Heart’s Content in NW Pennsylvania (Part One)

Venturing into a Pennsylvania Old Growth Forest

 

September 7, 2021 I hiked and explored the Heart’s Content Scenic Area, a 400-year-old remnant of the original forest that covered the Allegheny Plateau when European settlers arrived in the 18th Century, within the Allegheny National Forest of northwest Pennsylvania. This Post focuses on the origin and species composition of this ancient forest, which lies just forty miles west of where I conducted my 1985-86 doctoral research on soil-site relationships in the second-growth Allegheny Hardwoods forest type. I thrilled at returning to these Allegheny Hardwoods. I left a bit of my heart and soul here on the Allegheny Plateau, having spent many months establishing my research design, selecting suitable stands, and conducting extensive sampling and data collection.

I could have lingered far longer than just the morning on Septrember 7, but left time to hike in the nearby Hickory Creek Wilderness, which is second-growth Allegheny Hardwoods, just like my research sites. Because I want to include lots of photos, I won’t burden you with a great deal of text, yet, enough to make my points and offer pertinent observations and reflections.

 

Four-Century Relic Forest

 

Signage is excellent at this Registered Natural Landmark.

Heart's Content

 

Too often the forest products industry is painted with a broad brush, vilified by those who attribute forest destruction to greedy industrialists. Yet, 100 years ago, leaders in the local lumber industry donated the first 20-acre parcel of this relic forest for preservation. The lumbermen of that period did not strip the original forests as an act of intentional devastation. Instead, they were meeting the young country’s nearly insatiable demand for lumber, charcoal, chemicals, pulpwood, firewood, poles, masts, railroad ties, fenceposts, and…the product list goes on. I worked as a forester 1973-85 in the paper and allied products manufacturing industry. The company, Union Camp Corporation, espoused a deep land ethic and practiced responsible forest stewardship devoutly on its 2.1 million acres of company forests across the six southeastern states.

Heart's Content

 

Some unacquainted with the reality of ancient eastern hardwood forests may have an image of vast stands of towering trees with full canopies, dark and shaded understories, and the ground open and free of fallen trees. Such could not be further from the true condition. Picture instead, a major forest disturbance (e.g., widespread blowdown followed by fire) in the late 16th century. Seed-in-place, distributed seed from undisturbed stands nearby, and root and stump sprouting quickly populated the devastated forest. Over the subsequent few years, tens or even hundreds of thousands of seedlings and sprouts occupied each acre. Fierce competition for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight reduced stocking at a predictable pace, until at age 400 years, the stand contains, from my non-empirical observations, not much more than a dozen of the individual 400-year-old trees per acre. The stand today is a jumble of very large standing live trees, dead snags, and large quantities of dead and down woody debris (i.e. logs and tops in various stages of decay). Scattered crown openings left from fallen and dead standing trees yield a patchwork of deep shade, bright overhead lighting, and dappled forest floor sunlight. The Heart’s Content Natural Area is not an unbroken forest of large trees and deep shade.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Let’s look at how this forest may have developed over its first century after the major 16th century disturbance.

Ninety Years of Allegheny Hardwood Forest Renewal

Wisely, US Forest Service researchers began a long-term monitoring study on the Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Area, Allegheny National Forest, in 1928. Note: the entire photo sequence is courtesy of the US Forest Service (Copyright USFS). The forest scientists arranged and oversaw timber harvesting on an old growth forest that year. Cutting was in progress below left. The image below right (1929), taken from the same photo point at exactly the same angle, shows the site at the end of the first growing season post-harvest. Note the proliferation of young seedlings and sprouts.

Tionesta

 

At ages ten and twenty (1937 and 1947) the tens of thousands of stems per acre is transitioning from a nearly impenetrable thicket to a stand of saplings with spacing sufficient for a forester to walk through and measure individuals. I have said in prior Blog Posts that Nature is a meritocracy. The 1937 and 1947 survivors (I am estimating that less than five percent of the tree seedlings/sprouts in the 1929 stand remain at age 20) are stronger, faster growing individuals that simply outperformed those no longer extant. To the victors go the spoils. The competition occurs both within and between species. Affirmative action does not operate in natural systems. There are no offices of ecosystem equity to set quotos nor monitor diversity, inclusion, and equity. Species by species, Nature simply performs her relentless pursuit of sustainable growth and reproduction, generation to generation, among all living creatures…as she has operated for 3.7 billion years.

Tionesta

 

By ages 30 and 40 (1958 and 1968), the forest has changed remarkably, reaching a stage allowing us to more easily follow individual trees from one period to the next. Note the man standing to the left in the 1958 image. The large black cherry tree is reigning over its neighbors, capturing more and more site resources. There are those who today claim in speudo-scientific mainstream publications that the forest is a community of interconnected, caring, and collaborating trees and associated organisms. I encourage readers to carefully study specific stems in this sequence over time. I see no evidence that the survivors give a rip about the stems falling behind, weakening, dying, and tipping to the forest floor.

Tionesta

 

We are now at ages 56 and 60 (1984 and 1988). Our large black cherry continues to thrive; fewer and fewer stems remain. Our seedling thicket has reached a condition such that most casual hikers might think it an undisturbed forest.

Tionesta

 

By ages 70 and 80 (1998 and 2008), our dominant cherry is a regal denizen, a magnificent leader of this second growth forest. Dead and down woody debris signals that competition remains fierce. Note that even the distant forest now reveals fewer and fewer stems per acre.

TionestaTionesta

 

The most recent image (2018) shows a 90-year-old forest, one most observers would term mature. Striking a chord with me, these photos are a reminder that I conducted my doctoral research in 80-90-year-old second growth Allegheny hardwood stands, similar to this one, just 40-50 miles from Tionesta.

 

Perhaps there are other long term forest development photo-sequences in the eastern US. If so, I am unaware. I am grateful that Dr. Susan Stout, retired Project Leader at the USFS Warren Forestry Lab and Research Forester Emerita, made these photos available to me. I can think of no better way to impress upon people the dynamic nature of forest ecosystems. Many people, upon entering the 2018 forest, would think that such forests are static and have looked this way for centuries. Today, as I work with landowning entities of all sorts (e.g., the Alabama State Park System, North Alabama Land Trust, and Camp McDowell), I encourage those responsible to begin photo-sequencing special places on their properties.

Stand Composition after 400 Years

I cannot say what the 90-year-old Tionesta forest will look like 300 years from now. Rather than venture into such speculation, let’s examine the Heart’s Content forest as I found it in early September 2021. A hemlock and red oak (each at least three feet in diameter) stand shoulder to shoulder below left. The trees are solid, tall, regal, seeming permanent. What force could possibly topple them? These two ancient sentries may remain standing for decades or longer, yet, I know that even they will ultimately yield to some force of Nature. Nothing in our forests is static; nothing is permanent.

Signaling the impermanence of even the mighty, two like-sized decaying trunks lie side by side below right. Old growth is characterized by large trees and lots of dead and down woody debris, scattered openings, and multi-tiered canopies.

Heart's Content

 

Rather than offer an exhaustive commentary, I present here images of species within the protected forest. Hemlock and white pine account for more than half of the living, standing dead, and down trees…at least fifty percent of the species composition.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Red maple survives as scattered individuals. The white ash, while still holding its bark, is recently dead from emerald ash borer, a tragic development from New York south to Tennessee, now southward-bound for Alabama to infest and kill our green and white ash.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Thanks to interpretive signage, many of these images (yellow birch below left) come pre-labeled! Black birch stands below right.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

Black cherry and American beech are common.

Heart's ContentHeart's Content

 

I repeat this image from near the beginning of this Post, this time in simple black and white. It seems appropriate to portray an ancient forest this way, following the B&W images of the 90-year photo sequence.

Heart's Content

 

As I said earlier, I could have stayed the entire day, absorbing the essence of this ancient forest. I will draw this Post to closure with a few pertinent John Muir quotes:

Wilderness is a necessity… there must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

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

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer two observations:

  • The best way to know a forest is to understand its origin and development.
  • Muir nailed it: The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

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: “©2021 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 BooksHeart's Content

 

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

 

 

Contemplating a Video Tale of the William Arthur Wells Memorial Trail: Monte Sano State Park

Retired videographer Bill Heslip and I are at the early stage of developing a 13-20-minute video telling the Land Legacy Tale of the William Arthur Wells Memorial Trail at Monte Sano State Park.

