Land Trust Mushroom Hike on Rainbow Mountain

Covid-19 Context

We’re now more than two weeks beyond the call to distance safely from our circle of friends, family, and associates. Judy and I speak of being under Covid-19 house-arrest. We continue our twice-daily neighborhood walks. I’m escaping as often as I can to local hiking trails and greenway bike riding. We are in the heart of spring green-up as I write this Covid-19 Context section. A sad irony that Nature’s cycle goes forward unabated by a pandemic virus that found life (and wrought disease and death) half a world away. A primitive micro-organism that has turned modern society and economy inside-out.

I subscribe to the EarthSky electronic newsletter (https://earthsky.org/). The March 31, 2020 issue reminded readers of this quote from the 3rd book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings: “There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” God’s green Earth…Nature…and our relationship to it is our light and high beauty… our hope.

I believe sincerely that this, too, shall pass. Already I sense a fundamental change in the world — a deepening humility, a greater recognition of our human frailty, and perhaps a strengthened belief in our oneness. I can’t speak for others, but I accept my own growing spiritualism, more palpable Faith, and an even stronger sacred connection to our Earth, this pale blue orb in the vast darkness of space.

A Final Group Gathering Before Our Collective Social Distancing

March 8, 2020, just a couple days before the US declared a Covid-19 National Emergency, I participated in a Land Trust of North Alabama Mushroom Hike at Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve in Madison, Alabama: https://www.landtrustnal.org/properties/rainbow-mountain-preserve/ I’ve been a tree guy since entering my undergraduate forestry studies in 1969. I’ve known since those early days that a forest is far more than a collection of trees. Yes, a forest includes the trees, as well as the complex community of biotic and abiotic elements composing the forest ecosystem. Practicing industrial forestry (managing forests for a Fortune-500 Paper and Allied Products Manufacturing company) for 12 years, I focused principally on trees. Yet I retained an abiding interest in the total forest community.

I have never lost my love and enthusiasm for spring wildflowers… wherever we’ve lived along our journey across 47 years and 13 interstate moves. You’ll see a few wildflowers I photographed on the mushroom foray in a section to follow.

Among my favorite courses during my forestry studies: forest pathology, the study of forest diseases and disorders. The vast majority of villains are fungi, including notable nasties like chestnut blight, dutch elm disease, oak wilt, beech bark disease, white pine blister rust, fusiform rust, and other forest deplorables. I wrote about such forest pandemics relative to Covid-19 in my March 19, 2020 Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/19/lyrical-expressions-in-forest-pathogens-under-a-covid-19-cloud/

However, most forest fungal denizens are not pathogenic. Instead, they are saprophytes feeding upon dead woody material. I want to know them better for a set of important reasons:

  1. They are ubiquitous
  2. I see their fruiting bodies (mushrooms) high on the trunks of standing snags and on dead and down woody branches and logs, and reaching up from mycelia in the soil
  3. Some of the mushrooms are edible — the couple that I know are delectable, even if sparsely represented
  4. I want to forage for others fit for my frying pan

We started our hike at the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve trailhead atop 1,100-foot Rainbow Mountain, led by Matt Shaw (yellow/green shirt). Polypore fruiting bodies (at least two species) evidence that the responsible fungi’s hyphae and mycelia are hard at work decomposing oak tissue. Fungi, bacteria, and insects act as principal agents to assure “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” in the forest ecosystem’s cycle of life and death. The twenty or so hike participants (below right) enjoyed a perfect spring day, chilly at the outset and warming comfortably as we trekked down to about 760 feet and returned. Hard to imagine from our hike and these photos that we are surrounded by urban development of both Madison and Huntsville, AL. Thank goodness for the Land Trust and the wisdom of citizens and leaders to protect and preserve this wildness.

Mushroom Hike

Mushroom Hike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we began our descent we hiked along limestone walls bedecked with lichens and mosses, non-flowering plants that flourish on every surface in our humid climate. Our tour guide focused on the place and role of fungi in our forests, but did not shy away from discussing the total ecosystem, of which lichens and mosses occupy major ecological niches. The old saw, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” seems to hold true… the non-flowering plants occupy every surface.

Mushroom Hike

 

Moss on Limestone Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mycorhizal Fungi

Our fungi are not limited to pathogens and saprophytes. We explored the critical function of another major subset to the associated living community — mycorhizal fungi, which are represented in tremendous mass below ground. Mycorhizae are fungi in symbiotic relationship with trees, intimately interconnected with the tree’s fine roots, multiplying many fold the trees’ absorptive capacity for both moisture and nutrients. So much in Nature is hidden from view. Here is an excellent explanation of these essential tree partners from an NRCS-USDA website:

Within the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a growing awareness that most vascular plants could not grow and reproduce successfully without the assistance provided by networks of fungi in the soil. This association between plant and fungus is called mycorrhiza (plural: mycorrhizae). In most instances, the relationship is mutualistic (symbiotic). The plant provides sugars and carbohydrates to the fungus and in return the fungus uses its branched, threadlike hyphae (mycelium) to gather water, minerals, and nutrients for the plant. Mycorrhizal fungi greatly expand the reach of the plant’s root systems and are especially important in helping them gather non-mobile nutrients such as phosphorus. These fungi have also been found to serve a protective role for their associated plants; they can reduce plant uptake of heavy metals and salts that may be present in the soil. Many also help protect plants from certain diseases and
insects. Scientists believe that it was mycorrhizal fungi that allowed ancient vascular plants to populate the land. Of the current plant families, 95% include species that either associate beneficially with or are absolutely dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for their survival.

