Ethos, Pathos, Logos of Water, Sand, Life – Episode 15 – Coastal Dune Lakes

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s a good time to take a few minutes to be retrospective, scrutinize our successes and failures,  celebrate the victories and minimize the losses, and define our goals for the future.

This year has been a year of investing our time in building relationships, digging deep into the Walton County coastal dune lakes story, connecting with natures best – the outdoors and using our talents to educate people about south Walton County.

While being engaged in the research and production of the Coastal Dunes Lakes project, this inspired Nic Stoltzfus to write a poem.  The LOPG production team put together a short video with the “Ethos, Pathos, Logos of Water, Sand, Life ” poem.  It is narrated by Claire Bannerman, cinematography by Elam Stoltzfus and edited together by Joey Dickinson.   I hope you will enjoy.


We wish you and your family and friends the best for 2015.

Happy holidays.

From the Live Oak Production Group – Elam Stoltzfus, Nic Stoltzfus and Joey Dickinson.  


Australia’s Great Lakes Part II: Smiths Lake

By Nic Stoltzfus

Friday, August 22nd

Les Cheers contemplating a rainbow overlooking Smiths Lake.

Les Cheers contemplating a rainbow overlooking Smiths Lake.

The next day we woke up around six in the morning and headed down to Nelson Bay, roughly a 45-minute drive south from the farmhouse. Here we planned to take a helicopter and fly over the lakes to get some aerial shots. Dad told the pilot he wanted to film the Myall Lakes system and Smiths Lake.

The Myall Lakes system is a collection of three interconnected lakes that eventually flow into Port Stephens. Myall Lake is the northernmost and freshest of the three lakes; they get more and more estuarine/salty as the water heads further south into the Port. Boolambayte Lake is saltier than Myall Lake and Boombah Broadwater is the saltiest of the three.

Think of the Myall Lakes system as a snake that has swallowed two big eggs and a horseshoe. Beginning with the snake’s tail, Myall Lake is the first egg that narrowly connects to the swallowed horseshoe, Boolambayte Lake, which connects to the last egg, Boombah Broadwater. After this, the Myall River snakes around a bit before the river mouth opens into a delta at Port Stephens.

Smiths Lake is a smallish egg-shaped lake nestled between the Myall Lakes system to the south and Wallis Lake to the north.

It was an overcast and misty morning as we drove down, and I was unsure whether we would be able to do a fly-over. By the time we arrived at the helipad the fog had cleared and what began as a foggy Friday had become a crisp winter day. Our pilot, John Herrick, checked with the Australian Royal Air Force to see if we were cleared for a fly-over, but they told John they were doing military training over the lakes and we wouldn’t be able to go up today.

We rescheduled for tomorrow and headed back north to Smiths Lake to meet up with the Cheers family. We arrived a little after one in the afternoon and were greeted by Kath, the matriarch and family historian. She introduced us to her husband, Les (pronounced Lars, like Owen Lars from Star Wars), her son Mike, and his wife and daughter. Les is a fourth generation fisherman in this area and Mike is following in his footsteps.

Kath invited us into her home and showed us around. On her walls hung pictures by a photographer who came in and shot Mike and Les working, one Urs Buhlman. We then joined her at the dining room table and she offered us tea and vickies (cookies).

Les grabbed a beer from the fridge, popped it open, and began telling us stories.

He told us a story about Wallis Lake, famous for Sydney Rock oysters. In the late ‘90s there was a Hepatitis A outbreak from pollution in the lake, which caused a tainted-oyster related death and resulted in national news coverage. Because of this, there is now more regulation of the lakes.

He told us how he once got $10,000 (Australian) for a yellowfin tuna. When the purchasers came to pick up the tuna they treated it like a fragile handcrafted vase. The fish was gently wrapped, iced down, and shipped to Tokyo to be sliced and served at the finest sushi restaurants in Japan.

He talked about what they are doing to improve their business: Most commercially sold fish in Australia now have a QR code on them that, when scanned, shows where the fish was caught and who caught it. So, for Les’ yellowfin tuna it would show that it was caught in the Great Lakes Region of New South Wales and beside that would be a picture of Les describing him as a fourth generation fishermen.

Les told us that Smiths Lake is manually opened and that the reason people dig out the sandbar between the lake and the Tasman Sea is to keep fish populations in the lake healthy.

“Nearly everything that goes to sea has got to spawn. If the lake doesn’t open the spawn is wasted. Got a couple of species that actually spawns on the lake here. And the area is always full of fish. Grandfather caught a ton of fish and we’re still catching a ton of fish…”

He shared with us stories about how they have been opening this lake for decades and how, when he was a boy, he remembered going to the sandbar with his grandfather on a Sunday afternoon, meeting up with a group of other fishermen, and, with their church clothes on, shoveling out a ditch from the lake to the sea—a distance of about 20-30 yards. Les told us that the water slowly trickled through the small canal at first, but by Monday morning it had become a wide stream about a hundred meters across, flowing to the ocean.

After he finished his drink we drove down to the boat landing and headed out on the Cheers’ fishing boat, puttering towards the sandbar. Dad set up to film a timelapse and a winter storm formed east of us, pouring rain over the Tasman Sea as it rolled our way. A rainbow appeared overhead and we snapped some shots as we turned back to the boat landing to avoid the approaching downpour.

Mike and Les Cheers' fishing boat; they are putting in at Smiths Lake.

Mike and Les Cheers’ fishing boat; they are putting in at Smiths Lake.

I looked around the lakes and began to make mental comparisons of the lakes here and the ones we have in Florida.

The lakes in Australia are much larger. Smiths Lake, the one we were currently motoring through, has a surface area of roughly 4 square miles—compare this to Lake Powell, the largest coastal dune lake in Florida, which has a surface area of less than half a square mile. All the other coastal dune lakes in Florida are considerably smaller. Wallis Lake, just to the north of Smiths Lake is the heavyweight—when full it is around 40 square miles. In the the Myall Lakes system, Myall Lake rings in at around 22 square miles, Boolambayte Lake is close in size to Smiths Lake at around 4 square miles, and Boombah Broadwater stretches to around 9 square miles.

And the colors are different. Here, there are more earth tones, muted. The sand wasn’t as electric bright as ours is in Florida, but blends in with the rocky shoreline.

