Memory and Legacy for a Sailor and Hero

The Making of a Legacy — A Hero Enters Adulthood

September 2018 I posted my photos and reflections from hiking the William Arthur Wells Trail at Monte Sano State Park: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/09/17/monte-sano-state-park-exploring-an-addition/ I snapped a few of the photos below on that 2018 hike. I vowed then to meet the gentleman responsible for the memorial trail. William Arthur Wells (Arthur) died October 25, 1944 when his Navy ship went down in the Battle Leyte Gulf (the largest naval engagement of WWII) in the Philippines. I met with Robert (Bob) Wells, Arthur’s 15-year-junior brother at his home exactly 75 years later. The internet is rich with information about this definitive US Naval victory.

I enjoyed my visit with Robert and Catherine, married in 1964. Robert, with significant verified Native American heritage, served six years in the US Army. Robert and Catherine filled in many of the blanks important to the story of Wells Trail, and gave me copies of photographs from Arthur’s pre-WWII days. That’s him below wearing his high school letter sweater flanked by his proud parents. I imagined a toddler Robert standing somewhere nearby witnessing his brother’s graduation celebration.

 

Arthur’s next step in life took him into the Civilian Conservation Corp (October 3, 1939, two months shy of his 18th birthday), ushering him quickly into responsible adulthood. Hard for me now to accept that some universities are teaching credit-bearing courses on something called adulting, defined by an online dictionary as the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks. I am sure that Arthur began wearing his big boy pants without benefit of three such college credits! Options remain available today for young men and women to enter adulthood without spending $10,000 or more per year on tuition for such higher education. Among other alternatives are getting a job or enlisting in military service. Okay, as I am now within just 18 months of turning 70, I admit to a bit of cynicism and intolerance for how certain elements of society believe we need to treat our youth as helpless, hopeless, hapless, and dependent snowflakes. Arthur stands atop Monte Sano at his CCC Camp in his dress uniform (below). Did he miss his mom and dad, and his younger brothers Robert and Charles, and sister Nancy? I am certain he did. Was he contributing materially and responsibly to the family’s welfare? Absolutely. Was he adulting? Yes, the young man was now fully engaged as an adult. No safe space and crying rooms for him, nor any of his generation.

Monte Sano

 

The fact that Arthur is pictured at the Monte Sano CCC Camp is a major component of the William Arthur Wells Trail tale.

Arthur exited the CCC September 20, 1941 (three months shy of age 20), heading soon for WWII service in the US Navy, fully grown, mature, and adulted (below left). He served his country faithfully for three years in the Pacific theater. The recognition of service and death-in-combat certificate (lower right) hangs in Robert and Catherine’s home, beautifully glass-encased. Arthur’s presence there seemed real and palpable. I felt deep humility and full gratitude for America’s greatest generation.

 

Wells Trail Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My own Dad likewise served in the Pacific theater… in the Army Air Corps. That’s Dad and Mom lower left with six-year-old Steve snug between them, just 12 years after the War ended. I am grateful for Dad’s service and blessed that he served and survived. Obvious to the point of absurdity, I would neither have entered this fine Earthly oasis nor developed my passion for Nature without Dad. I believe he would have enjoyed reading my three books and my weekly Blog Posts. Makes me wonder what future generations and achievements sunk into the Pacific 75 years ago in Leyte Gulf. William Arthur Wells gave his last full measure that Robert, Catherine, me, and all Americans would stand free and independent.

Steve Jones Miscellaneous Family

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Memorial Legacy for Future Generations

Robert and three investment partners acquired a large property in 2007 along Dug Hill Road, including the 40 acres “up there on the mountain,” too steep and isolated to develop for commercial or residential purposes. Besides, that ’40’ supported “some of the last virgin forest in Alabama.” Why did the partnership donate the land to the adjoining Monte Sano State Park? Robert did not hesitate in answering — the “tax write-off” sealed the deal. Yet he also admitted to a deep emotion for its continued stewardship. And he made the gift of land contingent upon dedicating the trail to his long-gone but never forgotten brother. The Trail stands as a memorial legacy for a genuine hero. Arthur lives on in these sacred woods — a cathedral forest. I snapped these two photos in 2018. Having visited with Robert and Catherine, I felt William’s spirit when I returned a year later. Although he lives in and will always reside in this special, spiritual, sacred place, I wonder whether Arthur ventured close to this area when he served in the CCC? I like to think that he did.

 

Monte Sano SP

 

I will work with Monte Sano State Park staff to see that mementos from Arthur’s life are displayed at the Park’s CCC Museum.

 

Again, from my 2018 hike, this cathedral grove is a fitting home to the Trail, and for Arthur’s spirit and memory.

 

Benefactors Extraordinaire

Robert and Catherine welcomed me warmly into their lovely home. By the time I departed two hours later, I felt part of the family. I presented them with my second book, Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=nature-inspired+learning+and+leading). The William Arthur Wells Trail Legacy epitomizes what my books and writing extol and urge. Their beaming facial expressions below speak volumes of the kind of people I believe they are. I am convinced that Arthur would be proud of his little brother and Robert’s soul mate. I wonder, how many more Robert and Catherine Wells individuals own property adjacent to one of our 21 Alabama State Parks, potentially rising to legacy donation significance? Through my membership on the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board, I hope to encourage such legacy awareness and action. Robert and Catherine are land legacy poster exemplars for my own mission statement and the core mission of the AL Parks System.

  • Parks Mission: Acquire and preserve natural areas; to develop, furnish, operate and maintain recreational facilities; and to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment.
  • Steve’s 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.

 

I proudly shook the hand of that fine citizen who lost his older brother 75 years ago in a War that saved the world. Arthur gave his life to that noble cause. Robert never forgot, and chose to leave his and Catherine’s own gift of land treasure to the future. Somehow that handshake passed a little, but still significant, essence of Arthur’s lifeblood into my own veins.

 

Nature’s Lessons Along the William Arthur Wells Trail

I took that spirit along with me weeks later when I once again hiked the Trail, this time in fall-yellowed cathedral glory. The fall color altered my perception, yet that was not all. I viewed the cathedral through a new set of filters. I had since come to “know” William Arthur Wells. I “saw” him standing in CCC and Navy uniforms as I strolled the Trail. I took him along with me. I experienced the grove in multiple dimensions… inhaling the forest’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe… channeling those inhalations to Arthur as though he were there with me.

Wells TrailWells Trail at Monte Sano

 

Funny how life courses ahead. The forest is now 75 years older than when Arthur drew his final breath. The forest holds little resemblance to what it was like in 1944. The basswood (Tilia americana) stump cluster below would have been a grouping of sapling-size sprouts growing from the base of the parent tree, likely cut by lumbermen or snapped by wind near its base.

Wells Trail Monte Sano

 

The Trail serves as a segment for an annual 50K (31 miles) ultra-marathon. I’ve run marathons (26.2 miles) in my younger years, but never through the woods. I know that by mile-mark 20, my level of cognition began to suffer. Simple math required to calculate pace took great concentration. I’m certain that the 50K runners, provided this segment came beyond the 20-mile mark, would deeply appreciate the natural wonders they encountered along the way, but that they likely experienced as a cognitive blur. Instead, I hope their passage drew them back another time in hiking boots, far more ready to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship and to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment. This Trail, along with hundreds of miles of State Parks trails statewide, serve as ports of entry and transit through our 47,000 acres of Alabama State Parks.

Wells Trail Monte Sano

 

Trails provide direct access to untold wonders of Nature. The yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) below left bears the vertical scar of a powerful lightning strike, traveling down the trunk hotter than the sun’s surface, searing the cambium. The scar is now healing over with callous tissue, sealing the wound and perhaps permitting the tree to live decades more. The blown over hickory below right fared less well. Wind tipped the entire tree, including its massive root ball downwind. Yet life in the forest goes on — ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Arthur, too, lives on in this forest as the circle goes round and round. Robert and Catherine’s selfless act of love and memory made sure we all remember.

Wells Trail Monte SanoWells Trail Monte Sano

 

On a less melancholy and somber note, the weeping poplar burl, covered by black sooty mold, brought to mind an evil alien egg preparing to loose some terrifying creature on the next passerby. Okay, I’m just having a little fun. Nevertheless, I would like to know more about this spiked protuberance.

