A Few Fungal Highlights from an Early Fall Trek through a River Terrace Forest

As a forestry undergraduate I took courses with titles like Plant Pathology and Eastern US Forest Diseases, studying economically important tree diseases like chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, beech-scale-nectria, white pine blister rust, fusiform rust, and oak wilt. I learned fungi as disease agents and causes of decay and wood deterioration reducing the commercial value of important timber species. I also understood the crucial role fungi played in the great cycle of life… returning dead and dying woody material to the soil. In graduate school I delved more deeply into the positive synergy between tree roots and mycorhizal fungi. Most importantly, I paid little heed to mushrooms common to the forests I roamed as a teenager, or to those I am sure I encountered during my 12 years of forestry practice in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. Likewise, I passed through my 35 years at nine universities (seven states) nearly oblivious to the ubiquitous fungi-kingdom inhabitants in natural areas that I explored and wandered.

A Day of Visual Mushroom Bounty

But, in retirement that has changed. If you’ve followed these Posts over the past four years you will have noticed my ever-increasing fascination with fungi and their fruiting bodies. In the old days, my attention focused above-ground from tree trunks to their towering heights. I find myself these days visually scouring the ground for colorful, diverse, odd, and edible mushrooms. When I mention in these Posts that this or that species is edible, I offer a necessary caveat that the reader not take my word for it. The lion’s mane fungi (Hericium erinaceus; below) is one I harvest, prepare, and consume. Its vivid whiteness in our fall and winter woods makes it easy to spot. Its delicate filamentous structure is unique and a sensory delight to hold and examine. I found this specimen on a well-decayed downed tree October 17, 2020 in a bottomland hardwood forest on the eastern end of Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Other names for lion’s mane include: monkey head; bearded hedgehog; pom-pom; bearded tooth.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

The October 17, 2020 trek offered other fungal rewards. This large willow oak (Quercus phellos) looked sound and healthy until I glanced above to about ten feet (below right), where a foot-wide cluster of shaggy bracket fungi (Inonotus hispidus) extended from the trunk. I could just reach it with my fingertip, feeling its soft pliant texture. Many other fresh brackets hung above me to 25 feet. This fungus is a decay organism, feasting upon a living tree. The old Steve-as-timber-beast would have lamented the reduction of commercial value and perhaps marked the stem for harvest. Now I marvel at the simple beauty of this shelf fungus. Its deep color and large dimensions. First-Nature.com remarks, White rot results from attack by the Shaggy Bracket, and infected trees have to be felled because this aggressive decay agent weakens the timber and can result in trunks or branches breaking and falling in stormy weather. Although still living, this oak is doomed. How long will it survive? I certainly cannot hazard a guess. Perhaps last night’s gusty winds have already felled it. Or it may continue to run its annual cycles of bud break and leaf abscission another decade…or three. The circle is in fact unbroken, even if the tree (or, shall I say, especially if and when) the tree crashes to the horizontal. The material of its cells will become soil organic matter, then will find warm absorption in a new plant…or slug or insect or small mammal or a future mighty oak and perhaps once again hang from the side of an oak within the structure of a shaggy bracket fungus.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Another oak, this one dead on its stump, sprouted a colony of (Ganoderma sessile), a polypore fungus. Like all Ganoderma species, G sessile has a shiny lacquered surface, especially when fresh like this grouping.

HGH Road

 

I found its distinctive beauty to0 special to include just a single photo. Enjoy all three, taken within ten feet of each other!

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two weeks later (November 4, 2020), I retraced my steps (more or less), coming across the same colony of G. sessile. Their lacquered sheen lies hidden beneath a thick dusting of countless spores. Nothing in Nature is static.

HGH Road

 

This is upright coral fungus (Ramaria stricta), common in forests across most of the US, growing on dead wood. Also known as strict-branch coral, this fungus appears throughout our local bottomland hardwood forests.

HGH Road

 

My iNaturalist app did not provide a definitive identity on these two beauties. It offered ten suggestions, most of them of the genus Amanita, which I accept, but not with certainty. The taller specimen stands about six inches. The cap and stalk are firm. The cap is scaly. Those features seem distinctive, yet I could not secure a firm identity.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Two Days Later at Big Cove Creek Greenway

Two days later (October 19) I biked at Big Cove Creek Greenway, City of Huntsville. Here I am standing by a trail-side river birch (Betula nigra) with its exfoliating bark. I append these additional photos because the timing fell so close to my discovering the mushroom menagerie above at the Wheeler Refuge and because of the spectacular display offered by what I found along the greenway. I had grown a beard, confirming my old man of the woods look, and verifying the image of a mushroom geezer! The beard is no longer with me (I exfoliated it!), so I felt compelled to include bearded-Steve in one of these Posts.

Big Cove Creek

 

Here is the spectacular display — these eastern American jack-o’-lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens) visually shouted at me as I passed them. I couldn’t resist gathering images. What better time to find these jack-o’-lanterns than the Halloween season!

Big Cove Creek

 

My growing interest in fungi and mushrooms enriches my forest wanderings. I’ve discovered that the more I know, the harder I look, and the more I see. What in prior years had been invisible to me is now in plain sight. And what is in plain sight generates deep feelings of respect, admiration, learning, and inspiration.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer two observations from my mid-October fungi explorations through an aging hardwood bottomland forest:

  • Nature’s gifts come in all sizes and variations, from a towering oak to the mushrooms of its decay fungi
  • We can find whatever we seek when we know where to look within Nature

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHGH Road

 

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

Seasons Flowing with the Waters of Bradford Creek

I’ll begin with the broad lesson I draw from these photos and reflections:

Just as the waters of Bradford Creek flow ceaselessly seaward, Nature’s seasons advance reliably day after day, annually completing a full cycle. So too do the seasons of our lives pass year after year.

Seasonal Progress Across Geography

I published a Blog Post June 5, 2018, chronicling the advance of spring across a 660-mile south-to-north road transect from Madison, Alabama to just north of Pittsburgh, PA: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/06/05/six-hundred-sixty-mile-transect/. Elevation and latitude are powerful variables controlling spring’s inexorable trip northward.