We interviewed Robert (Bob) Wells the morning of June 25, 2021 at his home in Meridianville, Alabama, just north of Huntsville. Bob donated the 40-acre cathedral forest parcel to the State Park System with the condition that the trail through it be named in honor of his older brother (William Arthur) who died at the WWII Naval Battle at Leyte Gulf in October 1944. Two of my prior Posts provide detail about Bob, his brother, the gift, and the incredible cove forest through which the trail wanders.

Dec 4, 2019: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/12/04/memory-and-legacy-for-a-sailor-and-hero/

May 19, 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/05/19/earth-day-visit-to-the-cathedral-forest-along-the-wells-memorial-trail-at-monte-sano-state-park/

After interviewing Bob we left for Bill’s first visit to the trail. We’ll return multiple times over the coming seasons to record sights, scenes, and my reflections as a forester and applied ecologist. The trail is perhaps my favorite across Alabama’s 21 State Parks.

 

Monte Sano

 

The Legacy Tale stirs deep emotions as I reflect on a young man who, like my own WWII veteran Dad, enlisted to join the War effort. Here is Arthur (high school letter sweater) with his parents, both clinging to him as though knowing in those troubled times that clinging may not be enough.

Monte Sano

 

Arthur joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (in CCC uniform below left) after high school. One of his duty assignments, prophetically, detailed him to Monte Sano State Park. With the onset of WWII, Arthur enlisted in the Navy (in uniform below right) bound for the South Pacific.

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cathedral forest did not disappoint Bill (and his wife Becky, below left). The yellow poplar along the trail towers above them. The photo below right peers downhill, deeper into the cove. I feel the spirit of Arthur when I contemplate the place, the gift, and its sentiment. I wonder whether during his Monte Sano CCC days did Arthur venture into this cove. Did he somehow feel the future echoes of the legacy…a chill along the back of his neck.

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

Following the interview, Bill captured Bob and Catherine strolling through the backyard.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Bob sat in a rocking chair for the interview, under the shade of a tree he had planted years earlier. After returning to his office Bob searched for a few photos of Arthur.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

One of the items he found was the newspaper article for the trail dedication.

Monte Sano

 

I thought of Bob’s brother, whom he had last seen nearly a year before Arthur’s ship went down, as we enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the magnificent cathedral cove forest along the trail.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

I’ve written often that every parcel of forest, and even every tree, has a story to tell…often evoking deep spirit, passion, and sentiment. I cannot hike this trail without feeling the spirit of a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country I relish today. A young man of my father’s generation…the Greatest Generation. A young man…a patriot, unlike the snowflakes of today who whine and complain about our nation’s faults (past and present), seemingly ignorant that no other nation on the face of the Earth is a better place to live. A better place to live for all Americans. I view the cathedral forest as a symbol for our liberty, freedom, and equality of opportunity for which Arthur gave his life.

God Bless America!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every tree and every parcel of land has a story to tell.
  • Oftentimes, the intersection of human and natural history brings the power of passion to the tale.
  • This land came to us out of eternity — when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here, preserved forevermore in tribute to William Arthur Wells. 

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: “©2021 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 BooksMonte Sano

 

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

 

 

Dutton Farm Land Legacy Project Expansion: Warm Season Grass Trial with Ohio State University

May 27 and 28, 2021, I met on-site with a research team from Ohio State’s College of Food and Agricultural Sciences to plan a native warm season grass trial on reclaimed strip-mine soils on Dutton Farms, site of my Ohio Land Legacy Project. I’ve previously posted updates on the Project — here’s one from September 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/11/25/late-september-wanderings-and-ramblings-on-my-ohio-land-legacy-project-site/ The richness of these reclaimed strip mine lands buoys my view of Nature’s ultimate resilience when aided by informed and responsible stewardship practice. Every square foot of this view saw full-scale strip mining. The pastures are productive. However, none are populated with native warm season grasses, which perform reliably mid-summer owing to greater drought and heat tolerance. The Dutton family and the Ohio State University (OSU) team are intent upon exploring warm season mixtures for pasture enhancement and resilience.

 

Allow me a brief side trip from May 2021. I remind you that Dutton Land and Cattle (DL&C) is focusing on Akaushi Cattle, a prime quality breed from Japan. These photos depict a bull from this rather docile breed. Rest assured, otherwise I would not be so bold with this big boy (below left).

September 2020 September 2020

 

Ohio State University is Ohio’s Land Grant University (LGU), authorized by the 1862 Morrill Act establishing one such institution in each state to bring modern agricultural knowledge and practices to farmers and producers. The LGUs have broadened and deepened their service over the intervening 159 years. I’ve served five LGUs over my career: Penn State, Auburn, Alabama A&M, NC State, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I consider partnering now with OSU a positive addition to my retirement portfolio. The main campus lies just two hours west of Dutton Farms.

Photo credit: OSU College of Food and Agricultural Sciences web site

 

John Dutton (with folder in his left arm) greeted the OSU team under threatening skies May 28, orienting them to DL&C at the equipment shed.

 

I toured the OSU team May 27, highlighting the strip mining history at the unreclaimed high wall, a stark reminder of the brutal treatment and deep scaring associated with surface mining.

 

After our early start May 28 orientation we visited the proposed native warm season grass trial site, now supporting a nearly mature cover crop of triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). DL&C cares for its soil resources as evidenced by the vibrant triticale.

 

The team quickly dug in (literally), examining the soil. No hesitancy about getting their hands dirty! I enjoyed pleasant memories of my own doctoral research on soil-site relationships for Allegheny Hardwood Forests in southwest NY and northwest PA. I also led tree nutrition and forest fertilization research for Union Camp Corporation company-wide across VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, and AL for four years. I watched the OSU team through a delighted and admittedly rapturous haze of pleasant professional memories. Those were simpler days…before senior administrative positions and four university presidencies led me too far afield of my disciplinary passion. I stood in retirement bliss, once more back to field studies vicariously through this capable and enthusiastic team of young researchers.

 

Dutton Farms soils are compacted, relatively young, and showing clear signs of horizonation. This profile shows a darkening upper several inches owing to organic matter beginning to incorporate by root action and soil micro- and macro-organism recycling. Lots of roots are exploiting that upper layer. The soil at this location looks very much like the soils I have excavated across the DL&C’s core 1,100 acres.

 

We are fortunate that John Dutton is enthusiastic with the warm season grass project. He is eager to learn and put to practice ways to improve DL&C operations, and better steward the land.

 

The equation for meaningful life and living, productive research, and successful business operations includes an essential variable — enthusiasm! John, his family, and the OSU team bring it by the barrelful. I am fortunate to be affiliated with the effort to make DL&C a global exemplar for informed and responsible Earth stewardship, reclaiming abused land from the trash heap, transforming it through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work to productive operation, environmental vibrancy, and aesthetic richness.

 

As the native warm season grass trial progresses I will say more in subsequent Posts. For now, I will mention only that the trial will test two seed combinations:

  • big bluestem and indiangrass blend
  • switchgrass and eastern gamagrass

The design will overlay cover crop alternatives.

I’ve concluded over the years that application adds value to knowledge. The foundation of the Land Grant University concept is the application of knowledge to enterprise and life. The native warm season grass trial is applied research to advance life, living, and enterprise. I am fortunate to be engaged with the continuing stewardship saga of Dutton Land and Cattle!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • The process of learning how best to practice informed and responsible land stewardship is unending.
  • Few actions match the satisfaction and return on applied research and discovery.
  • Nothing beats watching younger professionals enthusiastically learning and advancing science.

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: “©2021 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 Books

 

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

 

Contemplating a Video of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

June 4, 2021, retired videographer Bill Heslip and I visited the Goldsmith Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary with Margaret Anne Goldsmith and Marian Moore Lewis. Margaret Anne gifted the Sanctuary’s core 300-acres to the City of Huntsville in 2003. Marian authored her seminal book on the Sanctuary, Southern Sanctuary: A Naturalist’s Walk through through the Seasons (2015).