Wells Trail Monte Sano

 

The forest terrain reveals much about local geology. Dr. Callie Schweitzer, US Forest Service Research Scientist who accompanied us, is standing in a sink hole, evidencing the limestone beneath us and expressing the karst topography typical of such limestone under-pinning.

Wells Trail Monte Sano

 

I close by once more acknowledging the legacy of William Arthur Wells and the generosity of Robert and Catherine Wells. Every place in Nature has a story. We are blessed by the heroes and fine citizens who have acted selflessly to make tomorrow brighter.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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) 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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Every place in Nature tells a story… of both human and natural history
  2. Memories and emotion enrich our appreciation and understanding of Nature
  3. There is no better legacy than land preserved and protected in honor of those gone or soon to go

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

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

Co-authors Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit and I share great fulfillment in celebrating the publication and release of Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth. Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

 

Photos of Steve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had previously published two similar collections of stories inspired by Nature and told through my deep passion for this Earth and its special places. Here I stand with all three books by a large white oak (Quercus alba) along the Wells Trail. Please think about the books as Holiday gifts.

 

Photos of Steve

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative, including initiatives related to exploring and revealing what lies hidden in plain sight.

Perhaps most importantly, help us identify potential land legacy benefactors.

Lake Guntersville State Park — The Glory of Sunrise and Sunset

I returned to Lake Guntersville State Park October 16-18 to attend our fall meeting of the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board. Always ready to take advantage of every opportunity to further explore our 21-pearl necklace of State Parks (covering 47,000 acres), I arranged to spend two half-days on park trails with Lake Guntersville State Park Naturalist Mike Ezell. See my prior Post describing our wanderings along a newly reopened trail through a portion of the Park ravaged by the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak.

An Everyday Place — Extraordinary Expressions of Nature’s Inspiration

Join me now for a quick immersion in the glory of the simple, ordinary twice-daily phenomena as our Earth spins east into the morning sun, and hours later continues to spin out from under the setting sun. Dawn and dusk, day after day, year after year. Visual magic fit for royalty–each day potentially (and usually) different from the prior. I write these words at dawn October 29, sitting in my home office. Dense fog obscures any hint of color; a monochromatic black and white morning. No early brightening to the east. The entire world slowly draws into focus; cardinal directions indistinguishable. I love both ends of the day, whether crisp and clear or damp and foggy.

What a privilege to enjoy two sunsets and sunrises at the LG SP lodge atop Sand Mountain, overlooking the Lake. I’ll begin with the entrance sign upon my late morning arrival. Entering any of our Parks gives me a sense of peace, satisfaction, and anticipation.

 

Lake Guntersville SP

 

Because I neglected to take a photo of the Lodge, here’s one from the official Park website. Next time I will strive to remember to snap an image. Even as I write those words, I am reminded of the sage Yoda, who said “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Lake Guntersville SP

Official AL Parks Photo

 

From my July 26, 2018 visit, here is yet another morning at the Lodge overlooking the Lake as morning burned away the thick fog that had earlier obscured the valley. I include the photo here to represent just another special morning that left indelible visual memories. See my Blog Post from August 2018.

 

I can’t remember the last time the sun brightened the morning before I awoke. I know many people who might observe the reverse, “I can’t recall the last time I awakened before dawn.” The mornings are mine; I belong to the new day’s dawning. Forget the midnight oil; even in my youth nothing about midnight attracted my attention. I’ve often set the alarm for 11:45PM on New Years Eve!

October 16 sunset from my Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge room balcony could not have been more satisfying. I’ve said often that I prefer paintings that look like photos… and photos that look like paintings. Nature expresses herself beautifully… a view that paints ten thousand words! Heaven on Earth… Heavenly Earth. Soul-soothing, begging the question, “Did I put this day to good use? Am I prepared to make tomorrow meaningful? Am I worthy of the gift of Nature’s wonder?”

Lake Guntersville SP

Lake Guntersville SP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The October 17 sunset matched its predecessor’s elixir dosage. Imagine being unaware of what lies within plain site. Imagine being blinded indoors by some shallow digital distraction while this glorious scene passes unobserved right outside the door. Imagine some banal message self-imposing a sense of urgency upon our lives. Missing this for what? Better be much more important than it probably is. Relax, reward, renew, refresh, resplendent — Nature dazzles even when she wears her everyday garb. It’s there for the taking. Deep breaths, studied visual inhalation, and perhaps a bit of 18-year-old Scotch to sip. The elixir deepens life, even if not extending it.

Lake Guntersville SPLake Guntersville SP

 

Morning Has Broken

The October 18 dawn added its own touch of life-renewing and refreshing intoxication. Who could not but be positive about the day ahead! A still-shadowed near-shore; the western sky returning the sun’s greeting from behind me. The morning’s fog rolling along the lake, soon to burn away with the day’s heat.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

Sunrise and sunset, in October the two growing closer and closer beyond the September equinox in anticipation of December 21, when the separation begins once again. I draw spirit-strength from dawn and dusk, the transition periods that twice a day signal both beginning and end. Either a night ending (or beginning) or a day (ending or beginning). My time on this Earth has extended across more than 25,000 dawns. I hope many more remain. Until I experience one fewer than the other, I will cherish each day, celebrate each gloaming, and long for each new day.

Cat Stevens sang so eloquently of the day’s dawning in Morning Has Broken:

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass
Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

I echo the lyrics: praise for the singing, praise for the morning… God’s recreation of the new day!

July 10, 2019 sunrise at Joe Wheeler State Park. Every Park a jewel; every sunrise a gift!

Joe Wheeler SP Sunrise

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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) 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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Never has a new day begun without a dawn breaking; the same applies to all human endeavors
  2. Nature presents two gifts every day — sunrise and sunset (with the exception of latitudes above the polar circles)
  3. Something so ordinary (and twice-daily) as a sunrise or sunset can lighten our burden, lift our spirit, and strengthen our resolve to live each day fully

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

Co-authors Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

 

Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature, whether Lake Guntersville or Buck’s Pocket:

Every sunrise tells a tale of Nature’s Passion.

 

 

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative, including initiatives related to exploring and revealing what lies hidden in plain sight.

 

Buck’s Pocket State Park

I stopped by Buck’s Pocket State Park mid-October… a side excursion from my primary destination at Lake Guntersville State Park (LG SP). What a great stroke of good fortune. My first visit and an unanticipated thrill. We entered via a short 20-minute drive from LG SP across the plateau of Sand Mountain. The Buck’s Pocket moniker? My State Park hosts could not be sure whether the “buck” referred to a male deer or a person’s name. I have not researched to determine for myself.

The “pocket” part is self-evident. The topography is clearly a sunken “pocket,” its canyon floor lying 800-feet below the plateau rimrock. I will return another time to explore the Park far more intimately than our quick walk to the Jim Lynn Overlook allowed.

A Pocket of Beauty Atop Sand Mountain’s Plateau

I did not know what to expect, yet I must admit whatever I anticipated fell far short of what appeared! This is a magnificently surprising landscape. We emerged from the unremarkable plateau with mixed farm and forest to a spectacular vista. Far below we spotted a small lake, where our State Park host, Superintendent Michael Jeffreys, told us we would find the camping area. I can only imagine what lies in some of those hidden coves and protected lower slopes. I visualize some rich sites with fat oaks and poplars reaching skyward. And some great natural spring wildflower gardens. As Robert Service observed in his Spell of the Yukon: “The freshness, the freedom, the farness–Oh God! how I’m stuck on it all… There’s a land–oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back–and I will.”

Buck's Pocket SPBuck's Pocket SP

 

The simple overlook view ignited a passion for this place, where I’ve not yet ventured with boots on the ground. Perhaps I am blinded by seeing far more from the overlook than I had anticipated, yet I feel certain I will not be disappointed. I am learning more about my northern Alabama, southern Appalachian neighborhood. I am eager to descend into the pocket; I see it as a full-day hike and exploration. I will carry notepad and camera… and share my impressions and reflections with readers. I am thrilled that anticipation fills me with joy for tomorrow. Recall from John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High… “going home to a place I’ve never been before.” So, watch these Posts for what I find and how I react. I’ve said often that every acre of every parcel of God’s green Earth tells a tale.

