Grand Teton National Park

I continue my series of Blog Posts from a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks and Monuments July 12-24. See the chronological archives for this series that began July 26: http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/

The immediate prior Post brought us from Salt Lake City, UT to Jackson, WY: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/08/05/salt-lake-city-ut-to-jackson-wy/. Today’s Post covers the two days we based in Jackson and ends as we head north into Yellowstone National Park. I had visited the Tetons once before on university business and a second time when Judy accompanied me. The first trip, two of my associates and I arranged an extra day, rented bikes, and completed a 55-mile loop through the valley. The second, Judy and I, among other adventures, hiked the trail circuiting Jenny Lake. Since the first visit I have considered Grand Teton National Park one of my favorite places on Earth.

 

In fact, were the Park closer to where we have chosen to permanently reside in the eastern US, I would designate the Park as my ultimate ashes-destination… please don’t notify authorities. I believe they’re a bit particular about keeping the Parks clear of such ingress. Instead, and probably just as prohibited, I wish to add my nutrient-rich ash atop Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. I first fell in love with Dolly Sods when I hiked and camped there as a teenager… and fueled the love affair from afar over the years, visiting occasionally, at least once every 5-10 years, each occasion generating welled eyes and pounding heart.

Jackson, WY is way out of my league during winter when the beautiful people enjoy the fresh powder (they arrive via private jets rather than a coach bus!). Each time I’ve visited during summer and stayed with not-so-bad group rates. Upon arriving our first evening on this trip, Judy and I grabbed burgers and watched as a blustery squall surged through town with strong wind, dark clouds, and just a little rain. The departing storm (lower left) signaled far more fury than we had felt. Something about mountain storms (Jackson sits at 6,237-feet) draws me up into them, captures my imagination, and rewards me with downdrafts far cooler and refreshing than do our summer storms in the deep south.

 

The next morning dawned sharp and clear. I sought a little elevation behind the Lodge, lifting the Tetons above the near-ridge to the north. There at 13,770 feet stood the focus of my geophysical affection.

 

I thrilled knowing that the day ahead would take us into the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Years ago (mid-90s) I was well on my way to arranging a sabbatical leave from my Penn State faculty position for a year at The Teton Science Schools (https://www.tetonscience.org/), then primarily a partnership involving Utah State University and the University of Wyoming. Instead, I accepted an administrative position at Auburn University. Another road not taken. Life is a matter of choices and decisions. As for a professional post in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
No regrets. Life has been good. A year on-site at TSS may have (no, would have) changed my life and perhaps altered my life’s trajectory. So may have many other pathway selections we’ve made along life’s journey. July 2019 was my first return since making that choice. While there, I admit to thinking once or twice about The Teton Science Schools. After all, we passed within a few miles of the main campus. But I felt no sadness or remorse. I long ago grew beyond second-guessing myself. As a friend used to say, “It is what it is.”

 

Floating the Snake River

We boarded the bus mid-morning heading north to raft on the Snake River, which just weeks before had been a raging torrent from continuing rains and rapid mountain snowmelt. We found the river tame and smooth, and the float quite relaxing. Scenery knew no visibility limits — clouds high and air pure and clean. The Snake runs south, east of the great Teton fault that lies at the foot of the Tetons. The Tetons are among the Earth’s youngest mountains, the most recent uplifting began just 10 million years ago. The Teton block thrusts upward along the western edge of the Jackson Hole valley block. We are floating along the river with the former surface of the block buried 20,000 feet beneath us… under nearly four vertical miles of material scraped, eroded, and deposited from the rising Tetons. Geologists describe this mountain-building as rapid. With the total offset to-date at 30,000 feet, the average pace per year is three-thousandths of a foot. Characterizing that pace as rapid suggests that geologic time lies beyond our feeble ability to grasp. Same for posing 10 million years as young.

 

Time means nothing to a mountain. And mountains mean nothing to time… or to wind, water, gravity, and glaciers, whose role is to destroy mountains. Nothing in Nature is static. Come back next summer and I will challenge you to detect any change. Leave for a few million years and return to a drastically altered landscape. We humans usually distinguish only cataclysmic change — 1980 Mount Saint Helens; 1964 Alaska Good Friday earthquake; 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption. Yet we do know how to read the landscape (like the Tetons) to determine the processes, patterns, and pace that have sculpted this and other geography. Such reading is the science of geomorphology, the study of the form of the earth. Geomorphology was my favorite course at Syracuse University when I returned to secure my PhD 1985-87. There are volumes to read in a place as dynamic as the Tetons and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem!

