Saturday, February 20, 2010

Deep Travel & Way down upon the Suwannee River

I am preparing to paddle the Suwannee River!

On October 16, 2009 I posted a blog on my hike along the Suwannee River, Paddle Florida - Get Down on the Suwannee River, and Go with the Flow! A call followed from my friend Dundee saying he wanted to paddle the Suwannee. My response was, “If you organize it, I will go”. Well, March 22 through March 26, Dundee, John, Shaun (my son) and I are paddling 70 miles of the 266 miles of the Suwannee River.

We will do a five-day paddle on the Suwannee starting in Florida where the Suwannee flows under Rte 6. We intend to pull out five days later at Suwannee River State Park in Live Oak, FLA. We will camp 4 nights along the River.

Planning the Trip

For the past few months, under Dundee’s leadership, we Googled the "Suwannee River", read William A. Logan’s, Canoeing and Camping the 213 miles of The Beautiful Suwannee River, and watched Logan's DVD. My sister Barbara and husband Larry introduced me to the lore of the Suwannee River - and Barbara has provided contacts and maps from the Suwannee River Management District Department of Land Acquisition and Management. The White Springs water level is used to determine the water conditions. In my email correspondence with Edwin McCook, SRMD Land Management Specialist, he says, "I like to paddle the river between 50’ and 60’ at White Springs."

Last week Dundee and I went to Vermont to visit with his cousin Arthur. Arthur is a retired biologist who had responsibly in the Suwannee River area, and he readily shared sights of interest, warnings, and camping suggestions (i.e. firewood is plentiful, check the water level at White Springs before you start, "alligators will not bother you", etc).

Deep Travel

Interestingly, a response from my friend Doug to my Dreaming the Appalachian Trail blog post on January 29th suggested I look at David Leff’s web site Indeed, I checked David’s web site, emailed him, and I now have an autographed copy of his book, Deep Travel: In Thoreau’s Wake on the Concord and Merrimack. So how does Deep Travel relate to my Suwannee paddle? Let me share a few paragraphs from David’s Deep Travel:

"At its simplest, deep travel is about heightened awareness. It is careful looking. It is paying attention to what is around you. Deep travel demands that we immerse ourselves fully in places and realize that they exist in time as well as space. A deep traveler knows the world is four-dimensional and can’t be experienced with eyes and ears only.

Deep travel is not so much a matter of seeing sights as it is sight seeking. It is a searching for the patterns and juxtapositions of culture and nature and delighting in the incongruities left by the inexorable passage of time. Deep travelers revel in the wild, inspiring call of a kingfisher as it flies over a couple of trolling anglers with Bud longnecks in one hand and rods in the other. They savor the sight of a tree shaded burial ground squeezed between big-box retailers on a traffic chocked commercial strip.

Deep travelers look not so much for scenery or enchanting objects as for a tapestry of comprehension woven from stone walls, retail establishments, street and topographical names, transportation networks, building styles, plant and animal assemblages, advertising signs, and other artifacts. Each element makes a statement about the landscape as a whole and the relationship of one part to another. Together, they tell a story. Deep travel is an ecological way of looking where everything we see has a function and all the parts are related, no matter how seemingly disparate or contradictory.

Like animals that remain intensely aware of their surroundings and any alteration to them because predation or starvation await the unwary, deep travelers work to be keenly conscious of their environs. They strive for the alertness and acuity of wildland firefighters or solders whose survival depends on their knowledge of topography, history, weather, vegetation, and the observance of changes in minute phenomena. Such mindfulness simultaneously enriches experience and makes the voyager worth of the journey."

I read David’s book, and in particular the above section, and realized the Suwannee was my chance to improve my deep traveler skills.  My friend Dundee is a deep traveler and he always “stops to smell the roses” and appreciate the moment of the forests, animals, flora and sky. Me, I need to remind myself to be a deep traveler, and as David says, “At its simplest, deep travel is about heightened awareness. …..A deep traveler knows the world is four-dimensional and can’t be experienced with eyes and ears only.”

I welcome your comments - certainly, there will be a follow-up post.  I never want to say, "I wish I had been a deep traveler on the Suwannee River."

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