Beyond Yellowstone: Badlands, Devils Tower, and Mount Rushmore

This Post continues my series of photographic essays from a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks, Memorials, and Monuments July 12-24, 2019. See the chronological archives for this series that began July 26: http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/

The immediate prior journey Post covered the two days we based in West Yellowstone, Montana focusing on the great Yellowstone caldera and spectacular hydrothermal features: http://stevejonesgbh.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5150&action=edit

This current Post takes me through Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Note the distinction among designations. All three are a part of the National Park System managed by the National Park Service (NPS). The System has 419 units and at least 19 naming designations (https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/national-park-system.htm), among them the three represented in this Post: Parks (61 units), Monuments (84), and Memorials (30). I recall an open house when I staffed a table promoting my scheduled course at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). A prospective student reacted with great indignation when I observed that Alabama has no designated National Parks. She informed me of the several she knew quite well, to which I responded that not one is designated as a National Park. She stormed away mumbling about how one so dense and ignorant as I could dare to teach such a course!

Truth be told, there are nine NPS units in our fair state:

  • Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
  • Freedom Riders National Monument
  • Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
  • Little River Canyon National Preserve
  • Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  • Russell Cave National Monument
  • Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
  • Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

Badlands National Park

Need I say that the person did not register for the course? Regardless, Badlands is an actual (here in the South, a sure-enough) National Park, one of the 61 nationwide. To set the stage for telling you my reaction to Badlands, allow me to answer a question frequently asked of me as a consequence of our residing in Alaska for four years. People will inquire, “What’s the weather like in Alaska?” For context, our 49th state is more than twice the size of Texas. Imagine a map of Alaska overlaid at scale upon a map of the 48 contiguous states, with our then home in Fairbanks placed roughly 250-miles west of Chicago. Such placement would mark three of our University of Alaska Fairbanks’ 38 staffed units (campuses, research sites, field offices) at El Paso, International Falls, and Myrtle Beach. So, I ask you, “What’s the weather like in El Paso/International Falls/Myrtle Beach?”

I was not surprised to find Badlands totally different from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Our National Parks 12-day vacation covered a rambling 1,400 miles. Just point-to-point, the drive from Salt Lake City to Rapid City totals 665 miles. Rapid City sits at a little over 3,000-feet elevation. We passed through parts of Yellowstone at 10,000-feet… we felt we could have reached through the crisp clear air to touch Grand Tetons’ 13,770-feet summit. We passed through several climate zones even within Yellowstone, which overall averages greater than 20-inches liquid-equivalent precipitation annually. Badlands averages a little under eight inches. The expressed differences in vegetation are pronounced. The Badlands region is arid; vegetation sparse. Its bedrock is particularly erodible. Showers occasionally fall with fierce intensity. Flash runoff from those gully-washers meets with little resistance, thus resulting in the deeply incised Badlands formations.

Extreme temperatures, rugged terrain, and lack of water led trappers and travelers to describe this harsh region as “bad” lands. I could not agree more, yet I could not but marvel at its stark beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. Erosion, that appropriately disdained force at work where we desire soil to stay in place, creates landscapes to marvel here at Badlands, as well as the Grand Canyon and other such natural attractions.

 

Hard to imagine with such a clear sky as back-drop that savage flash flooding could sculpt terrain to this extent.

 

As at Yellowstone, boardwalks directed visitors safely to this overlook. No boiling hot springs to scald the careless wanderer, only steep scree-surfaced faces that could spirit the non-wary hiker to the dry gulch below. Our tour guide and common sense prevailed.

 

Alternating layers of more and less resistant rock made for captivating architecture, all of it crowned by azure skies and the tiniest wisp of cloud.

 

An apt moniker for this feature: Yellow Mounds!

 

We normally think of geologic time scales extending millions of years. Certainly, the deposition and rock formation processes at Badlands mark millions of years. In contrast, the erosion phase, according to the Badlands NPS online pamphlet is unfolding over an abbreviated period:

Erosion began in the Badlands about 500,000 years ago when the Cheyenne River captured streams and rivers flowing from the Black Hills into the Badlands region. Before 500,000 years ago, streams and rivers carried sediments from the Black Hills building the rock layers we see today. Once the Black Hills streams and rivers were captured, erosion dominated over deposition. Modern rivers cut down through the rock layers, carving fantastic shapes into what had once been a flat floodplain. The Badlands erode at the rapid rate of about one inch per year. Evidence suggests that they will erode completely away in another 500,000 years, giving them a life span of just one million years. Not a long period of time from a geologic perspective.