There is a long story behind the moniker for my semi-retirement LLC (Great Blue Heron): http://stevejonesgbh.com/reflections/ Refer to this link in my website to see why a great blue heron appearing along the Snake River held such symbolic significance for me. My personal connections to many facets of Nature help guide and inspire my life.

 

Nature’s Diverse Dimensions

As a forester, trees fascinate me. I have a wide collection of tree bark images and tree form oddity photos. The deeply furrowed cottonwood bark along a Jackson park trail caught my eye (below left). And I am a cloud and sky junkie. Another shower burst through our second evening in Jackson. I captured the setting sun as it dropped beneath the dark underbelly of the eastward-bound departing shower. I liked the visual. Again, we felt lots of wind and watched threatening storm clouds but experienced only a little rain.

 

Deeper into Grand Teton National Park

We departed July 16 first thing for the Heart of The Grand Teton National Park. I will never tire of the absolute majesty of the Tetons. Once again my heart soared!

 

We visited the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, where I hungered for more time.

 

So many others have written words far more powerful than my own feeble script. What can I possibly say better than some of the greats who played a role in establishing and sustaining our National Parks?! Our Parks: “for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” The Tetons “should be kept from man’s irresponsible destruction.”

 

Our Parks: “the best idea we ever had.” Understand, defend, and preserve our natural world.

 

Chapel of the Transfiguration

I found spiritualism permeating so many places we visited… the Tetons, first and foremost among them, epitomized by the Chapel of the  Transfiguration. From the website, This tiny chapel built in 1925 on land donated by Maud Noble is still a functioning Episcopal church. It was constructed so that the early settlers would not have to make the long buckboard ride into Jackson for Sunday services. The structure also served guests and employees of the dude ranches that stretched north of Jackson along the base of the Teton Range. What could be more spiritually powerful (at  least from the Christian perspective) than the cross (below right) at equal rank with Grand Teton!

 

Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake

During the most recent Pleistocene Ice Age (from 50-14,000 years ago), ice covered the Yellowstone Plateau to an estimated depth of 3,500-feet. Jackson lay under 1,500′ of ice. Since the retreat of the ice sheet, alpine glaciers have further sculpted the valley. During the Little Ice Age (1400 to 1850) the Cascade Canyon Glacier (that’s Cascade Canyon right of center below left) flowed into the valley, gouged a depression some 400-feet deep, and pushed up a terminal moraine that impounds today’s astoundingly beautiful Jenny Lake (1,191 acres). Judy and I hiked the perimeter 20-plus years ago. Time permitting, could we have once again completed the hike? We took solace knowing that we had once done so.

 

 

Jackson Lake lies a dozen miles further up the Snake River. A natural lake enlarged by the construction of the Jackson Lake Dam, which was originally built in 1911, elevated in 1916, and rebuilt by 1989. The surface covers 25,540 acres (nearly 40 square miles). The lake offers a stirring foreground for the Tetons that in the two views below are fading southward as our tour headed north. I snapped these images from the Flagg Ranch Information Station just a few miles south of Yellowstone National Park.

 

Flagg Ranch is a privately operated resort located in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway  corridor between Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. The location was initially occupied in the 1890s by the Snake River Military Station, part of a network of U.S. Army outposts for patrol and management of Yellowstone National Park in its early years under military administration. The outpost operated under Army control until 1906, when the lands to the south of the Yellowstone boundary were turned over to the US Forest Service, becoming Teton National Forest in 1908. The station became a stopping point for travelers between Jackson, Wyoming and Yellowstone, easily identifiable by the flags that flew over it (Wikipedia). Mr. Rockefeller acquired significant acreage of Greater Yellowstone ecosystem lands using names other than his own. He did not want his name to inflate asking prices. He then donated the acquired property to enlarge the ultimate Parks land base. The granite-mounted brass plaque acknowledges Mr. Rockefeller’s “vision, generosity, and love of country” (below left). The plaque faces southwest toward the Tetons from a bluff above the northern reaches of Jackson Lake (below right).