With the large scale and earthy colors, the lakes feel ancient and weatherworn—like the wizened tree-spirits from the Lord of the Rings, the ents. Rocky coastline, rolling mountains and deep-green forests call into the word often associated with landscapes of such grandeur: majestic.

An aerial view of Smiths Lake.

An aerial view of Smiths Lake.

Les Cheers looking out at Smiths Lake while standing at the sandbar.

Les Cheers looking out at Smiths Lake while standing at the sandbar.

Our lakes in Florida are small and brightly colored, fresh and puckered up like cherubs wrapped in a pastel paisley blanket, sparkling with youth.

The rumble of the motor clicked off and I snapped out of my daydream; we loaded our gear back into our SUV, said goodbye to the Cheers, and traveled back to Boolambayte.

One Year Later: The Apalachicola Riverview Project

December 13th, 2014


By Nic Stoltzfus


The Apalachicola Riverview Expedition crew. Bottom L to R: Joey Dickinson, Justin Riney, Paul Veselack, John Ruskey, Elam Stoltzfus, Danny Veshinski, Nic Stoltzfus. Top L to R: River Peoples, Kristian Gustavson.

The Apalachicola Riverview Expedition crew. Bottom L to R: Joey Dickinson, Justin Riney, Paul Veselack, John Ruskey, Elam Stoltzfus, Danny Veshinski, Nic Stoltzfus. Top L to R: River Peoples, Kristian Gustavson.


Last year this time we finished our journey traveling down the Apalachicola River. Nine guys—and I really only knew two of them. However, over this past year our lives continued to intersect, and I’m sure we will continue our relationships as the years progress.


When we finished the trip, I think we all had a sense that this wasn’t the end, but only the beginning of beautiful friendships, to paraphrase Rick Blaine in Casablanca.


While on the trip, Joey Dickinson worked out a plan with River and John to travel to Clarksdale, Mississippi to document the Quapaw Canoe Company and the work they are doing in their community through the Mighty Quapaws program. During Joey’s spring break at FSU, I traveled with him to Mississippi and worked on the documentary as his production assistant. It was an amazing experience and I wrote a five part blog series about it. Joey finished the 17 minute documentary  around 2 months later and recently submitted the documentary to the Clarksdale Film Festival. If accepted, Elam, Joey, Justin Riney, and I will travel to Clarksdale in January 2015 to represent the film.


Speaking of John Ruskey, he gave me a book that deeply altered how I go about my life. It is called The Artist’s Way and one of the prognoses of the book is to write every day. John also gave me the same advice and said this practice provides him clarity and peace of mind. I started writing soon after I got the book. And…did I stick with it? Well, of the 346 days of the year so far, I wrote more than two pages for 307 of them. I’d say that’s not a bad start!


We have also maintained contact with Kristian. He told us that he frequently uses our video of the expedition to explain the Riverview Project to audiences. He is planning a second trip with Below the Surface to paddle the Apalachicola next year sometime—so hopefully he will bring his stepdad, Paul, along again as the medic.


One of Kristian’s co-workers, Ralph Pace, came to north Florida to photograph sturgeons in the Apalachicola. Dad and I met up with him at the Apalachee restaurant in Bristol, and he wants to come back with Kristian when he paddles the Apalachicola again.


Photo by Ralph Pace. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tagging and releasing Gulf sturgeon in the Apalachicola River.

Photo by Ralph Pace. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tagging and releasing Gulf sturgeon in the Apalachicola River.


Probably the person we have had the most contact with since the trip is fellow Floridian Justin Riney. Recently, Dad and him drove from Florida to Los Angeles for the American Film Expo. While there, they stayed with my sister and her husband, Ira Brown. After the expo, they traveled south to San Diego and explored the Scripps Institute of Oceanography where Danny and Kristian both work.


Our journey continues and, yes, this is only the beginning.

Team Apalachicola by Guest Writer Mark River

12/12/14: This blog was written by Mark River from the Quapaw Canoe Company about our trip down the Apalachicola River last year. I have been given permission to repost the article in full by John Ruskey, founder of the Quapaw Canoe Company. Tomorrow I will post a reflection on where everyone is at a year after our trek down the river. –Nic

Team Apalachicola—-

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

As season comes to a end , the Mighty Quapaws had one more expedition. Our friends from sunny California were embarking on a plan on how to document river’s from a camera mounted on one of our voyager canoes. It was a brilliant idea.

This project called ” Riverview” was a concept developed by Kris Gustafson , a oceanography teacher, at Scripp’s Oceanography School of San Diego. The concept was to attach a 360 degree camera onto the Grasshopper canoe and document the Apalachicola River in Florida. When I heard the plan, I instantly found a quiet place to pray. Knowing I might have to stay at base camp, I needed to express my humility to the Creator to corral my selfishness and do whatever to team needs to make this expedition successful.

The team arrives from San Diego after a late night of driving. I wake early to do my normal routine of pull-ups and inclined lunges and notice they have made it safely as a solid piece of metal rested in our lot. I know it hadn’t been there long as our adopted cat” shady cat” is resting underneath the vehicle enjoying the heat from the vehicle. I examine the beast of a vehicle and noticed it was powered by biofuel. I think to myself, “my type of people.”

The sun eventually rises and heats up the delta. I wait patiently to meet the crew as Wolfie and I start planning for the Clarksdale Christmas Parade, which is one of my favorite times of year. Wolfie, a talented writer, is scheduled to be first mate on the expedition, but has deadlines to meet before departure.

He looks at me and says, ” River, you gonna have to take my place on the trip. I have to make these deadlines.”

My heart skips a beat as I look to the heavens and say, ” thanks.”

The crew is set. My bags were already packed because of my unshakeable faith in the Creator and humanity, while Kris, Dan, and Paulie rise from their needed naps from the long trip. Kris, who is known for his work with Below the Surface is a well known water keeper and old friend of Driftwood Johnny. Dan, a navy man and avid diver, and Paulie, our medic for the trip. The “dark chocolate”, Kris’s truck, is loaded with equipment and gear. We unload the truck while Braxton and Dan, former sailors, start coming up with a plan on how to mount the 360 degree camera onto the Grasshopper.

Kris yells,” I heard you going on the trip.”

I yell,” Thanks for having me. It’s and honor.”

He looks at me and says,” River, you’ve earned it.”

The Mighty Quapaw’s are busy preparing for the parade, arranging holiday lights, working with our Griot after school program, and shaving cypress logs for our new awning being designed for our storefront. It gets even more exciting when the crew decides it would be great to do a test run of the camera in the parade.