One-inch per year is fast — five-feet-eight-inches over my lifetime. In sharp contrast, the Grand Canyon is eroding at just three-ten-thousandths of a foot per year!

 

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower rises 867 feet from its base to the summit. It stands 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and its summit stands at 5,112 above sea level. The Tower clearly dominates the skyline of northeastern Wyoming.

 

Allow me to borrow from a National Geographic website:

Devils Tower is made of phonolite porphyry. Phonolite porphyry is an igneous rock, meaning it was formed as magma or lava cooled. As the magma that formed Devils Tower cooled, it condensed into columns. Most of the columns that make up Devils Tower are hexagonal (six-sided).

Although magma formed Devils Tower, it was probably never part of a volcano. Most geologists agree that Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion, a place where magma from the Earth’s mantle welled up between chunks of sedimentary rock. Devils Tower was probably formed by the same forces that created the Rocky Mountains about 65 million years ago.

Devils Tower was not visible for millions of years. Only as water and wind slowly eroded the surrounding landscape did the igneous intrusion emerge.

Today, the landscape continues to erode, worn away by wind, precipitation, and the nearby Belle Fourche River. However, Devils Tower is eroding, too. The base of the formation is cluttered with scree—rubble, boulders, and fragments of columns that have broken off the tower.

I counted at least a dozen climbers well up the Tower, too small to be visible on my images. I was satisfied with my view from the base! The scree lies between the trees and the Tower a full 360-degrees.

 

We walked the trail counter-clockwise around the base. I never tired of the view. The Tower appears, physically and spiritually as an alter. As I so often do in Nature, I felt small and insignificant…and blessed to be in the presence of such astounding scale. Absolute humility engulfed me…even as inspiration lifted my soul.

 

I couldn’t resist attempting to capture the majesty Towering above my limited self.

 

The geologic wonder was not all that captivated me. Yeah, not surprisingly, the forest extending out from the base caught my attention…for two reasons. First, we had left behind the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) of Yellowstone, transitioning to Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). Made me think of Ben, Hoss, Little Joe, and Adam from the Bonanza TV series of my youth! They lived on the Ponderosa Ranch. As an adult, I occasionally mused at how different the sons seemed. Only just now as I explored Bonanza on the web did I discover that each had a different mother — will wonders never cease!

Ponderosa pine forests, like the lodgepole, are fire-maintained. The Park Service routinely employs fire to manage the Tower-adjacent forest. Periodic prescribed fire controls understory vegetation, reduces fuel load and susceptibility to catastrophic wildfire, and creates an open park-like aesthetic. The tree below right evidences bark-fissure charcoal from a burn within the past five years.

 

Interpretive signage describes the species’ critical fire ecology.

 

Fire has been a crucial element of these ecosystems since well before even Native American presence subsequent to the last continental glaciation. Smoky Bear interfered with Nature’s way for decades. However, even Smoky now recognizes fire as a useful and necessary component of forest management.

 

 

 

 

 

Fire’s effect enhances the scenic view from the Tower’s base.

 

During my days practicing forestry here in the South, I carried a drip torch on many days using prescribed fire in established pine stands to reduce fuel load and control hardwood trees competing with crop trees, and to prepare cut-over sites for planting the next crop of genetically improved pine. Again, this burned stand presents an open park-like stand that most visitors find visually pleasing.

 

We’ll leave Devils Tower with one final view framed by Ponderosa pines reaching for the sky.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

I won’t say much about the Mount Washington National Memorial. It’s not a Natural Wonder–it’s a man made tribute to four leaders who changed the face of America, all of it in a remarkable natural setting. So, rather than offer you nature-based commentary, allow me to observe that granite is a wonderful medium for large-scale sculpting, intended to be permanent. Yet we all know that all forms and features in Nature are temporary…at least on a geologic time frame. Regardless, Rushmore’s countenances will out-last me, and likely you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our four former presidents face southeast. On are way to the Memorial we pulled into what looked like a roadside parking area. Upon exiting the bus, my jaw dropped. There was George Washington in full side profile. The combination of pine trees, nearby boulders, azure-blue sky, and my total surprise to see this superb Monument from an unanticipated perspective (his southwest cheek) triggered misty eyes. Nature has a way of getting to me…even without the deeply patriotic theme imposed.