I’m standing at the entrance below with Marian (left) and Margaret Anne (right) on a prior visit.

Southern Sanctuary

 

See my previous Posts on the Sanctuary and its rich story of informed and responsible Earth stewardship:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/06/23/visiting-a-southern-sanctuary-my-orientation-visit/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/06/30/visiting-a-southern-sanctuary-natures-insistence-upon-renewal/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/12/23/late-fall-at-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/02/25/early-february-spectacular-frosty-morning-sky-at-the-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

Read at least one of them to realize how much I care! And I care deeply that the story of the Sanctuary be chronicled through my Blog Posts, which I believe are necessary…but far short of sufficient. Likewise, Marian’s book is an extraordinary building block in the tale. Yet, it, too, falls short of completing the picture. The Huntsville City Archive of the Sanctuary includes a video of Margaret Anne relating the family’s history leading to the gift. Another critical piece of the puzzle. Bill and I want to add another facet of the story.

A Land Legacy Tale at the Intersection of Human and Natural History

Bill and I seek more, an element to complement the Land Legacy Story. We envision a crisp, state of the art video (13-18 minutes) that integrates the human and natural history with the science and sentiment, and bridges to tomorrow in a manner that informs, enlightens, and inspires future citizens into the next century and beyond!

I met Bill when I premiered his similarly-intentioned 13-minutes video on the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve during my spring 2021 University of Alabama in Huntsville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course on the Land Trust of North Alabama: https://youtu.be/G2HIq_ygJvY

Bill is discussing the video project with Margaret Anne and Marian below.

 

 

Glory Under the Firmament

 

Margaret Anne recently communicated her gift-motivation:

Philanthropy is a concept I learned from our ancestors who came to America as immigrants and worked hard and prospered.  They believed in the importance of giving back to the community that had welcomed them and did so through gifts of their assets and service.  I wanted to honor our ancestors and to continue our tradition of family philanthropy in Huntsville with a gift in their name.

The Sanctuary is a place of naturalized beauty and magic. I say naturalized because the pond below was a borrow pit, excavated for gravel and sand for nearby road construction 85 years ago. The reflected sky doesn’t care whether the pond is natural or naturalized!

 

I find absolute fascination and reward in sky-gazing, with or without a pond surface to reflect it. Please ignore the blue dot, a phenomenon of my camera. I suppose there is a fix, but I have not pursued.

 

I’ve grown to accept (and celebrate) that wildness is wildness, whether in its raw natural state, or transformed, tamed, and domesticated land naturalized with protection, care, and stewardship over time. Margaret Anne has translated motivation to action in a way that will keep giving deep (perpetually) into the future:

In major cities around the world, it has been important to include urban oases, parks and green space as development occurs, well known is New York’s Central Park. Setting aside parks can only be accomplished prior to development.  Waiting until development begins is too late. I believe that it is the responsibility of cities and urban planners to require developers to set aside parks and green space. If there are no city requirements, I believe it is the responsibility of developers to include public park areas in their developments.

With Margaret Anne’s property donation, wildness is now assured and the future will bear the fruit of the Sanctuary gift long after Margaret Anne reunites with her ancestors:

As the years pass, the Sanctuary will continue to develop and provide an outdoor classroom for students from our schools and universities to explore and be inspired to write poetry and stories, create fine art and music, and conduct scientific research. The Sanctuary, never static, will be a place ever changing, transforming to the needs of the future. As for me, it is my hope that one day when I meet our ancestors, I will be able to thank them and say, “as you planted for others, I have continued our family tradition of planting for our community and its citizens of tomorrow.”

I once wagered with friends who challenged me to incorporate a truism I often quoted into an interview I was about to have with a local TV news crew: People don’t care how much you know…until they know how much you care. I won the small bet. I love the axiom because I believe in it so deeply, and have so often seen it in action. Margaret Anne (and her forebears) cares!

Animal Life Abounds

 

She expressed recently, Today, 18 years later, the Sanctuary has developed as I had originally envisioned as a wildlife oasis, a refreshing reprieve from city life and the subdivisions and commercial developments that now surround it.

Marian spotted three common water snakes on an old log under a concrete and steel footbridge, one heavy and sturdy enough to withstand the periodic rampages of the Flint River.

 

Marian photographed this black swallowtail as we hiked.

 

She’s also credited with this blue dasher dragonfly (left) and jewelwing damselfly (right).

 

Likewise, Marian managed to bring this osprey in close with her telephoto lens. We watched the bird circle multiple times over the lake off-property near the Sanctuary entrance, stooping twice into the water. We could not discern whether the dives had been productive. We also viewed a great blue heron standing along the shoreline, then rising to fly into the Sanctuary.

 

Tree Form Curiosities

 

I am always alert for odd tree forms. Many people unacquainted with Nature’s ways picture our sylvan friends with vertical stems reaching skyward. Such vertical orientation may have been the germinating seed’s intent, but Nature’s various forces bend, distort, and break the growing shoot. The tree, hard-wired to contend variously with such stressors, assumes patterns of growth that I find worthy of contemplation, understanding, and appreciation. These two water oaks tell a story of life complicated by physical forces of one form or another.

 

Bill is admiring this American beech that had at some point corrected its vertical course following an injury bending it at two-feet above ground. At the place of injury the beech launched a side shoot that now grows alongside the main stem. We marveled at the thick moss draping the trunk and its smaller moss-free side stem.

 

We likewise stopped to examine and photograph this three-pronged sweetgum, also draped with tree moss. There are those who would consider this an Indian marker tree. However, the sweetgum is growing in a forest stand that regenerated naturally on an abandoned agricultural field at least 75 years after Native American habitation. The tuning fork tree form is natural.

 

Special Magic of Flowers and Moss

 

I have been a spring (and early summer) wildflower enthusiast since my freshman-year-of-college systematic botany course with its spring semester field lab focusing on the spring ephemerals. We all enjoyed seeing this ruella wild petunia.

 

 

 

 

And as I’ve matured in retirement to learning more about our complex forest ecosystems, I’ve expanded my interests to pay much more attention to mosses, lichens, ferns, and fungi. This moss-adorned long-dead branch is worthy of art gallery enshrinement.

 

Closing Comments

 

June 26, 2021, Bill and I returned to the Sanctuary to video-interview Marian; weeks later we likewise interviewed Margaret Anne at her office in downtown Huntsville.

 

Bill and I are eager to create our video and contribute it to the archive that completes the Land Legacy Story that is the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Our project may take another year of production. I plan to focus a Great Blue Heron Blog Post on its premier showing.

 

I love constructing these Land Legacy Tales that explore the intersection of human and natural history, developing the compelling case for informed and responsible Earth stewardship!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every parcel of land, including the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, has a legacy story to tell.
  • Such preserved natural places enrich citizens’ lives.
  • I applaud all nature enthusiasts who practice informed and responsible Earth stewardship. 

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: “©2021 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 BooksSouthern Sanctuary

 

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

 

Brush Creek Park in Beaver County Pennsylvania

May 23, 2021, I visited Beaver County Pennsylvania’s Brush Creek Park with my son (Matt) and grandson (Nathan). We hiked the 3.5-mile loop trail, viewing a dynamic forest populated with species familiar to my early-career forestry practice, teaching, and research days.

 

The only covered bridge in Beaver County, Brush Creek Park’s iconic wooden structure reaches across the creek. I am a lifelong fan of such bridges… their aesthetic elegance, the sound of footfalls echoing within their dry, protected shade, and the special nature of wood, the substance of our native trees. Carbon storage in service to pedestrian, horse, and cart traffic!