 

A Hard-Scrabble Life

Even the rimrock tells tales. The dead Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) signals the hazards of life at the edge (literally and metaphorically). Life is exposed; conditions are harsh; there are no guarantees for extended bliss and happy days. What is scenery to a tree — likely not sufficient to cover the cost of living in shallow soils, standing firm against persistent wind; bearing the brunt of ice storms and scalding sunlight. I am grateful for the tree’s valiant efforts… and for the photo-frame and contrast of its dead standing skeleton. Its gift of a focal point. Its expression of existence as conflict in the ongoing succession of life and death.

Buck's Pocket SP

Somehow this smaller, yet still very much alive, Virginia pine perseveres, finding purchase on the edge in a fissure… fully exposed on bare rock, yet somehow tapping sufficient life forces (soil medium and moisture) year after year. It provides a point of rimrock focus, and a wonderful foreground for the pocket falling away beyond it.

Buck's Pocket SP

 

And the pine stands as a nice backdrop to NE District Superintendent Mike Jeffreys.

Buck's Pocket SP

 

With or without Mike and the lone pine, the Buck’s Pocket scenery is exquisite, especially as we neared sunset.

Buck's Pocket SP

 

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) is one of my lifetime favorites. It’s an intermediate canopy occupant, rarely reaching into the overstory. Its sweet blossoms are coveted by beekeepers. Its honey commands premium prices. The persistent seed heads decorate this sourwood on the rimrock.

Buck's Pocket SP

 

This dead Virginia pine is, in my mind, the Jim Lynn Overlook standard-bearer. Its story is told in annual rings. I wonder how many years ago the newly germinated seedling grew it first needles. I feel certain that its much younger self furnished a little shade to a CCC crew as they labored with stonework at the overlook. Does it date back to Native Americans gazing over the valley. I think not, but I won’t flatly rule our the possibility.

Buck's Pocket SP

 

Again, I feel great curiosity for the multidimensional stories of passion for place and everyday Nature. Contemplating the rich human and natural history of this spot and so many more stirs my soul and stimulates my imaginings. I am eager to return to Buck’s Pocket: “The freshness, the freedom, the farness–Oh God! how I’m stuck on it all… There’s a land–oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to back–and I will.”

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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) 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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Some places stir love at first sight
  2. We each define special places through our own subjective lens
  3. Robert Service nailed it: “The freshness, the freedom, the farness–Oh God! how I’m stuck on it all… There’s a land–oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back–and I will.”

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

Co-authors Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

 

Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature, whether Lake Guntersville or Buck’s Pocket:

Buck's Pocket SP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative, including initiatives related to exploring and revealing what lies hidden in plain sight.

Mid-October Lake Guntersville State Park: Special Small Trees and Shrubs

I spent two half-days at Lake Guntersville State Park on the trails with Park Naturalist Mike Ezell, October 15-16, 2019. I never tire of this State Park pearl, just one hour twenty minutes from my home. My intent is to share photos and reflections from this early fall point-in-time exposure. Each immersion in Nature, even at a single place, reveals features, images, and realities different from the last… both because things have changed over the time interval or because closer inspection yields what previously had been hidden within. And each visit uncovers new impressions through fresh eyes, altered attitude, or since-acquired knowledge. Every journey into any wildness, local or international, heightens the senses and leads me to stronger belief in and understanding of Nature’s ways.

I have written often in these essays of my five essential verbs for discovering and appreciating Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe… compelling me to practice informed and responsible Earth stewardship. I hope that they apply to your orientation to Nature as well. From my Great Blue Heron website:

  • I find Nature’s Lessons because I know they lie hidden within view — to believe enables me to look and see… to discover
  • Really look, with eyes open to your surroundings, external to electronic devices and the distractions of meaningless noise and data
  • Be alert to see deeply, beyond the superficial
  • See clearly, with comprehension, to find meaning and evoke feelings
  • Feel emphatically enough to spur action

I begin with two photos I took late last summer at the Park when Mike and I trekked several trails (July 26, 2018) some seven weeks (and a year) prior to the recent visit. I offer it in simple contrast to evidence the inexorable seasonal progression, year after year, week after week. Below left is the distinctive blocky bark of an overstory persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana). That’s Mike’s hand holding seven dropped still-green persimmons. I’ll keep you in suspense for a couple of photographs and two or three paragraphs to show how ripening altered the look of this year’s persimmon crop over that seven week period. Bear with me.

Lake Guntersville SPLake Guntersville SP

 

We did not revisit the undisturbed forest trails we hiked last year… so we did not encounter the same tree or even another overstory persimmon tree.

 

Tornado-Disturbed (April 27, 2011) Mid-Slope Forest

An outbreak of three tornadoes crossed the Park during an historically violent day here in Alabama April 27, 2011. The National Weather Service reported 62 tornadoes in Alabama alone: https://www.weather.gov/bmx/event_04272011. Mike and I focused our wanderings within the very large tornado-disturbed acreage. We walked a two-mile trail recently relocated and cleared of debris from those storms, soon to be reopened to public use. Here’s Mike standing in the hollow of a large blow-down. Wind toppled the tree lifting the roots and associated soil matrix. The resultant micro-topography goes by at least two monikers: pit and mound; hummock and hollow. Nine growing seasons after the outbreak, a young forest is developing beyond the mound, which is now softening from its sharp features immediately after the trauma… roots are decaying, raindrop impact is eroding the mound, and leaves and organic debris are accumulating in the pit.

Guntersville SP

 

We strolled past massive jackstrawed heaps of trunks and tops. I failed to successfully capture an image good enough to include in this Post. Here’s the oddly re-sprouted stump of a 15+-inch diameter yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) sheared fifteen feet above ground by the wrenching winds. The seven-inch diameter sprout is reaching for the sky along with many other sapling-size hardwoods, the various species evolved over eons to recapture sites leveled by wind, ice, or other elemental forces of Nature. So closely associated with the decaying stump, this sprout will likely succumb to the more routine force of wind and ice.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

Okay, you were patient — I’ve returned to persimmon. No longer green, these fruits are nearly ripe. We tasted, and found them disappointingly stringent. We estimated another two weeks before they would be human-edible and desirable. Rewarded by the tornado with full sunlight, this tree now bears a full fruit burden, bending the branches and promising lots of goodness for foraging wildlife. Tornado devastation? To hikers along the rehabilitated trail for the past nine years — yes! To wildlife flourishing from the rich persimmon fruit harvest this year — no! To the forest itself? Forest stands ebb and flow over time. One year… a vigorous maturing mixture of overstory hardwood species. April 27, 2011… a powerful tornado violently leveling the stand to near-ground level. Nine years later… yet another stage, this one of violent recovery. Powerful forces of rebirth. It’s Nature’s way. Let’s project to 2069… a half-century hence. Hikers will enjoy the deep summer shade, will marvel at the arching canopy, the towering trunks. That is, an old-growth forest… until the next tornado, hurricane, or ice storm. Nothing is static in Nature… she does not know…or prefer…stasis.

 

Even day-to-day, nothing remains the same. A week later, this leaf will have gone to burgundy, and a week later will be transitioning to forest floor, fueling future forest growth and renewal.

 

We discovered multiple species that are new to me… or, at least unfamiliar. Mike identified them, yet admitted that they seemed to be uncommonly plentiful in the tornado recovery zone. Carolina Buckthorn (Frangula caroliniana) seemed vigorous, thriving in those disturbed areas. I suspect they are still responding to the overstory removal and their new life in plentiful sunshine. Deep dark green leaves, with the species’ distinctive parallel lateral venation, and a good fruit crop, in this case already ripened from red to black. Birds will soon make short work of them.

 

Again, the deep venation is a distinguishing feature.

