RiverTrek 2017 – an adventure for a worthy cause!
On October 10, 2017, a select group of kayak paddlers will begin the 106-mile journey down the entire length of the Apalachicola River. For 5 days these hearty paddlers will kayak an average of 20+ miles each day (with a few side trips to explore interesting places) along the beautiful Apalachicola River. Each night is spent camping under the stars along the river’s edge.
This is a trip of a lifetime for those who love wild places, but it’s also “a grand” fundraising campaign to benefit Apalachicola Riverkeeper.
Prior to the October 10th launch date, each of the RiverTrek paddlers will be in a brisk and friendly competition with each other to see who can generate the most in donations from their friends, family, businesses and community members. Each paddler is asked to set a personal goal to raise a grand – a minimum of $1,000 each – in donations. In past years, most Trekkers have far exceeded this individual goal and in 2016, the 16 member RiverTrek Team collectively raised more than $48,000! All donations will go to help Apalachicola Riverkeeper protect and preserve the river and bay.
Meet the 2017 RiverTrek Paddlers
Allen Beard was raised on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in the great Pacific Northwest. Growing up near the rich saltwater fueled his passion for the water and what lay beneath. He earned his open water SCUBA certification as a teenager and has been an active diver ever since.
The lure of cave diving drew Allen to the numerous springs and sinkholes of North Florida, where he completed his cave diver training. In February 2010, he moved from his home in Seattle to the town of High Springs, Florida, where he worked part time at a cave diving shop and spent the remainder of his time as a cave diving bum (which he says was a superlative experience!).
Cave diving has allowed Allen to realize and witness the importance of water conservation and the impacts to water quality of the Florida aquifer and rivers caused by pollution, agricultural runoff, and over utilization of water. He views River Trek as a unique opportunity to participate in the effort to preserve the vital natural resources of the Apalachicola River.
Allen enjoys Tallahassee as a base for engaging in his passion for cave diving, kayaking, fishing and outdoor adventures. Allen’s “real job” is as a trial attorney at the Office of the Public Defender in Tallahassee, providing legal representation to the indigent.
Bridget Balthrop Morton
Bridget Balthrop Morton grew up between scrub oaks and sand on a bluff high above Pensacola Bay. She spent her childhood either running wild in unspoiled paradise or dreaming over a book. From that freedom she gained a deep love of the outdoors and an abiding concern for the environment. Bridget has lived all over Florida, from Pensacola Bay to the Florida Keys, but she has spent the last forty years in Central Florida, where she and her husband Jack raised three children and now have three grandchildren.
At age twelve, Bridget tried to sail a small wooden catamaran. Since then, she has sailed or paddled in wonderful places, including teaching sailing and personal development for Outward Bound in Maine and the Florida Keys, piloting a sailboat down the Mississippi River (her advice: don’t!), living aboard a sailboat for several years, and paddling her kayak in areas as diverse as the Apostle Islands and tiny Crane Creek behind her house.
A former educator and free-lance writer, Bridget believes deeply in encouraging others and in maintaining the beauties of our world. These days she tap dances, quilts, and dreams of the next adventure. After chewing (oh yes!) her first oyster at age two and watching the temporary decline of pelicans due to DDT as an adolescent, she realized the extreme importance of protecting and maintaining waterways. These are among the many reasons she looks forward to RiverTrek 2017.
Britney grew up spending most of her summers at St George Island with her family. She and her sisters would endlessly explore the dunes and beaches, developing a love for the great outdoors.
As a member of the Junior League of Tallahassee, Britney has found a way to nourish her love of volunteering and is an active participant in “Girls on the Run.” Britney has worked for Florida’s award-winning state park system for several years and is currently a regional coordinator with the Office of Greenways & Trails. Since October is officially Florida’s Greenways & Trails Month, she thought what better way to promote trails than to gain firsthand knowledge of one of our most treasured resources so that she can share with others the importance of protecting and conserving our natural environment.
Let’s go! Cameron knows there is something infinitely healing about being outdoors and on the water. Growing up in North Florida, exposed to the natural wonders and history of this area, Mother Nature was Cameron’s best instructor. Childhood hikes at Torreya, endless hours exploring the mudflats at St. Teresa, messing around Dog Island, and exploring many mysterious waters created a solid path for an adventurous life and a lifelong journey of discovery. These rich, rugged, and bold explorations taught her to live with respect for earth’s beauty and all of its interconnectedness.
“Ongoingness,” as her grandmother called it, is a challenge to embrace and understand our part in the stewardship of the beauty and magic of life. The charge of helping preserve the Apalachicola River for generations to come is central to Cameron’s focus during this expedition.
Cameron’s passion for exploring has taken her to Maine, Montana, New Zealand, Antarctica, Costa Rica, Honduras, Europe and many places in between. She and her daughter can be spotted paddling the Wakulla, St. Marks and Aucilla Rivers. As an avid coastal cleanup volunteer, an outdoor education advocate, and science teacher at Maclay School in Tallahassee, Cameron is honored for her next adventure to be RiverTrek17. Cameron hopes sharing the issues facing the river will foster caring, understanding and responsible action.
