Kathy Hancock ~ October 2017

Posted at 6:10 pm on 09/30/2017

Where are you from? Your profession? I grew up in Florida but have lived in Atlanta for a total of 35 years. I retired five years ago from my position as a Research Microbiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You have tackled some impressive outdoor pursuits. Can you tell us about some of your most memorable ones? Shortly before retiring, I went on a weekend outing to Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains with two friends. A stop at the Visitor Center led to a discussion of the Appalachian Trail, and a light bulb went off in my head. I thought, "Oh, I could do that now." Aside from a backpacking trip on Cumberland Island in the early 1980s, I had no backpacking experience. But I love being outdoors and being active. I started my hike on the AT in 2014 and finished it in 2016.

When and how did you become interested in paddling? I've had scattered experience with paddling canoes and kayaks since college and I've always enjoyed it. I made a friend on the AT who is passionate about kayaking and very active with the club in the Augusta, GA area. I joined them for two days of beginner training using borrowed boat, paddle, and PFD. The prior year, while camping on Knights Key, I met a Paddle Florida group paddling in the Florida Keys. That was my introduction to Paddle Florida.

Where is your favorite place to paddle? My favorite place to paddle is on Paddle Florida trips. You'd that since I live in Georgia, I'd do some paddling here. I hope to someday, but the problem is that I also like to cycle. I have cycling buddies here and it is so much easier to put my bike on my car than it is to put my kayak on my car.

What's the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? The challenges you've met tend to be memorable. The last day of paddling on the Great Calusa Blueway required paddling across open water, into the wind, with a significant chop on the water. I should have put my spray skirt on, but didn't realize it. I fell behind, but Paddle Florida volunteer Janice Hindson stayed with me and I made it across in plenty of time to enjoy the post-paddle BBQ feast.

Which Paddle Florida trips have you gone on? After my beginner lessons, I was eager to get on the water. The Paddle Florida trip down the Suwannee River in 2015 looked great. I checked into renting a kayak, but that didn't work out. Fortunately for me, I quickly found a used kayak on Craig's List that is just right for me. Timing was tight, so my first time paddling in my lovely purple and gray Perception Shadow was on the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers. Since then I've gone on two of the 2016 trips: Great Calusa Blueway and the Ocklawaha Odyssey. This December I'll be back on the Ocklawaha trip.

Can you describe a Paddle Florida trip highlight? Each day, the slide of the kayak into the water, the first strokes, and the excitement of getting on the water is thrilling. Each day brings its own special adventures. At the end of the paddle, I'm always very happy to spot the take-out spot for the evening.

What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Sign up! The trips are well organized, the food is delicious, and the camaraderie is terrific.

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