 

The winged elm (Ulmus alata) threw me for a loop. I immediately thought of sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), quite common and likewise bearing the corky wings on small branches. Yet these seemed far more prominent… and, most importantly, bearing leaves clearly not sweetgum. Mike quickly introduced me to winged elm. A few leaves remained (below left) despite our prolonged late summer and early fall drought. I could not stop admiring the pronounced wings and greenish twigs (below right). I will never again mistake this understory and intermediate canopy occupant for sweetgum. Once again, here is a species flourishing in the uber-disturbed tornado path. I am becoming more confident that certain species that occupy the understory of our regional hardwood forest, almost invisibly lie in wait for the apocalyptic disturbances that afford them a brief (decade or two) period of explosive growth and reproduction while the main canopy forest species recapture the site. The species like Carolina buckthorn then lie patiently in wait… until the next major disturbance. The game is termed forest ecology and succession. Nothing in Nature is static; Nature is prepared for any and all eventualities.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is common across northern Alabama; its cousin yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) according to Mike’s experience at Lake Guntersville State Park, is not. From Auburn University’s Trees of Alabama and the Southeast, “Leaves are opposite, deciduous and palmately compound with 5-7 obovate leaflets. Stout light brown twigs show prominent terminal buds and shield shaped leaf scars. Bark is gray-brown and smooth on small trees and becomes scaly and plated, sometimes with “bull’s-eye” grooves in the bark, on large trees. Flowers are pale yellow. Fruit is a smooth capsule enclosing two poisonous nuts. Form is up to 26 m (85 ft) in height and 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter. Yellow buckeye is a large tree found in rich mesic woods in northern Alabama.” I’ve always been a buckeye tree fan, collecting the dark brown “eyed” nuts enthusiastically as a kid in western Maryland. To this day I can’t resist gathering them.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

I must admit, too, that I’ve never been an Ohio State University Buckeye fan. Nine years on the faculty at Penn State, a faithful Nittany Lion fan, I view the “Luckeyes” (yeah, the spelling is intentional) as a major rival… one that beat us too often! My love of the nut, however, still stands undiminished.

Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) is another of my formative-years favorites. I grew up 28 miles upstream (along the Potomac River) from Paw Paw, West Virginia. This under- and mid-story forest species flourishes in the central Appalachians, seeming quite content on the more xeric mid- and upper slopes. From a National Park Service website, paw paw are shade tolerant “trees in the forest understory. With leaves and branches that deer avoid, and fruit that is loved by all, the pawpaw… is a fascinating native tree. It’s the only local member of a large, mainly-tropical plant family (Annonaceae), and produces the largest edible fruit native to North America.” When ripe, its yellowish to near-brown fruit is quite sweet with a dollop of banana taste and consistency. When I encountered fruit for the picking and eating I considered myself fortunate indeed. I worked as a Forester’s Aid both sophomore/junior and junior/senior summers on Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland’s Appalachians, the heart of paw paw country. Since then my encounters with ripe paw paws have been far too infrequent.

Tornadic winds brought a main canopy tree from vertical to horizontal, flattening the paw paw sapling below that now supports the four visible vertical saplings that have since sprouted and now reach for the light above. Nature prepares all of her denizens (plant and animal) to deal with adversity.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

I love the shape, size, texture, tropical-nature, and color of paw paw leaves (below). I thrilled with each new and unanticipated secondary species we encountered in the recovering tornado-disturbed forest. Who knows how long this paw paw had patiently persevered in the forest understory shade, evolutionarily prepared to exploit the tornado-delivered gift of light. One man’s bane is another’s boon. Nature does not pass judgment on phenomena that we humans might class as good or bad, favorable or catastrophic. The paw paw knows only that when forest floor light increases, its role is to act… produce more leaf surface; grow and prosper; accelerate flowering and fruiting; reproduce. The window of opportunity will be brief. The overstory forest will likewise respond, reach above the paw paw, and once more relegate the paw paw to its proper place in the shade.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

So, persimmon, Carolina buckthorn, winged elm, paw paw, and yellow buckeye… already five species accounted for on the tornado-disturbed hillside. And yet two more secondary species caught our eye. The first is eastern Bumelia (Bumelia lycioides), a shrub to small tree with thorns at buds. Once more, Mike immediately identified this sharp-thorned and angular-stemmed tree-shrub.

Lake Guntersville SPLake Guntersville SP

 

Peterson’s Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs nailed the leaves: “Leaves narrow to elliptic or even parallel-sided  or egg-shaped, without teeth, tips short-pointed or rounded, either hairless or somewhat silky. Leaf blades 2.5-6 inches. Height to 30′.” It takes a special knowledge and talent to write these wonderful descriptors.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

And the seventh hillside canopy-subordinate species we identified is rusty blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum). From a University of Florida website: “A native of the well-drained, upland woods of southeastern North America, Rusty Blackhaw forms a multiple or (occasionally) single-trunked small tree or large shrub, reaching 25 feet in height with an equal spread. The dark bark is blocky, resembling older Flowering Dogwood bark. Trunks usually grow no thicker than six inches and arch away from the tree, forming a pleasing, vase-shaped crown. Leaves are dark green, three inches long, leathery, and extremely glossy. The tree is covered in springtime with striking five-inch-wide clusters of small, white blooms. These flowers are followed by clusters of dark blue, waxy, one-half-inch-long fruits that are extremely popular with wildlife and will occasionally persist on the plant from September throughout the autumn, if not eaten by wildlife. In fall, Rusty Blackhaw puts on a brilliant display of scarlet red to purple foliage.”

Lake Guntersville SPLake Guntersville SP

 

Had I seen this specimen following leaf fall (and without Mike), I would have declared dogwood (Cornus florida). The bark is a dead-ringer for dogwood.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

Although not typically a secondary species, sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is shade tolerant and would have been content in the understory of the pre-tornado forest, opportunistically biding time, positioned and poised to spring into the overstory in the event of main canopy removal. This one caught our eye with its circumferential yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) bird peck. Another element of Nature’s bag of tricks and special visual treats.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

 

Away from the Tornado Track

Even if one of the tornadoes had tracked across this place on the map, the cave would have cared not a single iota. This geologic feature is clearly mapped and openly accessible. My interests reach beyond Nature’s biological wonders.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

I am always alert for tree form oddities — see my related Post from January 2019: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/01/14/our-lives-mimic-nature-lessons-learned-from-tree-form-oddities/. We spotted this white oak (Quercus alba) near the Cave Trail (see above). These massive burls flank both sides behind me, earning my declared moniker of angel-winged oak! Perhaps in the Halloween gloaming I would lean more toward a more ghoulish characterization!

Lake Guntersville SP

 

Mike guided me off trail to another cave, purposely off the beaten and publicized track, where the entrance is more dangerous (a 20-foot vertical drop) and the resident bat colony meriting protection.

 

The limestone ledges surround the sink-hole near the cave entrance. The hole, now sediment and debris filled to level, supports a vibrant stand of mixed hardwood reaching skyward with straight and clear boles. The soils are rich… and the trees demonstrate their gratitude in height and girth.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

This white oak and partnering grape vine grow at the lower slope just a few feet above sink’s ground level.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

And this two-foot diameter black walnut (Juglans nigra), also at the ledge base and tapping the fertile sink soil, expresses the site’s richness.

Lake Guntersville SP

 

I am partial to high quality hardwood forests on deep, well-drained, fertile sites. I am pleased that tornado steering currents protected this special place. What I don’t know is how many such special places the spring twisters ravaged. I cannot even be certain that 60-80 years ago a similar weather day did not rip through a previous stand in this very spot… leading to the forest I am now admiring, even revering, viewing it as a forest cathedral, deeply spiritual and awe inspiring. Remember, Nature makes no judgement with respect to forest beauty… or human life and limb.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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) 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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Nature is magnificent in both beauty and violence, acting without judgement or prejudice
  2. Disturbance, whether catastrophic or gradual, is the rule; nothing in Nature is static
  3. Deep time has prepared all life for disturbance; an F-3 tornado is but a perturbation in the life of a forest ecosystem… extending across millennia

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

Co-authors Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

 

Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature, whether Lake Guntersville State Park or a Local Greenway!

 

Lake Guntersville SP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative, including initiatives related to exploring and revealing what lies hidden in plain sight.

August Revelations at DeSoto State Park

My late August trek at DeSoto State Park enlightened and rewarded me with more than just a set of April-to-August ecological comparisons: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/09/15/desoto-state-park-april-and-august-2019/. I offer in this subsequent Post my observations and reflections on non-flowering plants, the native black birch’s propensity to cling like hell to its rock, some great sandstone glades late summer flowering gems, and the early signs of summer stepping gently aside for autumn even in late August.

