Jodi Eller of St. Augustine has become 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.
31-year-old Eller paddled most of the trail in 2008 with husband Matt Keene, the first "thru paddler" of the trail, and she completed the remaining segments in late 2013.
"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."
Highlights of Eller's 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 Everglades National Park.
Eller, a kayaking guide for St. Augustine EcoTours and an Environmental Science teacher at Flagler College, has this advice for paddlers interested in taking on the trail: "Do your research prior to your trip by reading everything on the trail website. Beginners paddling with friends can attempt this and build muscles and skill along the way, but it would be best to experience different types of water conditions first. Hopefully, more women will want to do it."
Eller is the eleventh person to have completed the entire Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail since it opened in 2008.
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