 

The trail transected much of the Park property, extending from approximately 900-feet elevation creekside to 1,150 at its highpoint. The trail is wide, evenly graded, and generally smooth. The lower-slope mixed hardwood forest is dominated by black cherry, mixed oaks, hickory, and maples. I love the meandering path through the woods. I felt a bit of melancholy as I fell behind the two generations surging ahead. Sure, I attributed my trailing, in part, to stopping to capture images. Yet, I knew another cause to be aging knees and a more faltering sure-footedness. The melancholy came with recalling years ago that it was I who slowed my pace for Matt to keep up, and occasionally offered a hand or even a shoulder-perch to traverse a similar trail. The Brush Creek Trail completed a loop, not unlike life itself which navigates its own full circuit.

 

The foot-slope soils are deep, fertile, and moisture-rich. I marveled at the massive northern red oak we encountered!

 

I conducted my doctoral research on the black cherry dominated Allegheny Hardwood forests of north-central and northwest Pennsylvania. Here in Beaver County I was at the periphery of the species’ core range, where it excels in growth, form, and value like no other place. Sure, we have black cherry in northern Alabama, but it is more scrub-like and of poor commercial value. My heart rate elevated to be back in black cherry’s preferred range. I suppose to readers who do not share my forestry roots, my emotion- and sentiment-connection to an individual tree species may seem odd. I had not given this near-spiritual relationship much thought prior to drafting this Post. I now see a future Post focusing on this special attraction to black cherry.

 

The trail crosses numerous wet weather drains protected from foot traffic by some well-designed and sturdily-constructed foot bridges.

 

Sugar maple and black cherry stand shoulder to shoulder, 12 and 18-inches diameter, respectively (below left). Black cherry is shade intolerant, flourishing only when its crown reaches into the main canopy. Sugar maple tolerates shade, waiting patiently if necessary in the mid-canopy for some perturbation to free space above. The two crowns bear witness to the unique personalities of black cherry and sugar maple (below right). The black cherry resides in a canopy-dominant position (below right it is the left of the two stems). The sugar maple crown bends out to the photo’s right, most of its crown under the cherry’s full-sunlight position above it.

 

The sugar maple is patient, in large measure, because it is hard-wired to anticipate that its companion species will eventually fade. The black cherry above it may one day suffer the fate of this fallen black cherry, caught by its sturdy hickory neighbor. Somewhere above the fallen denizen a crown opening will soon fill-in, perhaps by a patient sugar maple below it.

Senior Forest Citizens and Tree Form Oddities

 

At creekside we found two ancient sugar maples, both large and coarse. I’m guessing that they have stood sentry by the creek for at least two centuries.

 

This old basswood likewise stands bankside at Brush Creek. These senior citizens, whether basswood or sugar maple, evidence the same coarse, wizened appearance, commanding deep respect and reverence from tree people like me. I felt moved to offer a silent salute and quiet moment of reflection.

 

Life at bankside can be wrought with peril. These three intrepid souls hang on as periodic flooding erodes their perch. They will eventually transition from shoreline shade generators to woody stream debris. Life, whether human or tree, travels full circle with time.

 

Black locust is a pioneer species across its range, colonizing disturbed areas with the first advance of woody species. The woodland we hiked still carries black locust relicts from past clearing, abandonment, and forest regeneration. Among many others we found these two locust skeletons. The remaining mixed species arrived and flourished in the second wave of tree conquest. The locust held on for as long as we can expect of a short-lived pioneer species. It served its purpose… and will once again be prepared to fulfill its mission if and when the current forest suffers some major disturbance.

 

Sweeping change is, in fact, occurring. The emerald ash borer has already swept white ash from the Park. Bark is sloughing from the 18-inch ash (below left). A canopy void exists (below right) where its crown has shed leaves, twigs, and branches. Once more, the cycle spins.

 

The borer’s larvae leave excavated galleries as they eat the living cambium beneath the bark. I mourn the loss of our white and green ashes as this introduced insect pest sweeps inexorably southward toward our Alabama forests. Our eastern USA hardwoods have suffered immeasurably from chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease, eliminating two foundation hardwood species. We now face a similar fate for our ashes. Nature will fill the void with other native species, but oh the price we pay for such devastating introduced insects and diseases.

 

Intersection of Human and Natural History

 

At the trail’s highest reach we discovered this stone foundation that I suppose housed former residents from the days when the property was part of a working enterprise composed of cropland, pasture, and woodlots. Ah, if only these stones and the trees could talk! I’ve said often that every parcel, stand, and tree has a story to tell, enriched at the intersection of human and natural history.

 

The bridge and its stone foundation likewise tell a story and, probably hold some secrets. Now, courtesy of a three-generation hike, Nathan has a story to share and perhaps lead a similar hike with a fourth generation…and beyond.

 

I am grateful for the chance to visit yet another special place…with special people.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature and our own lives move in circles and cycles… some stirring melancholy.
  • I embrace my mission to share Nature and her tales with family… and beyond.
  • Wherever I roam, Nature inspires and teaches lessons for life and living.

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: “©2021 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 Books

 

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

Dutton Farm May Skies and Viewscapes

I returned to my Land Legacy Story project site, Dutton Farms near Flushing in east central Ohio, May 26-28, 2021. We scheduled the visit to correspond with the first annual Farm Day for the Dutton Land and Cattle enterprise. I had last been to the project site in September 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/11/25/late-september-wanderings-and-ramblings-on-my-ohio-land-legacy-project-site/

I will not cover the intent and Nature of the project in this Post. Watch for a subsequent Post reflecting on a Warm Season Grass trial we will establish on the property with faculty and graduate students from The Ohio State University College of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Farm Day

May 27, 2021, I helped (a tertiary role at best) host the first Annual Farm Day by taking the mic (no, that’s not me below left) to brief attendees on the land’s tale of 1850-1925 abusive agriculture; mid-20th century strip mining; current period of land reclamation to health and vitality through informed and responsible stewardship practices. A story of recovery and rehabilitation…a metamorphosis from wasteland to viable agricultural enterprise. The family (below right) is committed to stewardship across the three generations represented. I am pleased to be playing some small part in telling their Land Legacy Story for posterity and as a means of encouraging others to do same.

 

Three-day Skies and Vistas

My purpose with this Post is to highlight some elements of the Nature-Inspired Life and Living I experienced across those three days on-site. I arrived at the Dutton’s May 26 mid-day. I introduced a fellow retired forester (a former senior player with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry who lives within an hour to the north) to the Land Legacy Story on-site. Understanding the past treatment (85 percent of the 1,100 acres were stripped for coal at least once) is best accomplished, I’ve found, by first visiting the remaining high wall on the northeast side of the property. The old scar reminds us of the harsh past in ways that the reclaimed acreage belies. Even the high wall, however, expresses an aesthetic that we both appreciated that day. Nature has remarkable healing powers.

 

Later that afternoon we stopped by the Dutton’s recreational retreat, with everything in sight having been stripped and rehabilitated. To the uninitiated, few would imagine the blasting, scooping, dust, noise, and earth movers, followed by reshaping, seeding, and recovery.

 

These photos, too, present a landscape entirely stripped. It’s impossible to deny the pastoral beauty and appeal of the recovered land.

 

By late evening many of the invited guests, stakeholders, and international experts tracking the success and future of this unique enterprise had arrived. The gentlemen among our small group at the Cabin came from New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. I snapped the two photos in waning light at 8:58 and 9:01 PM.

 

By 9:30 AM May 27, the sky had cleared. I have never experienced a morning at the cabin that was not photo-worthy. I heard no echoes of the explosives and massive equipment that shaped this place of present-day peace, tranquility, and beauty.

 

Following a full day of demonstration, planning, and dreaming, dusk once again settled over the property. I snapped my final photo of the day at 9:02 PM May 27.

 

Dutton sunrises seldom disappoint. This 6:33 AM May 28 view is roughly aligned with the prior evening’s gloaming perspective. I grew up just 150 miles east of here in western Maryland. Because the westerlies assured that most of our weather came generally from west to east, I often heard, “Pink in the morning; sailors take warning. Pink at night; sailors delight.” A pinkish sunrise greeted me.

 

 

Less than three hours later, at 9:12 and 9:13 AM, the old weather wisdom had brought darkening and thickening clouds. I watched the weather radar as the bulk of the associated precipitation skirted to our south. A lifelong weather enthusiast, I welcomed the fearsome-looking (but toothless for us) clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gathered at the warm season grass trial site (watch for a subsequent Post) amid periods of light rain. I snapped this photo at 10:31 AM over the maturing cover crop of Triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye). I like the pale green under the wavy stratus.

