Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Down Upon the Suwannee

We made last weekend a long one by camping in northern Florida, within walking distance of the Suwannee River, from Thursday through Monday. The event was the Suwannee Springfest Music Festival, and while it was far from the first time Erika and I have attended such an event, it was the first time we chose to bring Sarah along. Fortunately, things went well.

The weather was cooperative despite some limited (and mostly nighttime) rains. Other than those times, the sky was clear and the temperatures were what spring is all about: 70’s during the day, 50’s at night. Monday morning, a pair of hawks flew not over, but through our campsite.

And naturally, the music was good. Robert Earl Keen, Texas’s alt-country master, belted out a spectacular Friday night set at a natural amphitheater. Leftover Salmon, my favorite jam band, did the same on Saturday night. Here is a particularly eccentric dude getting down in the amphitheater one afternoon:

Meanwhile, Scythian scorched stages several times with their energetic twist on Celtic and Gypsy tunes; Ruthie Foster and her quartet impressed with their blend of gospel, folk, and reggae; and bluegrass legend Peter Rowan made several appearances.

But what especially helped to make the weekend great were the people we encountered by accident. While we were setting up camp, a six-year-old named Caleb wandered over from a few sites away and started chatting up Sarah. When his mother Jenny came over a few minutes later, we learned that she is a fellow Auburn alum, and that several of her friends would be arriving later. Though they now reside in different places spreading all the way from Birmingham to Baltimore, their common denominator is Pelham, Alabama, where most of them went to high school.

We wound up spending much of the weekend with Jenny and her friends, and their amiable, down-to-earth attitude quickly reminded me of everything I miss about the state where I lived during my college years. Plus, it was a Godsend that most of them have kids, because Sarah was able to have fun with people her age by frolicking in hammocks and helping with their lemonade stand:

On Saturday we hiked a half-mile or so to an abandoned bridge that crosses the Suwannee. Fairly far below, the river’s tea-colored waters flowed swiftly between sand bluffs. The kids tossed sticks off the upstream side of the bridge, then ran to the downstream side and peeked over to watch them get carried away by the current.

It was a relaxing, low-key trip. Erika and I always enjoy our little jaunts, and it means so much that Sarah is able to take part in many of them, like she was this time. But this past weekend was also a much-needed balm in light of some very unwelcome news we have received on the medical front. I won’t bother you with the details, other than to say the news is not life-threatening -- I will simply say that events like Suwannee Springfest are good for the soul, and that next time we go, we hope to meet up again with our newfound Alabamian friends.

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