock Slough the old RR trestle (Drew Bridge) remains tall and proud after so many years.  Normally there are several shoals in this area too – but with this high water, only the memories are present.

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along the shoreline I spot a relic in the woods, its only occupant a turkey strolls away

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And then Adams Tract River camp.  I remember two years ago struggling at the end of a long paddle day to pull traveller (my boat) up the seemingly endless steps.  Today I’m a bit fresher – and the stairs a bit less intimidating..

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The stay is none the less rewarding, for some reason it was one of those ‘little circles’ that I wanted to close.

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I liked Adams tract and once again and had the whole camp to myself (Carl/Richard stopped at Peacock Slough).  A few days earlier I had found a fishing rod along the flooded river – cleaned it up and did some fishing at the river (fishing, not catching).  A rain came through the night providing a fine nights rest.

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last years paddle

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DAY 7 – Adams Tract river camp (85mm) to Ivy Park, Branford (76mm)

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mount up

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calibration point 2011

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Troy Springs underwater, neat to paddle over the deck and to the stairs

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Little River Springs underwater – this was also pretty cool as the front 1/3 of was still clear towards the ‘head.’  The spring water had covered the walks, trash cans, etc under 7 feet of clear water – is was like and underwater movie set…

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In nearing Branford I encountered the first group of young folks paddling canoes, they had departed Fargo 2.5 weeks earlier.  Over the recent years I have come across a number of groups on the Suwannee (boys/girls) sorting out their worlds with the basic necessities.  You have to admire the counselors (and the Suwannee for the setting it provides), way to go Outward Bound and Boy’s Club!

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I made Branford a half a day ahead of Carl/Richard, just in time for the ballast-buffett at the hometown restaurant.  ‘Land-food’ and Ivy Park – all in short walking distance.

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The campsite at the edge of the park is a nice place to settle, once Carl/Richard arrived we set up tents and watched the locals cruise the park with their pickup trucks….

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DAY 8 – Branford (76mm) to Gornto Springs Park (56mm)

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The real flatwater, earlinessssssss….

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windless, and right down the middle of glass-like water

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Cow pastures above and along Branford.  With no industries along the Suwannee, nitrogen runoff has been the main topic of conversation when speaking water quality.  Its all fresh water and its a high quality of moving water. On this trip and with the higher flow/level of water – there were areas of unnatural debris.  Small debris pockets against docks, along the shores – plastic bottles has to top the list, even a floating TV.

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At a lower water level the difference in with the water clarity of the Sante Fe can be stark – and inviting, a fine place to jump in !

1304-16_010It’s also not at all unusual to find the confluence of the Santa Fe river packed with partakers and party boats on the weekends – because of the high-water on this date it was eerily deserted for our lunch break.  If you have time there is camping/land-food/bar a mile up river – Ellie Rays.  On a weekday or distance paddle – it might just be worth the short paddle (the beverage is cold and the glass is icy).

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pint-sized place, LP

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The Mona and Mona II, shady rest years…

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.At the Hwy 34o bridge ramp is the Rock Bluff Store

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– under new ownership but they have a little grill serving hamburgers, etc.  Nice folks, you might even find a cold beverage there….. (this might help if you plan on staying at the Gornto Springs Park the night)…

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Ferns on the dock

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Presidential duck in the tree.. just before Gornto.

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Gornto Springs Park, the ‘belly-button’ of the Suwannee; be prepared to be entertained….

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the rebel yell is kinda like the password, once that comes out – they’ll come put their arms around you!

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 and you’ll blend right in

(results of stay)

Gornto Start, next days 9 – 11 to the Gulf

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Suwannee River Mileage info

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