 

Nitrogen-fixing Pasture Plants

 

Pasture clovers are nutritious and fix nitrogen. The forage specialists among us (others, not me) found pleasant satisfaction in seeing both birdsfoot trefoil (left) and black medick (right).

 

And purple crown vetch.

 

Happy and Healthy Animal Residents

 

The first day we interrupted a female painted turtle depositing eggs just above the cabin. We also spotted over the course of our visit a pair of great blue herons along the shoreline. The 1,100-acre site is ecologically diverse and rich.

 

I draw a sense of hope from the Dutton Farms story of Nature’s resilience and recovery when directed by the wisdom, knowledge, and hard work of dedicated, informed, and responsible Earth stewardship.

I stand in awe as I reflect upon the wonder and magic of three rather ordinary early summer days on an east-central Ohio farm recovering from a century-and-half of harsh treatment and degradation. I’m reminded of one of Albert Einstein’s Nature observations:

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

Every time I visit Dutton Farms I feel the dual senses of humility and inspiration. I am grateful for the chance to chronicle the tale of land resurrection.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my late May visit:

  • Even the mundane among Nature’s days fills me with wonder.
  • Nothing lifts me more than seeing Nature recover from harsh treatment!
  • Earth stewardship is a transcendent (and necessary) action.

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: “©2021 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 Books

 

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

 

 

 

Late September Wanderings and Ramblings on my Ohio Land Legacy Project Site

I spent two days in late September 2020 completing field work for my Land Legacy Story on 1,100-acre Dutton Farms in Belmont County, Ohio near Flushing. I issued two previous Posts chronicling this compelling tale of Earth stewardship:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/05/29/idyllic-pastoral-earth-stewardship-surprise-exemplar/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/04/19/mid-march-revelations-on-worn-out-land-2/

Here is the very essence of the Dutton Land Legacy Story: abusive agricultural practices from 1850 to 1930 led to debilitating erosion, bankruptcy, and farm abandonment. By mid-twentieth century strip-mining further transformed (some would say destroyed) 85 percent of what is now Dutton Farms. The Dutton’s acquired the property and have systematically reclaimed, rehabilitated, and nurtured the Farm to its current condition as a productive cattle ranch focusing on prime Akaushi cow-calf operation. Theirs is a remarkable tale of adopting and applying a land ethic, treating the land with respect and a view to the distant future.

I intend to demonstrate with photos and text that caring and acting responsibly are necessary elements of meeting our stewardship responsibilities. I’ll begin with the closing observations in my April 2019 Post.

“Louis Bromfield, an Ohio-born novelist and playwright who devoted his life to rehabilitating the soil on his old worn-out farm (Malabar) near Mansfield, summarized a zeal and ethic embraced by the Dutton’s:

The adventure at Malabar is by no means finished… The land came to us out of eternity and when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here. The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it, to die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work.

I’ll offer broadly and succinctly that embracing and practicing Earth stewardship is reward and fulfillment in and of itself. I discerned four distinct lessons from developing this Post:

  • Nature knows disturbance — learn to harness her wisdom.
  • Very few things are as they first appear.
  • So much in Nature lies hidden within.
  • Earth stewardship is a multi-generational commitment of passion and action.”

 

Bucolic Landscape on a Rehabilitated Strip Mine

 

The entire viewscape in the three photos below has been strip-mined and subsequently reclaimed. The 120-page final Land Legacy document we are preparing (and will ultimately publish and post on my site) will tell the tale with full text and lots of photographs. My purpose with this Post is to provide a broad overview and hint at the power of an embraced and practiced land ethic. I took these three photos from the Dutton’s east-facing back patio.

September 2020September 2020

 

The steeper pasture below (tan, beyond the immediate green fields) is a reclaimed high-wall that sits opposite the cabin where I stayed (see later). Even with my doctoral level education in applied ecology and five decades of experience in the field, with only this photo as evidence, I would not leap to a conclusion that these are photos of a rehabilitated strip-mine!

September 2020

 

I suppose that is what drew me to work with the Dutton family, Earth steward exemplars, to tell their Land Legacy Story.

Dawn from a Cabin Back-dropped by Forested Mining Spoils

 

I took most of this Post’s photographs during my most recent September 2020 visit. The dormant hardwood trees below signal a winter snapshot, this one in March 2019. The cabin sits at the base of a fully-forested non-reclaimed debris heap. I’ve stayed three times at the cabin for a total of five nights.

 

I relish watching night yield to dawn and sunrise, no matter where I am. I captured both dawn (6:50AM; below left) and sunrise (7:26AM) the morning of September 28 from the cabin patio. Again, the entire view-scape is rehabilitated stripped land. Two of the Dutton’s four children shared their respective wedding vows lakeside, each one another kind of new and promising beginning.

September 2020

 

Here’s a view of the hillside across the pond. The rolling pasture is the reshaped 100-foot highwall remaining from the stripping that created the depression that is now the pond. I like the soft light of dawn reflections of hillside vegetation.

September 2020

 

And from the shore, another look at the cabin and its forested debris heap, which seems like such an unpleasant descriptor for a sylvan slope forest that has healed a harsh old scar.

September 2020

 

What a labor of love my Dutton Land Legacy work has been. I will always think of the cabin, the land, and the Dutton family as part of my natural soul.

Creating a Nature Trail Demonstrating Successful Reclamation

 

Since my first visit, Chris Dutton has envisioned an interpretive Nature Trail. He had roughed it out prior to our initial tree identification and tagging in September. I hope to return next May for the Dutton Farms Open House, and hike the completed trail. I’ll give you a preliminary tour now. Below left are two rows of the 60-year-old planted sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) rising parallel up the debris heap. I really do need a more pleasing moniker for the heap — allow me to work on that. Below right Chris is marking a red oak (Quercus rubra) along the trail.

September 2020September 2020

 

I think I have a better name for the debris heap. The Dutton’s built an off-the-grid hut on the summit. From this day forward I will refer to its location as the Summit Knoll. I think it’s fitting and respectful. The trail winds up the knoll and passes by the hut, where Chris is marking a red maple (Acer rubrum).

September 2020

 

And Chris tagging a white oak (Quercus alba) and below right a white pine (Pinus strobus) along the trail opposite the cabin, which will be accessible via a still-to-be-placed bridge across the head of the marsh feeding into the pond. We believe that the white pine, like the sweetgum, were also planted.

September 2020September 2020

 

And because I remain impressed with the planted sweetgum standing resolute, remaining tall and healthy, and evidencing excellent survival, I offer one additional photograph as testimony to the tremendous healing power (with dedicated and intentional help from reclamation crews) of Nature. As John Muir so eloquently stated: Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts. I am convinced that Nature can heal even the worst of her wounds, whether self-inflicted (e.g., flood, fire, volcano, or earthquake) or at the hand of man.

September 2020

 

Along the trail we also noted and flagged honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).

September 2020September 2020

 

The trail crosses some meadowland atop the knoll. We found abundant milkweed (Asclepias sp.), many of the individuals dispersing their fairy-seeds.

September 2020

 

One of the milkweed plants sported a monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar (below left) soon to form its chrysalis for overwintering. Nearby we found a group of large milkweed bug nymphs (Oncopeltus fasciitis) and one adult.

September 2020September 2020

 

White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) greeted us with late summer blossoms in the meadow.

September 2020

 

Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) likewise grew atop the knoll. An edible, this fungus had begun to dry and harden, dissuading us from harvesting. Nearby we spotted the largest puffballs I have ever seen. These, too, had matured beyond harvesting, the meat already dark brown. Sixty years allows Nature to progress rapidly along its well-tested healing curve. Again, I repeat the obvious — nothing in Nature is static. Life on our planet has evolved for 3.5 billion years, adapting to strain, change, and perturbation since time immemorial. Nature knows the drill.

