(From Stephanie Becker, TODAY Producer)
If you saw today's America the Beautiful segment about the Gulf Coast, you know we traveled from Santa Rosa Island's sparkling white sand beach to New Orleans. WATCH VIDEO Getting assigned an "America the Beautiful" segments is one of the perks of working at the Today Show. But that phrase "be careful what you wish for" is now ringing in my ears.
Crew Brad Houston and Michael Huntting put down their high-tech gear
and take up low-tech shovels on Santa Rosa Island.
Our journey (the Tampa crew of Brad Houston and Michael Huntting and me) began in Pensacola rather inauspiciously. We were meeting up with professional nature photographer Michael O'Donovan to shoot him shooting the spectacular sunset. The only problems with the plan -- thunder, lightning, rain sharp as daggers. If you know anything about Florida, you know that it always rains at the end of the day in August for about 15 minutes then the sky brightens for a wonderful sunset. Nope, not that day. The sun never broke and the temperature and humidity was withering. But, the low point was yet to come.
Three years ago, Hurricane Ivan wiped out the sand dunes so vital to the beaches there. Much of the national seashore on Santa Rosa Island became impassable when the dunes covered the road in several feet of its fine white sand. But our guide, Gail Bishop from the National Park Service, promised she'd get us to the end of the island for some spectacular shots. With her four-wheel drive and intrepid can-do spirit, she fulfilled her mission. We cheered as we made it through the sugar white sand.
Unfortunately, the camera didn't fully appreciate the effort made to get there. It refused to cooperate. Yup, just like your technology at home, our stuff breaks down too. So, valiant Gail successfully navigated the sand one more time to our car to pick up a back-up camera.
But, on the return trip, we were not so lucky. The car got stuck. Bottomed out in the sand. And it wasn't quick sand. It was dead stop sand. Which actually afforded me MY favorite pictures from the trip.
While you might have enjoyed the scenes of the pristine beaches, my favorite photos are of the crew trying to dig the car out of the sand. For all the good it did. Eventually Gail called in a front loader that pulled us out.
We were all drenched in sweat and rather stinky and not too happy. But, as in all good stories from the road, by dinner time it had become an excellent source of amusement and only a little overly dramatic in the telling. It was something about a helicopter swooping in plucking us from certain death from dehydration.
Which leads me back to my initial thought about being careful what you wish. But what the heck, can I go to the Olympics? I promise to bring a shovel.