 

Grand Teton Wildflowers

Paraphrasing text from my earlier Post on our run from Salt Lake City to Jackson: I confess to being a hopeless wildflower addict. What a gift to see both magnificent landscape-level-vista beauty from within Grand Teton National Park, and then focus my gaze to the ground at my feet to reveal beauty at another scale and in a different dimension. Were I back in Alabama I would have known many native species on sight or had references on my bookshelf to identify them. My good intention as I photographed these beauties was to complete identification before publishing the Posts. I admit, however, to assembling a pile of good intentions. I made a time-constrained internet attempt to determine name, rank, and serial number to include with this Post and subsequent stops along the National Parks and Monuments series. Instead, I will offer you a revised Good Intention: I’ll delay to a final trip Post a compilation of wildflowers from the entire 12-day journey, striving to offer flower identity. So, for the moment, I offer a taste of the floral bounty and beauty we encountered within Grand Teton National Park!

From deep red and salmon:

 

To an entire battery of yellows:

 

And more yellows:

 

And some softer hues:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To subtle rose:

 

To this snow-white Rocky Mountain raspberry (Rubus deliciosus), which I was able to identify with little effort. Its species name hints at its fruit’s culinary attributes.

 

To soft purple:

 

I offer the portfolio of flowers without identification with no small level of guilt and embarrassment.

 

Leaving Grand Teton Behind

Just a few miles ahead we entered Yellowstone National Park, leaving Grand Teton’s magic wonderland behind. Will I ever return? I hope so.

 

I am grateful that today’s digital cameras permit instant review. I can immediately relive our two days in the Tetons. And within days I can review, edit, sort, and catalog them. And I can share these Blog Posts with readers. These photos bear witness to the presence and power of Nature’s inspiration. I pray that my words, combined with the images, will stir in you some greater understanding and appreciation for our natural world. That the Post will prompt some recognition that we have this one chance to better steward our precious Earth. And that as an informed and responsible Earth citizen, you accept an essential obligation to practice Earth stewardship… to do your part to change some small corner of the world for the better… through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work.

I offer four succinct lessons below from this Post. Notably, they are unchanged from the four I offered in the prior Post chronicling our journey from Salt Lake City to Jackson.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. No matter at what scale we view Nature, she presents gifts of beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.
  2. Understanding the Science underlying Nature’s attractions amplifies enjoyment, appreciation, and inspiration.
  3. Seeing Nature deeply sows and nurtures the seeds for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.
  4. Nature is spatial (and special) — connect viscerally to The Land wherever you are. Such union of personal passion to place will stir your heart, body, mind, spirit, and soul.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salt Lake City, UT to Jackson, WY

View this Post as a continuation of my July 12-24, 1,400-mile, five-state tour of National Parks and Monuments.

We headed north from Salt Lake City (SLC) July 14, after enjoying the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra performance. Ranches and rangeland dominated the valleys (smaller basins); parallel north-south ranges, diminutive compared to the Wasatch, bordered us to the east. This valley floor is far more verdant than the Salt Lake basin we had left behind, signaling ample rainfall, yet not so much to obviate center-pivot irrigation systems that appeared every mile or so.

 

Something palpable I saw and sensed about this landscape brought Bonanza, the Cartwrights, and the Ponderosa to mind. A quick visit to the internet revealed that the TV Ponderosa was located near North Lake Tahoe, some 566 road miles WSW from SLC. A long ways, yet the location lies within the same Basin and Range Province! Whether SLC or Tahoe, it’s still a far different world from my Central Appalachian roots!

Yet the sense I mentioned did connect at core to my youth. I’m always impressed with how The Land stirs memory, passion, and sentiment in me. I was but a young lad when Mom, Dad, my older brother (and two much younger sisters present but not paying heed), and I watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide. As our group passed through this and other countryside in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, my mind drifted to sitting with Mom, Dad, and Jack (with the little ones nearby) eating popcorn… all the while rooting for Hoss and Little Joe to handle whatever villains posed peril for the Ranch, wishing Marshall Dillon good fortune, and marveling at Clint Eastwood’s invincible ruggedness–well before he matured into Dirty Hairy! Perhaps even before he completely mastered the art of squinting. With tears welling as the bus rolled, I could smell the popcorn and feel the warmth of distant and wistful recollections. The Land affects me powerfully!

Bear Lake Overlook

My impression of the land persisted as we summited the mountain range above and west of Bear Lake. The overlook placed us at 7,600-feet, more than four-tenths of a vertical mile above the 5,300′ lake. Bear Lake is a natural freshwater lake on the Utah-Idaho border in the Western United States. About 109 square miles in size, it is split about equally between the two states; its Utah portion comprises the second-largest natural freshwater lake in Utah (Wikipedia). Spectacularly clear sky gave us unlimited visibility to the southeast (below left) and east (right). I could have alternately strolled and sat for hours, soaking in the cool breeze and 360-degree horizon. I pondered what the changing seasons might bring at the 7,600′ Utah-Wyoming border.

