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Len Foote Hike Inn team paddles to protect rivers
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Staff members from the Len Foote Hike Inn headed south on Friday to participate in a 105-mile, weeklong canoe/kayak trip down the Altamaha River, also known as Georgias Little Amazon.

The 8th annual Paddle Georgia is part of the fundraising efforts of the Georgia River Network (GRN) to protect the states rivers. The trip has become the largest weeklong paddling and camping adventure in the country in its first seven years, the trips have generated more than $120,000 for river protection in Georgia.

Eric Graves, executive director of The Len Foote Hike Inn said his participation in the Paddle Georgia 2011 was the inspiration for him to return this year with his staff. Last year, my daughter was beginning middle school and we wanted to have a father daughter trip, Graves said. I am not originally from Georgia and it really gave me an avenue to learn about its rivers.

The Hike Inn is sponsoring two boats this year. Graves and his 12-year-old daughter, Kristen Graves will travel the entire 105-mile trip in the first boat. The second boat will be split into two shifts. Hike Inn employees Kathy Dawson and Bill Buford will travel the first half beginning Saturday, June 16, and will continue paddling through Monday, June 18. We are going to paddle about 12 15 miles per day, Buford said. The second shift will continue to paddle on Tuesday, June 19, and conclude Friday, June 22. Hike Inn employees Heather Wilson and Dana Schroeder will guide the boat during the second shift. We set it up like this because of the logistics of getting everyone down there, explained Graves. This way, more people could participate.

Wilson said that the trip is not only a nice leisure paddle, but it also provides educational programs and tours. They are offering activities that show the beauty of the river and other influences of the environment, said Wilson. This years Paddle Georgia event includes programs on the rivers cultural and natural history, tours of farms and local historic sites, and an exploration that travels through rare tidal forests. The event will also offer an opportunity to assist in the assessment of the health of the Altamaha River and its tributaries.

Although the route does not exceed Class I on the scale of difficulty, Wilson said it will still take some physical ability. A couple of us have gone on trips in our free time, just to get some paddling in beforehand, she said. Graves added that the staff participates in several team building trips throughout the year. We probably spend more time together then we should, he said, adding that he was one of the few staff members who do not reside at the Hike Inn.

Graves said the Hike Inn is continuing its fundraising efforts through its donation page at firstgiving.com. Search for Len Foote Hike Inn, and the site will direct you to the Hike Inns Paddle Georgia Page.

We are trying to raise money to donate to the Georgia River Network, said Graves. When you make a donation through this site, the money goes straight to the GRN on behalf of the Hike Inn.

To keep track of the Hike Inns paddling adventure and other participants of Paddle Georgia 2012, GRN has a new and exciting way to paddle along and experience the journey virtually from a computer. Throughout the trip, GRN will be posting photos with their corresponding GPS locations, so you can enjoy the trip right along with participants. You may access the virtual trip by visiting the GRN website at garivers.com/paddle_georgia.

For more information about the Hike Inns Paddle Georgia team and its efforts to protect Georgias rivers, call 1-800-581-8032, or visit the Hike Inns website at hike-inn.com.

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