Monday, April 29, 2013

Schedule of upcoming Tours

We're in the process of overhauling our website -  so the calendar (as well as trip descriptions, river conditions, etc) has not been updated. To help get the word out about what we are tentatuvely planning, we're posting the Long Schedule here and also on our Facebook Page (be sure to "like" the Adventure Outpost group page if you want to be kept in the loop).
As always, these trips are subject to change—especially if we haven’t had any expressed interest in a scheduled trip and someone suggests something different. The moral of this story—if you’re considering a trip, please let us know. You won’t be obliged to sign on or bound in any way. It will just help us decide if I can change a trip for a request.

Long Schedule


20 (Sat): Ichetucknee (FULL)
21 (Sun): Cedar Key
22 (Mon): Manatee Encounter - Crystal River
27 (Sat): Hontoon Island / Blue Springs S.P.
28 (Sun): Bartram’s Battle Lagoon
There are still many OPEN DATES in April! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
02 (Thurs): Crystal River Manatee Encounter - Last manatee tour of the season!!
04 (Sat):  The Santa Fe less-travelled - Hwy 47 to Ichetucknee confluence
05 (Sun): Ichetucknee / Santa Fe (Long Version)
10 (Fri): Canaveral Natl. Seashore
11 (Sat): Rock Springs Run
12 (Sun): Ocklawaha (Silver R. – Gores Landing)
14 (Tues): Cross Creek : The World of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
18 (Sat): Ozello
19 (Sun): Chassahowitzka
20 (Mon): Weeki Wachee
24 (Fri Eve): Moonlight paddle on Santa Fe R.
25 (Sat): Cedar Key
26 (Sun): Waccasassa / Wekiva
28 (Tues): Lost Springs of Ocklawaha
There are still many OPEN DATES in May! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
01 (Sat): Wild(ish) Side of St. Augustine (NEW ROUTE! & shorter trip)
02 (Sun): Deep Creek
07 (Fri): Rainbow River
08 (Sat): Suwannee Wilderness Trail
09 (Sun): Cross Creek The World of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
14 (Fri): (HIKE) Paynes Prairie: History and Lore of the Great Savanna
15 (Sat): Steinhatchee
16 (Sun: Gum Slough
17 (Mon): Homosassa River
22 (Sat): “Wild Lore of Ocklawaha River
23 (Sun): Bear Creek
29 (Sat): Prairie Creek
There are still many OPEN DATES in June! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
01 (Sun): “Lost World of the Ivory-billed” in the Lower Suwannee backwaters
06 (Sat): Bartram’s Battle Lagoon on St. Johns River & Alexander Spring Run
07 (Sun): Silver River
13 (Sat): Rainbow River *
14 (Sun): Withlacoochee (South)The Limpkin Patch
20 (Sat): Cedar Key
20 (Sat evening): Moonlight Paddle on Santa Fe R.
21 (Sun): Ocklawaha (Gores Landing – Eureka)
26 (Fri): River Styx: X-Stream Exploration
27 (Sat): Olustee / Upper Santa Fe
28 (Sun): Chassahowitzka
* There are still many OPEN DATES in July! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
02 (Fri): Deep Creek
03 (Sat): Wild(ish) Side of St. Augustine #2 (NEW ROUTE – shorter trip)
04 (Sun): Wild Side of St. Augustine #1 (Ft. Mose route – longer trip)
10 (Sat): Shired Island Island Hopping
11 (Sun): Cedar Key Island Hopping / Sunset paddle
17 (Sat): Bar-hopping down Suwannee River
18 (Sun): Prairie Creek
24 (Sat): Cross Creek
25 (Sun): Spring hopping down Santa Fe River
31 (Sat): Wild(ish) Side of St. Augustine #2 (NEW ROUTE – shorter trip)
* There are still many OPEN DATES in August! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
01 (Sun): Wild Side of St. Augustine #1 (Ft. Mose route – longer trip)
There are still many OPEN DATES in September! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
17 (Thurs): Weeki Wachee
18 (Fri): Ozello
19 (Sat): Black Creek
26 (Sat): Wakulla River (Concurrent with St. Marks Monarch Butterfly Migration Festival)
27 (Sun): Wacissa River  (Concurrent with St. Marks Monarch Butterfly Migration Festival)
28 (Mon): Aucilla River  (Concurrent with St. Marks Monarch Butterfly Migration Festival)
*   There are still many OPEN DATES in October! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
14 (Thurs): Chassahowitzka
17 (Sun eve): Presentation: "History & Wild Lore of the Nature Coast" (Crystal River @ Plantation Inn)
18 (Mon): Suncoast Keys: Haunts and Hideaways of the Gulf Coast Pirates 
20 (Wed): Chassahowitzka
21 (Thurs): Weeki Wachee - Mermaids, manatees and more