 

I’ve discovered–and verified repeatedly–that I am irreversibly spatial (no, not at all special!). The Land speaks to me–communicating viscerally to body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. My most vivid memories link to Land… as evidenced by the Bonanza and family moment. I want to retain the feel, sense, and view from the Bear Lake vista. I want the memory to lodge permanently.

Whether east to the Lake or to the SSW and N (below left and right, respectively) absent the Lake, I am stirred. Amazing how a wee cumulus can add an exclamation point! I’m reminded of my nine years on the faculty at Penn State University, where a common bumper sticker asks, If God Isn’t a Penn State Fan, Then Why is the Sky Blue and White? This certainly was a Penn State Sky!

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflower Magic at the Overlook

I confess to being a hopeless wildflower addict. What a gift to see both magnificent landscape-level-vista beauty from the Overlook, and then focus my gaze to the ground at my feet to reveal beauty at another scale and in a different dimension. Were I back in Alabama I would have known many native species on sight or had references on my bookshelf to identify them. My good intention as I photographed these beauties was to complete identification before publishing the Posts. I admit, however, to assembling a pile of good intentions. I made a time-constrained internet attempt to determine name, rank, and serial number to include with this Post and subsequent stops along the National Parks and Monuments series. Instead, I will offer you a revised Good Intention: I’ll delay to a final trip Post a compilation of wildflowers from the entire trip, striving to offer flower identity. So, for the moment, I offer a taste of the floral bounty and beauty we encountered here at 7,600 feet!

 

I’m fighting the urge to dig deeply into online references. Each of these blooms seems so very distinctive. I want to know what and who they are. However, I also want to issue these Posts while my mind is fresh for all trip facets and not just the wildflowers.

 

From blue to pink the variety show is rich with blessing and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or this subtle white and beige cushion-cluster.

 

And the 3-4-inch seed head of this plant I saw all along our journey.

 

Interpretation at the Overlook

Because I am spatial, I’ve had a lifelong long love affair with maps. Interpretative signage offered this Heart of the Rockies panel. The Overlook (#3) is in the far northeast corner of Idaho. The red route just happens to trace our passage from SLC to Yellowstone.

 

Another information poster transports the visitor back 200-500 million years ago, an extended period when a shallow sea accepted calcareous deposits that over time (and at great depth) transformed (heat and pressure) to the limestone that now composes these mountains.

 

And here Judy and I stood some half-a-billion years later nearly a-mile-and-a-half above where the tiny sea creatures ended their cycle of life, yielding their exoskeletons to the stuff of future mountains. I’ve said often that death begins with life… and that life begins with death. And the cycle repeats endlessly. Those lovely wildflowers (no, not the two of us) I could not identify draw life from those ancient shallow sea organisms.

 

Down to the Oregon/California Trail Center

We dropped down to Bear Lake, traveled north along its western shore, and stopped in Montpelier, ID at The National Oregon/California Trail Center. From the Center’s website, The Oregon National Trail is a 2,000 mile monument to the human spirit. In the sixty odd years of its use, thousands of Americans headed west, first for fur, then as missionaries, and finally for land. Between 1841 and the turn of the century, over 300,000 Americans of all ages and walks of life sold most of their worldly possessions, piled what was left in a wagon and set off on an epic journey. Our own luxury coach bus held little resemblance to the oxen-powered wagons that carried belongings (the settlers generally walked alongside) across endless miles of rugged terrain and treacherous passage. The Center offers insight into the bold adventurers who made the sometimes terrifying and dangerous journey. Perhaps the cumulus below right hints at the promise and hope they felt as they trekked onward to a land of anticipated freedom, plenty, and reward.

 

Those intrepid souls were leaving a life, friends, and extended family behind to pursue a momentous new venture. Judy and I were merely ticking items from a bucket list, reveling in a comfortable present-day… a present time paved with the sweat, blood, and courage of those who passed this way over those six decades. They would have paused at what is now the summit near the Overlook, thanking God that those 2,300 vertical feet were now behind, and contemplating what might lie ahead. No foreboding journey lay immediately ahead for Judy and me. Highway miles from Montpelier to Jackson–117. Estimated bus time of two hours and ten minutes. Our only remaining tasks for the day was to enjoy the ride, settle into Jackson’s Snow King Resort, and decide where to eat.