The plan is to participate in the parade and leave the following evening for the Apalachicola River. The crew is already starting to bond as we trade gifts and gear to assure everyone’s protected and seasoned for the trip. The spirit is in the air. My stomach is already started to feel like the night before Christmas.

Braxton Barden, one of our latest Mighty Quapaw’s, is in full blown work mode, configuring the apparatus upon the canoe and programming the GPS system. Him and Dan come up with a great model. Now it’s ready for the trial run.

Parade day is here as the Mighty Quapaw’s finish up our floats. We will have our york boat the Annie, Butch, Quapaw’s first vehicle, along with Grasshopper, loaded with Griot Art students along with the “Dancing Diva’s” starring one of our own, Emma Lou Ruskey. The Rat King, “Watermelon Slim” and the “Nurkracker” will be dueling in hull of the Annie.

The parade goes on without a hitch, as the town of Clarksdale line the streets

enjoying a special time of year. The crowd woes at our contraption, while the fireman and policemen wonder what we’re doing. The camera mount look’s strong and sturdy, and the team looks solid. We end the parade with hugs and laughter while the firework show lightens up the Sunflower River. I look around and take it all in. I think about the expedition and how this trip could change the way our world look’s at rivers. I think about incorporating this expedition with the and documenting the entire Mississippi River.I think about all the uncertainties leading up to this point and celebrate our accomplishments. The team has already come together. Now we must take this energy to Florida and make it count!

We cross the bridge , Driftwood says, “River, that’s the Chaatihouchie.On the other side is the Apalachicola.”

We honk the horn with enthusiasm greeting our friends as they wait at the ramp. Introductions with hugs , not handshakes, lets me know that this trip would be special. The Florida Crew consist of Elam Stoltzfus, a producer,director,cinematographer, and editor of Live Oak Production Group,Inc.His partner and son, Nick. Joey, the intern and fellow Florida State best bud, and Jason Riney, a explorer who most recently circumnavigated Pensicola, Fla. Our diverse crew consisted of one Voyager canoe, three kayaks, and one paddle board. Locals gather, talking through their trucks, about us as we mount a 360 degree camera in the Grasshopper canoe. Driftwood and I continue to pack the canoe as if a regular day on the Mississippi River. The crowd grows bigger as the questions start to fly.

Who built that boat?

How much weight can it hold?

Where you guys from?

What are you’ ll doing?

We continue on answering all question with grace.

I take a second to reflect, ” I’m in Florida.”

_JAR1314Photo by John Ruskey

I smile and take it all in. I look around and see palmettos and cypress trees. Spanish moss hanging from the trees.

A sign that says, “No swimming, alligators frequent these waters.” As Driftwood dives of the dock.

We set off up the middle of the channel. Buoys and anchors from the pass when barges frequented the river. Fishermen fish out their boats targeting structure created by man. A lonely alligator suns on the bank. Great blue herons and egrets fish from the low lining tree limbs aware of the danger under the surface. A bald eagle feeds on the gravel bar.The water’s a jasmine green as clear as a mountain stream. The trees are turning beautiful colors. It feels like a fall day on the Mississippi River.

_JAR0480Photo by John Ruskey

We paddle 15 miles and find a sandbar to camp. The stars fill the sky as if they followed me from home. Great horned owls sing their song throughout the night as I ponder,” this is the same sky I see at home-just from a different angle.” I wait for the coyotes, but they never sing.

I rise with sun to be welcomed by a bald eagle flying across the river channel and lands in a large sycamore tree.

_JAR1280Photo by John Ruskey


Driftwood and I greet each other thanking the creator for looking after us. It’s a welcoming sighting and assures us that we are one with nature.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

We pack the boat with great anticipation as another immature bald eagle hovers over the canopy of hardwoods landing on the highest limb. The presence moves us to get the drum out and celebrate another glorious day, while we bless the canoe and each other. The sage feels my lungs and leaves me to believe this would be a special day.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

The river meanders slightly as houseboats start to appear around every bend. Large pillars of oak reach out into the channel like the wing-dikes on the Mississippi River. The structure is the old way of dredging and straitening this waterway.

Beautiful bluffs of limestone remind me of the family property in southeast Missouri. Unique colors of orange,pink, and sulfur stacked in sedimentary layers.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

Sitting around the campfire that evening while listening to Driftwood and Joey strum the guitar while the fire winds us down slowly. Joey had the voice of a young Bob Dylan. That night staring at constellations as they move throughout the sky, I coined Nick-The Big Lewboski because of his affectious laugh and big personality. News that Nelson Mandela died yesterday sent the eagles to show us the way and to let us know everything will be alright, but never the same.

When I laid my head to rest last night, I had finally got the feeling I get on natural rivers as I hear the sounds of skipjack herring chasing shad while being chased by aggressive territorial fish like large and smallmouth bass. I was deeply worried about the reservoir like setting at the start of the Apalachicola River. There were no signs of fish feeding , just many boats zipping through river being impatient and fishing only man-made structures. That let me know that big catfish existed in this river. Catfish seem to turn up when dams are built. Most of them get planted in these settings from waterfowl and other water birds transporting catfish eggs on their feet from the previous bodies of water.

I take a walk along the beach gazing across the river as I hear and see a great horned owl perch way up the tree on the bluff opposite of our campsite. He sings his song as if he has all the time in the world. The clouds are teasing us with small gust of precipitation so everyone pulling out their rain gear preparing for a rainy day.

The camera is put away for the time being as we launch the grasshopper and head downstream. We stop at the Bluntstown boat ramp to meet Elam’s wife, Ester, and resupply while we greet the people who heard about the expedition waiting to see our canoe and camera. One women with a very sketchy john boat says,” that ain’t no boat , thats just sticks in the water” we all give each other the look and smile. It was the highlight of a rainy day.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

I start to feel at home as willow trees welcome us around the bend. The sandbars are getting steeper and horizontal, like the islands of the Mississippi River. The river is back to it’s natural self and so am I .

A bald eagle statues in the tree across the sanbar letting me know this is where we would camp for the night. We are now 63 miles from our destiny. The relationships have bonded and we have become a tribe of nomads clinging to each other for the sake of humanity. Their are no bad attitudes and we laugh like we known each other for years. This expedition was meant to happen.

