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Hope Floats Section 11a-16a Mountains-to-Sea Trail

When I first signed up with Hope Floats, NC it was to complete sections 11-16 of the Mountain to Sea Trail . When I finished the journey with Hope Floats, NC, completing those sections of the trail became just a nice thing that happened. It became so much more than that!

I truly am honored to have been a part of this amazing group of people. They are truly beautiful souls with a mission and a purpose, overflowing with genuine compassion and giving to help others, to raise money to hopefully one day eradicate cancer.

Hope Floats NC paddles down the Neuse River from Raleigh to Oriental , 208 miles over 8 days. This is their Relay for Life team , the way they raised money for the past six years to help find a cure for Cancer.

Kim and Chris Tart head up this incredible journey and started it because Kim had Cancer 8 years ago and is a survivor. She wanted to do something to make a difference, and that she is doing!

This trip turned into a very personal journey for me. My Aunt Cathy is currently fighting the battle with cancer and I paddled for her, and for the many others, friends and family, named and unnamed.

While I was paddling, I received the news that Aunt Cathy’s cancer progressed and it was a very emotional time. There was absolutely no way I was going to quit, no matter how hard the fight. She is now in Mexico seeking treatment and I pray and send healing love to her every day! You have this conquered Aunt Cathy!!

The people who paddled were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. It is truly a community and a team of people working together for the good of others. They were so helpful, compassionate and giving. We all needed each other to get through this week. We all had to help each other get in and out of the water, help with first aid with the blisters on our hands, help with motivation, encouragement, fear, and cheering each other on to finish this Journey we were on together.

I made some life-long friends on this journey and will never forget them. I hope they continue to be a part of my life for many years. I hope to continue to be a part of this group for many years.

The trip

The first day of the paddle was over 30 miles. I hurt so bad the first night I couldn’t even lift my left arm. I just knew I injured it. I called my brother that night and said, “Dude” you have to come get me tomorrow if I can’t do this. He immediately reminded me of the first words on the board on the first day. It will HURT! He was right. I took a bunch of Ibuprofen and got up the next day and started paddling for another 30 miles. Fortunately, my arm did begin to feel better after a couple of hours and I was able to push through.

The next few days were easier and I had music to help me through it. I discovered I love to dance in my Kayak! My song for this trip to motivate me turned out to be, If Today was your Last Day, by Nickleback . Very fitting I would say.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful. My next hardest day seemed to be Wednesday. I wasn’t hurting too bad, I was just really, really tired. I think that is the day I hit my wall. Thursday was much better!

The last day

I wasn’t planning on paddling the last day because I just knew I did not want to paddle on open water, or in the dark. Well, that changed and I am so glad it did, even though I thought I would die, lol. I met this great friend, Heather, who is also hiking the Mountain to Sea Trail. She encouraged me to do it with her and I did. After all, the MST girls had to finish!!!

We left New Bern at 4:15 am with lights on our boats and proceeded onward. It wasn’t too bad for the first 14 miles. I had only slept a couple of hours and was very tired. You definitely have to paddle more when you are in open water. I saw the most amazing dawn and sunrise, and got some great pictures.

We stopped and had lunch and took a break. When I got back into the water, the waves were breaking and the skeg on my kayak would not go down. That made it impossible to steer and I had to paddle so hard to not just get carried out. Chris and Craig were able to come up behind me and get it down and it was much more manageable. We were paddling in 3-4 feet swells of water and it seemed like we were in a washing machine. I began to get very anxious and scared. At one point I was crying, I was praying to God, I was cursing god, and I was wondering Oh My God, what am I doing here!!! This is what nightmares are made of!!! I was able to calm myself down and I do not know where my strength came from, except from God, but I managed to make it to the next break. I seriously wondered if it was my day to go down! LOL.

We got rested up and turned the corner. The wind was now to our back and the waves just rolled. I actually was practicing riding waves. It was an amazing last 8 miles to the finish line.

It was a very emotional finish! I finished beside my friend Heather. We actually did it!!! My Father, husband and son were at the finish line waiting. It was an incredible sense of accomplishment and one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I can’t seem to find the words to accurately explain the feeling of being part of this incredible team. It was truly a week of everyone giving and receiving support from each other. We had people from communities, families and friends cook for us and bring us food every night. Thank you, Mom and Dad and Sister for dinner on Thursday night! On Wednesday night, we had the community of Seven Springs feed us dinner and join in our ceremony where we all read the names of every single person we were paddling for. Seven Springs was devastated by Hurricane Matthew, but yet, fed us dinner, joined in our ceremony, and donated a thousand dollars to our cause. I do believe that those who have less, give more. It was a very emotional and heartwarming night. One I will soon not forget.

I would like to thank Kim and Chris for all their work, dedication, effort, compassion, and giving that it takes to do something like this. Thank you for your perseverance. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of you both that I was able to have such an incredible experience. I watched you touch many lives, as you did mine.

Together, we can change the lives of many.

As a team, we have raised over $19,000.00 to help with Cancer research! We will be accepting donations until August and would love to exceed $20,000.00. What an amazing accomplishment!

If anyone wants to truly be a part of something meaningful, join this team, this family. You will walk away with much more than you can possibly contribute.

Much love, respect and admiration to you!

Danelle

I highly recommend this adventure for anyone who wants to paddle 11-16 of the MST.