I often reflect on our good fortune to live when and where we do. On this Earth of pure beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. This pale blue orb. This mote of dust in the vast darkness of space. Isolated by unfathomable time and distance from other stars in even our home galaxy, and  incomprehensibly separated from the two trillion other galaxies across the universe. Perhaps, in this full context, we are today, in this world of modern convenience, just as vulnerable and threatened as our western-bound forebearers were day in and day out. The dangers may not be as immediate as those they faced, yet we are just as dependent on deliberate understanding, preparation, and decision-making for our own present and future well-being. A well-being demanding informed action, and necessitating sound judgment and reasoned strategy to care for this Earth that sustains us now and forevermore.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. No matter at what scale we view Nature, she presents gifts of beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.
  2. Understanding the Science underlying Nature’s attractions amplifies enjoyment, appreciation, and inspiration.
  3. Seeing Nature deeply sows and nurtures the seeds for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.
  4. Nature is spatial (and special) — connect viscerally to The Land wherever you are. Such union of personal passion to place will stir your heart, body, mind, spirit, and soul.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

 

 

 

 

Basin and Range

Beginning a 12-Day Natural Adventure

My July 26 Post previewed a 12-day five-state journey that included several Nature-based bucket list way-points: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/07/26/previewing-a-series-of-blog-posts-july-2019-national-parks-journey/. We left Huntsville, Alabama early Friday July 12, 2019 (flight 45-minutes late!), nearly sprinted to our Dallas connecting flight to Salt Lake City, arriving a little ahead of the scheduled destination landing. Because I direct my writing to Nature-Inspired Life and Living, forgive my general avoidance of the history, culture, religion, architecture, entertainment, and traffic patterns of Salt Lake City and other cities and communities we experienced during our 1,450-mile tour.

Thus, I will say to you that we began our adventure in the Basin and Range province of the western US. Here’s what my earlier Post presaged: The Wasatch Range, the distant feature to the right in the photo below, rises dramatically as the eastern wall of the Salt Lake basin, a remnant feature of prehistoric Lake Bonneville. Water (primarily snowmelt) enters the basin from the lofty mountains, yet never exits, hence the evaporation-derived salinity referenced by the lake’s moniker.

 

Explaining Basin and Range

Wikipedia offers: The Basin and Range Province is a vast physiographic region covering much of the inland western United States and northwestern Mexico. It is defined by unique basin and range topography, characterized by abrupt changes in elevation, alternating between narrow faulted mountain chains and flat arid valleys or basins. The physiography of the province is the result of tectonic extension that began around 17 million years ago in the early Miocene epoch. Salt Lake City and Reno are now 50 miles further apart than when extension began. Tremendous movement, right? Well, not exactly blinding speed — 15.5 thousandths of a foot per year.

Picture tectonic forces pulling the Earth’s North American continental crust (21-24 miles thick) simultaneously in opposing relative directions. With separation, because the mass and weight of the drifting massive blocks are not uniform, one side of the break lifts (the west edge of the adjacent Wasatch block) as the other depresses (the east edge of the adjoining Salt Lake basin block). Vertical displacement has totaled many thousands of feet, far in excess of today’s actual elevation differential between the highest point at the nearby Alto ski resort (11,068-feet) and the Great Salt Lake (4,200-feet). The reason includes two factors. The Wasatch actively weathers and erodes as it lifts. What is now the Alta summit carried thousands of feet of rock above it, long since eroded, when the extension and lifting began. What happened to 17 million years of Wasatch weathering debris? It washed westward into the basin, filling it to a common level across the vast expanse. Sediments where I stood to take the photo above extend many thousands of feet to the base rock that witnessed the initial separation.

Contemplate 17 million years. My life expectancy at birth — 79.5 years; 17-million years translate to 213,836.478 Steve Jones lifetimes. In Basin and Range, the book that spurred and elevated my interest in plate tectonics, John McPhee observed, If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever. With respect to gradual forces acting inexorably over vast stretches of time, McPhee commented in that same book, If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.