 

 

 

 

 

We saw a lot more than these few Posts from our July journey presented. I like to think of these 12 days as an American National Park teaser. There’s so much more I want to see and experience. Although this Post closes out my series of narratives on the places we visited, I have at least two more Posts to offer. The first will speak to the crowds we encountered. I will use the second to reflect on the magnificent skies that touched me and complemented the scenery along our journey…the never-ending chemistry of firmament and terra firma.

I’m hesitant to mention my once-promised third remaining Post. I hinted in prior Posts from this journey (really, I pledged) at developing a subsequent essay identifying the many splendid wildflowers I photographed along the way. I am now reducing that pledge to the level of possibility. Identifying all those unknown digital specimens seems so daunting. Perhaps during the cold and snowy winter months. No, wait, I live in Alabama, so forget the cold and snowy!

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (co-authored with Dr. Jennifer J. Wilhoit; 2019) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. All three are available on Indiebound (https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=weaned+seals+and+snowy+summits) and other online sources. to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

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

  1. 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 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 the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

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

 

 

 

Yellowstone National Park: Caldera and Hot Spot!

This post continues my series of photographic essays from a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks and Monuments July 12-24, 2019. See the chronological archives for this series that began July 26: http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/

The immediate prior Post covered the two days we based in West Yellowstone, Montana focusing on the captivating Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, taking us through our exit east toward Cody, WY: http://stevejonesgbh.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5150&action=edit

Writers, researchers, and scholars have written volumes (shelves!) about the Yellowstone Caldera, the supervolcano that feeds the world’s largest group of hydrothermal features. The official Park Service Yellowstone pamphlet: At the heart of Yellowstone’s past, present, and future lies a supervolcano. Huge volcanic eruptions occurred here, the latest about 631,000 years ago. The center of what is now the park collapsed, forming a 30-by-45-mile caldera, or basin. The heat powering those eruptions still fuels the park’s geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots.

Because so much of the underlying science and interpretation is available in written and electronic form, I leave its discovery to you. I will simply offer the following:

  • My photos
  • My somewhat-informed observations, reflections, and ruminations
  • Implications for Life and Living
  • Lots of reasons for Humility and Inspiration

 

Photo Gallery of Yellowstone’s Hydrothermal Features

This is it — my photo of one of the two eruptions we witnessed while at the Old Faithful Geyser Basin. What would a Yellowstone visit be without seeing this iconic symbol!

 

Along the Firehole River we stopped at Lower Geyser Basin (Fountain Paint Pot and Great Fountain Geyser) and Midway Geyser Basin (Grand Prismatic Spring) on our journey south to Old Faithful. Water vapor clouds rose from steaming vents and hot flows in the cool morning air along the river. I loved the interaction among water, low clouds, and morning sunshine. Amazing that exquisite beauty derives from the nearly unfathomable forces just below the surface that someday (it could be next year…or millennia hence) could once again darken the skies globally for weeks, months, years…threatening life on Earth as we know it. Regardless, I felt no fear as we toured this land of hydrothermal wonder!

 

Bacterial and extremophile life (microorganisms, especially an archaean, that live in conditions of extreme temperature, acidity, alkalinity, or chemical concentration) abounds in the scalding waters. Note the rich color of life and chemical abundance of the overland flow.

 

Clouds fascinate me, whether a towering August thunderstorm or hot-springs mists ascending through the morning sun. Nature reminds me often that in the full scheme of things I am nothing. One of seven billion human residents during an instant of time on a planet 4.5 billion years old. On this Earth, this mote of dust in a 13.5 billion-year-old universe. Our home planet orbiting one of the Milky Way’s 200 billion stars…an inconsequential star in the far reaches of a Milky Way spiral arm, 25,000 light years from our galaxy’s center. The Milky way is one of two trillion such galaxies. And even as I am nothing, I am everything. Utterly insignificant as I may be, I embrace my commitment…my obligation…to do all I can to make tomorrow brighter through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work. Experiencing Yellowstone hardened and sharpened my resolve to make sure we don’t screw up this one chance…this last chance…to do it right! All my experiences in Nature generate both deep humility (for I am nothing) and absolute inspiration (for if I do not act, then who will?).

