RiverTrek 2016 launches on October 11 with 107 miles to go.
RiverTrek team members are paddling to raise funds for Apalachicola Riverkeeper. On the morning of October 11, 2016, 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.
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 team will arrive at Battery Park in Apalachicola on Saturday, October 15 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
Scroll down and meet the whole Team. RiverTrek members are in a brisk, friendly competition to see which volunteer can raise the largest dollar amount in support of Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Each paddler gathers sponsors—friends, neighbors, colleagues and businesses. All proceeds go directly to Apalachicola Riverkeeper–the only organization whose sole mission is to restore, protect and preserve the Apalachicola River. The 2016 Team wants to beat the 2015 RiverTrek team total of $40,000. Can you help them?
Meet the 2016 RiverTrek Team
Questions about RiverTrek? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Debra (Deb) Akin was born and raised in south Florida and started kayaking in the mountains of North Carolina under the dubious tutelage of an older brother. After surviving two summers of his combat whitewater kayaking, she enrolled in the University of Florida and started exploring the calm, peaceful waters and springs of north Florida. And basically never left. With a couple of graduate degrees in Entomology, Microbiology and Epidemiology under her belt, Deb works in UF’s College of Medicine in the area of drug discovery and cancer research. During the summer months, she guides at-risk Chicago teenagers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for the non-profits Big City Mountaineers and Chicago Voyagers. She’s a Master Naturalist, Wilderness First Responder and on the boards of Florida Paddling Trails Association, Paddle Florida and Hidden Coast Paddling Festival. Retirement is fast approaching for Deb and at the top of her bucket list is a thru-paddle of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. Some of her other interests include weaving, canoe racing, coonhound rescue and building wood kayaks.
Deb is honored to have been chosen to participate in the 2016 Apalachicola RiverTrek and is looking forward to not only paddling this Florida treasure but also raising money for such a worthy cause.
“Soon after my family moved to Tallahassee from Chicago in 1968, we learned firsthand about the Apalachicola River and Bay, how its rich waters and scenic beauty could feed both stomachs and souls. Slowly, we even started enjoying Apalachicola oysters. But this dynamic resource is being threatened by ever increasing upstream water use. That’s why I’m participating in the Apalachicola RiverTrek again, mostly by bicycle this year, and helping Georgia and Rick coordinate this expanding event. Please support the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and its mission!”
Doug Alderson (www.dougalderson.net) is the author of several award-winning books, including Wild Florida Waters, Waters Less Traveled, New Dawn for the Kissimmee River, Encounters with Florida’s Endangered Wildlife and several others. Additionally, his articles and photographs have been featured in numerous outdoor magazines.
Daniel is an avid explorer of Florida’s land and waters, spending much of his time hiking or biking the Red Hills and sailing or paddling on Apalachee and St. Andrew bays. When not above water, Daniel is often underwater, diving offshore reefs or the depths of Florida’s many spring caverns. He is a native of Tallahassee and has roots along the Gulf Coast in Apalachicola, Panama City, and New Orleans. His intrigue with the region’s geography and commitment to both its built and natural environments led him to a Master’s degree in urban & regional planning. A course in river basin planning, titled “Saving the Apalachicola”, was inspiration for pursuing a career in environmental protection. Understanding and communicating the complex relationships between development and conservation continues to be his calling.
This is Daniel’s second time on RiverTrek, having first participated in 2013. These five days on the Apalachicola River will further his knowledge of one of the region’s most significant waterways. He looks forward to dedicating some enjoyable time to a good and immediate cause.
Tyler has been an avid kayaker for the last ten years and has had the opportunity to kayak on many different rivers, lakes, and saltwater settings around the Southeastern United States. Born and raised in Wisconsin, he developed a passion for spending time on the water at an early age while fishing and boating with his late father. He currently resides in Georgia about an hour south of the headwaters of the Flint River and is keenly aware of the ensuing argument between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida regarding water rights. Tyler was instantly attracted to the Apalachicola area on his first visit in the spring of 1998 and realized that this quiet historic coastal city would one day be where he escaped to at every opportunity to recharge and relax at a much slower and calmer pace.
Tyler has had the desire to traverse the Apalachicola River from Lake Seminole to the Apalachicola Bay since his first visit to the area. He became interested in participating in RiverTrek when he watched the 2012 team of kayakers as they arrived in Apalachicola. Being selected to participate in RiverTrek 2016 is truly a dream come true and allows him the opportunity to work closely with the other members of the team to raise awareness and much needed financial support to continue the fight for this amazing river system. Tyler says, “The Riverkeeper and its members are vitally important to the survival of the Apalachicola River and its diverse ecosystem. Please help us raise awareness and financial support.” Thank you!
