One of the really unique events we do as a Federation here in Jacksonville, FL is the Canoe Trip. We do it yearly at the end of summer on the historic Suwanee River, but that’s not even the amazing part. What makes it truly special is the fact that it’s just you and your child(ren) in a metal canoe.
Sometimes you’ll be surrounded by a few other canoes, but alot of the time it’s just you together in that boat with no other sounds but that of the paddle entering the water and the cicadas always buzzing in the background. All kinds of species of trees are along the banks, and most of the time there’s a perfect mirror image of your surroundings on the water. And since it’s August in Florida, that cool water absolutely refreshes you when you jump in for a break. We’ll stop every hour or so for what turns into about a 5 or 6 hour day. Depending on how many breaks for a breather or lunch we take, we usually pull into the Holton Creek River Camp in the middle of the afternoon.
Another neat aspect of the trip is it being a REAL campout. We don’t drive to the cabin or have our bags delivered to the room by a bellhop. Nope. We haul ALL our gear in that canoe – the tent, the sleeping bags, the food, the water, the air matttresses if you bring them, the change of clothes, the water-proof bags. All of it. And you better pack efficiently, or you’ll be hating yourself later that day and the next. For this year we managed to avoid any rain, even though the clouds threatened all day long. The kids loved all the stops for a swim break. Some stops even had rope swings from previous, enthusiastic riverine engineers. Every now and then you’d see someone’s home along the elevated river bank and wonder ‘who lives there?’ The river current this year must have been faster than usual becuase we arrived at the camp early – about 2pm. Then it was time to slug our stuff up the steps to the screened-in “cabins” that were really porches with power. Many folks stayed in the river to cool off yet again and swim across from the camp for even more rope swing fun. And whether you were down at the river or up at the cabins, there was talking and laughter all over the place. Another canoe of 2 guys had arrived right after our group – some long haulers doing a multi-day trek. Since Holton Creek is open to all, our group made room in one of the cabins for them to have a place of their own. Then it was soon discovered that a certain Fed Chief forgot the lighter fluid for the charcoal, but the ever-positive attitude of ‘Soaring Falcon’ turned it into a competition between the parents and kids to make a fire from scratch to light the briquets. The trash talking was PG-rated but epic. The food smelled heavenly after a hard day’s row. The air stayed warm all night, but thank the Lord for ceiling fans. Pretty much everyone was passed out sleeping by 10:30 or 11pm. Surprisingly the next day there were no complaints of sore backs or arms.
We shoved off, and again arrived at our destination well ahead of time (even with stops to rest) and enjoyed one last rope swing. The Suwannee Canoe Outpost picked us up at high noon in passenger vans with canoe trailers and drove us back to our vehicles in the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. What an amazing time!!
Timucuan Fed Chief
Rick “Storm Cloud” Murphy