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone multiplied my dual feelings of inspiration and humility. I just couldn’t get enough of it — both the Park and those transcendent dual sentiments. As I viewed this tortured (and captivatingingly beautiful) landscape in mid-summer, I couldn’t help but imagine the scene in sub-zero January. I’ve said in prior Posts from this National Parks tour, I’d love to experience a full year on-site in and around these Parks watching the seasons advance (and retreat) day-by-day. Whether a full year, decade, century, or millennia, nothing in Nature is static.

 

I must ask for some forbearance regarding my absolute accuracy in these captions. I saw so much, so different, and so quickly that I cannot recall all details and feature identification. Lower left, I believe is Grand Prismatic Spring (The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. It is located in the Midway Geyser Basin. Wikipedia). It’s 160′ deep and registers 160-degrees F. That’s a bison resting within the thermal zone below left, along with a fly-by raven I accidentally captured in the frame. I saw reports of bison seeking warmth during winter’s bitter cold only to succumb to noxious vapors.

 

 

I am grateful for the Park Service boardwalks that bring me close enough to the thermal features to see, feel, inhale, and hear the activity. Even with the boardwalks an occasional visitor foolishly tempts fate. From My YellowstonePark.com (June 27, 2017):

Colin Nathaniel Scott, 23, of Portland, Oregon, slipped and fell to his death in a hot spring near Porkchop Geyser Tuesday, June 7, 2016. He and his sister, Sable Scott, illegally left the boardwalk and walked more than 200 yards in the Norris Geyser Basin when the accident happened. The victim’s sister reported the incident to rangers Tuesday afternoon. Sadly, this tragic incident was the second known geyser accident in the park in one week. Earlier in the week, a 13-year-old boy was burned on his ankle and foot on June 6, 2016, after his dad slipped while carrying his son near Old Faithful. The father apparently also suffered burns. According to the National Park Service, the duo had walked off the designated trail in the thermal area. The boy was hospitalized following the incident.

I stayed on the boardwalks and designated trails. My senses signaled a hostile and dangerous place, even as I embraced the full dose of beauty, magic, wonder, and awe it afforded.

 

The Place Where Hell Bubbled Up

In 1807 Manuel Lisa’s Missouri Fur Trading Company constructed Fort Raymond at the confluence of the Bighorn and Yellowstone Rivers as a center for trading with the Indians. To attract clients, Lisa sent John Colter on a harrowing 500-mile journey through untracked Indian country. A veteran of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Colter was a man born “for hardy indurance of fatigue, privation and perils.” Part of his route in 1807-8 is open to conjecture, but he is known to have skirted the northwest shore of Yellowstone Lake and crossed the Yellowstone River near Tower Falls, where he noted the presence of “Hot Spring Brimstone.” Although a thermal area near present-day Cody, Wyo, later became famous among trappers as “Colter’s Hell,” Colter is more celebrated as the first white man known to have entered Yellowstone. The privations of a trapper’s life and a narrow escape from the Blackfeet in 1808 prompted him to leave the mountains forever in 1810. But he was the pioneer, and for three decades a procession of beaver hunters followed in his footsteps (from a National Park Service website).

More from the website: In 1827 a Philadelphia newspaper printed a letter from a trapper who described his experiences hunting furs and fighting Blackfeet in Yellowstone. This letter was the first published description of the region:

on the south borders of this lake is a number of hot and boiling springs some of water and others of most beautiful fine clay and resembles that of a mush pot and throws its particles to the immense height of from twenty to thirty feet in height. The clay is white and pink and water appear fathomless as it appears to be entirely hollow underneath. There is also a number of places where the pure sulphor is sent forth in abundance one of our men visited one of these whilst taking his recreation at an instan [sic] made his escape when an explosion took place resembling that of thunder. During our stay in that quarter I heard it every day…

A turquoise pool and boiling mudpots typify the various thermal zones. I’ve written from time to time about experiencing Nature’s pleasurable terror (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489713094 p. 74). There is a parallel to the magnificently dangerous hydrothermal features at Yellowstone.

 

Continuing from the earlier Park Service website: In 1856 a Kansas City newspaper editor rejected as patent lies Bridger’s lucid description of the Yellowstone wonders. Perhaps this sort of refusal to believe the truth about “the place where Hell bubbled up,” as Bridger (Jim Bridger, early trapper and frontiersman) called Yellowstone, led him and other trappers to embellish their accounts with false detail. Frankly, I found some 163 years later no need for embellishment. Nothing could exceed Nature’s own exquisite real-life embellishment.