 

August Non-Flowering Plants

The following photographs simply capture what struck my eye and offered captivating images in August. The cluster of little brown mushrooms (sorry I can do no better with identifying them) exploding to life on an otherwise barren-looking sand flat near a stream under full forest cover. And fungal and lichen life stacked vertically on a standing dead hickory. I’ve said often that Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe pay no attention to scale. Whether its the planet-level glory of Earth captured by a lunar orbiter, or these up-close views of life exploiting a niche in a late-summer southern hardwood forest, majesty is within reach and sight. Nature’s coffee table style book comes in both macro- and micro-print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what a rich palette she chooses. I’ve said before that I prefer paintings that look like photographs… and photos that can be mistaken for paintings. The brown and beige-fringed shelf fungus among lichens, hanging above balls of moss, could be either.

 

Myriad lichens fashion this aerial Eden on a standing dead birch bole. Once again, the prior night’s rain enlivened this diverse community.

 

Although I could not identify the host with certainty, this long down and dead Virginia pine (I think) sported a gorgeous coat of crustose lichen. The old ashes to ashes dust to dust is always at play in Nature. Recycling is the ultimate guarantor of life.

 

Cling Like Hell to Your Rock

I frequently quote Robert Service’s Security when I’m on the stump (the figurative speaking stump) talking about leadership and lessons from Nature. His poem chronicles the travails of a limpet (a crustacean filter-feeder of the intertidal zone that holds tight to rock surfaces) who tires of her fate as a clinger. She bemoans her lot, saying “It isn’t I who clings to the rock, it’s the rock that clings to me.” The sea tells the limpet of a beautiful sandy beach, saying to the limpet, “Set off tonight when the moon is bright, and I’ll swing you there on my tide.” She does as the sea offers and finds herself in deep trouble, unable to survive on the sandy beach:

“She cried till she roused a taxi-crab
Who gladly gave her a ride;
But I grieve to say in his crabby way
He insisted she sit inside. . . .
So if of the limpet breed ye be,
Beware life’s brutal shock;
Don’t take the chance of the changing sea,
But – cling like hell to your rock”

Security is a parable suggesting to me the imperative that each of us embrace a set of core vales, tenets, principles, and ethics that guide us through life and living. I thought of Service’s Nature-bound and derived wisdom when I walked DeSoto’s forests, spotting the ubiquitous black birch, a species that often finds seedling anchorage upon the sandstone boulders, germinating on the rocks’ elevated surface and then sending roots to exploit true mineral soil below. The lower left birch appears as though it walked two-legged, pausing to half-lean and half-sit on the ledge, catching a well-deserved break. I knew the feeling as I trekked water-logged that August morning! Its mossy thigh and the moss-bedecked hummock beyond merited a closeup (below right).

 

The two birch trees below did more than rest against their boulders. They are secured there for the long haul!

 

Flowering Sandstone Glade Plants

This August glade-flower beauty is a species of Liatris, know commonly as blazing star, offering a nice splash of lavender to the cloud-darkened day.

 

 

 

Nuttall’s rayless goldenrod (Bigelowia nuttallii) graced the glades, standing tall and stunning against the backdrop of summer drawing to a close. I had not previously seen (or do not recall seeing) this species. DeSoto Naturalist Brittney Hughes provided an immediate i.d. via email. She reminded me, too, of the tremendous reference available online through a partnership of the Alabama Herbarium Consortium and The University of West Alabama: Alabama Plant Atlas at http://www.floraofalabama.org/

 

Brittney also came through with another flowering glade inhabitant identification: Sandstone tickseed (Coreopsis pulchra). Another common name, suggesting its restricted home range, is Lookout Mountain Tickseed. We in Alabama are blessed with extraordinary diversity of micro-habitats and the resultant vegetation that has specific site requirements.

 

Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) likewise seemed at home on the glade. According to the US Forest Service, This cactus grows in open, dry areas, often on calcareous rock or thin soils. It can be found in or on fencerows, roadsides, rocky glades, rock outcrops, cliffs, old quarries, dunes, and prairie. The roots need to be dry during winter to prevent rot, so well drained sites are necessary. In contrast to the tickseed’s restricted range, the prickly pear grows from Montana to Florida and from New Mexico into Ontario. An interesting set of facts from the same USFS website: This species is a typical cactus with a photosynthetic stem that acts as a leaf. This stem also stores water. Because of special antifreeze chemicals in its cells, it can survive the freezing temperatures of the northern and middle states. So much to learn about diverse life within our State Parks.

 

I can only imagine what I could learn from even a monthly down-on-my-knees visit to DeSoto’s sandstone glades over the course of a full annual cycle! I would not be surprised to learn that somewhere in the scientific literature there is such a calendar-year chronicle of life on our sandstone glades.

 

Fall’s Early Advance

As I commented in the prior DeSoto Park Post, I’ve lived elsewhere (up north!) where fall barges into summer’s final parties, guns blazing, winds whipping, and northerlies portending first frosts and freezes, sleet and freezing rain, and howling blizzards. Leaves turn with glory because the trees over the sweep of time have learned what’s coming… and soon. Here in the south, I contend, summer just tires of heat, late summer drought, and shortening days. Summer simply gives up and wears out, retreats, backing out the door, refusing to confront autumn with any resistance.

Near the lodge where I stayed, I found Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) in seed, finished for the season, ready to sow their seed and rest before the still weeks-away frosts.

 

After an unusually wet spring and early summer, little rain had fallen since late June. Reduced soil moisture, and eons of adapting to frequent late season dry spells, triggered some tree species to begin shutting down, dropping leaves rather than engaging in net negative production. Evolution favors action that conserves energy and adds value. The forest had engaged productively for at least four months. Its trees had performed as designed.

 

This 30+ inch yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), even with deep roots along a perennially moist drainage-way, had begun to let go, dropping a few deliciously yellow leaves along the trail.

 

 

 

I had not seen this wonderful signage on previous DeSoto wanderings. I could not resist capturing its apt message.

 

May your own treks through Nature gather only photos and memories… and may your steps be light!

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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 (co-authored with Dr. Jennifer J. Wilhoit; 2019) 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. All three are available on Indiebound and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Autumn in the South seldom rushes; summer slowly fades, yielding as much to heat and seasonal drought as it does to impending cold.
  2. Each season in life and every place in Nature offers special treats and predictable, yet sometimes surprising, nuances.
  3. Beauty, magic, wonder, and awe await every venture into Nature — be prepared to discover what always lies hidden within!

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

 

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our first co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

 

DeSoto State Park: April and August 2019

Nothing in Nature is Static

Beginning July 12, I embarked upon a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks, and an eight-day, three-National Parks tour of southeastern Kazakhstan. Three days after returning to Madison, Alabama I met with ten Alabama State Parks Naturalists, assistant Naturalists, and staff at DeSoto State Park. The next morning I ventured forth on several trails that I had hiked most recently in mid-April, the morning after three inches of rain during a period when spring rains had already been ample: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/05/15/the-magic-of-waters-thunder-at-desoto-state-park/

We had discussed the prior evening that some visitors assume that a single visit is sufficient for them to “know” a particular Park and its environs. Such is not the case. Nothing in Nature is static… not for a day, a week, a month, a season, a year, a decade. The rate of perceptible change increases exponentially with extended time. Aldo Leopold wrote exquisitely of the seasonal fluxes on his Wisconsin farm (A Sand County Almanac, 1949). Many other environmental writers have done same, although not exceeding Leopold’s prose. I don’t intend to challenge Leopold’s nearly-lyrical supremacy, yet I do dare to demonstrate with text and photos the sweeping differences between my April 18-20 visit to DeSoto and my August 27 trek. On both hikes my boots grew soggy, my clothes saturated, and camera lens foggy. The big difference was that very little rain had fallen at DeSoto since the first of July. The half-inch that had fallen the night before and continued occasionally that morning had wet the vegetation and trail surface without generating surface flow.

Indian Falls ran full in April; nothing flowed over the foreground ledge in August. Water roaring versus near-silence except for canopy drip. Light levels the same.

 

Above Indian falls the August stream bed carried only the early leaf-drop promise of fall and its autumn rains. Trees here in the south are accustomed to late summer and early fall droughts. They don’t need cool nights and shortened days to trigger leaf senescence, abscission layer forming, and leaf-drop. The April canopy had not yet fully developed; August crowns had already begun to thin.