Craig Diamond is president of the Board of Directors of the Apalachicola Bay & Riverkeeper. He has enjoyed Florida waters since 1970, canoeing throughout the Everglades and most of central and north Florida’s blackwater runs. He believes it necessary to immerse one’s self in a Florida spring at least once per year for good hygiene and, for perspective, he has treaded the headwaters of the River near the Appalachian Trail annually since 1986. “Heck, you can step across it.”
Active in environmental advocacy since high school in south Florida, he is a past leader of Sierra Club Florida and has been officially designated that organization’s “spiritual advisor.” He was largely responsible for Leon County’s award-winning greenways initiative and its numerous conservation and recreational land acquisitions. Along with a 30+ year career in environmental and land use planning, he taught environmental sciences at FSU, FAMU and FAU for 22 years. The ACF basin was always an assigned topic in his water resources class at FSU. “Support the RiverTrek team!”
Enid was raised in Florida and learned to love the Florida outdoors from an early age. Her mother took her and her siblings camping all over the state from Key West to Panama City. She has hiked, backpacked, camped, and paddled all over North Florida. She has also explored the Western US and Northeast as far north as Minnesota. She was introduced to the Apalachicola River and the area, in the 1960s when her mother worked on the John Gorrie museum and has always loved this part of Florida. She has always been interested in the natural environment and protecting it, which is one reason she pursued a career as a land use planner in college. Protecting and preserving the Florida environment has always been one of her major concerns.
A fourth-generation inhabitant of Apalachicola, Donna grew up on the waterfront in a house her father built in 1950. She assumed everyone spent their days outside and only went inside when the sun went down. Always curious, Donna roamed the coastline and marshes with her handy little “Golden Guides” for endless hours of entertainment. She never had a formal paddling class. “I never knew they had classes for that sort of thing, you just got in the boat and made it go where you wanted or got left behind,” she says. “When I was about twelve, a couple of girlfriends showed up with an inflated inner tube from a tractor with the brilliant idea that it was truly a boat in disguise. You learn how to paddle real fast when three hardheaded females take to the water in a circular craft.”
Marriage and children took Donna away from the coast but she still indulges her love of the outdoors through hiking, biking and kayaking. She is a Florida Green Guide and Master Naturalist with plans to move back to Apalachicola in the near future. Donna looks forward to this trip having never paddled the entire stretch. “The river system I knew in my youth does not exist anymore. That is why organizations such as the Riverkeeper are vital to maintaining and hopefully restoring this treasure for our children and grandchildren. I grew up in paradise and did not know it.”
John has always been an avid outdoorsman finding any excuse possible to participate in anything that takes place out of the house. Growing up in New Jersey, he was out in the woods or on lakes and streams in boats since a very early age. After relocating to the Atlanta area for 20 years, John spent every possible weekend and holiday in the Georgia and Carolina mountains hiking, biking, fishing and hunting at times very near the source of our river ,the Chattahoochee which is a pretty little trout stream up there. During his working career at that time he did a fair amount of world traveling and was saddened by the state of the world’s waterways and streams. He decided that he would try to do something about it.
John retired to Eastpoint, Florida in 2006 and currently serves on the boards of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, The Panhandle Players and the Supporters of St Vincent Island. He is a certified Florida Master Naturalist and holds a current charter license, allowing him to spend as much time as possible outdoors, on the water. Much to his wife’s dismay, he currently owns a small fleet of boats ranging from 12 to 30 feet. RiverTrek has been on John’s bucket list for some time and having overcome a few heath issues over the past few years he’s elated to join the group this year. He said, “I can’t wait.”
Patrick is joining RiverTrek for the first time this year. Growing up in Miami he spent a lot of time exploring the Everglades. One thing he learned is that it takes time just looking at a place before you begin to really see it, and the more time spent in a place, the more you see and the more beautiful it becomes.
He moved to Tallahassee for college and never left, so this area is home. A kayak trip on the Wacissa about five years ago ignited a spark that has grown. About three years ago, he began to be much more intentional about kayaking, so this trip brings many things together for him. What better way to be in this place and really see it than from a kayak, and then to be a part of helping to raise awareness of and support for this unique treasure? He is excited to be one of the team.
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.
Mary Grace McClellan
A 2015 graduate of the University of West Florida’s environmental management program, Mary Grace McClellan currently works for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). She spends much of her spare time hiking, kayaking and camping in the Apalachicola River basin and surrounding areas.