 

 

 

 

 

More from the website: Although Yellowstone had been thoroughly tracked by trappers and miners, in the view of the Nation at large it was really “discovered” when penetrated by formal expeditions originating in the settlements of an expanding America. The first organized attempt to explore Yellowstone came in 1860. Capt. William F. Raynolds, a discerning Army engineer guided by Jim Bridger, led a military expedition that accomplished much but failed to penetrate the future park because of faulty scheduling and early snow.

By August 1870 a second expedition had been organized. They had shown that ordinary men, as well as hardened frontiersmen, could venture into the wilderness of Yellowstone… Far more important, however, was their enchantment and wonder at what they had seen and their success in publicizing these feelings. As Hedges later recalled, “I think a more confirmed set of sceptics never went out into the wilderness than those who composed our party, and never was a party more completely surprised and captivated with the wonders of nature.” Their reports stirred intense interest in Montana and attracted national attention. Members of the expedition wrote articles for several newspapers and Scribner’s Monthly magazine.

 

We spotted yet another bison resting in a geothermal flat… one without the evident steam vents and water bubbling to the surface.

 

I surmised that the hydrothermal features, like most else in Nature, are not static. Below left the fallen dead tree evidences that what had once supported a 30-foot pine turned uninhabitable either chemically or thermally. The “bobby socks” forest stand below right died as conditions previously favorable yielded to chemically or thermally toxic conditions, the deadly waters now covering the soil surface. Throughout, the caldera is fluid, shifting across time and place. Again, I saw little actual shifting and changing during the snippets of time I watched any one place. I could only imagine what a day, month, year, decade, and longer would reveal.

 

Both features below are in Old Faithful’s Upper Geyser Basin. The deep turquoise pool, appearing three-dimensional, is an aesthetic treat.

 

 

 

 

 

Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin

I had only dreamed of seeing Old Faithful. May the memory live with me for all my days. That is an oft repeated sentiment I feel and express as I wander and explore Nature wherever I am.

 

Hydrothermal features are frequently three-dimensional above and below ground.

 

I will reserve discussion of National Park visitor impact and crowd management in a subsequent Post. Thousands of visitors witness every Old Faithful eruption. All observers below are eagerly awaiting the next one. I felt dismay seeing how many people sat transfixed by their digital devices. Are we reaching a threshold level, where we will remain forever captive to the device at the cost of understanding, appreciating, and connecting to the natural world that always will sustain us, and for which we must likewise always care and steward.

 

And here it is, needing no words to amplify the moment in time. The brief release that evidences the tremendous power lying hidden within. Scientists say the caldera last erupted 630,000 years ago, blasting away some 240 cubic miles of material… 1,000 times more debris than Mount Saint Helens blew in 1980.

 

I remember the incredible force demonstrated that morning in May 1980. One thousand times more powerful?! Potentially globe-changing. From the April 15, 2015 National Geographic:

Two hundred years ago on April 10, the Indonesian volcano Tambora erupted, obliterating an entire tribe of people, cooling the Earth by several degrees, and causing famines and disease outbreaks around the world.

It remains the largest eruption on historical record: larger than the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, and roughly 20 times bigger than Mount Vesuvius, which wiped the Italian town of Pompeii off the map. If such a cataclysmic event happened now, the results would be even messier, experts say.

“The consensus is that it would be absolutely devastating,” says Gillen D’Arcy Wood, an environmental historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Our transportation, food, and humanitarian infrastructure are much better now than they were in the early 1800s, he says. “But we are also a planet of seven billion with a highly complicated global food and trade network.”

The most recent Yellowstone eruption ejected 6.7 times more material than Tambora! I don’t intend to fret the next Yellowstone caldera blow-out. Instead, we humans ourselves pose a greater existential threat to our sustainability. I want us to awaken to our vulnerability. I hold fast to my own Mission Statement: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship. We are indeed alone in the vast darkness of space… isolated by unfathomable time and distance.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

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

  1. Ironically, Nature’s geologic-time-scale power and violence (fueling the Yellowstone supervolcano) present 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 the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Yellowstone National Park: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem!

