Mary & Kenny Donaldson ~ April 2014

Posted at 8:26 am on 06/30/2014
​Mary & Kenny Donaldson

1) Where are you from?  Your profession?  Kenny and I are both native Atlantans.  We currently reside in Marietta, Georgia.  I am retired now, but previously spent 30+ years in the mortgage banking profession.  Kenny, my husband of 45 years, is an architect.  My current "hobby job" is leading adventure trips.  If anyone would like information on these trips, send me an email at:

2) When and how did you become interested in paddling?  Kenny and I began paddling when we were in our early 20's.  I was attending Georgia State University and became interested in their "Touch the Earth" program, which encompassed a variety of outdoor sports.  They had a tremendous whitewater canoe program, which included the Etowah River, the upper Chattahoochee River, the Nantahala River, and section 3 of the Chattooga River.  We soon became instructors for the canoe program and moved onto their kayak program.  Kenny taught kayak rolling in the GSU pool for the other students.  We enjoyed the camaraderie of the group so much that we all moved on together to take up snow skiing, scuba diving, and wind surfing.

3) Where is your favorite place to paddle?  My favorite paddle used to be section 3 of the Chattooga River.  Now it's probably the Econfina River just north of Panama City Beach.

4) What's the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip?  Probably our most exciting paddle was the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa.  An afternoon rafting trip with 21 Class V rapids complete with crocodiles lining the river.  We had a fantastic local raft guide, who intentionally flipped the raft in the last rapid because he had not been able to throw Kenny and I out of the raft.  I cycled around in a hydraulic for a bit and then they sent a kayak out to get me.  It was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend it!  The outfitter was Sherwood Adventures.

5) How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?
Suwannee River - Paddle Florida's inaugural trip in 2008
Florida Keys Challenge - 100th anniversary of the Flagler Railroad
Dam to the Bay on the Ochlockonee River
Wekiva/St. Johns River Ramble
Wild, Wonderful Withlacoochee

So we are wanting y'all to add a new destination next year! 

6) What keeps you coming back?  I love the outdoors!  I like the camping and the campfires.  I am a big scenery buff, and you can't see what you can see on the river from the road.

7) You and your husband are among the few canoers who come on our trips.  Any advice for canoe paddlers with regard to Paddle Florida trips?  The canoe is actually more comfortable than a kayak, and we like paddling together.  The wind is what you have to watch out for when you get near the ocean in Florida.  Since our canoe is a whitewater boat, there is no keel.  "Big Green" maneuvers quite well, but is harder to keep in a straight line.  We are actually in the market for kayaks to paddle with your group.  We just can't decide what to buy, and we already have so many boats we feel like a marina!

We currently own two surf kayaks, one fishing kayak, two whitewater kayak, a Mako fishing boat, a Malibu ski boat, a 24-foot pontoon boat, and the 17' Old Town canoe.  So if anyone has a suggestion for a good, well-priced sea kayak, we would appreciate the direction.  We rented a big Current Designs tandem kayak for the Keys trip and it performed well, but it was really heavy and would be hard to manage on top of the car.

8) Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip highlight?  I guess my favorite trip would be the Florida Keys trip, mainly because it was different from anything else Kenny and I had done before and we had an extra day to go scuba diving as well.  Absolutely beautiful scenery and I loved the fact that Bill tied into the historical significance of the Flagler Railroad completion.  I actually read this book while we were on the trip.

9) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?   JUST DO IT!!!  Everything is so well organized  The logistics are all planned out.  The food is wonderful and Jan always comes up with some special surprise.  If you like the outdoors, you will LOVE these trips!  They offer easy paddles with fantastic scenery.  It's like going camping with a bunch of your buddies!

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