We wake with a haze in the air. In the nigth I could hear huge gars feeding in the shallows. As we get further from the dam, the willows started to show up on the sandbars, letting me know it’s getting back to it’s natural state. Old cypress trunks stratal the banks , while the sandbars grow vertically and back channels appear. The trees in Florida in the winter look like fall in the delta. Their colors are spectacular.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

The one thing I have notice is the lack of beavers. Driftwood and I hold the alligators responsible for that. The team’s getting stronger and more efficient daily. We are spending more time together around the fire listening to Nick and Joey entertain us with endless portfolios of material. As we get further south the mosquitoes get thicker , but I’m use to it. We had a beautiful day and the crew is incredible.

We spent the night on a sandbar that reminded me of the bank channel of island 64. The willows buried high on their trunks, while the leaves fall with every wind gust. If you never heard a willow leaves land on the fly of your tent, it’s like thin potato chips falling from the air.

We paddle to our resupply point where we are greeted by Ester with donuts and chocolate milk from the Ocheesee Creamery, a traditional Mininite farm, which happened to be owned by her sister. The town is called Wewahichta , Fl. It’s a beautiful community of houseboats and lake houses located on the main channel of the Apalachicola River. An oxbow chute that leads to the Dead Lakes, which has a old cypress forest like I’ve never seen before. Old trunks that could be anywhere from one hundred to five hundred years old. It was worth the beauty, but upstream paddle to get out was difficult. As always we faced and embraced the paddle and we was rewarded by a north wind pushing us down river as we ate lunch in the canoe.

We paddle to a protected bay with cypress and tupelo trees intertwined in great numbers. When we pulled in my natural instincts set in and I feel a mysterious aura as we paddle slowly through. I could hear no sounds or animals. It was surreal and had sign that read,Camp Swampbooger. I think to myself,”something happened here.” Later that evening around the fire, I hear that a large amounts slaves had been hung there. I felt it.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

We past by various houseboats at every bend. This river had the highest concentration of houseboats I’ve ever seen. We past one that had a separate dog kennel floating with hunting dogs. We also pasted many abandon boats landlocked and in need of repairs.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

We make to camp and a hour later one of the damaged houseboats came floating around the bend. We all got footage.

We start our day in the rain, but it was more like a warm shower as we rush to pack the boat. We do a wet pack and get on our way to make sure we allow time for any inconveniences along the way. The day is felled with scattered showers and sunshine alternating around every bend. We are curious about what happened to the runaway houseboat we witnessed floating down the river the day before. We paddle around every bend taking guesses on where it may land. Houseboats appear around every bend and we wonder how these boats avoided disaster. Eventually we come around a tight bend where the houseboat had collided with a submerge tree. We sign of relief glad no ones home had been destroyed or hurt, but the owner lost something special.

Our last camp was Fort Gadsen. This fort was very active during the War of 1812 and later became a haven for runaway slaves and relocated indians. They thrived being less resistant to malaria and became a force to be recon with when slaves from all over converged to join forces with the indians. When we made the landing, again I could feel the mystic spirits of the fort and embraced it without fear. In our tents that night, I could see all types of shadows and silhouettes, but never felt fear. I could hear dogs occasionally sounding as if approaching only to fade away. I think to my self, ” the slaves and indians are running from the dogs.”

We rise with big smiles and sun. We all had encounters with spirits and someone watch something hovering around our campfire late into the night. We are all looking forward to seeing the Gulf of Mexico today as well as the beautiful oyster town of Apalachicola.

The landscape starts to flatten as brackus swamps and marshes look as if sunken into the land. Schools of mullet work the shallow banks pushing shad upon the shores. The peripheral landscape widens as we get closer to the bay.

Photo by John RuskeyPhoto by John Ruskey

The beautiful town of Apalachicola, caught between new development and old establishment is a site to see. Large brown pelicans soar the bay feasting on the bays bountiful givings. Big yachts, shrimp boats, and oyster boats line the cities downtown area. People from these million dollar yachts smile and take pictures. One woman comes out of her spectacular yacht and says, ” nice canoe, can I take a picture?” That made my day. Grasshopper fitting in well with yachts!

We finish the day and head back to Blountstown to celebrate our journey. Ester treats us all like we were her own as we eat around the dinner table telling stories and processing data from the trip. We finish two days earlier giving us ample time to get our wits and prepare for the journey home as Christmas creeps upon us.

The following day, I get the tour of Blountstown from Laura, the daughter of Elam and Ester, and Communications teacher at Florida State. Laura, a striking woman with porcelain skin and truthful, piercing eyes, explained the social economic checks and balances of the town and its deep history of Mininite farms and football. We all went out for cheeseburgers and had a glorious time. We went down to the Blountstown ramp and the water had risen 10 ft. Thank goodness we finish when we did or our camp spots would have been submerged.

The Apalachicola River is a beautiful, mystic river with tons history . Its crystal clear water and bountiful wildlife support thousands of houseboats and still had beautiful water and trees. The expedition was one the best I’ve been apart of and the relationships that were formed are forever. Our chemistry was so natural, it felt like we all knew each other for a very long time. The next time I go back, I’m checking into a houseboat! Mark River

How to Make a Thanksgiving Southern Bourbon Turkey: Part I


By Esther Stoltzfus


Coffee--a must-have

Coffee–a must-have


First, put on some good music and turn it up loud. Then pour a cup of coffee in one of your favorite mugs. (This is one I bought my Mama as a memento of being the baby with 4 big sisters and 3 brothers). Then light a nice candle. Now! You’re ready to work.


Turkey in the Tub

Turkey in the Tub


Get a tall container that will fit in the frig. Take the thawed turkey out of its wrappings. (A 10-12 lb. turkey is just right). Make sure you take out the gizzard and liver package. Shove the turkey in the container.


Maple Syrup and Bourbon. Make sure to invite Canadian Mounties and Jimmy Buffett over--maybe it's 5 o'clock in Toronto?

Maple Syrup and Bourbon. Make sure to invite Canadian Mounties and Jimmy Buffett over–maybe it’s 5 o’clock in Toronto?


Add bourbon and maple syrup to the turkey. I put in 2 cups of each. No, no.. I didn’t say drink the bourbon. Yes, I know it’s 5:00 somewhere but don’t drink the bourbon.


Limes and lemons ring the bells of St. Clement's...or is it oranges and lemons? Oh bother, shouldn't have touched the bourbon...