Knowing a little about the underlying science magnifies my appreciation for Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. Standing at the Great Salt Lake State Park and Marina without understanding the natural mechanisms creating the sights, I would have enjoyed the scenery only rather superficially. How unexceptional without knowing that I’m atop thousands of feet of sediments swept from the Wasatch. That Reno is slowly drifting away from me. That we humans are humble newcomers to this exquisite planet to which we are absolutely dependent.

 

Again in Basin and Range, McPhee noted our human place and peril: On the geological time scale, a human lifetime is reduced to a brevity that is too inhibiting to think about deep time. … Geologists … see the unbelievable swiftness with which one evolving species on the Earth has learned to reach into the dirt of some tropical island and fling 747s across the sky … Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.

Is our situation dire? Yes, unless we awaken. Unless we transform the power of creativity and goodness that produced edifices like the Mormon Temple and art as wonderful as the Choir and Symphony we enjoyed the morning we departed for Grand Teton National Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching that performance reminded me that all of Nature is performance art, designed masterfully. Just as the vocal and orchestral output proved exquisite, deeply satisfying, and inspirational, evoking a sense of speaking to and for some higher order and power, so too do the instruments and voices of Nature. The 30-minute program brought tears to my eyes. My eyes welled multiple times as our journey through Nature progressed. Later that same day, the Tetons once more stoked deep humility and inspiration. My heart pounded as we headed north from Salt Lake City along the Snake River.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We ventured up to Temple Square and the State Capital when we returned from the State Park and Marina. We inhaled the exhilarating essence of the Wasatch Range to our east and southeast. I recalled a mid-1990s university-related visit to Salt Lake City the week after Thanksgiving. Still a recreational runner then, I remember running in morning snow (just a few inches). The next morning with time to kill before flying home, several of us drove up to Snowbird and Alta, not to ski but to see the resorts and actually enter the Range. Already that season, the summit at Alta had recorded 17 feet of snow (yes, my mind retains such data). Road crews were firing the avalanche cannons to trigger the release under controlled-traffic terms. Like many facets of Nature, the Wasatch projects wonder from the views below, yet nothing matched the late November deep-winter majesty that day when we drove into the mountains. Nature is best viewed both from afar and up close… only then is its complexity and totality revealed.

 

Even as tectonic forces build mountains and weathering destroys them, the resultant terrain influences weather and climate. The city sees just 46 inches of snow every winter, and totals on average 18.25 inches of rainfall (including snowmelt) The city receives that much precipitation because it is not fully in the Wasatch rain shadow. Further west, the Salt Lake basin falls squarely in the shadow. Wendover, UT on west side of the basin records on average only 4.7 inches of liquid equivalent… a true desert. All things in Nature are orchestrated by Nature’s laws. As Leonardo da Vinci noted, In her (nature’s) inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous. And he observed, Nature never breaks her own laws.

 

Because we are part of Nature, we are imminently subject to her laws, limits, and consequences. Once again, da Vinci’s wisdom is timeless, Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous. We must remember our place lest we increase our peril and tempt the fate that has fallen to countless other Earth species that have preceded us.

In subsequent Posts, as I recount observations, reflections, and lessons from my 12-day sojourn, I will continue to urge ever more alert and diligent Earth stewardship. My personal mission statement, as I will repeat below, is to Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship. The cause is paramount. The time is now. The consequences of inaction are serious.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. Understanding the Science underlying Nature’s attractions amplifies enjoyment, appreciation, and inspiration.
  2. Seeing Nature deeply sows and nurtures the seeds for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.
  3. Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe know no geographic limit. It’s there whether in the Basin and Range or here in Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley. It’s wherever you seek to find it!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previewing a Series of Blog Posts — July 2019 National Parks Journey

There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred. President Theodore Roosevelt

The Parks are the Nation’s pleasure grounds and the Nation’s restoring places… The National Parks… are an American idea; it is one thing we have that has not been imported. Horace McFarland, president, American Civic Association, 1916

There is nothing so American as our National Parks… The fundamental idea behind the Parks… is that the country belongs to the people, and that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

National Parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst. Wallace Stegner, 1983

 

July 12-24, 2019 Judy and I enjoyed a dream National Parks tour through Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Badlands… among other natural and historic features and monuments. Watch for 6-10 additional Blog Posts with photos and applicable observations and reflections. I won’t know exactly what topics I’ll address until I get into drafting. The list of potential topics includes:

Great Salt Lake and Wasatch Range

The Wasatch Range, the distant feature to the right in the photo below, rises dramatically as the eastern wall of the Salt Lake basin, a remnant feature of prehistoric Lake Bonneville. Water (primarily snowmelt) enters the basin from the lofty mountains, yet never exits, hence the evaporation-derived salinity referenced by the lake’s moniker.

