Today, on the 30th of March 2012, just after 12:30 PM, Whale and Riverslayer finished the Ultimate Florida Challenge, and brought the event to a close. Over 27 days paddling against the elements, the distance, the fatigue, and, of course, walking the portage. 40 miles worth of portage. Starting at Ft. Desoto Park, they, along with all the other competitors, headed south across a wild and wooly Tampa Bay. Some dropped out before crossing the bay, and some soon after. These two did not. Not knowing each other before the Challenge began, they soon found that paddling together and working as a team was good for them. Such is the human condition that sharing difficulties can make the burdens on one’s self easier. And in this Challenge, there was no shortage of difficulties… the weather, the open bodies of water to cross, the narrowness of the upper St. Mary’s River, bugs, animals, snakes, things that do indeed go bump in the night, and perhaps the least known of all: the shadows within yourself that make themselves known in the darkest of nights and the most exhausting of times. Like those few others who have competed in and completed this most epic of journeys through Florida, and through themselves, I suspect that their perspective is now somehow different. Things look both new and old, and much of what may have seemed important in the past is now perhaps a bit mundane. Political punditry means little to the man paddling a thousand miles and knowing he has another 20 percent to go.
Spirits were fantastic at the finish, and the gathering of WaterTribe members felt like a family outing. Whale and Riverslayer talked about their adventure, and of Riverslayers incredible ability to locate both things in the night, and restaurants in a crowded shoreline. Most telling of all, though, was when Whale asked how long before the next Ultimate Challenge would be held.
An awesome job, gentlemen… congratulations!
Video at: http://youtu.be/Afppjy7Tfo0
Whale’s blog: http://billwhale.wordpress.com/
Riverslayer’s Website: http://www.rodpriceadventure.com/