North Georgia Professor Dr. Robert Fuller is paddling a canoe on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola rivers from Helen to the Gulf of Mexico. He will then paddle along the Alabama coastline to Mobile and follow the Mobile, Alabama, Coosa, and Etowah Rivers back to Dahlonega.
Fuller, a professor of geosciences and the Environmental Leadership Center Director at NGCSU, is testing the water quality of the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola rivers by using a special dye that he is following downriver in his Kruger Sea Wind expedition canoe.
The 64-year-old professor has lived a life of adventure. He served in Vietnam as a Marine, worked professionally as a pilot, a diver and an engineer and has traveled extensively. But the decision to undertake this canoe trip came on the heels of tragedy, when he learned he had contracted leukemia due to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.
“After a few hours of being upset by this revelation, I resolved that this was just another piece of the adventure of life,” Fuller said. “The one major change that the disease has made in my life is that it has given me a bit of a sense of urgency to get on with some of the big challenges that I have had in mind, such as this journey.”
Fuller paddles about 10-15 miles each day he is on the river and about 25-30 miles when he is in a reservoir, such as Lake Lanier. At night he camps on the river banks when he finds a good campsite.
Although water-quality research is the main impetus for Fuller’s trip, he is unapologetically excited about the adventure that awaits.
“Life is a grand adventure, I strive to experience as much as I can,” Fuller said. “I am saddened when I see how few of our students get out and enjoy nature and explore our beautiful mountain environment.”
Fuller is carrying an iPad, a cell phone, and a battery charger along with a few hundred other pounds of equipment.
He regularly updates his blog, http://blog.northgeorgia.edu/rcfuller/, with pictures, details about the day (which are often humorous), and stories about people he has met along the river.
Fuller began his trip on Sept. 2, and will not return to Dahlonega for several months.