23 (Sat): Crystal River: Manatee Encounter
*   There are still many OPEN DATES in November! Let us know where and when you want to go, and we’ll schedule it.
For information or to make reservations, please call: (386) 454-0611 or e-mail:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ponce's Lost Days

It’s been five days (and 500 years) since our man Ponce de Leon set off into the Florida wilderness, and still no word. According to the best record of the conquistador's historic voyage—a second-hand account written by Antonio de Herrera who presumably read de Leon’s now-lost journal—the explorer “went ashore to take possession and get information.” That’s it; that’s all he wrote. The first five days of one of the most significant events in the history of the Western Hemisphere, summarized in a comment so brief it could have been sent in a Tweet with enough extra spaces to add, ”The weathers great, wish you were here! Please send money!”

Knowing what we do about the conquistadores, I worry for the Timucuas. I imagine that undocumented excursion with the dread of a parent whose kid is in Florida for spring break and hasn’t called in five days. Only in this scenario, my kid is a resident of the host town and the visiting spring-breakers are known murderers who bring home slaves the way kids bring home T-shirts from the places they visit.

Lacking documentation, we have only our imaginations to guide our speculation about those lost five days. Two possibilities are that they either stayed on the boat or stayed at the local Timucuan village the whole time. Neither of these seem very likely. These were men of action on a desperate hunt for riches. While they probably spent some time asking the natives if there was any gold in the region, it is likely they set out to look for themselves.

Since they didn’t have horses with them, any overland explorations would have been by foot. The main trail into the interior was the one  that would later be known as the Mission Trail and eventually the famous Bellamy Road (famous because it was Florida's first Federal Road). If he went inland, de leon would likely have used this trail. An added incentive for using this trail would have been Paynes Prairie, home of the Potano tribe. Half a century after de Leon, French soldiers misunderstood the coastal Indians when they were describing the riches of the interior. When the natives told the Frenchmen that valuable rocks were found in Potano territory, the greedy soldiers assumed they meant gold. In reality the natives were talking about flint. This form of limestone was a valuable material for making weapons and tools. If de Leon’s men made the same misinterpretation, they might have taken the trail west. However, five days would not have allowed enough time to get to the Prairie, explore it and return in five days. Even if they tried, it’s very unlikely they could have made it.
The other way de Leon could have explored inland would have been by boat. If there was any curiosity in the back of de Leon’s mind about the presence of a magical Fountain of Youth, he would likely have queried the natives. And,if they were in a sharing mood, they might have told the explorer about two of Florida’s greatest natural wonders—Silver and Blue Springs in the upper St. Johns watershed. But here again, these two giant springs were out of range. No matter how hard they paddled, there’s no way the Spaniards could have reached either of these springs and returned in five days.

For the time being, some of Florida’s greatest natural treasures were spared a visit from the first invasive exotic species to invade Florida in thousands of years.


The Land of Flowers

Sometimes you can tell how a story will end after the first few lines. When the Timucuas watched a boatload of Spaniards slosh onto their beach and proclaim that they were re-naming their land, the natives had to know this story was going to end badly. Even if they found some comfort in the fact that the new name was La Florida (how bad can a marauder be if he would name a place the “Land of Flowers?”), it would take more than a flowery name to make up for such an insult. Names had great significance to the Timucua. The process for giving or receiving them was highly ritualized. In fact, being given a new name was likely one of the biggest events in a Timucua boy's or girl’s life.
While there are no first-hand accounts of Timucua naming ceremonies, other nearby cultures were well-documented. In looking at them, we can see some common themes that give us a rough idea of how the Timucua ceremony might have looked.

