Joe Wheeler

A Special Sunrise at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park

Nothing beats a sunrise along water. Staying overnight October 19, 2022 at the Joe Wheeler State Park Lodge near Rogersville, Alabama, I walked to lakeside at the next day’s dawn. A chilly fall morning rewarded me with a full dose of lake mist and brightening sky inspiration…the alchemy of fog wisps, first light, bordering trees, and marina-magic.

I snapped this image at 6:38 AM. As I often say, Nature’s daybreak glory never fails to reward my early-to-bed/early-to-rise life pattern. Nature metes her most potent elixir from astronomical twilight through nautical twilight to civil twilight and sunrise. The three twilight stages, respectively, occur when the sun ascends from 18-12, 12-6, and 6-0 degrees beneath the eastern horizon. Sunrise ends official twilight. The image below presents deep into civil twilight…awaiting sunrise. The three stages constitute what we term as dawn. I am a dedicated creature of dawn!

Joe Wheeler



Here is the 1:26 video I recorded during that exquisite dawn:


How could a true nature enthusiast not experience this celebration of life and living that morning at 6:38 and 6:40 AM, respectively!? Such a morning lifts my spirits, girding me for whatever the day ahead presents.

Joe Wheeler






As he so often did, John Muir captured the essence of my dawn experience:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

Turning westward, the light (6:42) played less spectacularly across the water and fog, yet still I found Muir’s words true to my sensation of awe and inspiration:

Look! Nature is overflowing with the grandeur of God!

Joe Wheeler


Allow me a non-Nature sidebar. Near where I stood, a monument commemorated the lake and the Park’s namesake, General Joseph Wheeler, a West Point graduate and CSA cavalry general. Many in our time seem hellbent on virtue-signally the past into oblivion…wiping away elements of history they find disagreeable. I contend that we cannot today, 160 years after the onset of the Civil War, rewrite history to suit our own ideals, standards, and preferences. General Wheeler served his homeland (a Georgia native) faithfully and courageously during the war, then served his reunited country in Congress. At age 61 in 1898, Wheeler served as a major general in the Spanish-American War. A year later in sailed for the Philippines to fight in the Philippine-American War. Tear down his monument and wipe his name from the lake and park? That is the sentiment that George Orwell warned us may lie ahead in his prophetic 1984 novel!

Joe Wheeler


Okay, I return us to the Nature of our October 20, 2022 dawn and sunrise. By 8:10 AM, the sun lifted well above the forested east rim of Lake Wheeler. The morning’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe persisted!

Joe Wheeler


I can’t resist offering another apt Muir quote:

There are no accidents in Nature. Every motion of the constantly shifting bodies in the world is timed to the occasion for some definite, fore-ordered end. The flowers blossom in obedience to the same law that marks the course of constellations, and the song of a bird is the echo of a universal symphony. Nature is one, and to me the greatest delight of observation and study is to discover new unities in this all-embracing and eternal harmony.


Early Afternoon Venture into the Lakeside Forest


The fog had long since lifted when Judy and I entered the Awesome Trail following the Board meeting and lunch. We had photographed the Awesome Trail from our pontoon boat lake tour the prior afternoon. The trail winds through the forest just 30-40 feet from the lake in the image below.

Joe Wheeler


The trail was a magic carpet of shed leaves, the woods glowing with a soft autumn yellow.

Joe Wheeler


I thought of Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Joe Wheeler


In retrospect, my now 71 years in the yellow woods have made all the difference! I’ve seldom (ever?) had a bad day in the woods.

Muir said it simply and succinctly:

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations:

  • Nature’s dawn magic leaps from its nighttime slumber!
  • A chilly fall morning rewarded me with a full dose of lake mist and brightening sky inspiration…the alchemy of fog wisps, first light, bordering trees, and marina-magic.
  • John Muir: Nature is one, and to me the greatest delight of observation and study is to discover new unities in this all-embracing and eternal harmony.

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!


Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at


Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.


  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!


Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksJoe Wheeler


All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.