Yet we don’t need to travel to observe seasonal shifts. I offer here my observations at a fixed place (nearby Bradford Creek) from October 12, 2019 (climatically very late summer here in north Alabama) through the end of May, 2020 (early summer here). Keep in mind that my characterization of climatic season is based upon a life perspective across thirteen career-driven interstate moves, including stays in upstate New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, western Maryland, and Alaska, as well as Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama..

Seasons Flowing with the Waters of Bradford Creek

October 14 in Fairbanks, Alaska (our home for four years) is the autumn date when the average high temperature first rests at freezing. From that point through April 1, the average daily high stays below 32 degrees. I snapped the photo below October 12, three weeks ahead of Huntsville’s average date of first freezing temperature (November 2). Snow had already fallen in Fairbanks by October 12 each of the four autumns we resided there. In fact, first flakes arrived by the end of September. Along Bradford Creek October 12, the hardwoods had begun dropping brown leaves, blanketing the sand and gravel bars. Canopy-greens are fading. In central Interior Alaska, aspen and birch reached full fall color during the first two weeks of September; branches were bare before the fall equinox. Therefore, I do not hesitate to observe that October 12 represents very late summer along Bradford Creek.

Bradford Creek

 

By November 5 the mood had changed. Still a lot of leaves clinging above. Greens weakening to yellow-brown. More fall than summer, yet clearly short of winter.

Bradford Creek

 

By December 4, I am willing to declare winter-like. A few residual main canopy brown leaves, some which will persist until spring leaf-out. Bradford Creek flowing gently, evidencing that seasonal rains had not yet begun to return creek levels to typical winter flush.

Bradford Creek

 

Ah, by December 28 we have reached deep winter (again, winter is relative), looking nothing here like the Hallmark Card ideal of New England Christmas cards. Bare trees and occasional bank-full flow along the creek.

 

A week later (January 3) Bradford Creek had receded from flood, leaving debris scattered across the trail. Grandson Sam poses on a stranded log. I admit to missing the threat and reality of a classic major north-land snow, yet I continue to embrace the magic of a Gulf-fed deluge over a couple of days, triggered by a low pressure system encountering an attempt by winter to surge southward.

Local Greenways

 

For two reasons I skipped ahead to the spring equinox (March 22). First, I don’t venture out on the trail often during the wet and chill of winter. Second, the seasons don’t progress much during January and February. By this point stream-side green is bursting and the canopy is evidencing bud break. Spring has sprung! In contrast, one of our Fairbanks year we experienced a high of one-degree below zero April 1, no fooling!

Bradford Creek

 

And from the webcam on our University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, here is the image taken at the spring equinox 2020. Still a snowpack of nearly three feet. Bud break remains a distant dream. Spring has not sprung, except as a point on the calendar.

West Ridge Webcam

 

Spring along Bradford Creek soon surges… explodes. By April 4 light green dominates.

Bradford Creek

 

Within the next few days, greens deepen and shade begins to grace the forest floor.

Bradford Creek

 

By April 26 the mood gives faint evidence of the winter just ending. I consider this full-spring, deep spring if you will.

 

Even the understory shrubs and herbaceous perennials are in full leaf by May 5.

Bradford Creek

 

May 19, by any standards and criteria I might select, we are squarely in what I would characterize as early summer!

Bradford CreekBradford Creek

 

Aldo Leopold famously captured the flow of seasons on his Wisconsin property seventy years ago in his timeless classic, A Sand County Almanac. I don’t suggest that this brief photo essay is on par with Leopold’s near poetic, deeply philosophical, and scientifically spot-on musings. However, I do hope that my photo and reflective journey along nearby Bradford Creek from October through May does in some small way enlighten, inform, and inspire readers to appreciate, value, and enjoy the magic of local wildness across the seasons.

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) 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.

The fundamental truth I draw from this Blog Post: Just as the waters of Bradford Creek flow ceaselessly seaward, Nature’s seasons advance reliably day after day, annually completing a full cycle. So too do the seasons of our lives pass year after year.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

Introducing Nature’s Richness to Residents of Wellpoint Assisted Living

May 7, 2020 I led a Facebook Live virtual tour along Big Cove Creek Greenway just north of Hays Preserve. Residences at Wellpoint, a new assisted living community just a mile from where I led the tour, produced the video.

My personal goal includes reaching out to multiple audiences… from K-12 across the lifespan to senior citizens, who like Wellpoint residents, wish to experience life fully well into retirement. My dedicated retirement 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 am ever-more convinced that Nature is an essential variable in the equation for living meaningfully into the liberating stage of life called retirement. I speak from personal experience!

Please watch the 20-minute video: https://www.facebook.com/residencesatwellpoint/videos/1731492206989805/

Just a Sampling of What We Viewed

 

I strolled just 250 feet along the greenway during our 20 minutes, pointing out well over 25 plant species, many of them in flower. Without elaboration, below is a modest sampling.

Virginia pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum) and Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus).

Big Cove CreekBig Cove Creek

 

Floating primrose-willow (Ludwigia peploides) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).

Big Cove CreekBig Cove Creek

 

Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre) and butterweed (Packera glabella).

Big Cove CreekBig Cove Creek

 

Field madder (Sherardia arvensis).

Big Cove Creek

 

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), an Asian import, and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).

Big Cove CreekBig Cove Creek

 

Nature is amazing… and amazingly accessible. I found all this rich beauty, magic, wonder, and awe along a tiny segment of a paved greenway just a short van ride from an assisted living community. The campus will eventually house nearly 200 senior residents seeking some level of immersion in Nature. What a great audience to engage and involve in my Earth Stewardship venture.