Though she grew up in Tallahassee and Pensacola, Mary Grace is part of a family that has lived in Calhoun County for several generations. In fact, she spent her first night in the river swamp well before her first birthday. However, it wasn’t until college that she began to understand and appreciate the unique ecosystems and natural treasures of the Apalachicola. Now, she’s committed to helping preserve the river so that future generations can also enjoy and appreciate it.
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 2016, her third 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.
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.
Eric, a North Florida native, is a recent urban and regional planning graduate of the University of New Orleans. He now works in conservation and recreation planning with the Florida Park Service in Tallahassee. He has recently worked with the Seaside Institute based in Seaside, Florida and has co-founded the Tallahassee Community Design Studio, a non-profit collaborative of recent planning graduates that provide urban design assistance to neighborhood organizations and other groups around the Tallahassee area. Eric is a strong advocate of fostering economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable relationships between our communities and the surrounding environment.
According to Eric, “the opportunity to help raise awareness about the plight of the Apalachicola River and bay, and the communities they support, is a real privilege and chance to give back to the river that has provided so much to our region.”
Kim Sash grew up in Wisconsin where a love of wildlife and the outdoors was fostered by her veterinarian father and farm-girl mother. She went to school to be a wildlife biologist and traveled south to escape frigid winters in search of reptiles and amphibians which came to be the focus of her graduate degree. She currently works at Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy where she continues to study wildlife and aids landowners with permanent protection of their land with conservation easements. Kim believes the best way to get people to appreciate nature is to get them out in it; she enjoys guiding field trips in the Red Hills to teach others about the nature and biodiversity in our area.
More than anything Kim enjoys exploring the wilderness with her partner and two adventurous dogs. Those exploits often include looking for snakes while dipping a paddle in the water. While at home she enjoys caring for her chickens, rabbits and garden at her little farmette, Itchy Ankle Acres, in Gadsden County.
As a Tallahassee native, Harry has always appreciated the great outdoors. Now as a guide and longtime avid kayak angler, he takes great pride in opening the eyes of veteran residents as well as newcomers to all of the wonders that north Florida has to offer. Whether it is by foot, bike, or kayak, Harry never turns down an adventure and is always eager to share ideas among fellow enthusiasts. As the owner of Harry Smith Outdoors and an ambassador for the state, he can always be found with a smile on his face and the outdoors on his mind.
You can find Harry hanging out at Tally Yakkers Outfitters, a newly established kayak outfitter located in the trendy Railroad Square.
Ray grew up in Houston where he spent his youth boating and fishing with his father on the rivers and bays of southeast Texas. In high school he spent his free time exploring the bayous within the city by canoe – protection of these waterways was not a focus in the 1970’s and fortunately they are in significantly better condition now and able to be enjoyed by far more than a few adventurous teenagers. Ray enjoyed a 33-year career with The Coca-Cola Company where he had numerous technical roles, which included oversight of environmental stewardship for North America. Water quality and replenishment initiatives were accomplished through partnerships with the World Wildlife Fund, the National Park Service, and the USDA Forest Service.
Retirement in 2014 has allowed Ray to focus on his love of rivers and the coast. He lives in Atlanta, where he paddles weekly and takes frequent camping trips on the rivers of Georgia and Florida. Having paddled both the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, Ray is looking forward to seeing firsthand how the actions in Georgia impact the health of the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay and how he can be more involved in protecting this important river basin.
Currently living in Gainesville, Sandy was born in Washington, DC. Since his Dad was in the Navy, they traveled extensively and lived in various cities in Europe, US 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 my team 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 a fitness exercise on a surfski or a commune with nature’s beauty on long trips at 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.”
CJ Weinman was raised in the rural Midwest where canoeing and tent camping was her family’s recreation. She grew up to appreciate the natural environment, and she still prefers playing outdoors. When CJ came to Tallahassee to attend FSU, she took up kayaking and quickly grew to appreciate North Florida’s abundant rivers and springs and its unique coastal and estuarine systems.
CJ is an attorney, recently retired from a 26-year legal career with the State of Florida. CJ says she is “interested in the political as well and the ecological issues challenging the life and health of the Apalachicola River and Bay and the communities of folks whose culture is threatened by those issues.” She is an advocate for “educating future generations of decision-makers and nature-lovers in effective stewardship of these precious resources.” As a first-time RiverTrekker, CJ says, “I am happy to participate in RiverTrek 2016 as a great personal adventure, and I am happy to do my part to support a river I love and the work of the Apalachicola Riverkeeper.”