1) Where are you from? Your profession? I grew up in a military family. During my pre-teen years we lived in Florida and during my teen years we lived in Arkansas. We had a short few years in Louisiana as well. After college, I went to law school in the Midwest (Missouri) and ended up practicing my professions (law, and later forensic psychology and teaching) up there. I had good careers and good friends up there, but I always wanted to return to the South and was happy to do so when I retired three years ago. (Editor's Note: Delany is also a talented photographer. Check out her beautiful photos, many capturing Florida's waterways and wildlife, at: http://delany.zenfolio.com/
2) When and how did you become interested in paddling? Up until a couple years ago, I had never been in a kayak. I had done a lot of other kinds of boating (including a little canoeing), but never much enjoyed the canoe experience and assumed that kayaking would be pretty similar. But after friends invited me on a kayak paddling trip on the St. Johns and I got into my first kayak, I fell in love. It just felt like the most wonderful boating experience a person could have--being so close to the surface of the water in such an easily maneuverable boat was a revelation to me.
3) Where is your favorite place to paddle? I love Rock Springs Run in the wintertime, early in the morning when the mist is rising from the river. It's absolutely gorgeous.
4) What's the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? On one particularly grueling day during our Paddle to the Sea expedition, we were fighting headwind, very choppy seas and whitecaps, and an incoming tide. After about seven hours of paddling, it began to get dark. We realized we had to stop short of our planned destination, and we detoured into the Ortega River where there's a marina we figured we could tie up at. The conditions had been too bad for us to use our cell phones to call anyone, but one of us sent out a garbled text just saying that we were "running late." Ha! As we approached the drawbridge over the Ortega, a nice cruising boat stopped nearby and tooted its horn. We thought they were trying to get the bridge keeper's attention and pretty much ignored them. But then a woman came out onto the back deck of the boat and began calling our names! "Delany! Debbie! Jane!" It turned out that our fiends had been worried about us and came out to look for us. They had a nearby place for us to beach and tie up our boats overnight, and they drove us to the place in Riverside where we had been planning to stay. In our exhaustion, it felt as if angels had appeared on the water to help us out!
5) Tell us about the Paddle to the Sea expedition you recently completed on the St. Johns River. What did you experience and learn in 180 miles of paddling over 13 days? Paddle to the Sea was a dream come true and the trip of a lifetime. I had always been intrigued and enchanted by the fact that the St. Johns River that runs in front of my house (at Lake Monroe) goes all the way to the ocean. I knew it would be an amazing experience to get in a boat and go from my front yard to the beach at Mayport. My teammates and friends (Debbie LaFreniere and Jane Goddard) and I experienced the beauty, grace, and power of the St. Johns River and the enormous generosity and hospitality of the people who live on the river and who care deeply about her. And I learned a crucial lesson about the imprtance of taking our dreams and turning them into reality.
6) Which Paddle Florida trip have you gone on and to where? What did you enjoy most about it?
My first (and so far only) trip with Paddle Florida was the Ochlockonee trip this past spring. It was also my first multi-day paddling trip with overnight camping. I had a total blast on that trip! I think that most of all I enjoyed paddling the wilderness sections on a beautiful Florida river that was new to me. A close second was having all my gear transported for me so that I could quickly and easily set up camp and relax while someone else was fixing my dinner!
7) Do you plan to come on future trips? Most definitely!
8) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Don't hesitate! If this kind of trip is even remotely a dream of yours, make it happen! The Paddle Florida organizers and staff will give you an experience you'll never forget.