RiverTrek

RiverTrek 2012 arrives in Apalachicola

RiverTrek 2015 launches on October 6 with 107 miles to go.

Paddlers and cyclists follow the river to raise funds for Apalachicola Riverkeeper

RiverTrek team members are paddling, cycling and primitive camping to raise funds for Apalachicola Riverkeeper. On the morning of October 6, 2015, a team of ardent paddlers will launch their gear-laden kayaks at the northern end of the Apalachicola River just below the Jim Woodruff Dam in Chattahoochee, Florida. Cyclists participating in a two day long-distance “ride for the river” will roll out of Chattahoochee on October 9. Paddlers and cyclists then meet up in the Apalachicola National Forest on day 4 of RiverTrek to camp together at Owl Creek.

From the steep bluffs of the northernmost Apalachicola to the marshlands of the coastal plain, the RiverTrek kayak paddlers will experience the most diverse habitat in North America. The cyclists will blaze southward, traveling both paved road and off-road routes over the hills near Torreya State Park and through the remote and scenic Apalachicola National Forest, Florida’s largest national forest.  At the journey’s end on Saturday, October 10 (day 5), the full team—both cyclists and paddlers will arrive at Battery Park in Apalachicola for a festive finale in celebration of their river basin exploration.  We hope you can join us to welcome them into Apalachicola!

You can help

RiverTrek team members are in a brisk and friendly competition to see which volunteer can raise the largest dollar amount in support of Apalachicola Riverkeeper and the organization’s important work restoring, protecting and preserving this remarkable river system. Each cyclist and paddler is currently gathering sponsors—friends, neighbors, colleagues and businesses to donate to Apalachicola Riverkeeper on their behalf. The 2015 team is eager to surpass the RiverTrek 2014 team’s fundraising total.

You can be part of the adventure by donating to Apalachicola Riverkeeper on behalf of a specific RiverTrek team member or making a single contribution on behalf of the entire team (scroll way down). All proceeds go to Apalachicola Riverkeeper–the only organization whose sole mission is to restore, protect and preserve the Apalachicola River.

WFSU-TV produced a documentary series on Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s (2012 and 2013) RiverTrek. These videos highlight the issues the Riverkeeper is working on to address and resolve. To learn more about RiverTrek and the Apalachicola River, see RiverTrek 2012 and RiverTrek 2013 on YouTube.

Meet and Support RiverTrek 2015 Team

Georgia Ackerman

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 rode with a pack of first cousins. She believes outside play and wild places are fundamental to both the health of humans and our planet. Georgia volunteers as a kayak trip leader with Apalachicola Riverkeeper to meet new people and explore the river as much as possible. 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 three RiverTrek journeys and is eager to be a rider this year. Georgia Ackerman, Doug Alderson and Rick Zelznak are co-coordinators of RiverTrek 2015. They are grateful for your support.

Louis BrooksLouis Brooks

Born and raised in North Florida, Louis Brooks grew 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’ interest in joining the Apalachicola Riverkeeper on the 2015 RiverTrek comes from this lifelong love for the river and a desire to see it preserved for future generations.

Lynne BuchananLynne Buchanan

Lynne, a fine art environmental photographer and writer, has lived in Florida and enjoyed its beautiful waterways since her family moved to the State in 1964 when her father took a job as a philosophy professor at New College in Sarasota. In high school, she tested seawater around her hometown for a year as part of a biology project and in college she participated in a dolphin tracking study with Mote Marine Laboratory. After moving back to Florida from New York, where she lived for 25 years, she was shocked by what was happening to the waterways around the State she has always called home. Back in Florida, she earned a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from USF, became a certified yoga instructor, and mentored with Florida photographers Clyde Butcher and Jeff Ripple, before going on to study with many nationally known photographic artists. It was her practice of yoga that opened her to the interconnectedness of all life and her love for the lessons that rivers teach us. In 2013, she did an exhibition for the South Florida Museum entitled “On the Rivers of Florida; Lynne Buchanan’s Photographic Mediations.” That exhibition focused solely on the beauty of Florida’s rivers and the creatures that call the riparian landscape home.

A former marathon runner and triathlete, Lynne is thrilled to be participating in this fundraising venture and will be photographing and blogging during the journey. Perhaps she will even get new material for a new exhibition on the beauty and perils of our waterways, if she has time to put down her paddle and pick up her camera! Visit her website at www.lynnebuchanan.com to see photographs that will be included in the upcoming museum show and visit her blog at www.lynnebuchanan.com/blog/ for recent work and a travelogue of the kayak trip.