Limes and lemons ring the bells of St. Clement’s…or is it oranges and lemons? Oh bother, shouldn’t have touched the bourbon…


Throw in lemon, lime, and and orange if you like. Slice them them thin. 


More spices for the turkey

More spices for the turkey


Snip up some fresh sage and thyme, or if you don’t have fresh add 1 teaspoon of each. Add 1-2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. mixed peppercorns (crushed).


A Bath of Bourbon--This is Why It's Not the Teetotaling Turkey

A Bath of Bourbon–This is Why It’s Not the Teetotaling Turkey


Add water to the top of the turkey. Put it in the frig for 48 hours if you can. To be continued……. 

Coastal Dune Lakes Documentary Update Winter 2013/2014

By Nic Stoltzfus


This is a general update for the coastal dune lakes documentary project.

First, we have selected a final title for the coastal dune lakes film. It is (drumroll please!) Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast. This title was selected because from our interviews we heard people refer to the dune lakes as jewels or gems for the region. Since this part of the Florida coastline is referred to as the Emerald Coast (the former being a precious stone), the subtitle has a nice ring to it.

CDL Logo

Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast

Dad and I returned from the Great Lakes region of Australia in August and most of our time has been spent completing the film for final review. Joey Dickinson, our editor, has been editing the film since late June. Along with the main production team, these are a few more people who are working towards completing the film:

Manley Fuller with the Florida Wildlife Federation; Celeste Cobena, soap pedaler and local activist; and Susan Paladini of the Coffeen Nature Preserve have all provided us with historical information that we will use for the film.

Rick Hord, a local from Okaloosa County, was selected as the narrator for the film after doing an extensive search and even asking our Facebook audience for suggestions.

Eric Schrotenboer, a local Panama City resident, is crafting an original film score for the hour-long documentary. He also scored the intro to all the coastal dune lakes shorts.

Justin Dyke, a graphic designer based out of Tallahassee, has crafted maps and graphs for the film.

Pete Winter, of Winterstone Productions in Tallahassee, will be doing the final sound mix. He did the final sound mix for works such as Ulee’s Gold and has worked on the sound design  for all of the feature length documentary films at Live Oak Production Group.

As you can see, we place a high emphasis on working with local talent. Why is that? In short, it is because we want to bring our community with us in whatever we do and that includes supporting the arts in our region.

Speaking of art in Northwest Florida, several photos from the coastal dune lakes project have been on display:

Three of my photos were placed in the Blountstown Public Library Reading Room for two months in September and October. These same three pictures were displayed at the Chipola College Sunday Afternoon with the Arts. The photos are currently back at the studio, and I am looking to find new public venues for display.

If you are in the Tallahassee area, one of my pictures will be hanging in the Tallahassee Regional Airport’s ArtPort Gallery until January 19th.


"Dancing Outfall" The image is now on display at the Tallahassee Artport until January 19th

“Dancing Outfall” The image is now on display at the Tallahassee Artport until January 19th


We will continue to release video shorts until the film premieres next year. Here are the dates and subjects for the shorts:

Dec. 4th: What is a Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse?

Dec. 18th: Water, Sand, Life as narrated by Claire Bannerman

Jan. 1st: Sea Turtles on the Dune Lakes?

Jan. 13th: The Great Lakes of Australia

Jan. 27th: Who is Elam Stoltzfus?

Feb. 12th: Who is Joey Dickinson?

Feb 26: Who is Eric Schrotenboer?

March 12: Who is Nic Stoltzfus?

March 26: Release of the Documentary Trailer

We are working closely with WUSF Public Media broadcast station out of Tampa to put in place all the final details it takes for the hour-long documentary for placement on Public Television as a national release. The plan is to make the documentary available for broadcast to all the stations the week of Earth Day.

We have three dates locked in public showings of the film. *All three of these showings will be before the film is released on public television.*

Here they are (save the dates!):

March 28th, 2015: At the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center there will be a special sneak peek of the film along with talks by scientists about the lakes in a first-ever Coastal Dune Lakes Symposium.

April 2nd, 2015: World premiere of Coastal Dune Lakes: Jewels of Florida’s Emerald Coast. Come check it out at the green by WaterColor Boathouse! (Time TBA)

April 22nd, 2015: On Earth Day, the film will be shown at Gulf Place along with other activities. The event is from 6-8 PM on the Gulf Place green.


Also, we will be releasing a six-part blog series I wrote on our trip to Australia’s Great Lakes (the coastal dune lakes found in New South Wales) and that will be released over the holidays. Here is the timetable for that:

Dececember 9th: Part I: Getting There

Dec. 16th: Part II: Smiths Lake

Dec. 23rd: Part III: Myall River and the Broadwater

Dec. 30th: Part IV: An Aerial View and Interviewing Dr. Stock

January 6th: Part V: Myall Lake National Park and Smiths Lake Sandbar

Jan. 13th: Part VI: Mungo Brush and the Aftermath (with Australia video short attached)


We are working on a companion coffee-table book that will be released spring of 2015. I am heading up that project, and I am in the last stages of finishing the book. Cynthia Barnett, author of the upcoming Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, has agreed to write the foreword for us. Dad met her as a fellow artist-in-residence at Seaside’s Escape to Create program. I am working closely with Greg and Keri Atchley of Design 360, based in Santa Rosa Beach, for the layout and design of the book. This will be the first book by Live Oak Production Group, and it is exciting to be a part of that process!

Finally, I am working on a list of frequently asked questions about coastal dune lakes that I plan on completing before the film is released; I will share it on this site for public use. Any ideas or questions are welcome. Please e-mail them to with the tagline “Coastal Dune Lakes FAQ”.

Thanks much and stay tuned!

Mourning and Recovering from Loss

November 20th, 2014


When I first wrote this, I was hesitant to share it because it is so deeply personal. However, this past year has proven to be full of sad moments. In July my high school history teacher passed away. Last month, I lost my 22 year old cousin to ARDS. Today, there was a shooting at my university, Florida State, and it has me almost unable to work as I envision the terror of being shot at in Strozier Library—a place that was a sanctuary for me from my noisy college room.


I’m not posting this to try to gain from the death of others, that is the furthest from the truth. What follows is a story of how I tried to deal with the pain and grief of losing someone I care about.