A resident of Carrollton, Georgia, Clay has spent much of the last 20-plus years on the Apalachicola Bay. An avid outdoorsman, Clay enjoys hunting, fishing, trapping, and generally spending time outside—especially on the water. Although he has paddled the length of the Apalachicola River before, this will be Clay’s first time participating in the RiverTrek. In addition to the Apalachicola River, Clay has paddled long stretches of the Chipola and Suwannee Rivers in Florida and the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. “The Apalachicola Bay has become my home-away-from-home and I will do everything I can to protect it. Participating in RiverTrek gives me a great opportunity to raise awareness here in Georgia of the perils faced by the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin watershed.”
Clay is an investment advisor in Carrollton, where, in his free time, he enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Dana, four teenagers, seven dogs, three cats, and a ferret.
Clint lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife, Rachel and two sons, Sammy and William. He has spent the last 27 years in and around government and currently works as a government relations consultant in Washington, DC. Clint has spent most of those 27 years trying to figure out how to spend more time in north Florida.
Fortunately, Clint and his family frequently have the opportunity to visit his extended family in Apalachicola and Cape San Blas. The family has spent recent summers and holidays fishing, boating and paddling in the Gulf and the surrounding rivers and creeks. The Apalachicola area has been a source of recreation, inspiration and renewal for the Robinson family for many years.
This spring, Clint paddled 45 miles of the Suwannee River with his dad, brother and son, William. It was an amazing trip and he was hooked. Clint had previously heard about RiverTrek and thought that now, with his Suwannee experience and expert support, he had a reasonable chance of completing the 106-mile journey down the Apalachicola River. Most importantly, Clint appreciates the opportunity to join like-minded outdoor enthusiasts to support the critical work of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper.
Georgia is happiest when her feet are wet and sandy and her cell phone doesn’t work. She grew up climbing trees, building forts in the woods and racing bicycles on her dirt road with a pack of siblings and cousins. She believes outside play and wild places are fundamental to both the health of humans and our planet. Georgia serves on the board of Apalachicola Riverkeeper where she also volunteers as a kayak trip leader. She enjoys meeting new people and exploring the river with them. She says, “People will protect what they love. I love this river and the ocean it feeds—especially the remoteness. Let’s save it for our kids and their kids.” She has participated in multiple RiverTrek journeys as a cyclist and paddler. Georgia also leads trips with Sierra Club National Outings. She works at the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance in Tallahassee.
Since childhood, Jack has worked and played on the water whenever he could, and knows from his toes up the value and importance of clean waters. He has over 50,000 open ocean miles in big sailboats, working with youth oriented non profits including Outward Bound, the Sea Education Association, the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, as well as a dozen years running research vessels for students and faculty with the Florida Institute of Technology. As a teen, he guided canoe trips in Michigan for the Boy Scouts, and in more recent years, he has been kayaking the Suwannee, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, and the local waters of Brevard County, where he and his wife live. He will be kayaking the Apalachicola for the first time.
James Kimberel is a retired accountant, having been employed by the State of Florida for 33 years. Over 20 years were with the Florida Department of Education as Finance and Accounting Director. James was born and raised in Calhoun County where he graduated from Blountstown High School, Chipola Junior College in Marianna and Florida State University with a degree in Accounting.
James spent many hours exploring the Chipola River, which was less than a mile from his home. As a teenager he fished for catfish on the Apalachicola River with his uncle, a commercial fisherman, on an almost daily basis.
Katie McCormick grew up paddling a small stretch of the St. Francis River and hiking in southeastern Missouri. Those adventures were the foundation for a lifelong appreciation of exploring, being outside, and building an understanding of the fundamental importance of our environment. Katie has lived in Tallahassee for less than three years, but has been exploring the Apalachicola River and Bay for more than twenty years. Crossing the bridge from Apalachicola to Eastpoint, looking out over the estuary and then back across the Bay, provided a sense of relief, excitement and wonder on every drive from St. Louis to St. George Island. Tupelo honey, that little taste of sunshine, and Apalachicola oysters were both delicious treats and experiences that inspired a desire to learn more about the world where they came from.
The Apalachicola River is an important recreational, economic, historical and natural asset. Katie sees RiverTrek 2017, her fourth journey from the river’s source to the Bay, as a unique opportunity to engage with the life of the river, to better understand the River’s relationship to its communities and ecosystems, and to help protect it.
When she’s not out enjoying the natural beauty of the Florida Panhandle’s rivers, beaches and parks, Katie is helping to preserve Tallahassee’s and Florida State University’s history as Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives for FSU Libraries.