Patrick BuerklePatrick Buerkle

“They have eaten oysters in many locales, but guests visiting from Pittsburgh, PA said ‘these are the best oysters we’ve ever had!’ Hard to argue with that. Also difficult to refute are the changes affecting the Apalachicola River and Bay, which have had a detrimental impact on the oysters. The challenges which threaten the Apalachicola are damaging more than the oysters, however; at risk is the core of a community, and an awesome natural system. Please join me to support Apalachicola Riverkeeper and its mission.”

From 1995-2001, while employed with the National Park Service, Patrick acquired extensive experience in resource management and outdoor leadership. He has taught hundreds of visitors about the natural history of Bryce Canyon, Zion, Death Valley and Grand Tetons National Parks. Patrick spent four years as a Ranger in Everglades City, FL teaching visitors about the coastal and estuarine systems there. He led many day and multi-day canoe and kayak trips on the rivers and bays in South FL. The rivers and recreational opportunities in this part of Florida were one of the main reasons he and his wife Jen moved here in 2006. They were married on Apalachicola Bay in 2009. On the menu at one infamous bar on St. George Island that day—Apalach oysters!

Su EceniaSu Ecenia

In 2011 and 2012, Su showed up in a borrowed kayak and paddled her heart out into Apalachicola on the last day of RiverTrek. In 2013, Su completed the entirety of the river with the RiverTrek team. She believes that when people get out on the river they become intimate with it and begin to understand the necessity of protecting it. Su rides her bike a lot, likes to hike the Florida Trail and is learning how to spend the night outdoors without serious misadventures. Su will join the RiverTrek Riders in its inaguaral year. She says, “please help me make lots of money for this precious resource and the organization working to protect it– Apalachicola RiverKeeper.”

Jason FultsJason Fults

A fourth-generation Floridian who nearly abandoned it all for the life of a perennial wayfarer, Jason returned home in 2008 to reconnect with family and the landscapes of his youth after nearly 15 years away. Since then he’s been slowly reacquainting with the watery dreamscapes of North-Central Florida, and the RiverTrek has been on his bucket list for a few years now. Jason added: “The Apalachicola Riverkeeper will be my guide to a part of the state that I’ve barely met. I look forward to carrying their message back to my communities in North and Central Florida.”

In addition to his love affair with exploring the Santa Fe & Ichetucknee Rivers, Jason enjoys hiking, biking, and scuba diving, and is a solar installer, educator, and rabble-rouser by trade. He has worked with environmental and social justice nonprofits in Australia, China, India, and the U.S., and currently serves on the Boards of the Community Weatherization Coalition and the Alachua County Labor Coalition. Jason also revels in his role as an uncle and teacher and loves sharing what remains of Florida’s natural heritage with the gaggle of young folk that bless his existence.

Jim McClellanJim McClellan

Jim McClellan was born and raised in Blountstown, on the banks of the Apalachicola River, where seven generations of his family have lived, worked, hunted and fished. Growing up, he read E.E. Callaway’s theory that the Garden of Eden was actually located on the river in present-day Liberty County. Whether or not Callaway was right, Jim believes that the area is as close to paradise as he could ever be and that it’s worth our very best efforts to preserve.

Over the course of his professional career, Jim has worked in the murky waters of state politics, serving as a speechwriter for Governor Lawton Chiles and communications director for then Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay. He also spent several years as a PR executive with the firm that is now Sachs Media Group. Jim left Tallahassee (and everything political) in 2003 and now works as the marketing director for AppRiver LLC, a serendipitously named email and web security company located in Gulf Breeze, Florida.

A lifelong hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, every weekend will find Jim out of doors in pursuit of his hobbies, most always on or near the water and very often in the Apalachicola River swamp. Stories from his family and childhood adventures in Blountstown are the basis of his recently published book, Life Along the Apalachicola River.

Katie McCormickKatie McCormick

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 for 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 they came from.

The Apalachicola River is an important recreational, economic, historical, and natural asset. Katie sees RiverTrek 2015, a 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.

Mike MendezMike Mendez

This will be Mike’s third Rivertrek journey after sitting out last year. Mike is a full-time Homeschool Dad raising his 16 year old daughter with his wife Joanne. Water issues are one of Mike’s big passions having served on the “Friends of the Wacissa” board as treasurer and participated in Riverkeeper events. Mike feels it’s really easy to become passionate about water and our environment after growing up in Miami with frequent trips to the Florida Keys and being a witness to the degradation of our ecosystems in South Florida. Mike worked at his own company, in corporate America, and as a river guide in the past, but feels this is one of the most important things he has done. He would like your financial support for this endeavor. Thank you!