Independence Day at Chattahoochee


I wanted to celebrate July 4th by myself at home. But, I was torn because my parents wanted me to go up the river with them to Chattahoochee and watch the fireworks there over the Apalachicola River. My friend was supposed to call me to hang out, but the phone never rang.


My high school history teacher, Theresa Curl, passed away the Tuesday before July 4th (on a Friday this year). I had several high school friends come into town for the occasion and I went to the funeral, and it was difficult. I felt like I had stepped back in time, to the past, and I was a misfit. The rest of my week was dark, macabre, and full of memento mori. Even roses reminded me of death and the fragility of life.


Mom and Dad wanted me to go down the river so they could get out of the house and cheer me up a bit. I gave them noncommittal answers all day: “I dunno.” “Maybe.” “We’ll see.”


I sat up in my room at 5:50 p.m., 10 minutes before Dad and Mom wanted to leave to go down the river with tears streaming down my cheeks.


I cried at the cruelty of a world that would let Mrs. Curl die so suddenly from some random genetic disease she inherited from her father that caused her kidneys to fail.


I cried because her death was so sudden—her cancer was in remission and she was healing. It’s not fair!


I cried because her mother put her hand on my shoulder at the funeral, shook her head, and said, “Nic, she wasn’t supposed to go. She wasn’t supposed to go. She was getting better.”


I cried because her daughter had to watch her mother die—alone.


I cried at the difficulty of it all—it is true, what the old man said in Cinema Paradiso. The old man is talking to the young man before he leaves the small town for military training.


The old man says, “Living here day by day, you think it’s the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave: a year, two years. When you come back, everything’s changed. The thread’s broken. What you came to find isn’t there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time… many years… before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It’s not possible. Right now you’re blinder than I am.”


The young boy queries, “Who said that? Gary Cooper? James Stewart? Henry Fonda? Eh?”


The old man replies, “No, Toto. Nobody said it. This time it’s all me. Life isn’t like in the movies. Life… is much harder.”


I sat there, thinking, crying, shoulders shaking, and frozen in thought and time.


Mom and Dad kept yelling from downstairs, “NIICC! We’re leaving! It’s time to go! Come on!” Mom came up and she huffed off, frustrated with my indecisiveness, and then Dad came up and he said, “Why don’t you come with us and we can talk about it later.”


I was torn. I wanted to go—but I didn’t want to go. Why? I didn’t want to go anywhere, I wanted to stay at home and feel sorry for myself, I didn’t want to see people, I didn’t want to be drawn away from the house; it was comfortable here. At the end I decided to go. Why? Because I figured riding down the river would be good for me.


We three got on the boat and starting motoring up towards the dam. As we rode upriver the gentle humming, white noise of the Tohatsu motor blanketed over everything else, the noise canceling all other noises both physical and mental. We sped towards our destination and the river banks and my problems swung by, flashed by. And I was an advancing Zen Buddhist, the pope in a rocketing pope-mobile, a monk in a roving solitary cell—the adventurer as moving meditator.


We stopped at the campground where we stopped the first night of the Apalachicola River expedition. It was warm—but not as hot as it had been the previous week. Warm in a nice May warm sort of sense—not the heat-seeking, earth-searing, air-scorching July sense of warm that we have in Florida. The crickets and cicada were buzzing—it reminded me of summertime in Japan. I stood there and listened. Mom was listening. Dad was listening. We each were doing our own individual thing, just walking, in our own world. I stood there and looked at the shells and rocks on the beach. And Mom looked at the boat, looked at me. Wondering what I was thinking, maybe. Dad waded out into the muddy water and let the current flow over him, his mind. All the while crickets and cicadas hummed, hummed, hummed. Sun over our heads—hum, hum, hum. Vibrations in my mind and the wheels turning in my head, thinking. Hum, hum, hum. All the world working expertly, in good timing. Hum-de-dum-dum.


We loaded back up on the boat and drove up to Chattahoochee Landing. We anchored in the middle of the Apalachicola River on a slippery shoal, held fast by a rusty, spray-painted blue anchor. Once we stopped moving, I cut open the watermelon—cut it in half and put the other half back in the white cooler, with ice and diet cokes and a ginger ale for ailing dad (still somewhat sick from his cold). I cut slices for mom, me, and him. I stood in the water next to the boat and ate the watermelon; sprinkled salt on it and ate, ate, ate. I ate about half of the half. One of my favorite things about summer is eating watermelon. I remember going to the Chipola River the summer of my 10th grade year on my way to hang out with some friends and buying a fresh watermelon from the guys at the watermelon stand in Altha and eating the melon on the river as it floated down with us—cold as the water we floated in. Cold as the water we floated in.


Me munching on a melon

Me munching on a melon


I looked around as I munched on the melon. Canadian geese on the shore to our right. A grey heron’s beakéd head swiveled from time to time, observing the scene around him. Cicadas crickets chirruped around us; a resonating chorus. The faint tinkling and twanging of country music sounded from the shore, where people were sitting on blankets waiting for the fireworks.


I watched the water lap against the edge of our boat, and then turned upward. The evening sky turned all sorts of colors—pink clouds set against a continually darkening sky, daylight fading from view, from our minds. The day died as the night was born. Boats were surrounding us, and I was reminded of George Strait’s song, Stars on the Water.


When it’s midnight down in Mobile

Shining moon beams on the bay

They come from miles around

To dance the jukebox down

To hear the good time sounds they play

And all across the harbor night life shinin’ on

Makes you feel just like stars on the water


As the evening got darker I hopped back on the boat and asked Mom to pour me some wine in my red solo cup; It was Wal-Mart red wine with a masculine logo with a name like “UP DRAFT” or “IRON BREW” or something of its ilk.


A mist lifted up from the depths of the water, and the river cloaked herself in a milky cloth of dew. I screwed my eyes shut in an attempt to more deeply remember the beauty and the feelings and emotions going on around me. I would remember overcoming my sadness by going out on the river, bravery. My parents and the river healed me for that day, for that moment.


Nostalgia. Nostalgia for a moment that hadn’t occurred, nostalgia for the moment that was occurring all around me, but already I knew that it was a memory that I desired to keep forever. There was a simpleness, a loveliness, a sort of slice of heaven in the reality around me: it was my parents and my self, like it was for the first two years of my life before my baby sister was born. I opened my eyes back up again, having forged a deep memory of the event that I would take with me to the grave.


