Melbourne’s Rod Lee, an avid outdoorsman and nature lover, shows some of his equipment to be used in his business, Eckotreks by Rod (Florida Eco Treks).
Written by Mark DeCotis For FLORIDA TODAY
Some guys just weren’t meant to sit on the couch.
Melbourne’s Rod Lee is one of them.
Following 25 years of owning Landscaping Operations and then the death of his beloved father, Gordon, in January, the 63-year-old Lee — an outdoors man, hiker, cyclist, sub four-hour marathon runner, and multiple patent-holding kayak entrepreneur — decided to do something he always wanted. He launched a business called Eckotreks by Rod (now Florida Eco Treks).
He’ll take out no more than six people at a time to paddle (in special kayaks and a 26-foot Replica Indian War Canoe), ride Mountain Bikes and Hike into the magnificent Wilds of East Central Fl.
He is introducing his venture to the masses, display his equipment and debut his website at a launch party from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Front Street Civic Center in downtown Melbourne.
After all, he is anxious to share the wonders of what lies in the wilds of Melbourne, Fla. and the nearby Upper St Johns River Basin, with as many people as possible. Just speaking about it injects a pronounced enthusiasm into his soft-spoken manner.
“I’ve been out there for 45 years, I just got so tired of hearing comments that that land out there is wasteland, that there’s nothing out there,” he said.
“I know better because there’s hidden things out there that just will leave you in awe. I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of pictures over the years.”
Among what Lee calls the wonders are three hidden forests in remote areas accessible only by water: a highland oak forest, what he calls a forest of huge bald cypress, and a mixed forest of maple, cypress and oak.
The easier ”treks” take place locally in and around Crane Creek Sanctuary and Preserve, which is full of surprising amounts of Wildlife and beautiful Flora. The real challenge though for the fit Adventurer sets out in the magnificent St Johns River Wilderness Basin. Two “Marathon” Tours are available there, taking up to 8 hours to complete. But participants in any Florida Eco Trek must be in good health and weight no more than 220 lbs. due to weight limits in the special kayaks.
Speaking of marathons, Lee has run four 26.2-milers along with two half-marathons but considers a task he didn’t complete — hiking the full 2000 mile Appalachian Trail — more arduous.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s nothing compared to the Appalacian Trail (AT),” Lee said. “The 2000 mile AT Thru Hike is much more brutal than any 26.2 mile marathon.”
He attempted to complete the trail hike in April with friend and fellow Melbourne resident Dwayne Cantor, beginning in Georgia, but covered only 150 miles due to a foot injury.
As for the Eckotreks, Lee’s company supplies all the equipment and drinking water but trekkers are asked to bring sunscreen and waterproof bags for any valuables. Also recommended for “Ecotrekking”: Running (athletic) shoes or very supportive Sandals (with a backstrap) or supportive Dive Booties.
All tours begin with enjoyable biking, then Kayaking (with Hiking intermingled) then fun team paddling in the War Canoe gets the group back to Camp. All the while, Lee says, they’ll be exposed to a stunning variety of what Florida has to offer. Wildlife sightings can be abundant.
“And you’ll always see magnificent flora when the Wildlife is hiding,” Lee said.
About the Operation
Tour prices start at $39 for our easy 2 1/2 hour Trek, then $49, then $59 (4 1/2 hr. Tour) and up to $129 and $159 for our all day Wilderness Marathons.
For more information, contact Rod Lee at 321-960-2457. Lee asks participants be in good health. Treks are limited to people lighter than 220 pounds due to weight limits on kayaks.