When Alan Kendall moved to Dawsonville nearly five years ago, his draw was Lake Lanier.
Then he discovered the mountains and rivers in North Georgia and now says he couldn't have picked a better place to retire.
"Having not grown up here, you don't realize the richness the area has to offer," he said.
An avid outdoorsman whose love for nature developed as a child, Kendall, 61, took a closer look at the state's ecological playground when he paddled from Athens to Dublin on the Oconee River.
A fundraiser for several river groups, Paddle Georgia is a weeklong adventure on one of the state's watersheds aimed to emerge participants in the ecology, history and economics of the river.
This was Kendall's third year to participate.
Kendall, who is married, chose to take the trip alone.
"It's not her cup of tea to spend a week in a boat on the river in 90 degree heat," he said.
With nearly 350 paddlers this year, there was plenty of personal interaction on the trip.
"You meet a whole lot of interesting people from all over," Kendall said.
"It's quite an enjoyable experience to take yourself away from your cellphone, TV and computer and be on the river every day with a lot of different people who are fun to be around."
The trip spanned seven days and 106 miles.
"The good thing about this is you can do it at your own pace," he said. "That's the great part about it. No one is pressed at a rate they don't want to do."
Pace was really determined by how much fun the paddlers wanted to have, Kendall said.
"There were several areas where we found swim holes and rope swings and water falls," he said. "You definitely don't feel compelled to rush. It's supposed to be about enjoying the river."
For Kendall, it's a great vacation, but it's so much more, he said.
"The friendships I've made ... there's a great common bond in the river that leads to the friendships," he said.