September 2020September 2020

 

I marvel at Nature’s resilience. Early in my forestry career I would have concluded that strip mining kills the land… destroys Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. I know now that Nature is patient, persistent, and well-tooled to handle most disturbances, no matter how harsh and insulting. The Dutton recovery has marked an inflection point in my own growth as a nature enthusiast.

Cattle Operation on Former Wasteland

 

The Dutton Farms Land Legacy Tale reaches from magnificent natural wealth with the arrival of western settlers, to agricultural abuse and ruin, to abandonment, to decades of strip mining, and now to recovery and return to successful, responsible, commercial agriculture applied and practiced with a deep land ethic. I won’t go into the detail of the commercial cattle operation. I leave that to the final detailed Land Legacy Story. My purpose with these few cattle operation photographs is to provide a feel and flavor for the stewardship practiced to both care for the land and produce income. The Dutton’s are conservationists in the truest sense of the term — practicing wise use and management… sustainably, over many generations… deep into the future.  These momma cows are prat of the extensive cow-calf operation.

September 2020

 

Here are Akaushi purebred bulls. Lest you think I am not fearless and brave, the below right photo shows me photographing one of these ferocious beasts. I could have been charged and trampled had I evidenced any fear whatsoever! Well, perhaps I should mention that these are docile critters, well mannered and quite tolerant of city-cowboys like me.

September 2020September 2020

 

I mentioned in a prior Dutton Post that the cattle operation desperately needed a capable farm manager. Jeff Shepherd came on board in that capacity just weeks after my March 2019 visit. What a pleasure to meet Jeff. This photo speaks volumes: he loves the animals; he knows the art and science of cattle; he understands the technology and the business; he leads the way with absolute purpose, passion, and dedication; he is a consummate land steward; he is an extension of the Dutton’s.

September 2020

 

His arrival is a fitting capstone for the current final chapter of this Land Legacy Tale.

Finalizing the Land Legacy Story

 

I submitted a near-final version of my Land Legacy Tale to the Dutton’s in October. Once finalized and with permission, I will make the entire document available on my website. Theirs is an Earth Stewardship story meriting widespread dissemination. Deep lessons for living, learning, and practicing informed and responsible Earth-care are imbedded. Their commitment is a metaphor for how other individuals, businesses, and society at large can (and must) view and meet our obligation to steward this remote planet we call home. That’s Jeff and me below reviewing the cattle operation.

September 2020

 

Below left I’m with John Dutton. If only I could absorb osmotically his knowledge of the coal industry, its reach across time, and the specifics of its history on just these 1,100 acres! He has been patient; I have learned a great deal. That’s me below right standing in admiration and reverence for what a difference a land ethic can make in rehabilitating repeatedly abused land… and ensuring its value for all time to come.

September 2020September 2020

 

John and Rita Dutton take well-deserved satisfaction (and a moment of relaxation and reflection) in where the land, the family, and the operation now stand. I believe Bromfield’s statement applies to the entire Dutton family: The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it, to die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work. John and Rita have changed a small corner of this earth for the better, and their efforts will continue so long as they (and beyond them, their descendants) reside upon, tend, and love this land.

September 2020

 

I remain grateful to have engaged in their stewardship quest. I have come to cherish my time with the Dutton family and the land they have rescued from ruin. I hope to visit again, and regularly. Robert Service (Spell of the Yukon) captured the way I feel about the Dutton property:

There’s a land–oh, it beckons and beckons,

And I want to go back–and I will.

As much as the land intrigues and attracts me, more compelling is the story of abuse, stewardship, and recovery. The tale renews my hope that we humans can find the will and the way to more responsibly tend, nurture, and care for this only home we have…this mote of dust in the vast darkness of space. John and Rita exemplify the ethic and practice we must embrace globally.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer two observations from my September wanderings and ramblings on an amazing tract in Ohio:

  • Informed and responsible Earth stewardship actions can rehabilitate even harshly abused land
  • Each of us carries the burden to change a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work

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 BooksSeptember 2020

 

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.

 

Long-Abandoned Recreation Area at Joe Wheeler State Park

Straddling Twin TVA Lakes: Joe Wheeler and Wilson

Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park has shoreline along both the lower reaches of Joe Wheeler Lake and the upper end of Wilson Lake. July 7, 2020, Alabama State Parks Naturalist Emeritus Mike Ezell and I hiked the Park’s Multi-Use Trail along the bluffs above Wilson Lake. I focus this Post on the ruins of a long-abandoned recreation area active some 85 years ago during the heyday of Wheeler Dam construction when thousands of workers lived nearby. We walked the trail in amazement at how quickly Nature reclaims man’s intrusions and domestication. We parked near the trailhead sign (below left), hiked the sweeping 2.5-mile counter-clockwise loop taking us first through riparian forest, briefly along the lake shore (below right), then rising onto the bluffs and the abandoned recreation site. Although we walked at least a mile to the old site, I later learned that an access road at the time (1930’s) ran directly to the former concentrated-use area.

Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all seen photos of deep Mexican jungles draping and consuming 1,000-year-abandoned Mayan ruins. The contrast between imagining the vibrant Mayan civilization and seeing those ruins is sobering. Nature reclaims without hesitation or fail even the urban glory that the Mayans conceived, planned, constructed, and occupied… never giving thought that their days were numbered. From History.com: Most famously, the Maya of the southern lowland region reached their peak during the Classic Period of Maya civilization (A.D. 250 to 900), and built the great stone cities and monuments that have fascinated explorers and scholars of the region. That’s 650 years during the very heart of the European Middle Ages or Medieval Period. What happened to this vibrant civilization with advanced engineering, art, and architecture? Jared Diamond (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed) offers deeply researched conjecture on the causes of Mayan collapse.

Collapse

 

Among those causes that Diamond suggests is unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices leading to diminished soil fertility, erosion, disappearance of forests, and related local climate impacts (desertification)… a collection of non-sustainable practices. Add in a propensity for tribalism and intersectional warfare, and the ingredients are there for decline and collapse.

An Insert — Steve’s Firm Admonishment to Steward Our One Earth

Sound familiar? Where are we as a global society headed? Are we caring responsibly and thoughtfully for this one Earth, Our Common Home!? Are we placing ourselves at global risk of collapse, just as the Mayans did regionally on the Yucatan Peninsula in the prior millennium? With or without our Johnny-come-lately, so-called intelligent species, Nature will prevail… either with us harmoniously and respectfully learning and falling in-step, or with Nature in rebellion to our ill-conceived insistence to dominate, domesticate, and reduce. A few millennia mean nothing to the long sweep of life on Earth. If (or when) we lose, Nature will erase any evidence of our fleeting and ill-fated existence in a matter of scant millions of Earth orbits. John McPhee (Basin and Range) observed that were an adult to stand with arms extended to either side, the full reach representing the span of life on Earth (~3.8 billion years), a simple swipe of a medium-grain fingernail file across the recent end of the time scale would erase all of human history. We are everything, yet we are nothing. There is no alternative to informed and responsible Earth stewardship for our species.

Back to the Abandoned Recreation Tour

We need not visit Central America to see evidence of Nature’s inexhaustible, persistent power to overwhelm and reclaim the human-built environment. Construction crews completed Wheeler Dam in November 1936, three full years after construction began. During the peak construction period, 4,700 workers labored on the massive project (Wheeler Dam with view upstream to right; Wilson Lake to left).

Wheeler

Tennessee Valley Photo Archives

 

The three-year construction project brought more than 10,000 residents (workers and families) to the immediate area, many living in TVA-built dormitories and prefabricated housing. The TVA also built and provided the recreation facilities that Mike and I examined along the Multi-Use Trail, now 84 years after Wheeler Dam completion, when most of the workers and their families relocated elsewhere. We presume (yes, we need to research to be certain) that the recreation area fell into dis-use about the same time, especially with the onset of WW-II. The forests across the State Park fall within the 80-90-year range, including the forest now occupying this formerly intensively used recreation area.

