Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Ship Right Here is Kinda Crazy

Don't be too alarmed by the odds we were quoted for keeping our permit. As Dr. Sands always says, everything is 50/50. It either happens or it doesn't.

Also, the Suwannee Canal into the swamp will be open for sure - it's not affected by water levels. We may be able to get Canal Run shelter or they may open the day use shelters along the canal for us for overnights.

What you should be alarmed by is the alligator count. According to the Famous Alligator Forecast, the canal is a quite a popular hangout.

Even the fall forecast of "Very High" is a slight downgrade from the summer when the canal red-lined at "Gators Galore."

That probably had something to do with the rare "cooperative feeding event" that occurred there on July 10, 2010.

Here is the unedited footage:

But please, if you only watch one version, watch it narrated:

Ok, it's true that low water level is a contributing factor to these feeding frenzies. But the chances of it happening to us are still just 50/50.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rock Me Like a Hurricane

You would think since we're not on a shallow Middle Tennessee stream this fall we could take a year off from worrying about water levels. Turns out that is not the case at all. When we called back this week to pay for our permit, the rangers said that we can only pay by check because there is a "50/50 chance" we won't get to go at all. A check is easier to refund than a credit card payment.

The Okefenokee is 13" below normal and we are about to enter the dry seasons of October and November. All of the trails except Canal Run are currently closed. Apparently it takes a hurricance to really fill it back up, and there are only a couple of weeks left in hurricane season. So everyone needs to sacrifice a coon or oppposum to the rain gods and pray for about a Category 3 (don't want to overdo it).

"Swamp's got to rise or no boat's gonna row."

Only in the RRCC will you get to use a line like that at a cocktail party and have it mean something.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


For those of you who plan on flying, here's an itinerary that should work. Kirk's already on these flights.

But following the trailer is a lot more fun. You never know when it might pull over for a guitar pull.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Making the Big Dance

You may have noticed there is a finite amount of space in those Okefenokee overnight shelters. Unfortunately, it means the RRCC has no choice but to take the rare step of limiting attendance on the Fall 2010 trip. Basically, we need to be half the size of the Spring trip on the Buffalo.

We regret having to do this and are aware there will be a lot of competition for the chance to sleep on a hard wooden platform in a mosquito infested swamp 18-inches above an alligator nest. So for that reason we are announcing the following criteria for determining who gets to go. In order:

1. Participation in reservation call parties;
2. Postmark of checks received for full payment of Fall trip;
3. Number of previous RRCC trips attended;
4. Essay contest.

If you are really interested in going, send your money to Josh ASAP because you're already behind the Waffle House Seven. $150 mailed to 4015 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 203, Nashville, TN 37215.



Monday, September 13, 2010


On our second try, we doubled our cell phones and got the exact route and weekend we want. So it is official. The 2010 Fall Trip will be the weekend of November 11 - 14 (leaving after work on Thursday the 11th, returning very late on Sunday the 14th).

Our permit is for Route #5 on the Green Trail. See this map.

Put-in: Kingfisher Landing
First night: Bluff Lake shelter
Second night: Floyd's Island
Take-out: Stephen Foster State Park

When we put in at Kingfisher Landing on Friday, the 12th, we have to be in our canoes by 10:00 am Eastern Time. Water level permitting, we will have a very doable 8 mile paddle through Durdin Prairie and should arrive at Bluff Lake with plenty of daylight.

Here as some pictures of the Bluff Lake platform:

Can't wait to see Mullowney try to sneak off to his tent on this one.

Here's the Bluff Lake Throne Room.

Note to cooks: Let's eighty-six the Chili Verde this trip.

Friday, September 10, 2010


This week was a practice round of sorts. We're meeting again on Monday (Sept 13) at 5:30 am to try again for the next November weekend, which is what we really want.

We are not the only ones who think Waffle House is the best place for important events, by the way.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Early Success

It took twenty minutes and four cell phones just to get through, but we have a permit. Our current reservation is for November 5 - 7 on Trail #3, which is the northern route that begins at Kingfisher Landing, has overnight stops at Maul Hammock and Big Water shelters, and ends at Stephen Foster State Park.

We will meet again at the same place, same time, next Monday, to try for a permit for the November 12 - 14 weekend.

If we decide to keep the current reservation, we need to send our confirmation and fee to the Wildlife Refuge within sixteen days which will be Thursday, September 23.




Thursday, September 02, 2010


This is our Okefenokee strategy.

- On Tuesday morning, September 7, we will meet at the Waffle House on White Bridge Road at 5:30 am to try to call in for a reservation for Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6.