 

Even Lodge Falls carried good discharge in April. Not a drop beyond rain-dampened bed-stones in August.

 

Lost Falls pounded in April; a trickle dripped over the ledge in August. Who says a single visit reveals a Park, much less the hundreds of nooks and crannies within!

 

Azalea Cascade sits at the end of a several-hundred yard boardwalk through a tunnel of mature hardwood forest. April gifted me with a clear-water pool amidst the boulders, fed by the cascade tumbling from above. August offered bare rock with just a bit of pooled water… a refuge for minnows, crawdads, salamanders, and frogs.

 

Sandstone Glades

I wrote at length about the very special sandstone glades (from my April visit) in this June 5, 2019 Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/05/sandstone-glades-at-desoto-state-park/ The April glades literally flowed with the prior night’s rain (below left), the shallow bedrock generally blocking percolation and forcing surface flow. The August glades (below right) show wet rock, faded vegetation, and an absence of lush growth.

 

Again, the lower left photo demonstrates surface water and rich greens; the lower right rock surface carries a burden of shed maple leaves. I think of my stints in the more northern eastern US (Upstate New York; Central Pennsylvania; New Hampshire), where fall kicks in the late summer door, ejecting those lazy, hazy, days without quibble or resistance. Here in the south, summer simply begins letting go, backing out the door, exhausted from months of luxurious growing, extended periods of heat, and now diminishing rains… long before fall threatens to enter the neighborhood.

 

I celebrated seeing lush patches of elf orpine (Diamorpha smallii) in flower (below left; pinkish cluster at rock’s edge). Below right most April vegetation had long since senesced. The prior night’s rain, pooled on the rock, reflects a Virginia pine beyond.

 

Little difference in lichen and moss growth and luxuriousness appears between the April and August photos (left and right, respectively below). The August overnight rain had freshened both of these non-flowering plants, which are well-adapted to these sites and the associated periodic droughts. The August image evidences the new leaf fall.

 

Nature’s Weathering of a Trail Marker’s Handiwork

I noticed the handiwork and humor a trail maintenance person had employed re-marking the orange trail, creating a pumpkin on a pine cronartium scar. I retook the photo in August, remembering the artwork and curious to compare the images for any visible four-month weathering. Sure enough, Nature had exacted her own handiwork. Nature, even in her most gentle manner, is relentless. Nothing is static. Nothing escapes her persistent ways. I have become a tireless proponent for the Alabama State Park System to seek funding to begin a systematized plan to establish permanent photo points, GPS-located, azimuth-controlled, and scheduled for re-taking on some routine schedule, perhaps every 3-7 years. People generally believe that forests are unchanging, static forevermore. Photo comparisons tell no lies… and evidence changes, often rapidly, in most cases predictably, and always convincingly. Simple words never match the power of images.

 

Without the above photos, I would not likely have observed a difference.

 

Non-Flowering Plants

Although certainly not the same lichen (both appear to be of the genus Usnea), I see little difference between April (left with newly emerged grape leaves and rhododendron flowers as backdrop) and the late August rain-soaked tandem of lichen and moss (right with a backdrop of dry leaves and needles). I believe the freshening rain served as the great equalizer.

 

I loved the algae-greened bark furrows on the April bole (left) and embraced seeing the same look in August (right). Common on both is the prior night’s stem-flow sufficient even in the less intense August rain to wet the entire trunk. Nature abhors a vacuum, filling even the most seeming unlikely places with life.

 

My August trek enlightened with more than just this April-to-August ecological comparison. I’ll save for a subsequent post my observations and reflections on non-flowering plants, the native black birch’s propensity to cling like hell to its rock, some great sandstone glades late summer flowering gems, and the early signs of summer stepping gracefully and graciously aside for autumn.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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 (co-authored with Dr. Jennifer J. Wilhoit; 2019) 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. All three are available on Indiebound (https://www.indiebound.org/)  and other online sources. 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.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Nothing in Nature is static; change is constant, usually predictable, yet difficult to see.
  2. A single visit to any Alabama State Park opens a glimpse in time… a single snapshot of the wonders that shift day-to-day, week-to-week, season-to-season, and year-to-year.
  3. To experience a Park deeply, visit time and time again

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our first co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

July Return to Joe Wheeler State Park

I returned to Joe Wheeler State Park mid-day July 10 for an extended afternoon Park orientation with Superintendent Chad Davis in advance of our evening and next morning State Parks Foundation Board meeting. I had spent several hours exploring a couple of trails in June 2018. See the Post I issued last July: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/07/05/joe-wheeler-state-park/

The Park website says of Joe Wheeler SP: “Whether you arrive by land or water, there’s no mistaking the beauty and serenity of this 2,550-acre resort park. On the shores of Wheeler Lake, the resort features a stunning waterfront lodge with restaurant and convention facilities, championship 18-hole golf course and clubhouse, full-service marina with permanent and overnight docking slips, modern and primitive camping, lakeside cottages, cozy cabins, and a rustic group lodge.” Visit the website: https://www.alapark.com/parks/joe-wheeler-state-park

The main entrance hints at the sylvan environment lying within.

 

Before I report on our afternoon wanderings, allow me to leap ahead to the next morning.

Sunrise at the Lodge along Wheeler Lake

Joe Wheeler is a resort park. I spent the night at the Lodge, a full service hotel and restaurant. I can’t remember when I last awakened after daybreak. Morning is my preferred (cherished) time of day. I know that I regularly awoke in full light years ago during our four years in Fairbanks, Alaska at nearly 65-degrees north latitude. Although the sun dipped below the horizon even on the summer solstice, its very shallow arc kept 24-daylight with us for some 80 consecutive summer days. So, for 10-11 weeks there was no rising before dawn!

Judy and I enjoyed our early morning walk along the Lodge waterfront as the sun broke the eastern horizon, back-lighting sailboats docked at the Park’s 140-slip marina.

 

We saw no cabin cruiser (my term for some rather large boats) human passengers up and about so early. Yet avian boarders found convenient perches as they caught their insect breakfasts above the lake surface. I wondered whether the boat owners anticipated the necessary hosing and scrubbing that awaited them… courtesy of the swallows.

 

The resort pier extends far enough into the First Creek arm of the Lake to permit this view of the Lodge. What a gorgeous place to call home for an early July escape!

 

An Afternoon in the Woods

So much of the Park’s forests are within a few hundred yards of the Lake. Chad and I examined several segments of Park’s new eight-mile trail that should be open and ready to hike this coming fall. Here’s just one place where the new trail drops to shore level.

 

It also comes near this Lake-facing signage advising boaters of their proximity to the resort park.

 

And likewise to near this wall-blind intended for dormant season visitors to observe waterfowl without tree foliage interference.

 

Here’s Chad with the trail crew we intercepted doing the hard labor of clearing and grading. I am eager to schedule another visit to trek the full length… once fall delivers more tolerable temperatures.

 

As I’ve often observed, I am a tree-junkie who entered forestry studies at university fifty years ago in August! I am so fortunate to have merged vocation and avocation. Growing up in the Central Appalachians, I love trees… and I am in love with oaks. The red oak below left, graced with a characteristically hairy-stemmed poison ivy vine, measures two-and-a-half feet diameter breast high (DBH). Chad stands beside another nearby that we measured at 33-inches. Most of the lowland forests at Wheeler State Park are rich former agricultural sites abandoned when TVA acquired the land in advance of dam construction and flooding.

 

An even larger white oak stands at the base of a steep bluff. Not willing to risk falling into the Lake, I did not descend the slope with my diameter tape. Call me chicken! I estimated its DBH at north of three-feet, with a massive crown (below right). I find inspiration in these forest denizens.

 

Although not nearly so large as the red and white oaks above, this bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) reigns as the State Champion, the largest of its species in the entire state!

 

It joins two other species state champions located at the Park: chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) and September elm (Ulmus serotina).