 

Basin and Range

Author John McPhee wrote in Basin and Range, If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever. We saw basin after range after basin after range as we made our 1,400-mile five-state journey.

 

Grand Teton National Park

This was my third visit to the Tetons, perhaps my favorite place on the planet. Grand Teton towers more than a mile above the valley floor to its 13,770-foot peak. John Muir said of such country, Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.

 

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Stretching from Jackson, Wyoming into America’s premier National Park treasure, the greater Yellowstone ecosystem epitomizes Nature’s rich beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. Once again, Muir expressed its essence, This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising.

 

Yellowstone Caldera and THE Hotspot

The Park is a “super volcano,” which last erupted 640 million years ago. That event ejected 240 cubic miles of volcanic material, contrasted to Mt Saint Helen’s 1980 eruption ejection of 0.1 cubic miles. Old Faithful is just one of the Park’s associated hydro-thermal features.

 

Badlands

The Bad Lands grade all the way from those that are almost rolling in character to those that are so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth. Theodore Roosevelt.

 

Devils Tower

From an 1875 Geologic Survey Team, Henry Newt (1845-1877), geological assistant to the expedition, wrote: Its [the Tower’s] remarkable structure, its symmetry, and its prominence made it an unfailing object of wonder. . . It is a great remarkable obelisk of trachyte, with a columnar structure, giving it a vertically striated appearance, and it rises 625 feet almost perpendicular, from its base. Its summit is so entirely inaccessible that the energetic explorer, to whom the ascent of an ordinarily difficult crag is but a pleasant pastime, standing at its base could only look upward in despair of ever planting his feet on the top. . .

 

Crowds – To Cherish We Must See and Fondle

Aldo Leopold wrote in his 1949 A Sand County Almanac, All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish. Fortunately, the National Park Service manages National Park visitation in a manner that accommodates large crowds even while enabling back-country exploration for those seeking solitude and escape.

 

For Spacious Skies — Cloud Wonder and Magic

I’m an unabashed and unashamed cloud addict and weather junkie — here’s a late afternoon shower approaching as we visited West Thumb Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Lake at 7,733-feet. Watch for my two-week, five-state cloud-photo catalog and journal.

 

Spectacular Scale

A consummate tree guy, I accept the horizon-constraining forests that blanket most of Alabama. Yet I heartily embraced the unlimited viewscape frequently presented during our tour.

 

Wildflowers

I’m a southern Appalachian spring wildflower enthusiast. Mid-summer across our tourscape offered a rich palette of floral wonder. I will need lots of time to hazard identification of the scores of special flower-gifts I photographed!

 

Wildlife

I won’t need to sort through  library references to place an i.d. on the region’s charismatic megafauna! Thank God America awakened to the serious bison extinction trajectory we were on before it was too late… from 30-60 million animals to a few hundred.

 

I offer this Post as a teaser… a place-holder while I gather my thoughts, organize photos, and select themes. One overriding theme relates to our extraordinarily dynamic home planet. Consider the inexorable forces responsible over the vast sweep of time for the Tetons rising, the crustal plate drifting over THE Hotspot, the Devils Tower intrusion, and the Badlands eroding.

Another theme I’ll be sure to address, as noted above, derives from Aldo Leopold’s quote on the conservation of wildness (A Sand County Almanac): Conservation of all wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle. And when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish. I thought often of Thoreau’s blessed isolation at Walden Pond as I experienced the press of humanity at Old Faithful, Devils Tower, and Mount Rushmore… and every time in Yellowstone that a bison or elk stood roadside, creating a traffic jam.

I know, too that I will explore my five essential verbs applied to Nature observation, revelation, and Earth stewardship: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act. Because we spent much of our 12-day trip passing near and through all manner of Federal Lands (National Forests, National Wilderness, and the Parks, I’ll find a way to discuss the defining management and intent of those respective lands. For example, so many people confuse “conservation” and “preservation.”

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit; Submitted to publisher May 31, 2019), as well as another one by me (single author) scheduled for 2020, Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration, to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. Nature’s inspiration buffet is without limit.
  2. While Nature offers much wherever we live, nothing surpasses an occasional sojourn to places of incalculable beauty and grand scale.
  3. Creating our National Parks — America’s Best Idea!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Vision:

  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!