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) 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 truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Each venture into Nature opens my eyes ever more keenly to discovering her secrets
  2. Nature is an essential variable in the equation for living meaningfully into the liberating stage of life called retirement.
  3. Nature hides richness within plain sight

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksBig Cove Creek

 

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

 

 

Easter Storms — A Covid-19 Corollary

Covid-19 Context

 

I wrote these words the Wednesday after Easter, a day when Covid-19 deaths in the US were at approximately 30,000 (42,000 today), with confirmed cases at 614,000 (787,000 today). We remain under what I term Covid-19 House Arrest. A dire situation, yet I see signs of hope. The new case and hospitalization curves in most places (including New York City) appear to be beyond peak — that is, we have successfully flattened the curves. Deaths are at peak, reflecting the 10-16-day lag beyond new cases. I thought a lot about parallels to Covid-19 as violent Easter Sunday storms raked across the southeastern US with an energetic storm system trailing a cold front ushering record-breaking cold to much of the country.

Here in northern Alabama I measured just under four inches of rain, bringing us to ~44-inches since December 1, 2019! Right here in Madison, AL we endured numerous warnings during the afternoon and evening: Area-wide flood; flash flood; severe thunderstorm; and tornado. Fortunately we suffered little damage beyond several snapped utility poles nearby and eleven hours without power. We had readied our storm shelter, but never retreated into it. Nothing signaled imminent impact; even the tornado warning indicated the funnel in the southern porting of our county. Southwide the system killed 40-plus.

Monday morning, which dawned with full glory and promise, after allowing time for Bradford Creek to ease back into its banks, I headed for the Bradford Creek Greenway to bike. I offer the reader photographs and reflections from the Easter storms and their standing as a metaphor for the savagery of the Covid-19 pandemic. This viral fury, too, will pass, leaving an indelible mark on life and living, and stamping reminders, lessons, and emotional scars into our individual and societal psyche.

Bradford Creek GW

 

Rather than develop a text-packed Post to communicate my reflections, I find it easier to condense my impressions and feelings, expressing all with verse and accompanying photographs:

Easter Storms — Covid-19 Corollary in Verse

.

Easter 2020 dawned forebodingly

Skies dark with threat,

Absent the light of hope, and

The sunshine of resurrection

 

Covid-19 and its own darkness

Cast deep and frightful shadows,

Cancelled Easter gatherings and services

Kept us physically isolated… hug-less

 

 

Now add the ominous threat

Of imminent flooding,

Severe thunderstorms and hail,

High winds and twisters

 

By Easter’s early afternoon

An energetic storm system lifts,

Bringing rain and thunder, and

Storm warnings through late evening

 

Cloud and Sky

 

Pounding, slanting downpours

Snapping lightning; growling thunder,

Frequent new warnings

Storm shelter open and stocked

 

But this time not needed

All slipping east by nightfall,

Threats ebbing with the departure

Easing our minds for sleep

 

Easter Monday dawned with promise

With the full glory of renewal,

An abundance of hope’s light

And the sunshine of resurrection

 

213 Legendwood213 Legendwood

 

 

The storms left their mark

Eleven hours without power,

Others were not so fortunate

More than 40 died southwide

 

Monday morning biking

Along Bradford Creek Greenway

Revealed the clear evidence

Of rain just shy of four inches

Bradford Creek

 

 

Bradford Creek

 

Bradford Creek

 

Like Sunday’s storms,

A literal deluge and whirlwind,

The Covid-19 savagery is passing

Leading to a dawn of glory and promise

 

 

This, too, shall pass. We will emerge stronger for the experience. We have learned that we are all in this together. That we are one with Nature. That even the smallest of life forms, a lowly virus, can change lives. That humility can be soothing salve for the soul and heart, and for our emotional well-being. And most importantly, that the power of Nature’s inspiration (even from an outbreak of severe weather) can lift us toward resurrection and renewal. And, for me, I feel a growing sense of sacred connection to life and living… to what is important and essential. Not just sacred… spiritual as well. The storms and pandemic reinforce my belief that I am nothing. Nothing beyond a small element of a greater whole. Part of Creation… for a brief moment in time.

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) 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 two succinct truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Now is a time to reflect on what is important and essential
  2. Nature always provides lessons for dealing with life and living

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksBradford Creek GW

 

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

 

 

 

Leafless Tree I.D. Hike along Bradford Creek Greenway

 

February 22, 2020, the North Alabama Land Trust hosted a Leafless Tree I.D. hike along Bradford Creek Greenway in Madison, AL. I remain convinced that learning more about Nature amplifies our commitment to Earth stewardship. Don’t we care more about other humans when we know something (positive) about them, including their names? I believe the same is true of our kinship with the natural world. I was pleased to see some 30 eager-to-learn participants accompany hike leader Dr. Ken Ward, a retired Alabama A&M professor of dendrology, the scientific study of trees. Allow me to observe up front that Ken led the educational tour with distinction!

You might wonder why I, a bachelor-degreed forester with a doctorate in applied ecology, would want to take a three-hour tree identification hike. The answer is simple, even if multi-faceted:

  • I took my one and only dendrology course 51 years ago
  • Six hundred miles north of here
  • I’ve made thirteen interstate moves during my professional career, gaining knowledge many miles wide… and far too shallow
  • The final two decades of my professional pursuits locked me in senior executive leadership roles at seven different universities, relegating dendrology growth to secondary, tertiary, or perhaps even quadrary level — a thing of occasional weekend hikes
  • Although for the past two years I have been resharpening my Nature skills in our north Alabama woods, my blade is rusty
  • I relished the idea of soaking up knowledge from a true local expert
  • Ken did not disappoint!

We walked the trail (paved greenway) on a picture-perfect morning, one somehow lifted from within an otherwise drenched December through February period.

A Glorious Winter Day

 

Land Trust NAL

 

Beyond hosting the hike, the North Alabama Land Trust played a major role in establishing the Bradford Greenway. I borrow these words (and the two photos beneath the two paragraphs) from my January 20, 2020 Blog Post about our local greenways and floods: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/01/20/local-greenways-the-blessing-of-urban-floodplains/

I offer another tribute and appreciation to our Land Trust of North Alabama for its partnership in creating the Bradford Creek Greenway and other special places locally. I love the Land Trust’s tagline: “Conservation in Action!” As a former four-time university president, I hold that application adds value to knowledge. Applying knowledge (driven by dedication and passion) brings action to bear. Without applying action to conservation, we as humanity, communities, and individuals practice only a shallow and meaningless conservation inaction. Amazing how removing that one space (between ‘in’ and ‘action’) changes the entire essence. Talking by itself can amount merely to conservation virtue-signaling. The Land Trust gets it done! I applaud its action, guided by a succinct and noble mission: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future.