This Post continues my series of photographic essays from a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks and Monuments July 12-24, 2019. See the chronological archives for this series that began July 26: http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/

The immediate prior Post covered the two days we based in Jackson, WY focusing on Grand Teton National Park and drawing to a close when we exited northward into Yellowstone National Park: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/08/13/grand-teton-national-park/

President Roosevelt recognized and embraced the absolute imperative to preserve nature’s majestic beauty unmarred… forever.

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

I snapped the two photos below from the Flagg Ranch Information Station along the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, just four miles below Yellowstone NP’s South Entrance (6,886′ elevation). Below left the Tetons stretch south toward Jackson, where the Snake River exits the greater Yellowstone ecosystem comprising both Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Below right, the view to the north, where the ecosystem reaches into Yellowstone NP.

 

From my eastern US perspective I find it a bit sobering that the South Entrance stands 203′ higher than North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell, our Appalachian Mountains’ highest peak! The Park’s Eagle Peak summits at 11,372, besting Mitchell by 4,689′. Grand Teton (13,770′) reaches a little more than twice Mitchell’s height! Scale here in the West demands recalibration. Twenty-two miles north of the South Entrance we crossed the Western Continental Divide. The Snake flows to its ultimate union with the Columbia River in Washington. The Yellowstone River flows north through the Park, finding outlet to the Missouri River in North Dakota, and weeks later entering the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine a snowflake that landed on the divide, its meltwater splitting half one way and half the other. The water cares not. I suppose the same applies to life-divides that alter our own trajectories. Whichever way we choose (or chooses us), the flow carries us along, impelling that we make the most of the journey wherever we align along the divide.

Broad Impressions of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Yellowstone is a magnificent, sprawling, magical symbol of America’s wildness, on my bucket list for at least five decades. A wild and wonderful place. However, on any given July day, Yellowstone’s visitor population exceeds that of every Wyoming city excepting Cheyenne and Casper. Yellowstone in that way is a conundrum. I’ll save addressing the crowds to a subsequent Post focusing on the press of humanity we encountered at Yellowstone, Badlands, and Devils Tower.

I’ll direct this Post to my broad impressions of this exquisite place, exclusive of the Caldera, hot spots, geysers, and other hydro-thermal features. Those elements warrant a separate Post. Watch for it.

Here are two iconic Yellowstone images I captured: bison and Old Faithful — charismatic mega-fauna and a world-class geyser! Breath-taking, heart-pounding, and soul-stirring. I will never be quite the same again. A bucket list item checked — a dividend of three buckets-full of fulfillment, spirituality, and inspiration!

 

Yellowstone Falls (lower left) drops 308-feet into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, some 800-1,200-feet-deep along its 20-mile length. Not on the Colorado Grand Canyon scale yet very impressive.

 

Another perspective offers glimpses of the powerful whitewater far below within the chasm. The Canyon exposes the yellow stone that gives the river and Park its name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yellowstone River emerges from its Canyon ~20 miles downstream near the Roosevelt Lodge at Tower-Roosevelt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books have been written about the geology of Yellowstone. Science-based tales of tectonics, ‘hot spots,’ glacial geomorphology, and countless other phenomena explain the magic that is Nature’s 2.222-million acre Yellowstone NP Wonder. From an overlook at Tower-Roosevelt we spotted the columnar jointing of the uppermost layer above the canyon:

 

Paraphrasing from the doctoral-educated geologist who authored Georney’s Geological Musings, Wanderings, and Adventures Blog Post:

Columnar jointing is a structure that forms in rocks (most commonly in basalt) that consist of columns (most commonly hexagonal in cross-section) that are separated by joints or fractures that formed when the rock contracted as the overflowing lava layer cooled at the Earth’s surface. Columnar jointing is always a joy to observe in rocks in the field. Stumbling upon perfectly geometric columns of rock can only be described as magical. Even the most austere scientist might find herself (or himself) gaping in awe at the flawless shapes and wondering if men or Gods carved those immaculate columns.

Again, Yellowstone is both exquisite place and powerful symbol. Our two days on-site barely scratched the surface. Seeing the great park has sparked a faint new bucket list item. I wonder what a year at Yellowstone (or at The Teton Science Schools) would reveal, immersing me in the subtle and wild swings of the seasons in this natural paradise. I witnessed only a snapshot… a brief moment in time. A shallow passage, often bus-bound, and at most a half-mile from a paved road. I won’t begin planning for such a venture. I will seek a book or two that chronicle such a 12-month venture. First step — live the experience vicariously through another bold enough to have done it.

