From: March 25 to March 28, 2017

Destination: White Springs, FL

  • On the Suwannee River

    Some people refer to this area as Old Florida, some call it the Real Florida. Many years ago it was a popular tourist destination because of its unique clear springs (some with reputed health benefits) and unsurpassed wild beauty. But as Florida tourism moved to the beaches and theme parks, this part became less known, leaving remnants of a more prosperous past. Which is a shame because it is an amazing place: the dark and ever-changing Suwannee River, the crystal clear springs of the Ichetucknee River, old cypress swamps rich in wildlife - all will leave you enchanted and feeling like you've stumbled on an amazing secret. Maximum group size: 13

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  • Saturday, March 25: Our trip starts at the Jacksonville airport (JAX) at 10:30 am when your guides pick you up. We’ll drive about 90 minutes west, where we'll encounter a landscape of clear springs, old forests, and winding rivers. We’ll meet our local expert naturalist guide who will be with us for much of the trip and whose expertise in biology and geology adds immeasurably to our understanding and enjoyment of the area. After a picnic lunch, we’ll start our exploration with a loop hike on Little Shoals Trail, much of it along the banks of the Suwannee River. The trail, which is mostly flat, takes us from the higher elevation of long leaf pine forests to mature seepage slope hardwood forests along the river. This hike takes approximately 2.5 hours.

    Then it’s off to our lodging at the Stephen Foster Cultural Park. We’ll be staying in 2 bedroom cabins with a shared bathroom, living room, and kitchen. Aside from comfortable and spacious cabins, the park offers the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, which features exhibits about his most famous songs. We’ll settle in tonight, letting the feel of the area start to seep into our bones.

    Sunday, March 26:Today we turn to canoes for a completely different view of the Suwannee River. The Suwannee River is a blackwater river, so called because of the tannins that leach from the decaying vegetation of the surrounding forested swamps or wetlands, creating an acidic darkly stained water. The river is largely protected and we’ll paddle a section from Turner Bridge to State Road 6, about 3.5 hours, stopping to enjoy a picnic lunch on a beautiful sandbar. This stretch still retains some of the characteristics of the Deep Swamps and floodplains that leave the Okefenokee Swamp, with towering cypress, pines, and the oddly beautiful Ogeechee tupelo.

    Later in the afternoon we’ll return to Big Shoals State Park and this time we’ll hike the Bell Springs Trail up to Big Shoals, Florida’s only class III whitewater, known for its small waterfall. The trail, a section of the much longer Florida Trail, follows the Suwannee River and is an out-and-back; if you don’t feel like hiking all the way to the Shoals, you can sit and gaze at the river. The Hawthorne formation which caps our limestone and protects the Floridan aquifer is exposed along the way.

    Monday, March 27:This morning we drive about 45 minutes south to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. This park is particularly noted for the crystal clear Headspring, which feeds the Ichetucknee River. In contrast to the blackwater of the Suwannee, the water here is a clear aquamarine, making it possible to see the river bottom’s fish and plants as we float on top. After first visiting the headspring, we return once more to kayaks and paddle for about two hours, past springs and tons of egrets, herons, turtles- we may even see manatees! We’ll pull out and enjoy lunch before hopping back in the van.

    We leave the rest of the afternoon open so we’ll have time to pursue any interest we may have developed, hike along the Suwannee or bike in Stephen Foster State Park, visit the local craftsmen who display their skills in the park, or simply sit on the front porch swing and take some well-deserved R&R. Tonight we'll share a final farewell dinner and toast our new found appreciation of Florida.

    Tuesday, March 28: We’ll spend the morning back on the river in canoes, paddling down river to the Suwannee Canoe Outpost. In contrast to the relatively wide river of Tuesday, the Suwannee is quite different here, much narrower and more twisty. This stretch of limestone bluffs has cut into the limestone of the Floridan aquifer and is the start of the world's highest concentrations of springs. We will stop at Suwannee Springs, a turn of the 19th and 20th century health resort built around the sulphur spring water. After a final picnic lunch, we’ll have you back at the Jacksonville Airport by 2:30 you can plan to fly out anytime after 4:00.
  • $1195 (see this page for travel discounts) $300 deposit. Single rooms are available for an additional $150 (only necessary if you prefer your own room). You can check our cancellation policies here.

    Trip Includes

    • experienced AGC guide(s) and a local expert naturalist (male)
    • three nights lodging
    • all meals from lunch on Sunday though lunch on Wednesday
    • round trip transportation from the Jacksonville (JAX) airport
    • canoe and kayak rental and instruction
    • entrance fees

    Not included: airfare to Jacksonville, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities

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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    It depends on both the trip and on your specific needs. With advance notice, we can accommodate most dietary restrictions or allergies on our domestic trips, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten intolerant. This is not always true on international trips, so please contact us in advance if you have specific dietary needs. We've found that if you are willing to bring some of your own snacks and a couple of items to supplement what is on the menu (peanut butter is always good!) and possibly have less variety than you are used to at home, then dietary needs usually are no obstacle. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, especially if you have Celiac disease, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Learning about the natural history and the equally fascinating human history of this unique habitat 
  • Paddling among huge old cypress trees that have lived there for hundreds of years
  • Experiencing both a blackwater river and a spring-fed crystal clear river
  • Stopping often to take pictures and watch wildlife
  • Enjoying quiet cabins and hearty meals after active days (and of course, singing "Old Folks at Home")

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