The Land Trust donated a 112-acre easement to the City of Madison (2006) for the Bradford Creek Greenway. The aerial photo shows the property lines (green) and the 2.5-mile trail (red) from Heritage School to Palmer Park. I have spent many hours biking along the creek under its welcome riparian forest cover and shade. A wonderful gift to future generations. We began our Tree I.D. hike at Heritage Elementary.

North AL Land TrustLand Trust of North Alabama

 

 

Here’s Ken (below left) speaking to us at trailside, the riparian forest behind him. Below right he’s pointing out the water tupelo (Nyssa aquatic) along Bradford creek, drawing our attention to the distinctively swollen base, often termed “butt swell.” Water tupelo is happy with wet feet; in fact the species demands it, hence the “water” moniker. Where you find a tree growing (and flourishing) is an important identification diagnostic.

Land Trust NALLand Trust NAL

 

Ken focused on bark and bud characteristics. Black cherry (Prunus serotina) bark varies from its mottled grey (lower left) on younger stems to the finely flaked near-black of mature trees. I know black cherry, the principal species of the Allegheny Hardwood Forests of New York and Pennsylvania where I conducted my doctoral research. Lower right we see white oak (Quercus alba) with its vertically-shredded white-grey bark, which varies little across tree age.

Land Trust NALLand Trust NAL

 

Never reaching beyond the intermediate canopy, Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood; American hornbeam) has an elephant-smooth grey bark, with sinewy muscled stem form. Lichens of various types often accent its bark (lower right). The Carpinus with my leaned trekking pole grows snug against an over-story sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) that towers above it. The musclewood tree, a shade tolerant species, is content in the sweetgum’s shade. In addition to bark, stem structure, and bud characteristics, another leafless tree diagnostic is canopy placement and growth form.

Land Trust NAL

 

Both musclewood and ironwood (Ostrya virginiana; eastern hophornbeam) are common here in northern Alabama, as well in the forests of my doctoral research. Both also speak volumes about the need for learning scientific names, and not relying on common names: consider American hornbeam and eastern hophornbeam! Ironwood has finely vertically-shredded bark, grows straighter than Carpinus, yet likewise occupies the lower and intermediate canopy. both have very dense (hard) wood.

Land Trust NALLand Trust NAL

 

The common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) occurs commonly across the northern half of the eastern US, and does venture into northern Alabama, primarily on upland sites. However, sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) is much more commonly distributed in the southern half of the eastern US. I do not know how to distinguish the two. Each has the diagnostic prominent corky ridges on the grey bark. Because we are in the southern half of the eastern US and on a riparian site, I am leaning toward sugarberry (laevigata).

Land Trust NAL

 

I can’t resist another photo or two of that day’s incredible weather: 35 degrees when we gathered at 9:00 am, rising mid-day to 55 degrees. Where we lived for four years (Fairbanks, AK) on the same day that we hiked here, the temperature rose to a balmy 11 degrees above zero with a two-foot snowpack. A week prior and a week later the highs ranged in the negative 20s! We are winter-blessed here in the Tennessee Valley region of northern Alabama. I suppose we pay our weather dues June through mid-September.

Land Trust NAL

 

In case any of my Fairbanks friends see this Post, here’s one more photo of the group enjoying the winter day!

Land Trust NAL

 

And, one more reflection on our Land Trust 0f North Alabama — a true service to Nature enthusiasts and future citizens across the region. The LTNA mission is simple, succinct, and noble: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future. I urge you to visit the Trust’s website: https://www.landtrustnal.org/vision-history/ Please consider joining and or contributing. 

 

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) 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 truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Learning about Nature enhances our understanding of our place in this world
  2. Understanding our place magnifies our appreciation for Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe
  3. Appreciation of Nature inspires and leverages our passion for Earth stewardship

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: “©2020 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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

That’s Alabama grandson Sam with me below right by a planted longleaf pine at the south end of Bradford Creek Greenway, opposite from the Tree I.D. hike.

Steve's BooksWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

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

 

 

Local Greenways — The Blessing of Urban Floodplains!

I’ve enjoyed many hours biking and walking along our local Madison, Alabama greenways: Bradford Creek; Mill Creek; and Indian Creek. Note the commonality — each bears a creek moniker. One might assume city planners wanted us to experience the peaceful streamside environment, the gurgle of flowing water, and the shade of the riparian forests. Not a bad assumption. However, other reasons prevailed. Here in northern Alabama’s Tennessee Valley, Nature blesses us with an annual average of 55 inches of rainfall. Our streams overflow their banks several times each year. So, their floodplains are not suitable for residential or commercial development. Five-and-a-half-year-old grandson Sam and I visited Indian Creek and Bradford Creek greenways January 3, 2020. I had measured eight inches of rain over the prior 13 days. That’s roughly 15 percent of our annual precipitation! Light rain continued as we walked. The heaviest rains had fallen the prior evening; the streams had begun to fall.

Indian Creek Greenway

I asked Sam to stand by the Indian Creek Greenway sign. Ever-ready with appropriate armament, he decided to aim back with his trekking pole. Beyond him the trail dips into Indian Creek, flooded impassably.

Local Greenways

 

Seen from the highway bridge above the trail and at water’s edge, the creek gives little deference to the paved greenway. As always, Nature holds sway. We are wise to know and respect her ways. What better application of land use than to dedicate a riparian zone to recreation.

Local Greenways

 

But there is more. Bradford Creek and Indian Creek greenways serve another purpose. Both are rights-of-ways for public sewer lines, a conscience and deliberate effort to place utilities where they do not interfere with commercial and residential development. I accept and applaud the complementary uses of utility right-of-way and recreational corridor. As I pedal I pay no heed to the surface manifestation of the underground utility (photo below from a week later (January 12) along the Bradford Creek trail), the flood waters long since subsided.

Local Greenways

 

Where the water rose above the trail surface, a crayfish scurried across the pavement. Sam and I picked him up, avoided his pincers, said hello, and placed him back into his watery realm.