I’ve offered just a glimpse of the Park’s magic, beauty, wonder, and awe. I’m blessed that this gem lies just a little more than an hour from my home. I will endeavor to further explore this fall. Occasionally visit the Park’s website for announcements about the trail’s opening: https://www.alapark.com/parks/joe-wheeler-state-park

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, 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. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  • Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages; whether Cheaha in the heart of our Alabama Southern Appalachians, or Joe Wheeler’s lake-shore forests near Rogersville.
  • The Tennessee River impoundments provide rich regional recreational value, furnish electrical power, enable navigation, and serve as perfect lake-side locations for both Joe Wheeler and Lake Guntersville State Parks.
  • In my humble view, daybreak is one of Nature’s finest gifts.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

 

 

 

Late April Wildflowers at Oak Mountain State Park

I made my first visit to Oak Mountain State Park (20 miles south of Birmingham) in late April. See my June 6, 2019 Post on my general impressions from Oak Mountain: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/17/late-spring-at-oak-mountain-state-park/ I’m sure I will visit again in the fall. A single point in time does not do justice to the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of our State Parks or any place in Nature. For this Post I will focus on the flowering spectacle that is spring in central Alabama.

Spring Ephemerals

Because I have squeezed so many destinations (and subsequent Blog Posts) into my spring 2019 wanderings, I will not burden the reader with lots of text, electing instead to run through the many spring ephemerals I encountered at Oak Mountain State Park April 25-26, 2019. An absolute wildflower enthusiast’s delight!

Four-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Ragwort (Senecio anonymous):

Lance-leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). I’ve noted in previous Posts that we are in Good Hands with our Alabama State Park Naturalists. That’s OMSP Naturalist Lauren Muncher’s hand assisting below!

Butterweed (Senecio glabellus):

Two-flowered Cynthia (Krigia biflora):

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens). I’ve known this plant my entire professional life, yet there is so much I do not know or remember. Occasionally I’m well-served to learn more. Here’s a paragraph from a USDA Forest Service online article:

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. The dark-green, evergreen leaves are simple, opposite, ovate, with a pale yellow midrib, are ½ inch across, with a short stalk. In late spring, a pair of white flowers (with a single calyx) appears. Each small, fragrant flower has four brilliant white petals that are pubescent and unite into a funnel-shaped tube that is also fringed with hairs. The pair of flowers occur in two forms (dimorphous). In the first form the pistil is short and the stamens are long; in the second form the pistil is long and the stamens are short. This structure prevents each flower from fertilizing itself. Both flowers must be pollinated to obtain a single scarlet berry. Each berry is the result of the fusion of each ovary of the pollinated pair of white flowers. As such, each berry has two bright red spots on its surface.

Wow, an amazing story rich with detail… and peculiarities. A single berry from two flowers! Leonardo da Vinci offered an apt observation:

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

Carolina Climbing Milkweed (Matalea decipiens) is one I had not previously encountered (or remembered). I love the deep color, the velvety leaf, and the royal appearance. I am now a big fan!

VA Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana):

Spiny Thistle (Cirsium carolinianum) is a plant commonly referred to as a weed, often growing on disturbed sites. I find it delightful with its large spiky blossom. I refuse to diminish its beauty by calling it a weed — I consider this beauty a valid and distinguished spring wildflower!

Eastern White Beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus):

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) has been among my favorites for decades. It flourished in the Central Appalachians where I first wandered the ridge and valley region. Whether a full plant in flower (below left) or an individual cluster (right) its magic is incomparable.

In some ways I’m sad to be issuing this Post mid-summer. I won’t have another chance to experience the wonderful spring blooms again for some eight months, yet anticipation is thrill and reward in itself. To every thing there is a season… and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Yet I take solace from John Muir’s wisdom: “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, 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. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  • Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages; whether Gulf State’s coastal richness or Oak Mountain in the backyard of our state’s largest city.
  • Enter our rich forests with eyes wide open for seasonal blessings and gifts.
  • Spring ephemeral wildflowers and our ubiquitous flowering shrubs reveal priceless beauty.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

 

 

 

Spring Day Color at DeSoto State Park in Northeastern Alabama

This is my fourth Great Blue Heron Blog Post from my mid-April visit to DeSoto State Park. See my earlier Posts describing the Magic of Water’s Thunder at DeSoto State Park: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/05/15/the-magic-of-waters-thunder-at-desoto-state-park/ and DeSoto’s Sandstone Glades: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/05/sandstone-glades-at-desoto-state-park/ and Special Features at DeSoto: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/24/special-features-at-desoto-state-park-in-northeastern-alabama/. I stayed at the Park April 18-20; rain fell in torrents the night of the 18th, and light rain and drizzle persisted until I departed mid-day on the 20th. Although I snapped this photo on a prior visit and used it in a previous DeSoto Post, it seemed fitting to repeat it!

The world is alive with the sound of music — flowing and dripping water! And, the woods abound with the hues and shades of spring!

Spring Ephemerals

Because I have squeezed so many destinations (and subsequent Blog Posts) into my spring 2019 wanderings, I will not burden the reader with lots of text, electing instead to run through the many spring ephemerals I encountered at DeSoto State Park April 18-20, 2019. An absolute wildflower enthusiast’s delight!

Appalachia Milkwort (Polygala nana) and Downy Phlox (Phlox pilosa), below left and right, respectively. Note the water droplets on many of these floral photos, bearing testament to the persistent drizzle and dripping.

Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata) basal leaves and flower stalk. All three (above and below) species grew along a utility right-of-way (see lower right).

Four Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia) and most every other photo I captured depict interior forest species.

Shuttlesworth Ginger (Hexastylis shuttlesworthii) is a new find for me. I admit to being a sentimental sucker for any jug-like flower!

 

 

 

 

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) and Shrub Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), below left and right, respectively. Both are dainty and delicate, especially appealing and beckoning in the low-light sodden understory. I’ve said in prior Posts that we are in Good Hands when guided by our Alabama State Parks Naturalists. That’s DeSoto Naturalist Brittney Hughes’ hand — she led me through a full day of plant discovery and identification. I am grateful.

Deerberry (vaccinium stamineum) and Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta), below left and right, respectively.

Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda) and Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).

Catesby’s Trillium (Trillium catesbaei).

Flowering Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

We found far more than spring ephemerals. We selected a perfect time to be afoot at DeSoto to achieve peak (and peek!) discovery; well, actually Brittney recommended the mid-April time frame. Again, rather than weigh you down with prose, let’s review a portfolio of what the Park presented to us and our wet feet.

Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus).

Catawba Rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense), which in my humble opinions is among the season’s most precious gifts!

Mountain azalea (Rhododendron canescensis) is another that rises to the level of woodland exultation!

Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), another flower of exquisite beauty in the wet and cloud-deepened forest light.

I could not have planned for better weather, highlighting the beauty and emphasizing the springtime palette.

Non-Flowering Plant Delights

Allow me now to switch to our non-flowering jewels, a realm about which I know far too little. Mosses and lichens offer a rich mosaic in the Park’s sandstone glades.

I love seeing jelly fungi when they are moisture-gorged. Wikipedia offers some reminder to me of how little I know: “Jelly fungi are a paraphyletic group of several heterobasidiomycete fungal orders from different classes of the subphylum Agaricomycotina. There is so VERY much I do not know. Reminds me of an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying, “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.” And of lyrics from some old song I recall, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

Even the whites seemed more intense, whether as complement to the freckled upper surface or the gilled underside.

The resurrection fern stood in moistened resplendence… at peak vitality following the deluge.

Twig-festooning bearded lichen added its own element of glory.

Google dictionary describes a spleenwort as “a small fern that grows in rosettes on rocks and walls, typically with rounded or triangular lobes on a slender stem and formerly used as a remedy for disorders of the spleen.” Prior to touring DeSoto with Naturalist Brittney Hughes, I would have identified this rosette as an unknown (to me) fern. Now, I will accept it as a spleenwort.

Dead and down woody debris supports rich life… life whose principal function is to return the dead cellulose and lignin to the soil. It’s ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Forget about the life cycle. Instead, it’s the life and death cycle. The lower left photo shows two kinds of lichens, algae, and at least two species of fungal fruiting bodies. Below right life is also robust.

 

 

 

 

 

So, too, on the elevated downed woody debris below. Same roles… different species. Similar function; the same ultimate purpose and function.