About 100 feet in front of us on the opposite shore, people on a boat lit up bright reddish/orange emergency sticks and were waving them around frenetically. I heard that deep bass *poof* and watched a bright stream of light shoot skyward from the boat. I heard a loud bang and watched as the beam of light exploded into a large circle of color and light, equally bright as the smaller nucleus that had propelled into the sky. Dad, Mom, and I all audibly ooeed and awed at the first one. Mom and Dad took a few pictures of the next couple of fireworks. I sat the whole time, watching the show, with my legs dangling in the water, sipping on red wine from a red Solo cup, and felt the warmth of the water and the wine all over. This was perfection: I was on a boat, on my own island—enjoying the show. Boom! Boom! Boom! Poof. Boom! Poof. Boom! Pauses in between each firework, perfectly timed out. The frenetic waving of the fire-lights still happening, men conducting the orchestra of light and sound. My favorite fireworks are the ones that flash out and fall downward, like the branches of a willow tree.


The grand finale boomed and everyone clapped and hollered in appreciation. After the fireworks were over someone in a pontoon behind us set off a bottle rocket and it fluttered in the air and popped. They snickered and giggled at its smallness compared to the largesse, grandness of the show.


Willow-tree firework over the Apalachicola River

Willow-tree firework over the Apalachicola River


We pulled up the anchor and headed back downriver. There were tons of tiny bugs that came down to the river after the sun set, and all three of us put on glasses to shield our eyes from them flying in our eyes. Mom and I put our sunglasses on, and dad put his eyeglasses on.


As we headed back downriver to the landing I flashed the spotlight from time to time to find the buoys so dad wouldn’t hit them.


A quarter moon was out, and the stars shined bright, as bright as I had seen them in this area.


Later, as we drove, I saw a shooting star, and made a wish. “Please keep her safe.”


I kept spotting the buoys. I enjoyed spotting the green ones because the reflector mark glowed a brilliant green, reflecting a stripe of green on the water. After I turned the spotlight off it would fade, the spotlight’s reflection slightly burning in my eyes.


Mom didn’t like the darkness. It’s too strange and mysterious she said. I spotlighted two gators, eyes glowing orange.


We made it back to the landing, drove the boat back on the trailer, and drove home, windows down, listening to the symphony of night sounds.


July 4th, Independence Day.






The End.

Australia’s Great Lakes Part I: Getting There

By Nic Stoltzfus

Day One: Thursday, August 21st

Dad and me at the Panama City Airport before heading to Australia.

Dad and me at the Panama City Airport before heading to Australia.

Clouds over the Pacific, to be specific. :)

Clouds over the Pacific, to be specific. :)

Dad and I arrived in Australia around 7 am on Thursday, August the 21st. It was around a sixteen hour Quantas flight from Dallas, Texas, to Brisbane, Australia and we touched-down in the “land down under” weary, worn-out, and excited. After collecting our luggage (Tripod case? Check. Camera case? Check. Audio case? Check. Dad’s clothes? Check. My clothes? Check.), we headed to the lobby to get our rental car. It was here in front of the Europcar desk that we planned to meet our key contact for the trip, Dr. Errol Stock, a geoscientist retired from Griffith University in Brisbane. I scanned the handful of faces in front of the rental car desk and recognized Dr. Stock’s face from the picture he e-mailed us. As I walked up to him, he greeted me with a cheeky grin with crinkled crow’s feet and offered a weather-worn hand. “Hello, I’m Errol. I recognized you by your picture you sent me. Welcome to Australia!” He wore a thick jacket–– reminder that it was winter here–– work jeans, and hiking boots. Peeking out from underneath the jacket was a collared shirt with a pocket in front housing a row of ordered pens. Topping off the look was a shock of combed back white hair; he reminded me of the sort of jovial grandpa every child hopes for.

Dat Aussie dollar, tho: the banknotes are polymer and have a plastic feel and don't rip as easily as plastic ones.

Dat Aussie dollar, tho: the banknotes are polymer and have a plastic feel and don’t rip as easily as plastic ones.

After we got the paperwork done for the rental car and purchased fresh coffee to warm us up, we loaded our gear into the Hyundai SUV and began our drive. As Errol drove, he told us that we would be heading south along the Pacific Highway, past the Gold Coast, to the Great Lakes region—where some of Australia’s coastal dune lakes are located.

We talked about many things, from Australian culture to politics to local cuisine, and Dr. Stock offered us a crash course on the dune lakes/coastal lagoons found in Australia: There are the Noosa Lakes, lakes and lagoons in and around Coorong National Park, the Great Lakes, Gippsland Lakes, dune lakes on Fraser Island, and coastal lagoons found close by the city of Perth. Some are very old, like the ones on Fraser Island northeast of Brisbane, near the Great Barrier Reef––they are around 600,000 years old. The ones we were headed to, the Great Lakes in New South Wales, are around 120,000 years old. This is much, much older than the lakes we have in Florida—mere children at about 5,000 years old.

Dr. Stock reaffirmed what I had learned from Dr. Kjerfve: sometimes coastal dune lakes around the world are also called coastal lagoons. “The scientific fraternity would probably put them all under the term “lagoons” simply because of the way that the study has developed from different parts of the world.”

After driving for a few hours and learning much about the local lakes, we stopped in a small town for lunch. I had a lamb burger with chips (As in the UK, chips=French fries. In the UK and Australia, chips=crisps. So, an Aussie would call a bag of Doritos “crisps” and a plate of French fries “chips.”). The dipping sauce for the fries was fresh sour cream and sweet chili sauce, a delicious combination that I told Dr. Stock I would take back with me to the U.S.

After lunch we switched topics to Australian culture, particularly slang, as we quickly discovered Dr. Stock’s phraseology was different. For example, a car pulled out in front of him and he had to slam on the brakes, cursing:, “Rotten rat bags!” Later, when talking about our schedule for tomorrow he remarked on how great it is, saying, “Well, that’s fan-bloody-tastic!”

Finally, after eight hours of driving, we arrived in the Great Lakes region, tired and hungry. Before heading out to the farm cabin where we would be staying, we headed into the local town, Buladelah, for supper.

We ate at a small shop specializing in pot pies and pizzas. The sole chef/waiter was a pot-bellied grizzled fellow with black and white checkered pants loosely tied underneath his gut, and a grubby white T-shirt partially covered with a flour-dusted apron.