 

Bradford Creek Greenway

Because Indian Creek was so completely underwater Sam and I drove the three miles or so west to Bradford Creek. Indian Creek was two or three hours past peak flood flow. Bradford Creek is a lower order stream, having reached maximum flow around midnight. Stream order describes the hierarchical sequence of streams within a watershed. Small headwater streams are first order. Their flow peaks while the deluge is falling. Bradford Creek is probably second order, formed from several first order streams draining Madison City neighborhoods. Sam is sitting on and standing by a log that washed over the culvert during the night. The creek has already fallen a couple feet below peak flow. Indian Creek, a higher order stream, was still close to peak.

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenways

 

Stream order classification rises to a high of 12. The lower Mississippi rates a 12. The peak flow at New Orleans may lag several weeks behind the spring dousings and snowmelt that inundated farmlands of the upper Midwest. I wonder, how many Bradford Creek watershed equivalents would it take to furnish the Big River’s flood-flow at its Gulf outlet. And then compare that to the world’s largest volume river, the Amazon. The Amazon carries more volume than the next eight largest rivers in the world combined. It has ten tributaries larger in volume than our Big River. If we could redirect the Amazon’s outlet flood-flow into an empty Lake Ontario basin, the lake would fill in three minutes. As I marvel at the force of Bradford and Indian creeks in flood, I once again feel overwhelming humility knowing that this is nothing to the Amazon and our own Mississippi. All things natural are relative.

 

The Special Magic of Wet Tree Trunks

Forest hydrology stood among my top five favorite undergraduate courses. According to the US Forest Service, Forest hydrology studies the distribution, storage, movement, and quality of water and the hydrological processes in forest-dominated ecosystems. Forest hydrological science is regarded as the foundation of modern integrated watershed management. Our spring-break field trip that semester took us to Hubbard Brook Watershed, a world famous calibrated, monitored US Forest Service hydrological research station deep in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I felt as though I were heaven-bound as I drove the university van north and east through the Adirondacks toward northern New Hampshire. Spring break at a Florida beach — not for me! I would have traded the Hubbard Brook trip for nothing… neither fame, nor fortune, nor warm ocean breezes.

The forest hydrological system begins in the tree canopy, where raindrops (and snowfall) first meet the forest. Let’s stick with rain. The fate of rain in the canopy: evaporation from twigs and leaves; throughfall to the forest floor; stemflow. Tree crown geometry for many species funnels canopy water along twigs, stems, and branches toward the trunk. A little over three-inches of rain fell during the 36 hours prior to Sam and me hitting the two greenways. This American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), a species with widely-spreading dendritic branching pattern, is particularly skilled in drawing water to its trunk. This one is soaked, every nook and cranny thoroughly wetted. Its bark supports rich communities of algae and lichens, much of it far less visible on dry bark. Sam and I marveled over the beech bark palette of life.

Local Greenways

 

We also saw magic in the beech fingers clinging tightly to the riparian forest floor. Don’t we all cling fiercely…and lovingly…to those things, places, and people we hold dear. Security comes in many forms. I know from my training as an ecologist and soil scientist that all terrestrial life on Earth begins and ends with that fragile layer we call soil. This beech symbolizes our universal dependence on this thin layer of weathering rock, organic matter, rich microbiological life, water, and gas (oxygen, carbon dioxide). Sadly, the vast majority of humanity is excruciatingly oblivious to our need to cherish, tend, and protect our One Earth and its life-sustaining soil. Let this beech teach us to be informed and responsible Earth stewards.

Local Greenways

 

 

A Footnote

I offer another tribute and appreciation to our Land Trust of North Alabama for its partnership in creating the Bradford Creek Greenway and other special places locally. I love the Land Trust’s tagline: Conservation in Action! As a former four-time university president, I hold that application adds value to knowledge. Applying knowledge (driven by dedication and passion) brings action to bear. Without applying action to conservation, we as humanity, communities, and individuals practice only a shallow and meaningless conservation inaction. Amazing how removing that one space (between ‘in’ and ‘action’) changes the entire essence. Talking by itself can amount merely to conservation virtue-signaling. The Land Trust gets it done! I applaud its action, guided by a succinct and noble mission: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future.

The Land Trust donated a 112-acre easement to the City of Madison (2006) for the Bradford Creek Greenway. The aerial photo shows the property lines (green) and the 2.5-mile trail (red) from Heritage School to Palmer Park. I have spent many hours biking along the creek under its welcome riparian forest cover and shade. A wonderful gift to future generations.

North AL Land Trust

Land Trust of North Alabama

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; with co-author Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. Nothing in Nature is static… from peaceful stream to raging torrent
  2. An urban riparian zone presents both a land use restriction and a wonderful recreational opportunity
  3. Land Trust organizations can be essential partners in conserving Nature close to home

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: “©2020 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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

Three Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Longleaf Pine along Bradford Creek Greenway

Autumn Serenity along Bradford Creek

Hard to believe that this is my last Great Blue Heron Blog Post of 2019, a very fulfilling year for my semi-retirement ventures to spread the gospel of Nature-Inspired Life and Living. This Post returns me to nearby Bradford Creek Greenway.

Our first autumn weather at long last arrived overnight October 11, 2019. Saturday the 12th dawned cloudy with temperature in the upper 40s. I pedaled 19 miles along nearby Bradford Creek Greenway beginning at 7:00AM. So nice to don long pants and my biking jacket, the first time since April that I needed more than my summer gear:

 

Here below are two special images of the creek just off the trail… without the distraction of the old guy in the foreground! What’s so special you might ask. I loved the lighting… dark overcast and deep riparian forest. The placid creek after two-and-a-half months with little rain. The clear water and the leaf-fall lining the sand and gravel bar.