A Trail Marker and Tree Bark Route Guide

At first glance, I see below just a loblolly pine with trail marker. But look a little more closely. Loblolly bark grows as flat plates, breaking into fissures as the tree expands in circumference. Life, as this sodden dark bark evidences, flourishes in the furrows. Algae expresses vividly under these moisture-saturated conditions. I’ve looked since at dry-barked loblolly. The algae is hidden from immediate view. This one tells the tale once more that Nature tolerates no vacuums. And reminds me of the magic, beauty, wonder, awe that lie hidden in plain sight. I’m also reminded that if we limit our Nature excursions to “good” weather, the exceptional may escape our notice.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, 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. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  • Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages; whether Gulf State’s coastal richness or a water-logged day on Sand Mountain at DeSoto.
  • Don’t deny yourself the gifts afforded by what we may call unpleasant weather.
  • Spring ephemeral wildflowers reveal priceless beauty, but don’t ignore the magic of ubiquitous non-flowering plants.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. 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.

Vision:

  • 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!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

Special Features at DeSoto State Park in Northeastern Alabama

See my earlier Posts describing the Magic of Water’s Thunder at DeSoto State Park: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/05/15/the-magic-of-waters-thunder-at-desoto-state-park/ and DeSoto’s Magical Sandstone Glades: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/05/sandstone-glades-at-desoto-state-park/

I stayed at the Park April 18-20; rain fell in torrents the night of the 18th, and light rain and drizzle persisted until I departed mid-day on the 20th. Although I snapped this photo on a prior visit, it seemed fitting for this Post!

Stone Formations

DeSoto State Park sits atop Lookout Mountain. The “mountain” is a flat-topped 50-mile linear erosional remnant (up to ten miles wide) of the broader Cumberland Plateau that lifted during the Appalachian orogeny some 225-260 million years ago. Lookout Mountain, Sand Mountain, and Blount Mountain are three of the ridges that together with erosional valleys constitute the eight units of the Cumberland Plateau. The Plateau-topping sandstone lies at the surface of DeSoto’s sandstone glades (below left). Sandstone likewise provides the shelves, cliffs, and ledges over which DeSoto’s multiple falls tumble (below right).

This one photograph is emblematic of the marriage of rock and forest at DeSoto.

Powerful forces shape and sculpt Earth’s features. Stand at any number of Cumberland Plateau scenic overlooks and imagine the peneplain that stretched to the horizon eons ago, level with your current perch above the broad valley. All that was there has long ago entered the Tennessee River–to the Ohio–and on to the the mighty Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico. And still, the process continues inexorably. Lichens and algae on rock faces exact chemical and physical tolls. The foot-wide fissure separating the two large sandstone blocks (below left) certainly felt the unfathomable pressure of freezing seepage, as well as expansion and contraction from diurnal and annual temperature fluctuations from 0-to-90-degrees F. Tree roots also join the assault. The nearly prostrate sourwood (Oxydendrum aboreum; lower right) and the many other tree, shrub, and herbaceous species anchoring nearby pull their share of the weathering load. There will come a day when these rocks, too, will feel the tropical warmth of Gulf waters. After all, time means nothing to a grain of sand.

Allow me a postscript on the sourwood, one of my favorite southern trees. I’ve noted in previous Posts that sourwood pays scant attention to both the laws of gravity (it disdains growing vertically) and it refuses to be a slave to sunlight. Most trees species are either positively phototropic (grow toward the sun) or negatively geotropic (grow opposite gravity’s pull). Sourwood plays by its own rules. The tree above, shall we say, is true to form. It did not fall to this position — it grew that way! I admire its spirit of independence and its rebel demeanor. It seems to literally chart its own path and destiny.

I puzzled over this two-foot circular hole about half-way up the side of a 20-foot high rock face. Man made? An accident of Nature? Some explainable physical phenomenon? Worth a photo and a bushel of curiosity. I may never know. Perhaps the answer is clear to you.

I leave the mystery for now to Park Naturalist Brittney Hughes who led me through a full soggy day at DeSoto.

Park Oddities

Nature’s portfolio is rich with wonder as well as special features. I have yet to venture into Nature anywhere I’ve trod, to include on several continents, and not found additional oddities to add to my photo collection and memory. I like this yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) kissing the tilted, lichen-encrusted sandstone block. Animate and inanimate reside proximal and interactively.

While I admitted a special fondness for sourwood, Brittany feels deep reverence for black birch (Betula nigra). This species, whether in upstate New York or here in the southern Appalachians, is adept at dropping seeds that seem to germinate and find purchase in the most unusual places. These two found anchorage on the side of a mossy rock and dropped roots along the rock to find true soil and suitable substrate on the forest floor. They are resilient and opportunistic, an admirable character for true forest entrepreneurs… or, for that matter, for human business entrepreneurs.

Clouds, drizzle, and mystery enveloped us. I glanced up to find an Ewok village. As a reminder to those of you who are Star Wars enthusiasts, “Ewoks were a diminutive species of furry bipeds native to the forest moon of Endor. They were most notable for helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the forces of darkness…” They inhabited deep forests and lived in high-canopy tree crowns. Well, I’m allowed a flight of fancy. The above-ground structures at DeSoto have little to do with the furry little Ewoks. Instead, DeSoto’s zipline opened this past spring: https://www.alapark.com/zipline-adventures. Not sure I’m ready for that!

 

 

 

Appropriately, the Park traces the Orange Trail with, you guessed it, orange paint. Perhaps the painting crew passed this way during the Halloween season, showing creativity and demonstrating mirth on a trail-side Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) canker face. Not limiting themselves to orange, the crew even added a green stem stump (below right)! Such a delight on a dark and sodden hike, warming my heart and brightening the day.

And no fungal agents at work on this tree near the Lodge!

Puzzling Spiral Grain

Over my entire forestry career, I have noticed that trees grow with spiral grain. And I’ve puzzled over the cause and expression. I am not alone in such pondering. From the online Gymnosperm Database: “Spiral grain is the helical form taken by xylem tissues in their growth along a tree trunk or limb. Spiral grain is often conspicuous in snags that have lost their bark, as shown in the photos on this page, and people love to speculate about it. You will hear, for instance, that it is caused by the Coriolis force or that trees always spiral one direction in the northern hemisphere and the other direction in the southern hemisphere.

The phenomenon and causes of spiral grain have received considerable study, perhaps because it affects the commercial value of wood. Kubler (1991) provides an extensive (though somewhat dated) bibliography. He noted that spirals “are commonly observed in both directions (left-handed and right-handed), and that the direction of spiral can reverse several times during a tree’s life. I have seen that attested in a decaying alpine log of Engelmann spruce.” Kubler also noted that trees can spiral for many different reasons.

Don’t look for me soon to Post an answer or solve the mystery. The spiral grain I photographed in de-barked dead Virginia pine (a sample of four below expressed as right-handed.

I’ll accept the online wisdom, which continued, “Spiraling can also occur (and this is probably more common) in response to stress: there is a helical stress imposed on any tree that is exposed to prevailing wind and has an asymmetrical crown, which is common in trees growing on exposed sites. Gravity can also impose a helical stress on a leaning tree. It has also been noted that spiral grain may make the tree stronger and better able to withstand stresses caused by wind, particularly if the direction of the spiral is periodically reversed. This concept was developed in some detail by Skatter and Kucera (1998) who studied wind effects on trees with asymmetrical crowns and showed that ‘spiral grain is an optimized growth feature when the trees are exposed to combined bending and torsion.’ They also assert that most conifers spiral at the same rate (called the grain angle) and show a change from left-handed to right-handed spiraling as they age.”

 

Again, if experts who have studied this phenomenon are able only to speculate, I will not attempt to advance the frontiers of knowledge and understanding. Instead, I may simply continue to ask others for an explanation. I may generate some wild flights of fancy from those who are never at a loss for words and likewise seldom pass up an opportunity to express their perspicacity and infinite wisdom!

DeSoto State Park is a place of special features.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, 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. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct lessons I draw from this Blog Post:

  • Nature’s magic manifests in ways often least anticipated — not always in towering trees and cathedral groves.
  • Enter the forest with open mind, probing eyes, and a sense of childlike wonder.
  • Always seek what lies hidden within… and you will find it.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 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: http://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com

 

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.

Vision:

  • 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!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative, including initiatives related to exploring and revealing what lies hidden in plain sight.