He approached our table, wobbling forward like an unbalanced Russian nesting doll, and looked us over with two beady eyes set deep within his porcine face. “Watchu havin’?”

I ordered a sausage pizza and Dad and Errol ordered chicken pot pies. He wrote it down on a notepad dwarfed by his meaty hands. After slipping pen and pad into his pocket, he headed to the kitchen to make our food.

Our food arrived soon and I must say that it was pretty decent. When we left the café to head to the farm cabin, the sun had already set. The farm cabin was located in Boolambayte, a village around 15 minutes away from Bulahdelah (there is a tongue twister for you: Bob builds barns by Boolambayte, but Bob builds banks by Bulahdelah).

Dad had picked this place because of its relative closeness to our filming locations. As we drove to the farm, we missed our road and drove a few miles down a logging trail, but eventually made it to the cabin where we would be staying for the next few days.

I checked my phone before opening the door and it read 8:30 pm—what a long day! I stepped outside and looked up at the stars—brightest I’ve ever seen. I told Dr. Stock that even though we live in a rural area in Florida, the surrounding light pollution from the southeast United States still hazes over the stars. He said the stars are even brighter in the Outback of Australia since large cities are nonexistent in the interior of the country.

We unpacked, showered off the collected travel crud, and went to bed.

CDL Video Episode 10: Close to the Sea, or On Storytelling

October 16th, 2014
By Elam Stoltzfus
And one thing when I actually walk out on the beach and look out on the Gulf it hits me that people thousands of years ago saw the same thing that I am seeing now. It is the same sight for them, same colors, the same horizon. The same sounds.
–Dr. Jack Davis, Professor of Environmental History, University of Florida
Man looking out at the sea. Image by Nic Stoltzfus.

Man looking out at the sea. Image by Nic Stoltzfus.

Having the ability to tell or hear a story is part of our DNA.  Ancient tribe group sketched, drew and painted on the walls of caves to depict their lifestyle. Have you every thought about how silence is unbearable and uncomfortable?  Silence makes us squirm, pushes our boundaries into the unknown.  However, spinning a story, telling a yarn, spending our time putting together a series of words to connect to emotions is like traveling into the galaxy without ever going anywhere.  In more recent times storytelling has become a positive venue of education, representing universal truths,  and constructing a compelling story of knowledge.
Early on when I began asking questions and spending time along 30A around the dune lakes, there were two comments that I kept hearing.  One was “these coastal dune lakes are rare, imperiled, and endangered”. and the second statement was “these lakes are only found in Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar”.  As a follow up to these comments, I would ask, why are they rare and have you seen the lakes in these other countries?  Most of the replies would be something like this, “well…. I’m not sure why, that’s what I heard or been told,” and, “no, I have not seen these lakes in other countries or know much about the coastal lakes around the world.”  It obvious that there was a gap of information and an opportunity to draw an image on the cave wall to tell a story explaining the answers to these questions.
The question is, how to tell the story about the dune lakes in south Walton County, what was the common thread in the story?  Was this a story of Märchen (fairytales) or Sagen (legends) stories?  Could this be a reality show?  Was this story practical, could this be told in an informative manner, was there an opportunity to reach a new audience, could a creative team be assembled, etc.?  These are a some of the questions that needed to be answered before we could begin drawing on the cave walls.
To be able to have an adaptive story for all ages, we needed a group of partners and people who passionately loved the dune lakes along 30A.  As some of you may know, this wasn’t very hard to find.  There is a group of folks in south Walton County who provided that gateway of information for us to tell the dune lakes story.  This is one of the ongoing strong foundational connections in spinning the dune lakes tale.  These stories that people shared with us, their personal experiences, their scientific research, their knowledge of legends, their information of historical facts all began to come together to be woven into a Public Television style documentary.
Artist unknown.

Artist unknown.

In the past 9 months the production team has gathered together a series of video interviews, worked hard to capture segments of life along the dune lakes on video, documented the changing of the seasons and listened to the successes and struggles of managing the region along 30A.   The production team is now in post-production.  This is were all the pieces of the puzzles are on the table and are assembled.  We have a completed script, we are getting ready to begin scoring the music, graphics are being designed, natural sounds are being collected, historical documents are begin researched and collected, future premieres are being planned, working closely with Public Television groups, and so many details for a successful roll out for the April – Earth Day weekend release on Public Broadcasting Stations across the country.
We thank you for entrusting your stories, comments, suggestions, support, friendships, relationships, encouragements to paint this story on the cave walls in a documentary medium.
Stay tuned, there are more cave walls to paint to pass on this knowledge about the coastal dune lakes.

CDL Video Episode 11: A Prayer of the Woods

October 23rd, 2014

By Joey Dickinson

The Hobbit Hole at Grayton Beach State Park. Image by Elam Stoltzfus

The Hobbit Hole at Grayton Beach State Park. Image by Elam Stoltzfus

It was a sweltering summer day with little to no cloud coverage, and we were filming a tour of South Walton with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance. The tour started in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, where Park Services Specialist Jeff Talbert and Dr. Sarah Schindele pointed out a plethora of unique plants, explaining the ecology of the park, as well as the steps that are taken to maintain such a distinct and fragile natural area. Elam did most of the filming, while I dragged along behind him with a boom microphone, trying to capture what our hosts were saying, desperately trying to keep the long pole high above my head while keeping up with the camera in the intense heat. We then moved on to Grayton Beach State Park, where Park Ranger Patrick Hartsfeld met us, detailing the flora and fauna unique to the landscape. The pure-white sand bounced the sun’s massive rays back up at us as if it were a mirror. By this time my arms were about ready to give from holding the boom for so long, and we were all drenched in sweat, but this tour was so full of vital information, there was no way we could cease filming. Before long, Patrick directed everyone into what is known as the “Hobbit Hole,” a cluster of trees that the average person has to duck under to walk into. Here we were finally sheltered from the heat by the trees and shrubs. Before it was even pointed it out, I noticed a large sign with the title, “Prayer of The Woods.” I don’t know if we were recording just then or not, because my eyes were glued to the sign: “the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,” it was too fitting. This poem, of which the author remains unknown, seemed to epitomize the coastal dune lakes, and the habitats found around them.

Prayer of the Woods found at Grayton Beach State Park. Photo by Elam Stoltzfus.

Prayer of the Woods found at Grayton Beach State Park. Photo by Elam Stoltzfus.