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenway

 

Summer’s New Growth on Planted Longleaf Pine

The Bradford Creek Greenway is an urban sewer line right-of-way, managed as a recreational trail for its 2.5-mile length in Madison, Alabama. Utility crews lifted and increased the line’s capacity over the trail’s southern 0.70-mile length during the summer of 2018. Crews completed the upgrade late summer. Regrading, repaving, and seeding the right-of-way finally permitted biking that south end by early autumn last year. I took the two photos below in December 2018, showing the double rows of planted longleaf pines in a 50-foot wide construction staging area between the trail and an agricultural field. The forester in me cannot resist this opportunity to tell a tree tale (fact… not a tall tale). Read-on below these two images.

 

Longleaf begins its seedling life resembling grass, and sends its first vertical growth candle only after several years. From the Longleaf Alliance website: This stage is an inconspicuous yet unique stage of a longleaf pine’s life history where the seedling resembles a clump of grass more than a tree, hence the name. During the grass stage, the growing tip (bud) of the tree is protected under a thick arrangement of needles at ground level. When fires sweep through, the needles may burn but the tip of the bud remains protected. New needles quickly replace those that were burned off. During the grass stage, longleaf pine seedlings are virtually immune to fire. At this stage, although the tree will not be growing upwards, the seedling will be putting down an impressive root system underground. Also during this stage, longleaf may become infected with a fungus called brown spot needle blight. Brown spot causes the needles to brown, fall off, and hamper growth. Repeated defoliation will cause the seedling to die. The grass stage may last anywhere from one to seven years depending on the degree of competition with other plants for resources. Rare instances of 20 years have been documented.

Here’s my grass-stage photo from a prior outing at one of our Alabama State Parks. The trees in the above December 2018 photos grew at least two summers in nursery transplant beds, evidencing two vertical candles.

 

The photos below are from October 13, 2019. The longleaf seedlings obviously enjoyed a great first summer in their new location. Last summer’s (2018) candles now have the second year needles downcast, preparing to shed them this winter. Longleaf needles perform for just two growing seasons. This year’s growth includes the seedlings’ first lateral branches (see the tuft above last summer’s candle) as well as another vertical shoot. Summer 2020 will see vigorous lateral branching… growing up and out.

 

I’ll try to retake the longleaf pine images every fall to chronicle each subsequent summer’s growth. Photos are unmatched for demonstrating Nature’s dynamic progress. Ten years from now people will not be too impressed if I tell them that I remember when those trees were just planted. But show them the ten-year images. Their eyes will widen and their jaw will drop! Ten years out I picture breast high diameter at 5-7-inches and height at greater than 20-feet. Nothing in Nature is static.

Local Greenway

 

I took the images below a day earlier, October 12, 2019. I often showcase in these Posts my fascination with weather, sky, and clouds. These are the same trees, yet their appearance is radically different, almost night and day. Dense clouds in contrast with deep blue. Which image is more striking? Neither — both are superb. I’ll take Nature’s glory however it presents itself! My ride this morning (October 13) covered 29 miles. Three extended loops, each one further opening my eyes and deepening my fulfillment and satisfaction.

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenways

 

I’ve said frequently that understanding the science magnifies my appreciation and multiplies Nature’s inspiration. The image is only part of the magic. Would it mean as much without knowing about the species’ grass stage and its growth patterns? Clearly not. I see a point in time along a trajectory deep into the future. Nature rewards those willing to believe, look, see, and feel. I am grateful I chose a career and education path that led to understanding and appreciating Nature.

Local Greenways

 

A not-so-pleasant surprise greeted me November 23 when I rode loops on the trail. One of the longleaf pines had died. I had seen no signs of impending demise on prior rides. It is now clearly dead. Cause of death — undetermined. I see no evidence of mechanical stem damage. Nothing has chewed or disturbed the cambium. No obvious stem cankers or signs of fungal infection. Perhaps the seedling had not been well-planted… big air pocket or roots J-shaped (stuffed into the hole so that the longer roots bent back on themselves). During my time (1981-85) as Alabama Region Land Manager for Union Camp Corporation, we planted 16,000 acres annually to mostly loblolly pine. We conducted seedling survival surveys the winter following the first growing season. I don’t recall many sites with greater than 95 percent survival… and none with no mortality. I fought the temptation to pull this one to see whether the cause of mortality was discernible. One fatality out of 16 out-plants is not bad; 94 percent survival. I will continue to monitor, hoping that we lose no more next year and beyond.

Local Greenways

 

A mid-December Postscript

I biked 19 miles on Bradford Trail December 12. The low temperature had reached 28 degrees; the high nudged 55. The average for the date: 35 and 54. The coldest average low and high (mid-January) is 32 and 51. My point? We are enjoying mid-winter mildness here in north Alabama. I enjoy getting out this time of year. I see more now than I can with full foliage. I’ve been bike-cruising Bradford Trail for three years. Yesterday was the first time I’ve noticed this trail-side honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos). Formidably beautiful! My three books include tales of pleasurable terror — stories of times when I’ve been caught in rather scary weather, survived it, and took great memories of withstanding the ferocious onslaught. So, just another of Nature’s many ironies. Pleasurable terror and formidable beauty. Nature is rich with irony.

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenways

 

When I stopped to photograph the thorny specimen, I noticed several sapling buck-rubs, also at trail’s edge.This one will not survive; the buck has stripped cambium 360-degrees. I had hoped to find a cause of mortality as obvious on the dead longleaf — not so.

 

Nature…everyday Nature…fuels my passion and purpose in life. Death is natural. The dance of life and death is ongoing. Everyday Nature, whether we like it or not, includes both death and renewal. Life giving death — yet another of Nature’s ironies.

A Footnote

I love the Land Trust of North Alabama’s tagline: Conservation in Action! As a former four-time university president, I hold that application adds value to knowledge. Applying knowledge (driven by dedication and passion) brings action to bear. Without applying action to conservation, we as humanity, communities, and individuals practice only a shallow and meaningless conservation inaction. Amazing how removing that one space (between ‘in’ and ‘action’) changes the entire essence. Talking by itself can amount merely to conservation virtue-signaling. The Land Trust gets it done! I applaud its action, guided by a succinct and noble mission: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future.

The Land Trust donated a 112-acre easement to the City of Madison (2006) for the Bradford Creek Greenway. The aerial photo shows the property lines (green) and the 2.5-mile trail (red) from Heritage School to Palmer Park. I have spent many hours biking along the creek under its welcome riparian forest cover and shade. A wonderful gift to future generations.

