1) Where are you from? Your profession? I've lived in various parts of Florida for my whole life, and I am a firefighter with the City of St. Augustine.
2) When and how did you become interested in paddling? When I moved to St. Augustine, I realized that I was surrounded by water in the form of creeks, inlets, etc. I have always enjoyed canoeing, but as soon a I stepped into a kayak I knew it was the hobby for me.
3) Where is your favorite place to paddle? My favorite place to paddle is Juniper Springs Run. It's like a maze with all the branches and tree trunks blocking the way sometimes, but that's what makes it fun.
4) How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where? I have been on five trips total. I went on the Suwannee River trip three times and the Keys trip twice.
5) What keeps you coming back? The thing I love most about Paddle Florida trips is the fact that I can get away for a week doing something I really enjoy, without having to do all of the planning. I love the sense of teamwork that comes with it as well.
6) Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip 'highlight?' One event that will always stick with me was an experience that left me with the nickname "The Beaver Guy." I was paddling on the Suwannee River when I spotted something bobbing in the water. Paddling closer, I realized it was a very weak baby beaver about the size of my hand. I took my favorite hat off my head and placed the baby beaver in it. It was a perfect fit. When we arrived at the River Rendezvous campsite that afternoon, my biggest concern was finding Paddle Florida Director Bill Richards so that we could find help for this stranded animal. However, it was Easter Sunday, so no park rangers were available to come out and take a look at it. They advised us to let nature take its course. That night, several of us huddled around the hat keeping the poor baby beaver company, anxious to see if it would recover. In the middle of all this tension, the most comical thing happened. A lady walked up and suggested we put the beaver back in the water "so it could breathe." (Editor's Note: Beavers don't have gills?) The outrageous suggestion was just enough to lighten the mood. However, the beaver passed away shortly afterwards. None of us had thought about what to do with it after it passed. After a few minutes, someone suggested that we hold a beaver burial service. So we buried the little guy, said a few loving words, and had ourselves a beaver funeral. Although it was a sad event, I can now look back on our beaver burial with some humor.
7) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Bring lots of blankets and a good attitude. As much fun as the trip is, it can get a little tiring and it's always nice to come back to a warm tent with lots of blankets, especially in the colder months. Also remember that you can do this. Some people get so worked up about the "hows" and the "what ifs." With the right mindset, we can all do this together.