Joe Wheeler SP

March Bluff Trails at Joe Wheeler State Park

March 16, 2023 I co-led (with Mike Ezell, AL State Parks Naturalist Emeritus) a Nature walk at Joe Wheeler State Park for members of the Huntsville LearningQuest class that had just completed a seven-week course on the State Parks of North Alabama. I sauntered the woods for an additional two hours after the formal field excursion. This Post presents my observations and reflections from the bluff-top trails near the lodge.

I grew up in the central Appalachians. Every hike traced the rough terrain. Only infrequently were trails flat. I welcomed the perspective of trekking along the bluffs, 50-100 feet above Lake Wheeler on a breezy spring day.


A Mid-March Bluff Trail Morning


The distant horizon is actually Wheeler dam, indistinct at this distance with the naked eye. I often wonder how less that 100 feet above the water, I feel as though the bluff is high above, yet were I in a boat below, the bluff would appear unimpressive. Always, elevation expresses an exaggerated visual perspective from above. I mis the days when, as a younger man with better knees, I could scale most peaks effortlessly.

HGH Road


Mike held forth with ease and intimate familiarity. He grew up along Lake Wheeler. He knows the area deeply…and has an unbridled passion for it. His love for the land and knowledge of the Nature of it is inexhaustible. I’ve often heard the old saw, “People don’t care how much you know…until they know how much you care.” Mike cares!



Some photos require no narrative. I’ll say only that our group found itself blissfully, spiritually (not spatially) lost in the spring forest.



These views epitomize the beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration of a bluff-side stroll in Joe Wheeler State Park on a splendid spring morning!



Again, there’s little need for my observations and reflections!




Even better than still photographs, I offer my 2:27 video from the bluff.


As I complete my narrative in early May I know that the forest canopy will soon block most views to the lake. Nothing in Nature is static, not even the view from the bluff.




Likewise, this 35-second video of a barge passing, is season-limited. By June only the distant powerful engine chugging would reveal the barge passing…unseen.


Special Features


Former pastures, dating back to abandonment when TVA acquired these lakeside buffers along with the soon-to-be-flooded lands, are often heavily populated with large grape vines that grew up with the new forests. I enjoy the jungle-like appearance of these mature hardwood trees draped with Tarzan-worthy vines. And beware the sign-eating trail-marker trees. Nothing in Nature is permanent, not even a metal trail sign!



Our OLLI hikers voted with their feet, sharing my endorsement and fascination with the hanging grape vine gardens of these former pastures. All of wondered what tales the large yellow poplar could have shared.







Wild comfrey issued its fresh spring leaves as we walked the trail. Hickory buds nearly burst this time of year. Massive foliar tissue ejects from the jettisoned bud scales. I’d like to see that action in time lapse video.



I don’t like to miss forest treasures and delights during my woodland saunters. Allow me to repeat my five essential verbs for meaningful woodland exploration:

  1. Believe — know that delights lie within plain sight
  2. Look — search your viewscape with intent…to find the magic that you know is there
  3. See — peel away layers of distraction, both visual and mental
  4. Feel — infuse what your eyes detect through all of your portals: mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit
  5. Act — allow the feeling to direct you to informed and responsible stewardship of Nature

Henry David Thoreau said it well: It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see!

So few who pass through the woods reach beyond looking. I urge readers to see what truly matters!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations:

  • Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)
  • And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. (John Muir)
  • It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see!.

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: “©2023 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by an another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts:

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 SP


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.