December 31

Last day of 2017. It’s always an interesting time looking back over the past year and thinking about what has happened. It would be easy to say that 2017 has been the best year of my life. But honestly every year since I have gotten sober has been the best year of my life. I would be a fool to believe that the trend will continue. Life happens. At least now I know how to handle the bad things when they happen instead of drinking to numb those feelings. I only had about 9 miles to paddle today to Camp Lulu Key where I was meeting up with fellow Paddlers to celebrate the new year. I took my time packing up. I posted a few updates to social media knowing service would be limited to remind people that today was the last day to get tax deductible donations in for 2017. It’s also the last day to donate to count towards our private donor matching. A few minutes into my paddle I got a few messages saying the link didn’t work. I didn’t have enough service to get internet to update it. I needed to be on solid ground but was about 2.5 miles from the nearest beach that was on my way. It seemed like it took forever. I finally made it and got updated. Now I was later than expected and finally got on the key where I was meeting the group. I didn’t know where exactly they were camping but figured I would paddle around till I found them. I figured they would be camping on the gulf side so I went for it. When I paddled around the corner I saw a group of people on the beach staring at me. Well they were actually watching the sun set but I like to think they were watching for me!  I paddled towards them and one of the angels came down to meet me. It was shallow so I dragged my boat over. When I got close enough to shore, my boat wasn’t going anywhere so in left it in the water and went up to meet the crew. They sure were having a Key West style sunset watching party. The island used to be inhabited by a hermit who lived there alone for years and a few people each year to come there to celebrate his life. It continues to grow each year. The semi circle focused around a fire pit and pair of fishing boots that the hermit used to wear. They offered me several beers and food. I obviously took them up on the food. I was even given a grand announcement of my arrival. We got a picture with me and the 3 Paddlers who were there that have completed the 1,515 mile Circlenavigational Trail of Florida. That was 3 of the 23 people in the world who have paddled the trail around Florida. As the final sun was setting on 2017 I kept thinking I should probably move my boat so not to obstruct the view. After about the 5th person asked someone to take a picture and said “ get the sunset and the boat in the background” I decided to leave it. After a big cheer when the sun finally set, I paddled around to the other side of the island where my group had set up camp. I got to setting up my spot and they cooked up dinner.  Steak, mashed potatoes, greens and several deserts. We ate, laughed, and told trail stories. Around 9 we headed back over to the sunset spot and waited for the firework show. One of the guys had driven to Alabama to get the good fireworks. We ooo’ed and ahh’ed as they shot fireworks over the water. After the grand finale we returned to the outside of the island for more storytelling tillmidnight. It was another hour before we finally called it a night. I dusted the sand off my feet and climbed into my tent that I have called home for most of the year, one last time in 2017. I think it’s easy to say that 2017 was a good year.