North AL Land Trust

Land Trust of North Alabama

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; with co-author Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. Nature rewards those willing to look closely, whether in a bucket-list National Park or along a local Greenway
  2. Everyday Nature can amaze and inspire with her stories of magic and wonder
  3. Every element of Nature has a story to tell — whether an entire ecosystem or a single species of tree (i.e. longleaf pine)

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!

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

Three Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. The books inspire deeper relationship with and care for our One Earth. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

 

 

Suddenly Summer is Gone — Bradford Creek Greenway

December 4, 2018, three days after a 48-hour rain dropped over two inches, I bicycled a relaxing 15 miles on the Bradford Creek Greenway, just four miles from my home in Madison, Alabama. I dubbed this my summer is officially gone ride. The morning low had entered the mid-20s; almost all leaves were down; Bradford Creek was at winter flow; and flowering plants had either dispersed or were shedding seed. I offer these photos as evidence announcing summer’s departure, fall’s deepening, and winter’s arrival. The paved trail is leaf-carpeted (below). I would have ridden the day before but I delayed to give the slippery leaves a chance to dry in that day’s wind and bright sun. The loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stands tall and full-crowned among its leafless neighbors, back-dropped by a magnificent blue sky.

Likewise, a loblolly border frames the fair-weather blue below. Shrubs and herbaceous trail-side plants have long-since given way to the 18-degree morning a week prior. Winter’s announcement is not awaiting some cold blast with snow; this is pretty much our standard winter look. Sure, we may see a snow-dusting or two… perhaps even a little accumulation. Of note, the New Year’s Eve Storm of 1963 dropped a record 17.1 inches on Huntsville, the most since 1889. Our average annual snowfall is 2.4 inches.

Bradford Creek crosses the trail under the bridge ahead (below). The sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) stands sentry silhouetted by the the royal blue mid-day sky and the flotilla of stratocumulus. These are distinctly rich fall/winter hues. Beyond the tree and bridge, the fields and pasture reach to the distant woods edge marking Mill Creek.

The wetland below gathers water and releases it to Bradford Creek just upstream of the Greenway. Occasionally, robust cold domes of high pressure will freeze the standing water for 2-3 days before back-side southerly winds return. Again, this is our winter scenery — cold enough to bring full dormancy until late February or early March when this wetland will announce spring with red maple (Acer rubrum) flowering and spring peepers in full throat.

Even during the driest period of 2018 (September and October), Bradford Creek maintained flow. By this December 4 photo, nearly eight inches had fallen since November 1.

Soils are saturated and likely will remain so in this floodplain until leaf-out in late April to early May. Again, typical winter condition.

Two months ago, goldenrod (Solidago sp.) blessed the trail with its rich yellow. I find beauty still in its seed that is ready for flight. To every thing there is a season… and a time to every purpose, under heaven.

I did not take time to identify this plant. I believe it is an aster. Like the goldenrod, it is at dispersal-flight-ready seed maturity. I like its subtle winter beauty.

Wildlife also signal the season. A buck, irritated by its itchy antler velvet, has declared war on a two-inch-diameter trail-side willow. Squirrels took advantage of a picnic table to feast on acorns and hickory nuts. Why not?! ‘Tis the season for gathering… a time to reap.

Just upstream from the bridge, the utility crew that laid new pipe and reconstructed the trail during the late summer had brought materials to the trail along this now-harvested cotton field. The crew repaired the ingress/egress damage by leveling, harrowing, seeding, mulching, and planting two 150-foot rows of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). I am eager to watch these signature southern pine individuals grow. What could be more southern than longleaf pine and cotton!?

Across our 13 career-driven interstate moves, we’ve lived both where winter arrives with certainty and holds fast (upstate NY; central PA; southern NH; interior AK), and also where winter not so much arrives as summer departs (southeastern VA; coastal GA; coastal plain NC; and three times in AL). I’m writing this text December 19, two days from the solstice. I just returned from a 21.5-mile bicycle ride on Bradford Greenway under partly cloudy skies at temperatures in the upper 50s. Were I living in one of those more northerly locales, my bike would be winterized and hanging in the garage. Not so here where winter visits but does not stay long enough to be more than an occasional nuisance.

No matter where we’ve lived, we’ve chosen to blossom and bloom. I’ve learned that we can accommodate to any kind of weather. And that we can optimize best when we know what to expect. I know the seasons and norms here in northern Alabama. I relish the gradual transitions and the ebbs and flows of life across the landscape and with the seasons. I believe life is better lived and enjoyed when we likewise anticipate our own seasons across time, distance, family, career, and this thing we call aging (or, if you prefer, seasoning).

Nature instructs that we recognize and enjoy the seasons of our life, even as we anticipate and enjoy the seasons of the year. May Nature Inspire all of your seasons, whether of life or the calendar. I find richness, joy, and fulfillment by chronicling these stories of my own passion for Place and Everyday Nature.

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books (Nature Based Leadership (2016) and Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017)) and the two scheduled for 2019 (Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature and Harnessing Nature’s Wisdom and 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.

My Mission for all that I do: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Here are two succinct lessons I can easily draw from this Blog Post:

  • Blossom and bloom wherever you are.
  • Recognize and enjoy the seasons of your life, even as we anticipate and enjoy the seasons of the year.

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: “©2018 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

Early November on Bradford Creek Greenway

I’ve often observed over the years that Southern summers only reluctantly yield to the dormant season. November 5, 2018, the morning after a night of rain, we hiked five miles on the Bradford Creek Greenway in Madison, Alabama. Summer held tightly through September and into mid-October this year. Only over the past ten days had our deciduous trees begun to turn and shed. Our colors cannot match the Central Appalachians and New England’s burst of absolute glory, yet I find soothing comfort in summer’s relaxed grip and fall’s dormancy advance. Our autumn involves less of color exploding… more of green retreating internally. Deciduous trees simply go dormant without a lot of hype and fanfare.

