Home Grown Adventureby Sue Freeman
I consider myself to be the adventurous sort. I’ve thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and hiked across Spain and England. Among other adventures, I’ve hiked, biked, paddled, and skied extensively throughout New York State. But to meet a true adventurer, you need to meet Rick French.
Rick is the founder and owner of an outdoor adventure company based in Lima, called Pack, Paddle, Ski. He and his twin brother Randy started the company as youngsters, decades ago. Now, as sole owner, Rick carries on the adventurous tradition and has expanded it into new frontiers.
I first met Rick in the 1980’s when, working in a cubicle for Kodak, I was looking for some fun weekend diversions. I signed up for one-day outings such as a progressive dinner paddle on Hemlock Lake, ice walking up Conklin Gully, and Tuesday evening snowshoeing at area parks. At the time, I didn’t own a kayak, ice crampons or snowshoes. Rick provided all the gear I needed and took me to places I had never visited, even though I was a Rochester area native. And, he made it fun. It didn’t matter what the weather brought or what hiccups we encountered. Rick rolled with the punches, made adjustments and ensured that everyone had a good time. Along the way he improved our outdoors skills, informed us about our surroundings, and wove stories where fact and fiction merged. It was the perfect way to learn new skills, meet new people, and have fun.
Eventually I joined Rick’s band of merrymakers and became a volunteer assistant. I helped carry the lunch and assisted people with taking off snowshoes when their hands got cold. I served as the trail sweep, and as an extra pair of hands ready to make sure everyone was safe and comfortable.
Rick branched out into multi-day adventures around the globe. I followed him to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro where the sky was so dark you could see the spiral of far-off galaxies, and to Alaska to spend a week sea kayaking on Glacier Bay where I got to sit in a kayak below a calving glacier and ride the surge of water up and down. Then back to Africa where we hiked the countryside and visited five different remote tribes. On that trip, a new spark was lighted within Rick. On his previous trips to climb Kilimanjaro he had reached out to assist the porters by bringing them gear and even paying for schooling for some porters to improve their lot in life. But seeing the conditions in the various tribes took Rick in a whole new direction. He began “Journeys of Inspiration” and “Volunteer Adventures” – programs where he recruits others with money and/or labor to do good deeds around the world.
Rick is not only a real adventurer, he’s an inspiration. If you’re looking to add a bit of adventure to your life, or looking for an opportunity to reach out and help others, you’d do well to visit Rick’s web site at www.packpaddleski.com and jump in with both feet. You’ll find his love of the outdoors, respect for all people and enthusiasm toward adventure to be contagious.
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