by Mary Balthrop
Although ultimately everything about RiverTrek was inspiring to me, ahead of time this wasn’t the case. I was intimidated about fundraising. But then to my surprise, friends and family were so enthusiastic and supportive about my effort on behalf of the Riverkeeper that they often expressed gratitude at being given the opportunity to participate in RiverTrek by donating. So fundraising became a joyful experience that made me proud to know people who cared so deeply about the natural world, and especially the Apalachicola River and Bay.
I was also daunted ahead of time by the distances we were going to paddle each day and by the total paddling distance over our five days on the river. But we got into a rhythm and the paddling just felt natural. It was fun to paddle along with fellow trekkers, in various and ever-changing configurations, getting to know each other as we made our way down the beautiful Apalachicola. When we were approaching our final destination under the bridge in Apalachicola, there were friends cheering for us along Riverfront Park. It was so uplifting, after paddling 109+ miles, to have fellow lovers of the river calling out to us, encouraging us on as we paddled that last mile. Then as we got closer to the bridge I heard someone blowing a conch shell. Conch shell trumpets have been blown traditionally for various purposes across waterfront cultures – to open sacred ceremonies, to welcome visiting dignitaries, to show gratitude. And it’s a cherished tradition in my family.
I wasn’t certain who was blowing the conch, but I had a guess. And then I heard my fellow RiverTrekker and dear niece, Cameron Barton, confirm my thought when she said quietly and to no one in particular, “That’s George Edward Lewis.” Cameron’s dad, who is also my brother-in-law, was welcoming us home with a sound he knows we hold very dear. Arriving to happy enthusiastic supporters at the bridge was a most jubilant experience and the sound of that conch trumpet beckoning us in touched me deeply. We did it!
Mary Balthrop was the top fundraiser of RiverTrek 2017, raising over $10,000 from friends, family and community members to support the ongoing outreach, education, advocacy and collaborative research work of Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Thank you, Mary! We hope you’ll consider joining Mary in support of Apalachicola Riverkeeper by making a contribution on Giving Tuesday.