Louis Brooks was born and raised in North Florida, having grown up hiking, fishing and camping throughout the region. His father’s family is native to Apalachicola, having lived in the area since the 1800s. Some of his favorite childhood memories are of spending time aboard his uncle’s houseboat on the Apalachicola Bay and River. He grew up with an appreciation for the area’s rich history and natural beauty. As an adult he continues to enjoy hiking or kayaking on the area’s trails, rivers and bays. Louis first joined the Apalachicola Riverkeeper on the 2015 RiverTrek due to his lifelong love for the river and a desire to see it preserved for future generations. The 2017 RiverTrek will be Louis’ second trip in support of the mission of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper.
As another curious “northerner,” Lynn first discovered the Apalachicola River and Bay in 1989, and it immediately felt like home. Ever since then, she’s been working towards being here permanently. Although she doesn’t act like a geek, Lynn has a PhD in environmental and occupational health. She has worked at the Centers for Disease Control as an environmental health scientist (chemicals, not bugs) for almost 30 years. She is passionate about keeping communities safe from chemicals that may harm their health and the environment, and very much understands that clean water will soon be our most precious resource.
In her spare time, Lynn enjoys fishing and birding, volunteering for various causes, unsuccessfully training her three untrainable Dachshunds, and…learning to be much a better kayaker!! She’s very honored to be part of the 2017 RiverTrek team. “It’s a win-win for me. I get to support a worthy cause and experience the beauty of the river that feeds America’s last great bay.”
While not a native of Florida, Maria has lived here long enough to appreciate its splendor. If that is what a native is, then she just may be one. When she first moved here in 1979, it seemed the only park was a fabricated world of magical imagination. It has its place for some, but not for her. After she graduated from Florida State University College of Law, she took up kayaking. As she put it, “Nothing compares to the magic of what lies ahead in a bend of a river, or the sun sprinkling in through a canopy of trees, or feeling your true presence as wildlife soars above, swims below or meanders through woods.”
When not out in that part of the world with Tricia, her sister, Maria works in the Florida Department of State as the director for the Division of Elections. She is blessed with two brothers and two sisters she loves and with whom she enjoys spending time, wonderful parents and a small cadre of friends, all of whom are priceless and add their own magic to her journey on any given day. Maria shouts out “thanks to all you out there for your support for a journey we share in spirit and body on the mighty Apalachicola River!”
Mary grew up on Pensacola Bay in Gulf Breeze, Florida. She developed her life-long love for the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s bays, rivers and barrier islands while playing in the natural world surrounding her childhood home, exploring the sandy coastal environment, having fun on and in the water, chasing fireflies, and enjoying wild hide-and-seek in the piney palmetto woods. First charmed by the Apalachicola River and Bay as a child while passing through on family trips, Mary began exploring Franklin County as an FSU student in 1970. While living and working in Eastpoint after graduation, she saw firsthand the importance of the health of the River and Bay to her neighbors’ livelihoods.
After raising her family in Tallahassee and other farther-flung places, with only summers in Franklin County, Mary is happy to live year-round again in Franklin County at St. Teresa Beach. She enjoys the informal study of birds and creatures on tidal flats, the challenge of gardening and fruit production in the coastal environment, and, as always, messing about in boats. Retired from FSU in 2016, Mary serves on the board of the Friends of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge and the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Advisory Committee. Participating in RiverTrek has been a long-time goal for Mary. She’s looking forward to the challenge and hopes you will support the Riverkeeper and their advocacy for the Apalachicola River and Bay.
Patrick and his wife live and work in Tallahassee, but his job also includes Wakulla and Franklin Counties, so the area around the Apalachicola River is familiar territory. Patrick likes to visit this natural area as often as possible. Patrick is joining RiverTrek for the second time and is just as excited to be included on this trip as last year. He loves to paddle and has been rediscovering the pleasures of camping. He believes RiverTrek is a wonderful way to spend five days. Of course, the main benefit of this trip is supporting efforts to restore the Apalachicola River and to raise awareness of the challenges we are facing.
Sandy Thiessen is currently living in Gainesville, having been born in Washington, DC. Since his father was in the Navy, they traveled extensively and lived in various cities in Europe, the United States west and east coasts, Bermuda, and finally Florida where Sandy attended college. He had a 25-plus year career with the State of Florida as a Computer and Information Systems Manager, providing all aspects of support for network systems and personal computers for his team, which was scattered throughout the state. Paddling takes him away from the technical world, save for GPS devices! Years ago, he participated in long distance endurance running and cycling; now he enjoys paddling. He approaches the sport in two ways: either as a fitness exercise on a Surfski or as a commune with nature’s beauty on long trips at a leisurely pace in a canoe or kayak.
“Florida’s rivers, estuaries, shorelines, and Gulf and Atlantic islands offer a great variety of nature at her best,” he says. “I enjoy the Apalachicola Bay area for it’s wonderful paddling opportunities on the barrier islands as well as sitting down to a platter of its ever-so-delicious oysters. Anything we can do to help the bay remain healthy and productive is a worthwhile endeavor.” This will be his second RiverTrek, and he is happy it will be in an “R” month for good oyster eating!