As this day progressed through afternoon, our skies remained dark and foreboding, eventually yielding to night and a wee-hours squall line (the National Weather Service termed it a QLCS — a quasi-linear convective system) in advance of a cold front. Strong winds and a little over an inch of additional rain, I am certain, brought a lot more leaves to the trail and forest floor. Nature’s annual above ground organic matter cycle will soon draw to closure. It’s all part of the grand carbon cycle… whether in New England or here in the South.

The southernmost leg of the Greenway (between Mill and Palmer roads) had been closed since mid-July for laying larger diameter sewer lines in the Greenway right-of-way. It had just reopened the week prior. Hence we walked on straw blown in to facilitate grass reseeding of the rehabilitated trail shoulders where the pipes lie. With an imaginative reach for this latitude I visualized snow cover.

The prior night’s rain had wetted this trail-side beech with stem flow, bringing a cloudy-sky glisten to its smooth bark. I photographed this coarse individual for its character — wet, shiny, and darkened stem; low branching; forked trunk at 3-4 feet; and its once-damaged, now healed-over base. All of it back-dropped by fallen leaves and yellowing foliage beyond.

I pointed out to our hiking companions that this entire riparian forest had once been tilled (or pastured), its deep and fertile soils producing fine crops when lowland flooding permitted access, planting, and harvesting. Too often, however, the stream that assured fertility and moisture interfered with reliable production by either preventing access or actually flooding the crop. The forest regenerated naturally… I’m estimating some 30 to 50 years ago. Here and there along the trail we encountered individuals that stood within the fields long before agricultural abandonment. This remnant oak’s massive girth and crown evidence that it was once open-grown, enabling it to reach for sunlight vertically and horizontally without competition from adjacent trees. The old forestry term for such an individual is a “wolf” tree, as in the lone wolf standing sentry in a field its own.

How could I resist inspecting and photographing this musclewood (Carpinus carolinia)? Lichens and mosses have painted the bark’s canvas with a pattern worthy of museum display. And the background — who could have chosen better? Nature never misses an opportunity to inspire. I wondered how many hikers passed by that day blind to the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe within plain sight?

Because this is the Bradford Creek Greenway I feel obliged to include the creek in this gallery. Even during the driest days in mid-October, the creek never failed to flow with confidence. As we enter fall and winter, vegetation and evaporation will make no demands on the creek, and rains will be more reliable. The creek will swell its chest with pride. Occasionally it may even pop its banks and cover the trail. I will plan to be there as witness.

These two water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) found happy anchorage in the stream itself. The typically buttressed trunk and stout structural roots are engineered to withstand the occasional floods that wash creeks such as Bradford. Again, I’d like to bear witness.

A single red, three-lobed sweetgum leaf countered the otherwise drab oak leaves that littered the trail and shoulders. Can a wet and cloudy day along a sewer line right-of-way meet my threshold for beauty, magic, wonder, and awe? You betcha! In aggregate, the entire package (the whole) far exceeds the sum of its component parts. The pieces do not simply compile arithmetically. They combine as multipliers, quotients, and powers to reach levels incalculable. Add in the loud laughing of a pileated woodpecker we did not see. The several scurrying squirrels gathering and storing acorns. The two jays fussing at who knows what. Horses grazing trail-side in the pasture near Mill Road.

And how can we measure the compounding value of the emotional joy in knowing Nature is placing so much at rest, preparing for the winter. No, not bitter cold, extended snows, and howling winds. Instead, a long season of occasional Canadian and Arctic intrusions punctuated by gorgeous periods of reliable sun, comfortable afternoons, and perfect hiking. I have a snow shovel we brought south from New Hampshire. I don’t intend to use it!

Nature teaches that breaks are restorative. I know that firsthand from how good a bit of afternoon shuteye feels. I am certain that the grand old oak, the wolf tree, welcomes in its own way the longer, cooler nights that signal its RNA to prompt recovering chlorophyll and sugars from leaves and forming abscission layers to release leaves to gravity’s tug. I could imagine the wolf tree sighing relief with a winter nap just days away. So apt is the wisdom from Ecclesiastes and The Byrds: To every thing there is a season… and a time to every purpose under heaven.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my two books (Nature Based Leadership (2016) and Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017)) 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 succinct lessons I can easily draw from this Blog Post:

  • Individuals, enterprises, and society broadly must awaken to our obligation to wisely steward our environment – from within our local community to globally. I am grateful that community leaders found reason to marry a utility right-of-way with a recreational preserve along a lovely urban stream. Whether intentional stewardship or serendipity, Bradford Creek Greenway serves a noble purpose and important cause.
  • Don’t be blind to what lies in front of you. “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” (Jonathon Swift) I’m reminded of the musclewood — its exquisite canvas of mosses and lichens. The glistening beech. How many actually realize they walk or bike through the art museum corridors of the Greenway?
  • Nature can serve as an essential life focus. Such is my own pursuit… my own life-chord. Our two-hour stroll paid tremendous dividends to body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit.
  • Nature provides multiple attractions for enhancing life’s journey. Funny how most of my time on this Greenway has passed at 12-14 miles per hour by bicycle. Admittedly, even at that modest pace I miss a lot. Ratchet the speed up or down — the attractions shift in response.
  • Nature demonstrates that nothing is without meaning and purpose. Not a single action or endeavor we witnessed along the trail happened by chance alone.

In her (nature’s) inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.

Leonardo da Vinci

 

Bradford Creek Greenway is just four miles from our house. I have often observed that Nature is where we seek it. So much is within easy reach. Were I to visit the Greenway alone and not impose a time limit for exploration other than the hours of daylight, who knows what wonders I might discover. Perhaps I will do just that some day. As it was, the furthest I wandered from the paved surface was some 50-feet.

I fear that for much of my life I may have stayed too close to the trail. Have I ventured often enough from the metaphorical paved surface? Another of my lessons from the two books: Test your limits; be bold; ignite and employ your passion. Can such be my mantra for the remaining years of good health that lie ahead? I suppose that is entirely up to me. I know that during the course of 4.5 decades of professional and executive career, I did not often enough choose a pace slow enough to believe, look, see, feel, and act at the musclewood-canvas scale.

May Nature inspire all that you do!

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2018 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