Britney MooreBritney Moore

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 of the Big Bend.” 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.

John MoranJohn Moran

John was born and raised in Tallahassee and grew up seine fishing and cast netting in Franklin and Wakulla. To the chagrin of his FSU-football-loving family he left Tallahassee for the University of Florida. It took years of learning Mandarin Chinese and Spanish—alongside studying, researching, and backpacking in China, southern Africa, and the Andes—to come home to a fact that could’ve been learned in easier ways: North Florida is something special! The region’s weird and wonderful mix of estuaries, springs, invertebrates, insectivorous plants, Southern cultural heritage (with all its complications), and serious citizen advocates is startling and inspiring. John is currently working on a PhD in cultural anthropology at Stanford in northern California, writing a dissertation on regional environmental identity, seafood, ecotourism, and cultural and natural heritage in the Panhandle.

Being part of the 2015 RiverTrek team is a chance to contribute to preserving the bay and river and to learn about the connections, experiences, and hard days of work between people, water, flora, and critters that create the love so many share for the Apalachicola. John looks forward to playing resident ethnographer and writing about the team’s experiences in dialogue with scholarship from sites around the world concerning traditional resource use, ecological knowledge, and cultural and natural heritage.

Gary ParrishGary Parrish

A native of Blountstown (“Rivertown”), Gary was aware early in his life of the Apalachicola River and its tributaries and how they contribute to all great outdoors activities. The oysters and other sea life of the Apalachicola incubator was a stable luxury growing up and fishing the “Big River” and Chipola provided a backdrop for many adventures.

A cabin on the Chipola for 10 years provided a strong awareness of the water’s importance to the area ecology and recreation. Witnessing first-hand the results of drought conditions impressed upon Gary the importance of water integrity and adequate amounts available to the basin areas.

“Fishing, boating and paddling the river and the Apalachicola Bay has been a constant passion,” he says. “Recently completing a medical career and establishing full time residence in Apalachicola, joining up with “Riverkeeper” and exploring further the ecological and political issues affecting the river, fuels my desire to bring awareness and support of the river by participating in the paddling expedition.”

Alex ReedAlex Reed

“There has never been a time in my life when this river has not held a place in my heart….fishing the Flint with my grandfather as a small child, paddling the whitewater of the Chattahoochee as a teen with my parents or exploring the Apalachicola and Bay as an adult with my own family”, says Alex Reed, a geologist and two-time RiverTrek alum. In 2015, Alex will set down her paddle and pick up her bike to participate as a RiverTrek Rider. “ What constantly amazes me are the different personalities of this river, from the bluffs and ravines through the cypress forests to the salt marsh and bay. We must find a way to preserve the biodiversity that this river supports and raise awareness to the many human lives that are so interconnected with these precious waters.”  Please join in Alex in supporting Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

Brian RuscherBrian Ruscher

Brian was born and raised in Tallahassee, an incredible place to enjoy and learn as much about the outdoors as humanly possible. As a child, Brian grew up participating in outdoor education activities that inspired him to pursue a career related to environment protection. After receiving a Master’s in Urban Planning from Florida State University in 2013, he obtained employment within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails. In the office, Brian serves as a land trails regional coordinator for the northern area of the state. In this capacity, Brian is able to continue learning about the environment from an outdoor recreation perspective that includes policy and green infrastructure, small towns, and the need of having a thriving local economy within larger regions.

Brian is a cyclist who also enjoys getting out in a kayak or canoe and experiencing the many different waterways in the North Florida Region. Florida’s great outdoors has been a foundational part of Brian’s story and is one that he wants to preserve for future generations. He is participating in RiverTrek this year because he believes the Apalachicola Riverkeeper is the best organization to advocate for a healthy bay. Join Brian in supporting the Riverkeeper this year and help make a lasting impact for the Apalachicola!

Elizabeth SwimanElizabeth Swiman

Elizabeth’s connection to nature began back in Miami when she spent a lot of time either at the beach or exploring the zoo. Her love for animals and the environment led her to the University of Florida to study Wildlife Ecology & Conservation during a time when sustainability awareness was gaining momentum across the country. Before her time at FSU, Elizabeth worked in a variety of environmental education roles – from out in the field as an alligator biologist to the world of corporate America. Today, she is the founding director of sustainability at Florida State University and oversees numerous sustainability programs as well as guides the process of developing a strategic plan for sustainability. She also teaches a Leadership & Sustainability course. This is Elizabeth’s first River Trek and she hopes it will inspire her students to actively participate and advocate for the issues they care about.

