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 some of the miscellaneous delights I encountered.
And a fine/vine day it was! Like so much of the forest buffering Lake Wheeler, acquired by the Corps of Engineers and TVA during the early 1930s, the Joe Wheeler State Park forests we hiked had either been in active agriculture or had recently been abandoned as a consequence of the Great Depression. Grape vine thickets developed as a result of natural succession and forest regeneration. The vines, equal in age to the hardwood main canopy, remain a major component in the maturing second growth forest.
Mike is the consummate naturalist and educator, demonstrating his passion and joy of teaching and learning, holding everyone’s rapt attention and leading them into a forest of discovery and learning!
Every tree and stand has a story to tell. Bent and bowed, this ten-inch diameter tree bore the brunt of a falling neighbor, not decaying on the ground. The blow permanently brought the still-living stem to near horizontal, now shaded heavily by the intact canopy above. How long will it survive? It’s entered the beginning of its end. It will not survive the low energy light reaching its leaf-factories.
Nature’s magic and mystery draws my attention, often generating mental word play as I contemplate what I see. I wondered as I admired the deeply-furrowed and warty complexion of the hackberry at left how its bark compares to the bite of the nearby sugar maple! I often encounter sign-consuming trees. Nathing in Nature is static! Trees grow around fences, signs, and nails. Many a sawyer at a sawmill leaner the hard way that consumed steel can ruin a well-sharpened saw!
Several times hotter than the surface of the sun, thunderstorm lightning bolt can scar even a mighty oak. This white oak shows a vertical seam that reaches from the ground to its top. I’ve seen other trees shattered by such a strike, blown apart and instantly killed. This individual remains alive, vigor reduced, yet still producing acorns and performing its most essential evolutionary function — procreation, albeit with diminished carbohydrate production.
I love tree form oddities and curiosities. The hickory at left and the white oak grew clubbed branches…anomolies that few through-hikers would have observed. I see such phenomenon because I look! Normally a tree rejects a dead branch at the main stem. For some reason not clear to me the trees continued to sustain bark and wood production to the stubs.
My four-acre home lot in New Hampshire supported an ancient northern hardwood forest, including some very large American beech, yellow birch, and sugar maple. However, here in northern ALabama I did not expect to encounter a four-foot diameter sugar maple. I am sure there is a rich story with this one!
Loblolly Pine Curiosity
I’ve written previously about finding circumferential bark redges on loblolly pine. I’m convinced that they result from yellow-bellied sapsucker bird-peck and resultant microbial action generating the ridging.
I recorded this 3:08 video to add depth and a fuller visual image.
Without additional observations and reflections, here are more images of this fascinating phenomenon.
I had photographed other examples at Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve.
And at Monte Sano State Park.
I shall always remain an enthusiast for tree form oddities and curiosities!
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)
- Nature’s delights lie hidden in plain sight wherever I enter her forested domain!
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.”
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And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned 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.