Second Annual Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail Paddlers Reunion

Florida Circumnavigational Trail Paddlers (L/R):Gus Bianchi, Jodi Eller, Matt Greene, Mary Mangiapia, Zane Blakey, Scotia Stein, Jim Windle, Liz Sparks (Paddling Trails Coordinator), and Ian Brown.


I was invited to attend the second annual Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail Paddlers Reunion.  While I have not paddled the entire trail, I have paddled segments of it; most notably the Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail segment.  The reason I was invited had to do with my recent training as an ACA Level 2 guide, allowing me to volunteer as a guide for day paddlers in state parks and to train park rangers to do the same.  The reunion was a great experience despite my misstep.  Read my report dictated from the field, below.  Yackman

My Report from the Field: Well I am bummed! The whole purpose of this trip was to hear the stories of the circumnavigation trail paddlers.  I missed it! Here's the backstory.

I arrived at Wekiwa State Park yesterday (Friday, May 1) afternoon.  We had dinner and a campfire and then bed.  I woke up this morning around 7 AM after a fitful night's sleep. I heard through the grapevine that folks were gathering at 8:30 To paddle the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. I had a quick breakfast and some coffee and  joined the group at 8:30.  


I ran into Jill Lingard, V.P. of Paddle Florida, in the parking lot. We decided to put in it at the Wekiwa Springs kayak launch and paddle together upstream toward Rock Springs until we were ready to turn around and come back. Some others would go to Kings Landing and paddle the Rock Springs Run one way back to camp.  Jill helped me get my boat to the water and I did the same for her. It was a long carry from the parking lot to the river below.  I worried some about my back, but everything seemed to be fine.  We launched with a number of other paddlers from our group who were headed up the Rock Springs Run also.  Four hours later , we were the only up stream paddlers still in the game.  We were exhausted from paddling against the current in shallow water, and we were only six miles into the 8 1/2 mile trip to the spring. So we took a short break for food and drink, standing in shallow water, as there was no place to go ashore.  Then we headed back down the Run.


Zane Blakey and Scotia Stein, the Trail’s most recent through paddlers.  Scotia was number 17 to complete the trail and Zane was number 18.  That’s because they paddled a double kayak and Scotia was in front.  Their next adventure, beginning in June 2015, is to through hike the  2,180 mile Appalachian Trail, North to South.

The return trip took less than two-thirds of  the time it took to paddle up the Spring Run. But still, it took two hours and a lot of passing of “amateur” kayak and canoe traffic to get back to our launch point. As we finished reloading our boats, Jill mentioned that it was nearly 3:30 and that we had enough time to change and go to the presentation by the circumnavigators.   That was the first I had heard about when the program would be held. So I hurried back to my cabin and quickly showered and changed, and went looking for the program. 


Mary Mangiapia and her husband.  Mary, a Water Tribe member, was the first woman to through paddle the trail solo, and the fourteenth person to complete it.

I couldn't find it and thought perhaps I had misunderstood. I spotted  Fred  sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the building where we have our meals. I walked over, sat down, and asked if he knew about where and when the program would be held. Fred said he assumed that the program would be held at dinner time in the very building we sat in front of. So after a few minutes I excused myself, headed back to my cabin, and took a nap, as I was really pooped after that five hour paddle.  


Gus Bianchi, the sixth paddler to complete the trail.  See, successful circumnavigators are not all kids”. 

When I awoke, I headed out again to see if I could get any other information on when and where the program would occur. At this point I noticed cars around a building I never paid any attention to before.  I wondered if this could be the location of the presentations. I headed to the building which was basically windowless.  I found an open door and entered just in time to hear applause and Liz Sparks declare the event finished.  Bummer again! The whole reason for attending this event was to hear these presentations. Still, I was able to talk with the presenters informally at dinner, so it wasn’t a complete loss.  By the way, Fred missed the presentations too.

For information on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, click here.

For a great overview of paddling the trail by two of the most appealing folks I have met (Zane Blakey and Scotia Stein), check out the presentation video below or go to


 © Don Yackel 2020