The TVA appears to have spared no expenses. Below left I am examining a concrete picnic table, its wooden plank benches long since decayed completely, leaving not a fiber of visible wood. The tables stand in deep forest, suggesting collapse of the vibrant human community responsible for these historical artifacts. We stood wondering how many meals families shared on these breezy open bluffs above the valley that at the time had been cleared of residents, towns, fences, outbuildings, gravesites, churches, and forests awaiting dam completion and valley inundation.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The trail passes through closed forest. A carpet of English ivy hints at the area’s past life when the European-imported landscape ivy accented the built environment, likely including some living quarters on the bluffs. The trail itself (below right) is  smooth and well-maintained… easy to hike. The forest hush occasionally delivered faint, 80-year echoes of children playing and laughing, old story-telling, outdoor toasts, and a tall tale or two. We felt the spirit of kindred souls and sacred connections to the land. Imagine a young adult worker or spouse from those days being transported to accompany Mike and me on our hike. Oh, how they could have informed our journey!

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

A university I know incorporates five pillars into its fundamental tenets for living and learning. One is applicable to our hike and is germane to current societal issues. I’m paraphrasing: View the future through the lens of history. We can’t understand, appreciate, or effectively live today and into tomorrow unless we know where we’ve been. Mike and I knew enough about the time-of-construction history to interpret what we saw on the ground. Sadly, we are going through a time now of societal stress and tension, a time when there is a movement to rewrite history to conform to the way we wanted (in retrospect) it to have been. We cannot change history; we can only learn from it. That is my approach to viewing the intersection of human and natural history. My Land Legacy Stories tell the tale as it happened, even if that history involved abusive agriculture, rapacious natural resource extraction, and seeming disregard for future generations. The greater sin is failing to learn from mistakes, whether or not intended. When Mike and I hiked the Park’s new Awesome Trail June 8, 2020 (http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/07/06/joe-wheeler-state-parks-new-awesome-trail/), we found 80-90-year-old forests growing on land still erosion-scarred from careless agriculture. Again, we cannot undo the scars. we must, instead, vow to never repeat the insults.

We noted that the bluffs during dam construction had not been fully open and treeless. We found many large trees that would have even then provided comforting shade in places. This towering white oak (Quercus alba) predates the period of construction. We mused on what it had witnessed and pondered the stories it could tell.

Joe Wheeler

 

A Land of Druids, Dryads, and Wood Nymphs

We felt the presence of others as we explored in bright mid-day sun. I wondered what we might have seen and felt had we journeyed along the trail at twilight’s gloaming, accompanied by the conditions Alfred Noyes described in The Highwayman:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas

This is a bath house that 80 years ago stood in the open, high on the bluff. Below right Mike peers from within the dogtrot between male and female sides.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

Who knows when vandals first began destroying the structure. Nature can handle what remains of the demolition project.

Joe Wheeler

 

Stone masons practiced their craft with great skill. The stonework on this picnic pavilion remains strong long after the wooden upper walls and roof collapsed. Still serviceable, the foundation might one day support a new shelter.

Joe Wheeler

 

We could only speculate that these twin fireplaces stood within a large picnic shelter. Again, any trace of structure except for the stonework has succumbed to the forces of decay. The chimneys appear to emerge from the embracing forest vegetation.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The large chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) centers the stone arc of the old observation area above Wilson Lake. On our summer visit we saw only what the full forest cover permitted, a mostly impenetrable viewshed. We decided to repeat our hike during the dormant season when vegetation relaxes its grip on the bluff, to extract a clearer image of the time-fading intersection of human and natural history.

Joe Wheeler

 

Mike and I hiked the trail filled with the wonder of Nature, fascinated by what we could read from the land, and luxuriating in the freedom of retirement. The workers who visited the recreation area some 80 years ago likely performed hard physical labor six long days a week. No freedom and flexibility of retirement for them!

Joe Wheeler

 

Nature reveals so much to those willing to explore her mysteries, learn from past human interactions with our natural world, and apply lessons learned to our essential obligation to practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship. Ultimately, the power of natural processes combined with unlimited time will heal any and all human-induced injury. Certainly, we cannot resuscitate species we have extinguished (including our own), yet Nature will eventually fill the resultant ecosystem voids.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Alabama State Parks 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

The Foundation exists for the sole purpose of providing incremental operating and capital support for enhancing our State parks.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I draw three simple truths from exploring an 80-year-abandoned TVA recreation area:

We humans are everything (to ourselves), yet we are nothing.

There is no alternative to informed and responsible Earth stewardship for sustaining our species.

We cannot undo or rewrite history; we can only learn from it.

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 BooksJoe Wheeler

 

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.

 

Examining a 70-Year Journey at Alabama’s Camp McDowell

I went back to McDowell January 20-24, 2020 to begin serious field work for developing McDowell’s Land Legacy Story — the Natural History corollary to existing books and essays on the facility’s Human History. Founders bought the first Camp parcels in 1946 and initiated Camp programming in 1948. I offer this brief Blog Post as a teaser for what lies ahead. I know the property’s Nature quite well at this 2020 point in time. We are discovering and examining the photographic record to document Camp McDowell’s Nature Tale across time. We’ll enter this Post via the Camp entrance. January 2020, forest rises beyond the sign, a nice setting on a stunning day.

 

Here’s the entrance in 1948, a photo presented to me just last week. When I next visit I will attempt to photograph today’s sign at the exact same angle, capturing the road headed north and the forest. I’ll examine today’s trees to determine whether the couple of individual trees in the 1948 near-view are among those standing tall today. If so, we’ll have a then-and-now for specific trees. If not, we’ll have a then-and-now for the forest. I will recommend to the Camp establishing a permanent photo-point to retake the image every 5-10 years to track development.

 

Camp McDowell

 

Trees Adorning Main Camp

Camp McDowell completed its first (and still standing) Chapel in 1953 (under final construction below). My hope upon finding this photo was that we could identify multiple trees still standing from this and many other 65-70-year-old images. For the most part, no, the trees in the old photos are gone, leaving only a few decaying stumps. We looked hard at this photo, finally identifying two trees surviving the decades. Without the aid of an arrow I will draw your attention to the two. First, dead center below are three trees, two prominent with dark bark in the foreground. They are now gone. Standing beyond them is a lighter-barked, more slender individual, notably straight and reaching above the photo’s top margin. That is tree number one, a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda).

The second tree is the smaller of the two trees some 80 percent of the distance from the photo’s left margin. The taller tree is gone. The smaller, a hickory (Carya sp) not much taller than the Chapel roof, still lives.

Camp McDowell

 

We’ll move ahead to 1961, when only those two trees remain.

Camp McDowell

 

Fifty-nine years later, they both tower above the Chapel. Yet, all is not well. Note that the pine bears dead needles. Tragically, the tree died this past summer.

Camp McDowell

 

Too bad that we have lost a proud sentinel from the Camp’s origin. Yet all is not lost from posterity. Camp staff will remove the tree before gravity introduces it to the Chapel roof. They will cut several two-inch thick cookies from near the base. They’ll sand and surface the cookies, preserving a tree-ring history of this Chapel witness-tree. We’ll mark rings dating significant events in McDowell’s history. I will encourage staff to prepare a planting spot for this lob’s successor. I want to envision the successor pine standing tall in 2090!

Camp McDowell

 

The Right Reverend C.C.J. Carpenter, then Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, appointed the Reverend B Scott Eppes to build and lead Camp McDowell in 1946. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1978.  Reverend Eppes wrote an undated History of Camp McDowell around that same time. He wrote, The warden made a visit to Athens, Georgia in February 1949, to perform the marriage of his niece. Coming home to Birmingham, he took a long way by Blairsville, Georgia. In those mountains from the sides of the road he pulled up many small white pines…. Placed in a garbage can filled with wet sawdust, they kept well and were planted at McDowell the next day. About 25 were transplanted; most of them lived. Today they are among the tallest trees on the property. One of the 70-year-old white pines (Pinus strobus) leans below against retired Camp Director, The Reverend Mark Johnston. What a great chapter in McDowell’s Natural History, which as we all know exists interdependently with its Human History.

Camp McDowell

 

That’s the Chapel’s brownish-red roof beyond Mark and the white pine at the base of the slope. So far as we could determine, most trees that covered the hillside when the white pine seedling enjoyed its first taste of Alabama soil are now gone.

