It’s not just the school-age kids who can’t wait for the final bell of the academic year to ring.
After a long season and semester, Westminster girls’ soccer coach and teacher Clark Meyer is ready to welcome in the hot months in a unique way.
“I live for the summer; there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Along with his sons Andrew, 8, and Will, 10, he will participate for the second straight year in the Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia event, a seven-day, 105-mile canoeing and kayaking trip. This year’s journey will take place Saturday through June 22 down the Altamaha River, from Reidsville to the Atlantic coast in Darien.
After 350 people participated in Paddle 2011 along the Oconee, event coordinator Joe Cook said 375 should participate in Paddle Georgia 2012, its eighth annual installment.
It also raises money for the Altamaha Riverkeeper, promoting protection and conservation of Georgia’s rivers. To that end, Paddle 2012 is as much educational as it is recreational.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out on the rivers and learn about them,” Cook said. “Normally, when you sign up for a paddle trip, you’re going to see the prettiest part of that river. When you spend an entire week there, you get to see the pretty things and the ugly things that make us aware of how we use and abuse our rivers. So that’s one of the goals, to educate people about how important our rivers are in our daily lives.”
Indeed, Day 5 of the journey, according to the official event website, is entitled “Almost Paradise,” describing that 22-mile leg as running “headlong into a pulp mill that alters the character of the river and highlights the driving principle behind Paddle Georgia — to experience the beauty and the degradation of Georgia’s rivers.”
Educational workshops will occur each night, including one hosted by Georgia Adopt-A-Stream teaching participants about chemical water monitoring. Cook also said it offered teachers scholarships to attend Paddle 2012 and learn tools in environmental education to bring back to their classrooms.
Beyond that, the trip also is about the joy of paddling in the river, taking a cooling dip, seeing Georgia wildlife and fraternizing with fellow outdoor enthusiasts during the long days afloat.
“When you see it, it’s pretty amazing, a couple of hundred boats in the water,” Meyer said.
He and his kids will spend Father’s Day together paddling 12 miles on the second leg of the journey. Meyer said they were hooked almost immediately when the trio canoed together down the Oconee a year ago.
“They absolutely loved it,” Meyer said. “The last night of last year’s trip, they were already making plans [for 2012]. We went through four bottles of spray sunscreen in the course of the week but once it got a little hot, you floated along in the water.”