Tommy ThompsonTommy Thompson

Tommy Thompson is the owner of the Florida Kayak School where he teaches kayaking skills and guides kayak tours throughout the region. His life-long love for the outdoors and insatiable wanderlust has opened the door for him to travel much of the world seeking new horizons and experiencing a wide range of cultures. Tommy honors these places and experiences by working directly to promote good stewardship of the environment and sharing an appreciation of diverse cultures, near and far. Tommy discovered the possibilities of open-water kayaking while trekking in Bolivia and first seeing Lake Titicaca. Since that time he has used his kayak as a vehicle of discovery to explore some of the most beautiful and remote regions of the world. He continues to be inspired by local adventures of the Apalachicola Bay and the abundance of public land in Florida and the rich cultural heritage.

Since moving to Tallahassee seven years ago he continues to be excited about access to remote areas of the Big Bend. He often will disappear into the forest or marshes to kayak the numerous creeks and coastal areas. Tommy is always looking for new and challenging adventures. He is excited to be part of the 2015 RiverTrek team and looks forward to learning more about ways to support the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and to promote an appreciation of this important environment.

Michael VroegopMike Vroegop

Mike Vroegop grew up in Dade County, Florida, where he learned boating and fishing skills at the knee of a U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate. Plying the waters from Dinner Key (Coconut Grove) to Key West and beyond to Naples, Mike has sailed the Florida waters in power and sail boats all his life. From camping in the Ten Thousand Islands to boating on Apalachicola Bay, Mike has never strayed far from Florida’s natural beauties. Mike’s wife, Robin, introduced him to volunteer service with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on St. Vincent Island, where he and Robin perform turtle nest surveys, protection, and assessments on a weekly basis during the sea turtle nesting season. When the turtle season is over, Mike and Robin perform trail maintenance and other assorted duties on St. Vincent Island.

In 2012, Mike retired after three decades as a Fire Captain and Emergency Medical Technician with the Tallahassee Fire Department. The following year, Mike and Robin opened Basecamp Apalach, a Geotourism business in Apalachicola. Aside from doing small land and water-based eco-tours, they create and sell modern and vintage maps, and also provide custom printing and frame work for the burgeoning Apalachicola art scene. In 2015, they began providing livery services for overnight adventures along the Apalachicola River basin through Apalachicola Blueway Transit.

As a member of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Mike is dedicated to passing on this awesome asset to the next generation in as pristine condition as possible. The Apalachicola Riverkeeper organization is uniquely poised to educate the future generation of decision-makers in wise stewardship of this sustainable resource, provided they have adequate funding support. Please consider contributing towards this vitally important endeavor.

Robin VroegopRobin Rickel Vroegop

A trailblazer from an early age, Robin was raised on the water in South Florida, exploring nearby water bodies in an eight-foot rowboat that was home-built in the family garage. She took for granted that kids like herself would always be able to fish, swim and waterski in healthy nearby rivers. Returning to her hometown after college in the mid-seventies, Robin found that way of life was dramatically altered for kids in the wake of Broward County’s nearly ten percent annual growth rate and resulting development.

Since that time, she has been engaged in seeking out and learning about sustainable paths of development, as well as environmental education for all ages. Robin is a graduate of the Florida Master Naturalist Program, a Florida Green Guide, and a former Apalachicola Planning and Zoning Board member. She and her husband, Mike, own and operate Basecamp Apalach and Apalachicola Blueway Transit in Apalachicola. They are also devoted volunteers for Florida DEP’s L.I.F.E. (Learning in Florida’s Environment) Program, a state-wide environmental education program that teaches earth science in outdoor field labs to middle school students. Robin’s goal for participating in this RiverTrek is to garner funding support and volunteers for Riverkeeper-sponsored, hands-on, family educational activities for learning about our awesome treasure, the Apalachicola River!

Rick ZelznakRick Zelznak

Rick has been a member of Apalachicola Riverkeeper for over a decade.  He is an avid cyclist who enjoys bike camping in the tall pines and wilderness of the Apalachicola National Forest and along the coastline of Apalachicola Bay.  Rick paddled the length of the Apalachicola in 2013 and is looking forward to cycling along the river, over its tributaries and through the watershed. Rick has mapped this year’s route for the inaugural River Ride component of RiverTrek and continues his on-going support of Apalachicola Riverkeeper through a variety of volunteer roles. There are so many ways to experience the Apalachicola – by kayak, boat, bike or scenic drive.  Whatever way you choose, take the time to enjoy one of Florida’s real treasures.