Tree Action in the Forest

I’ve often observed in these GBH musings that nothing in Nature is static. Trees sprout, grow, and die. In what appears to be a mature forest (below left) a main canopy red oak reaches with its stark skeleton crown high above the forest floor. Death likely caught up to it 2-3 years ago. Gravity, insects, and microorganisms will soon assure that it reunites with the forest floor and soil. The lateral view gives little indication of the effects of its dying on the remaining forest. Vertically (below right) the result is apparent. A large hole in the canopy will encourage remaining trees to exploit the void. Sunlight reaching the forest floor will allow new vegetation to flourish. This is yet another of the stories we hope to tell. Wouldn’t it have been nice if managers 70 years ago had by chance established a permanent photo point to watch the then young oak complete its life cycle!

Camp McDowellCamp McDowell

 

Clear Creek at Camp McDowell

Although my passion and expertise lie in the forest and its associated life, I have always found fascination in weather, climate, and hydrology. Try growing a forest without clouds and water. I photographed the McDowell dam in January (below left). The peaceful impoundment with its placid waters belie the stream’s occasional alter ego.  Note that same pipe (below right) protruding above the roiling floodwaters in 1973.  Nothing in Nature is static. Ferocity lies just one deluge beyond tranquility. It is Nature’s way. These are the stories that compose the massive volume that is environmental education on McDowell’s 1,138 acres.

Camp McDowell

Camp McDowell

 

Clear Creek is a permanent (for our purposes) landscape feature at McDowell. Yet not a drop of its flow persists beyond the day. Instead, for 70 years the stream has flowed steadily past McDowell toward the Gulf of Mexico. I draw parallel to the flow of campers. The young people that first camp season would now be in their 80s, flowing on in time and place. Nothing in Nature is static.

 

Environmental Center Mission

McDowell’s Environmental Education Center Mission may actually remain static: To connect people to their environment, teach respect for the Earth and its beings, and to promote a commitment to lifelong learning. Add in a strong touch of faith, service, and humanity and the message is relevant for the ages. My purpose, in part, is to tell McDowell’s Land Legacy Tale in a manner that tracks fidelity to the mission through the ages. And what better symbol of that mission than the Camp’s new St. Francis Chapel and its surroundings. The Chapel offers many opportunities for photo-tracking its natural setting over time. Few who see it today will be available to tell its environmental story in 2090. Where I stood to snap this shot, I contend, will suit the 5-10-year permanent photo record.

Camp McDowell

 

Every parcel of land has its own story of human and natural history. The two are often interwoven. Camp McDowell’s history began in 1946. Its human history began when native peoples crossed the Bering land bridge and migrated several thousand miles to this Eden along Clear Creek. I’ll track McDowell’s natural history from 1946 and offer speculation for the years of European settlement before then.

I am grateful for the chance to collaborate with staff at McDowell to develop this Land Legacy Tale. The project affords me the chance in retirement to re-engage with my forestry roots and to stimulate my lifelong passion for Nature. Watch for more in these Posts as the story unfolds.

 

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. Every parcel of wildland tells a story; human and natural history interwoven
  2. Knowing the story enriches environmental education and elevates understanding
  3. Understanding Nature inspires and motivates responsible and informed 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

Steve's Books

 

I like to imagine that representative samples of my books appreciate accompanying me into the woods. So far, none has complained nor groaned!

McDowell

 

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.

 

Back to Camp McDowell

I returned to Camp McDowell and Conference Center December 19-20, 2019 following a year’s absence and two prior Posts:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/11/27/mid-november-camp-mcdowell-land-legacy-orientation/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/01/08/mid-november-skies-at-camp-mcdowell/

On the recent December trip I focused on completing plans for conducting a comprehensive Land Legacy Story for McDowell. Published books and internal documents already chronicle the Human History of the Camp since its 1946 establishment. My volunteer project will develop and publish the corresponding Natural History for the Camp’s 1,138 acres. My purpose with this Post, in large part and in full disclosure, is to help me gather my thoughts for the full-blown data-gathering and story-drafting that I will undertake beginning in mid-January.

McDowell

 

The McDowell Environmental Education Center Mission guides and informs this project: To connect people to their environment, teach respect for the Earth and its beings, and to promote a commitment to lifelong learning. I will prepare the Land Legacy Story to meet the objectives of and beyond the Environmental Education Center… for the Camp, Farm School, Folk School, and Conference Center. Environmental education and our relationship to our Earth home is critical to all Earth citizens and their obligation to be informed and responsible Earth stewards.

McDowell sits within the southern third of the 181,230-acre (283 square mile) Bankhead National Forest. The Forest Service focuses on longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) in that southern third. The Camp has longleaf (below), along with loblolly (Pinus taeda), Virginia (Pinus virginiana), and shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) across the property. Among the pines, loblolly predominates. I’ll describe the species composition and forest types across the property, and discuss the relevant land use history for each parcel assembled to constitute the current mosaic.

McDowellMcDowell

 

All water bodies at McDowell, excepting the free-flowing springs, creeks, and stream, are man made, including Sloan Lake (below).

McDowell

 

I can’t help but include some human reflections in the Land Legacy tale. I photographed this metal sign looking out through a window somewhere at McDowell. Judy and I adopted our comparable Bloom Where You Are Planted philosophy years ago, taking it along as we made 13 interstate moves over our nearly 48 years sharing our lives. The Camp is clearly growing where the Episcopalian Diocese planted it in 1946. Did it work because the founders selected the right spot… or are McDowell’s mission and purpose so powerful and timeless that the Camp would have flourished in almost any location in Alabama? I’ll explore that question with the Land Legacy Story.

McDowell

 

Relic hardwoods link the human and natural histories at McDowell. I’ll attempt to discover and explain how these old specimens made their start and survived the decades, and speculate on their fate. I often observed, wouldn’t it have been nice if we had a series of photos showing every ten years since property acquisition how these special individuals have grown and changed? We cannot reach back in time to establish such permanent photo points, yet we can do it now.

McDowellMcDowell

 

Whether we are examining those stalwart hardwood sentinels or the young pine stand (below left), we can and should chronicle what lies ahead. Everything will change over time; nothing in Nature (or in human life) is static. The same holds true for the pond and its life.

McDowellMcDowell

 

The Camp began in 1946 when the Diocese acquired the first 160 acres from the Summers family. The total Camp now comprises some 25 individual parcels, the most recent 40 acres purchased in 2009. The sign below denotes an internal line separating parcels within the Camp. I intend to examine the individual units for evidence of differential land use history and how that might be expressed by the present forest.

McDowell

 

Tree Form Oddities

And then there are the curiosities of tree form oddities. Some have their own stories to tell. This one one bears closer inspection! They are all part of the tale.

McDowell

 

This oddity on a big leaf magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) resembles an elephant seal. I view tree form oddities as opportunities for explanation, story telling, and fun in environmental education. I want to identify all that I can; mark their location; and include them as permanent photo points. I will implore Camp staff to continue adding to the inventory of on-site oddities and curiosities.

McDowell

 

I never tire of seeing sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) with its propensity to defy gravity… to grow any way but vertically. They twist and turn, navigating their chosen course to find sufficient light to thrive in the canopy mid-story. Let the oak, pine, and poplars battle for for the upper canopy. Sourwood is content doing things its own way, getting what sunlight it needs, a sylvan minimalist if you will. Sourwood epitomizes the Rolling Stones philosophy: You Can’t Always Get What You Want… But You Just Might Get What You Need! Mid-story oaks, pines, and poplars suffer a shortened life; sourwood thrives.

McDowell

 

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. Every wildland property has a story to tell… rich elements at the intersection of human and natural history
  2. Memorializing the story amplifies the strength of the property’s lessons for Nature-Inspired Life and Living
  3. Camp McDowell, and other such institutions, can change the world by effectively promoting informed and responsible 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

Steve's BooksMcDowell

 

I like to imagine that representative samples of my books appreciate accompanying me into the woods. So far, none has complained nor groaned!

Photos of Steve

 

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.