- Competition for the overnight wilderness canoe permits is intense and there are only a few sites so the weekend of November 5 is actually our back up plan. Our first choice is the weekend beginning Friday, November 12. Which means that EVEN IF WE GET A PERMIT for the first weekend (November 5) we will still return to the Waffle House one week later to try for our first choice departure date (November 12). The earliest date to call in for that will be Monday, September 13. So go ahead and plan to start your day scattered, smothered and covered two weeks in a row.

- At exactly 6:00 am we will all start dialing like mad. Once someone connects, everyone else should stop trying because we will make our reservation with the first phone to get through. They only have one incoming line at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

- If you are not at the Waffle House, don't try to call from another location. The route selection process is complicated and full of variables (as you are about to find out below) and you'll just be holding up the reservation line.

- Space is limited on this trip because of the platform campsites. Priority will be given to Club members who help call in for the permit. Showing up for both call parties will guarantee you a spot.

- There are a lot of maps out there that show the canoe trails and campsite options. After looking at all of them, we have determined that the best one for route planning purposes (but probably not for navigation) is "Hannah's Very Best Canoe Map of the Okefenokee Swamp" with bonus floor plan of the Round Top platform and Zachary's Alligator. Here is a clean copy and below that a copy where we added the mileage between each site. The campsites we might use are highlighted in yellow. The big black triangles are the three possible put-ins.

Also, below is the O.N.W.R. official list of routes and trail numbers.

There are a lot of factors that will affect what routes are available to us and which ones we prefer (if we have a choice). Print out the map, wash a glass, pour yourself a drink and keep reading:

- We can only stay on any one campsite for one night. For a two-nighter we need to reserve two separate sites. We would probably want to do that anyway, but it impacts the reservation planning process.

- Although there are 10 campsites in the Refuge, several of them are on dead-end trails so they cannot be part of a two night trip. Several more are too far away to reach in one day so they can only be considered for the second night of a two-nighter. That means there are only FOUR sites that are eligible for our first night, and if someone already has a reservation on one or more of those (either as part of an earlier multi-night trip or because they beat us on the reservation line) that will reduce the number of sites we can choose from even more.

- Therefore, the possible sites for the first night out are, at most: BLUFF LAKE, MAUL HAMMOCK, ROUND TOP and FLOYD'S ISLAND. Consult your map. CANAL RUN may be one as well because it is part of an approved two-night trip (Trail #8) with the first night at FLOYD'S ISLAND and second night at CANAL RUN...but it is not clear if they allow reversing that trip as an option.

- Any trip we design that begins at the Stephen Foster State Park put-in will require paddling upstream on the Suwannee River. The current is not strong but it is not insignficant either. Ask Tim.

- Round trip routes (ones that return to our trucks) are hard to find for two-nighters because the second night is usually too far away from the original put-in to be able to get back in one day.

- On the other hand, one-way routes that cross the swamp will require a shuttle. The highway shuttle around the swamp is 100 miles each direction. Most outfitters in the area will run the shuttle with you but will not drive your vehicle because of insurance limitations. We have found one outfitter willing to drive the shuttle without us while we are paddling which will save us a lot of time but cost us a lot of $$$.

- Fires are not allowed on the platform campsites for obvious reasons. The only exceptions are CANAL RUN (which is a platform built up against a little dry land) and FLOYD'S ISLAND. Ideally, one night of our trip will be on one of those sites, especially FLOYD'S ISLAND which has lots of firewood, room to spread out, and a super creepy Legend-of-Wooley-Swamp type abandoned cabin on it.



Then there are things to consider like distances per day (especially the last day when we have to paddle, take out, and drive to Tennessee), the character of the different trails (bald cypress vs. savannah/prairie, for example), and even some factors that could change between now and the day of the trip. They may close entire trails due to low water, but if the water is low for a long time they sometimes open platforms to camping that are normally for day use only. Usually those are MONKEY LAKE and COFFEE BAY, which are both off of the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area put-in.

Just to get the discussion going, let's start with the following as our first and second choice routes based on the factors above:

1. BLUFF LAKE (Friday night), FLOYD'S ISLAND (Saturday night)

2. MAUL HAMMOCK (Friday night), BIG WATER (Saturday night)

Feel free to weigh in with the pros and cons of other routes. The whole thing is just delightfully complicated and hopefully will require hours of good pre-trip deliberation. In fact, it already has.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Early Morning Meeting: Tuesday, September 7 at 5:30 am

As discussed in the previous post, we need all hands on deck next Tuesday for the call party to reserve our Okefenokee permit. JJ's doesn't open early enough for this job, but since we are right on the buckle of the Waffle House Belt we'll meet at the one on White Bridge Road at I-40 (Exit 204) at 5:30 a.m.

We have done Club business there before.