Most naming ceremonies were lengthy affairs, preceded by weeks or even months of rituals designed to show the person was ready for the change of status and increased responsibilities that came with the new name. For some cultures, the ceremony was conducted by a village elder along with some witnesses or “guides.” The elder would choose a name, often after much reflection on the person’s personality or notable deed. This might be a feat of courage in battle or an impressive hunt. The guides would then have to approve of the new name and attest that the recipient was worthy of it. In the years that followed, these same guides had the power to take the name away if the person dishonored it.

In 1508, five years before he “discovered” and re-named La Florida, Ponce de Leon engaged in a sacred name-exchanging ritual with a Taino Chief in Puerto Rico.  For the Taino, this important ceremony, "called guatiao," affirmed the two men's commitment to friendship and brotherhood. Unfortunately, none of the Spaniards in attendance recorded how the ceremony was performed; only that Chief Agueybana dropped his own name in exchange for de Leon’s. De Leon did likewise. The ceremony so inspired the chief’s mother that she converted to Christianity on the spot. De Leon sanctioned her conversion by baptizing her and giving her a new name. From that day forward her name was Ines.

While the record is admittedly vague on details of Ponce de Leon’s life, there is no mention of him ever being referred to as Agueybana. The record is even sketchier for Agueybana (Chief de Leon?) because the Taino, like the Timucua, didn’t have writing. They weren’t alone. In all of the New World, the only culture with a true system of writing was the Maya and, to a lesser extent, the Aztecs. All of the events surrounding the conquest of the New World—the discovery, the first encounters with the Timucua, the guatiao ceremony—we know only from Spanish chroniclers. As Winston Churchill famously wrote, “History is written by the victors.” (He less-famously wrote, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”).

For North America's native cultures, the important tasks of passing tribes history and laws and spiritual beliefs from each generation to the next was done by oral tradition. In this system, elders passed the wisdom of their ancestors to their youngers with stories and songs. Outwardly, these might have looked like simple entertainments. But in reality they were a vital part of the culture. Through stories and songs the people learned such things as how to thank the plants and animals for sacrificing themselves to the dinner plate and to ask their gods for a good harvest or favorable weather. There was no room for creative flourishes. To change a story was to tear the fabric of their society; it was to alter their reality.

If the Timucua had a written language, the anthology of these ancient stories would have been as important to them as holy texts are to cultures that do have writing. As it was, the "anthology" of the Timucuas most important stories, like the one about a boatload of Spaniards that arrived on their shore like a death-dealing Tsunami, existed only in their minds and on their breath.

There are no tattered scrolls of plant and animal lore tucked into a hidden nook in some Florida cave; no toppled rune stones awaiting an unsuspecting backhoe operator to reveal their trove of Timucuan mythology. There was no Timucua Herodotus who chronicled the native Floridian's last 14,000 years. There was no Timucuan Homer, so no Floridan Odyssey. There were no Timucuan poets, so no Timucuan Meleager of Gadara to compile their works in an anthology.

In the first century BC, Greek poet Meleager of Gadara published a collection of hundreds of epigrams from forty six of the best-known poets of that time. It was a ground-breaking work. While others had compiled collections about certain subjects, Meleager’s collection of poems by various authors was a first. The title of his book, The Garland, was a metaphorical twist on the common practice of the time of referring to poems as flowers. The idea stuck and the word “anthology,” from anthos, “flower” and legein, to gather, became synonymous with collections of stories and poems. Taken literally, an anthology of stories is a “collection of flowers.”

As it turned out, the final story in the Timucuan “anthology”—the story that began with Ponce’s arrival 500 years ago today—ended exactly two and a half centuries years later in the same place it began. In 1763 and '64, with Britain preparing to take control of Florida, the entire population of Spanish Florida loaded onto ships at the St. Augustine docks and sailed to Cuba. With them went the last 89 Timucua Indians who had long-since become enculturated into the society of the Spanish Floridians. I sometimes imagine that destitute group—a mix of men, women and children—huddled on the ship’s deck as they watched the land of their ancestors grow small on the horizon. I imagine their minds reeling with countless stories and songs heard around countless campfires. Maybe in this final moment they conceded that de Leon got just this one thing right. This really is La Florida, a “Land of Stories.”