Chris Allen has only lived in Sarasota since November, but in his eight months here, he has managed to become one of the top kayak tour guides in town. After working as a guide for three seasons on Cape Cod, when he got here, Chris immediately began researching Sarasota Bay’s ecology. He read several books on the subject and spoke to Mote Marine biologists and local birders to learn about his new environment.
Chris has a diverse clientele and he loves leading them through the mangroves and watching them interact with our local wildlife. He puts his all into every trip out and helps people to see things that they haven’t seen before or didn’t know were there. On any given day, tourists can come upon a pod of dolphins, have manatees swim underneath them, or pass by loggerhead turtles, blue crabs and even the occasional shark. They might even have a cormorant travel with them on the tip of their kayak.
If you have ever been out kayaking in the Bay, you know how demanding a day on the water can be. Chris works long hours in the scorching heat day after day, but he wouldn’t change a minute of it. Chris has long been an athlete, looking to combine his quest for physical fitness with a certain type of emotional gratification. Growing up along the shores of Cape Cod, he was always on the water. He made his connection to the land when he became an avid runner and a track and field star in high school and college. Being outdoors was always his life, but it wasn’t until he was 26 years old that Chris decided to challenge himself to an extent that most people would never even dream possible. Chris was going to walk across the United States, coast to coast, alone.
On May 1, 2011 in front of a gathering of family, friends and the local media, Chris began his cross-country journey on foot. With $2,000.00, a credit card and a 70 pound backpack filled with camping gear and freeze-dried meals, he was off. All of this stemmed from the simple thought of, “What can I do to be outside for the longest amount of time for the least amount of money?” Within three weeks of his answer to that question, Chris had sold his truck and paid off all of his bills. He realized that possessions are fleeting, but memories are priceless.
He began his journey on back roads, stopping only to eat and sleep, but Chris hadn’t anticipated just how physically demanding walking on pavement would be. He would have to stop for lengths of time due to a growing list of debilitating injuries. But these injuries would lead Chris to the most important part of his experience. Strangers would take him into their homes, feed him and shelter him. Of all of the wild stories, and there were many, people’s random acts of kindness towards him were by far the most fulfilling part of his expedition.
After walking for 2,500 miles in seven months, Chris stopped for the winter in Denver, Colorado as conditions were getting too dangerous to continue. While working at a ski resort, he met a girl and quickly fell in love. Amy was heading back to her hometown of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts as soon as winter was over. With absolutely no intention of stopping his journey to the West Coast for anything, things changed drastically for Chris. Not only had he met Amy, but he also realized that he had gotten everything that he had needed out of his trip. He had walked through hail and blizzards, traveled through temperatures ranging from 100 degrees to -10 degrees, had encounters with coyotes and mountain lions and pushed himself physically and emotionally to the limits. But his most important achievement was a truly deep appreciation for just plain humanity. The compassion that Chris experienced is something that he cannot even put into words. He saw a side of strangers that most people will never see. He thinks it’s the most important thing that he has ever learned.
Amy left Nantucket to move with Chris to Sarasota and Chris has now been with Sea Life Kayak Adventures for six months. He and the company are five-star rated on Trip Advisor.
Do yourself a favor and book a mangrove tour with Chris. If you’re lucky, maybe he’ll tell you more about his journey on foot. And you can be pretty sure that he’ll appreciate meeting you too.