Teddy Roosevelt expressed the symbol beautifully:

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. Theodore Roosevelt

What better place to immortalize his vision and spirit than at a physical portal to the Park. The Roosevelt Arch stands at the North Entrance. Unfortunately, we made it to all but this iconic doorway. Therefore, I borrowed the photo from a Park Service website. Characteristically Rooseveltian, his words are succinct and poignant: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/parkstructures/visitorcenters/entrancestations/Images/17861.jpg

 

The author of Searching for Yellowstone, Paul Schullery, observed the many facets of the park on a plaque in Cody, WY after we left Yellowstone: “Numbers alone will never fully portray Yellowstone’s sense of place, but scientific analyses have an understandable beauty of their own, revealing the elegance of nature’s complexity. Perhaps by combining that analytical beauty with the work of poets, painters, and fiction writers, we will best advance our search for Yellowstone.”

 

I will borrow Schullery’s book from the library. I hunger to know more about so many things that I have only shallowly explored, Yellowstone among them.

 

Fauna

The mighty Grizzly — the apex Yellowstone predator! But not so fast, annually more visitors are injured by bison than by the Park’s large carnivores. Park rules require that visitors approach any of the Park’s large animals no closer than 25 yards. Bison are big beasts. Males can exceed 12-feet from head to rump and weigh in excess of a ton… and accelerate to 40 mph!

 

But there are other dangers of the non-faunal variety. I selflessly, boldly, and fearlessly saved our very capable tour guide from certain death when he slipped beyond a stone wall along a treacherous canyon rim! Okay, I admit that he stood on a very broad ledge feigning near-catastrophe. Forgive a bit of frivolity. Placing himself or any of us in danger was not part of Eli’s absolute emphasis on safety. Yet, he did appear to experience exquisite joy in posing for the photo!

After our first of two overnights at West Yellowstone, MT, we drove back east into the Park along the Madison River. Fog-shrouded, a group of six elk (our first of the trip) crossed the river.

 

We saw more and more bison as our Yellowstone journey progressed. We exited the Park July 18 via the Lamar Valley (Left)… by then seeing herds with scores of the grazers.  After seeing the elk along the Madison River, we turned to follow the Firehole River and spotted these resting bison in a river-side meadow (below right).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I snapped this herd from the bus as we departed the Park through Lamar Valley. Imagine tens of thousands of these magnificent beasts inhabiting Yellowstone pre-European settlement, and 30-60 million across the county in 1750!

 

And also as we passed through Lamar Valley, we spotted this collection of pronghorn antelope and bison.

 

We visited the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum the next day in Cody, Wyoming. Although we had departed Yellowstone, I include photos from the Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, which included a world class natural history display. Grizzlies and wolves below.

 

And a grizzly doing battle with a bull elk.

 

Allow me to slide back to West Yellowstone, MT, where we visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. That’s a full-grown grizzly rescued as an orphaned cub and kept at the Center.

 

Toss in a colony of prairie dogs at the Center.

 

Fire

As a doctoral-level applied ecologist, I can’t resist the temptation to note that fire is a natural element of the Yellowstone ecosystem, which has evolved with fire over the millennia. Contrary to news media coverage in 1988 when 63 percent of the Park’s acreage burned, the fires did not destroy the burned areas. Instead, the burned-over areas I saw some 30 years later simply evidenced another successional stage, shifting in the example (below left) from closed forest canopy to open meadow and thickets of evergreen seedlings and saplings. The elk welcome the rich forage available (below right) in what had also been closed forest. More than 80 percent of the 1988 Yellowstone fires began with lightning strikes, the remainder by humans. Fire is just one of Nature’s agents of renewal. Nothing in Nature is static.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers

As with other Posts in my July 2019 National Parks series, I could have inserted tens of wildflower photos from my Yellowstone wanderings. Instead, I offer just one unidentified example that grew along one of the “hot spot” boardwalks. Perhaps if I could devote a year living in this incredible ecosystem I could learn so much more than I do. Life is short. Nature could fill and enrich ten lifetimes… and still I would hunger to know more!

 

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

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

 

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, 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. All three 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 the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

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

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!