Just
another day paddling in beautiful Alabama. On October 22, 2008, after
12 days, 2 hours 9 minutes along his journey, Ardie Olson, 47, of
Cumming, Georgia completed the thru-paddle of the Alabama Scenic
River Trail (ASRT). He became the first paddler to complete the
longest single-state river trail in the nation since its
designation.

Ardie
had signed up for the 631 Prize, a $1,000.00 prize offered to the
first person to complete the entire ASRT. He has contributed the
$1,000.00 prize back to the ASRT Association to use to further their
efforts for ASRT.

Ardie
started paddling down the ASRT on October 10 at the Alabama/Georgia
border on Weiss Lake(Coosa River). He kayaked his way to Fort Morgan,
at the mouth of Mobile Bay, stopping along the river/lake system to
talk to both print and TV media. He received the key to the City of
Wetumpka, and was even interviewed live from his kayak on the water
via cell phone by Big Daddy on Win98 radio station.

During
that interview, Olson said, “This has been a great way to see
Alabama. The southern hospitality has been unbelievable. So many
people along the way have offered help and several have given me food
and drink.”


The
ASRT takes paddlers through six Alabama Power lakes (Weiss, Neely
Henry, Logan Martin, Lay, Mitchell and Jordan) along the Coosa River,
three Corp of Engineer lakes/ locks (Robert F. Henry/Woodruff,
Millers Ferry/Dannelly and Claiborne) along the Alabama River,
through the Delta (Bartram Canoe Trail) along the Mobile, Tensaw,
Bottle Creek, Apalachee and Blakeley Rivers before crossing Mobile
Bay and ending at Fort Morgan, just before the Gulf of Mexico. It is
necessary to portage the dams along the Alabama Power Lakes, but a
real treat is the going through the lock systems at the dams on the
Corp of Engineers lakes.

Along
the way, Ardie saw deer, alligators, bald eagles, snow egrets, great
blue herons, turtles and wild hogs along the way. He camped most
nights, except for a few where locals were gracious enough to offer
him a place to stay. In some locations, he had more invitations to
stay than he could accept. He said, “The people of Alabama were
some of the nicest I ever met.”

The
sea kayak Ardie paddled is a Ruahine OceanX, a 21 foot carbon/kevlar
craft that he has raced in the Texas Water Safari Paddle Race and
Missouri 340 races in the past.

Ardie
only learned about the 631 Event on October 8 and started paddling on
October 10 with little time to prepare. Luckily, all of his gear from
the prior Missouri 340 race was still in two boxes ready to load and
go. Always up for the adventure, Ardie couldn’t pass up the
opportunity to have a first descent.

After
completing the paddle, Olson said “ASRT was an awesome trip. It was
challenging at the pace I was keeping, but would be a great
opportunity for relaxing weekend or week long trips doing a section
at a time. I would encourage anyone to spend time in the State of
Alabama for a good dose of southern hospitality. Fred Couch,
President of ASRTA, with the help of many volunteers, local, state
and federal agencies, has put together a great river trail system for
all to enjoy. Go check it out.”

The
National Park Service has designated the ASRT as a National
Recreation Trail. It officially opened June 6, 2008. More information
on the ASRT is available at www.alabamascenicrivertrail.com.

By
Sherry Olson
From The Eddy Line, January 2009