Doing Life in Suwannee

Quench your thirst for tranquility with a trip to the Suwannee River.

Do you feel guilty whenever you do nothing? If you are honest with yourself, the answer is probably yes. Even when we take a vacation, we can crowd our itinerary with too many places to see and things to do.

A four night camping trip to Suwannee River State Park in Florida gave me the opportunity to saturate my mind with nature. Each morning as I wrote in my journal, I marveled at the delicate streams of sunlight through the leafy trees. Herb named our campsite “Tranquility Base.”

Hanging out with Buddy at our campsite.

Most of the time we relaxed in front of our trailer. On this trip we limited ourselves to one hike each day. Herb and I made this decision because we forgot our doggy backpack. (Hmm.. could Herb have forgotten the backpack on purpose, since he is the one who shoulders all of Buddy’s weight?) Because our beagle has degenerative disk disease, we limit his hikes to one mile. We planned our days with Buddy’s needs in mind. After all, at Suwannee no one is in a hurry.

Posing with Buddy at the Suwannee River trailhead.

If you are looking for a place to get away from it all, this is the park you should visit. Located at the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers, the state park is less than a three hour drive north of Orlando.

The confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers.

The Suwannee stretches from southern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico for two hundred forty-six miles. The waterway has always been important to Florida history. The pioneer town of Columbus, was founded here in 1841. At that time steamboats traveled up and down the river carrying passengers and freight. Lumber companies utilized the current to move their logs downstream to market. At its peak in the late 1800’s more than five hundred people lived in the area.

Today, all that remains of Columbus is the cemetery, one of Florida’s oldest.

Columbus cemetery.

Herb and I paused to read some of the tombstones. Many of the pioneers died at a young age, probably due to a lack of medical care. The cemetery is accessed by foot on the Sandhill Trail, which meanders through wildflowers and longleaf pines.

Herb and Buddy on the Sandhill Trail.

We explored a different type of landscape on the Suwannee River Trail. The riverbank provided beautiful views through the cypress trees. A word of caution, I saw poison ivy along the sides of the trail. Fortunately, we circumvented disaster.

Cypress knees along the Suwannee.

Private outfitters rent kayaks, or you can launch your own inside the park. The Department of Florida State Parks operates five river camps, spaced about ten miles apart for those who wish to kayak for a few days. The camps can be reserved in advance and they are free. Sorry Buddy, no dogs allowed. Sigh.

The remnants of Balanced Rock.

The Suwannee Trail continues along the riverbank to the site of Balanced Rock, which sadly lost its balance and collapsed years before we arrived. A limestone tower once stood twenty feet tall, but only the base remains. Since I don’t encounter very many rocks in Florida, I snapped a photo.

After our daily hike, we returned to our campsite for an afternoon of reading in our lounge chairs. At one point I looked up from my book to see something shimmering between two trees in the sunlight. “Wow! Look at that beautiful spider web.” Herb rushed to get his camera and focused on the web and the inhabitant thereof.

A golden orb spider is a member of the nephilia genus of archnids. Golden orbs can spin webs strong enough to catch birds.

The golden orb spider not only spins giant webs, but the yellow color of the silk attracts bees during sunny hours. When a shadow falls upon the web, it becomes camouflaged into the surrounding foliage, and ensnares other insects. I also learned the spider can adjust the amount of pigment in their silk and change the intensity of the color of the thread. Nature’s artist at work. I’m not really afraid of spiders unless they start moving. Why is that?

Every evening we talked around the campfire and delighted in the nightly show performed by various celebrity stars. You know, the celestial kind.

Oh, by the way, the park also rents cabins for those of you who may not want to camp. What are you waiting for? The beautiful Suwannee River is calling you to quench your thirst for tranquility.

Lime Sink Run

As I reflect on our four days in Suwannee, I realize “doing nothing” is good for something, after all.