TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The first woman to complete the 1,515 mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail completed her journey as 2013 came to a close.
Jodi Eller, 31, of St. Augustine paddled most of the trail in 2008 with husband Matt Keene, the first “thru paddler” of the trail, and she completed the remaining segments last year.
The trail stretches from Pensacola to the Florida Keys and to the Georgia border.
“This trail is amazing,” Eller said. “It goes through so many different ecosystems. How the beaches change along the trail is just incredible. 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.”
Eller said she was fortunate enough to see a black bear cub in a tree along the Crooked River near Carrabelle, went island-hopping in the Indian River Lagoon and experiencing “perfect water conditions” for her last segment from Flamingo to Everglades City through Everglades National Park.
“The Florida Park Service offers many ways for Floridians and visitors to experience the real Florida, whether by kayaking, hiking, biking or swimming on a warm summer day,” said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service. “I applaud Jodi and others who are able to get a special glimpse of Florida through the amazing Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.”
Eller is a kayaking guide for St. Augustine EcoTours and an Environmental Science teacher at Flagler College.
She advises paddlers to do research prior to the trip and encourages more women to complete the trail.
Eller is the eleventh person to have completed the entire Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail since it opened in 2008.
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