Historic City News has been informed that St Augustine resident, 31-year-old Jodi Eller, became the first woman to complete the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail that runs from Pensacola to Key West to the Georgia border.
Eller is the eleventh person to have completed the entire paddling trail. She paddled most of the trail in 2008 with husband Matt Keene, when the trail first opened; and, she completed the remaining segments in December. Keene is the first thru-paddler of the trail.
“This trail is amazing because it goes through so many different ecosystems. How the beaches change along the trail is just incredible,” Eller told local news reporters. “The trail made me a stronger paddler and it also redefined who I am in a way, bringing me back to the essence of being human. It’s a powerful experience to go through. Hopefully, more women will want to do it.”
Eller reported that some of the memorable highlights of her trip included seeing a black bear cub in a tree along the Crooked River near Carrabelle, island-hopping in the Indian River Lagoon, and experiencing “perfect water conditions” for her last segment — from Flamingo to Everglades City, through the Everglades National Park.
If you are interested in taking on the trail, Eller, who is a kayaking guide for St Augustine EcoTours and an Environmental Science teacher at Flagler College, cautions you to do your research — reading everything on the trail website prior to your trip. She said that beginners, paddling with friends, can build muscles and skill along the way; but, it would be best to experience different types of water conditions before making your first attempt.
“Currently, two retired police officers from Charlotte, North Carolina, Marc DeLuca and Jim Windle, are paddling the entire trail,” said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service. “They have completed more than half of their journey. I applaud Jodi and others who are able to get this special glimpse of Florida.”