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 prognosis 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.

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