I have often observed that as citizens and leaders we must first see the invisible before we can perform the impossible. Now that we see the invisible below ground partner, we can appreciate and understand how trees perform the impossible task of gathering soil sustenance from their limited actual root hair capacity. The NRCS-USDA website sums up the effect beautifully:

Because we cannot easily see mycorrhizal fungi, we tend to overlook their significance. Their presence in the soil is vitally important to the growth of most plants on our planet. They also perform a critical function in building soil structure and sequestering carbon. Therefore, we need to begin thinking about how what we do to the soil, for example tillage, affects these almost imperceptible fungal systems.

I find a universal truth in the first sentence of that excerpted paragraph… pertaining to all life and living: we tend to overlook (or even ignore) the significance of what we mere humans cannot easily see. We rush headlong through our days oblivious to what escapes our shallow knowledge and myopic vision. I hold steadfast to my belief that every lesson for living, learning, leading, and serving is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Also applicable with this example is my admonition that five core verbs are essential to learning from Nature. From my stevejonesgbh.com website:

Five Essential Verbs: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

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

 

Ubiquitous Fungi

The large ash (Fraxinus spp) below certainly grew luxuriously because friendly fungi shared the cause of mutual thriving. The ash now stands recently deceased (or close to death; I could not discern for certain whether some of the crown would yet produce leaves this spring). I don’t believe this individual is an early victim of the emerald ash borer, an introduced pest racing southward, decimating one of our major native commercial forest species. When I drove north in November 2019, the killing front had reached nearly midway between Knoxville and Chattanooga. A sad epidemic to this forester who revered the tall, straight boles of Appalachian cove-site ash, coveted the feel of a Louisville Slugger, and cherished the easy-split and clean burn of ash firewood.

We stopped at this point to observe the cracked-cap bracket fungus clinging about 20 feet above ground. Rather than the emerald ash borer, I believe that this specimen is dying the slow but certain death of a serious and pervasive heart rot, a woody decay fungus. The visible bracket is the fruiting body (mushroom) of the fungus. Like all living organisms, this fungi seeks to reach into the future, sending spores to infect its next host. I won’t hazard a guess at the fungal species. The closest I dare go is to deem it a polypore. Let this serve as a reminder that the cycle of life and death is continuous. What matters most is that the ecosystem persists beyond the demise of individuals. One hundred years ago other ash trees likely stood nearby, dropping the seed that produced this individual. Because we don’t know whether this tree is male or female (that’s right, ash are dioecious; two houses, male and female flowers on separate trees), it may not have produced seed. If not, the plan is that its pollen fertilized a female flower that dropped seeds for its successor generation. Again, life goes forward.

 

Mushroom Hike

 

This red oak (Quercus spp) snag is loaded with desiccating polypore mushrooms. Their associated mycelia are hard at work reducing wood to soil supplement.

Mushroom Hike

 

I recall my mother occasionally admonishing me for speaking about things for which I had too little knowledge, foolishly offering a too-shallow opinion. She would say, “You know just enough to be dangerous.” With respect to our fungal forest associates, I don’t even reach that threshold. The three-inch branch below, wedged between a supple jack vine and a sweetgum sapling, wears a whitish coat of what felt like a spongy layer of fungal mycelia. Our tour guide did not disagree. Its identity awaits my learning more. My only certainty — it, too, is another decomposer, transitioning death back to the assembly line of life.

Mushroom Hike

 

Our tour leader suggested this reference for those of us wishing to assist our learning. It’s now on my wish list!

Recommended Reference

 

Regionally more relevant than my own reference book, which I have as a result of being so mobile over the years.

Reference Book

 

Ah, this stage of life — so much to learn in this time of knowing enough to know that my understanding and knowledge are shallow at best.

Venturing Beyond the Non-Flowering Plants

 

We’ve been examining fungi and other non-flowering plants. Now let’s visit with a non-photosynthesizing (achlorophyllous) parasitic plant. Meet American cancer-root (Conopholis americana), nurturing on the roots of oak and beech. Other common names are squawroot and bear corn, either of which is a more pleasant moniker. I suppose this odd plant cares little what name we give it. We found two clusters as we descended Rainbow Mountain. I recall seeing my first squawroot when I worked undergraduate summers on the Savage River State Forest. Imagine the wonder of finding squawroot on a magical Appalachian Mountain forest bearing a name that included Savage! Fact is, I felt absolute continuing beauty, magic, wonder, and awe during every moment of those two summers. Five decades later, the memory and lift remain within my being… mind, heart, and soul. Amazing what Nature has gifted me across my time’s travel. I suppose there is some level of irony in a non-photosynthesizing (achlorophyllous) parasitic plant transporting me fifty years back in time! I wish such pleasant memories and flashbacks for all who trek Nature’s paths.

Squaw Root

 

Nearby we met little sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum), just hours from full-flower. Other common names for this beauty include: whip-poor-will flower, large toadshade, and bloody butcher. No question which of those monikers I would choose to ignore! I believe that little sweet Betsy would agree.

Sweet Betsy

 

I wanted to make this be rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), but I’ve never seen that species without its delicate stem leaves just under the flowers. So, I stayed with sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba), whose basal leaves are often well-hidden under the prior autumn’s leaf litter. I should have lingered long enough to remove enough fall detritus to confirm the hepatica’s basal leaves. Both species grace us with their creamy white blossoms long before overstory leaf-out. How can we not be grateful for such a gift?!

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

 

Our world is far too small to expect only native plants. We found leatherleaf mahonia (Berberis bealei), native to China, this one within a day or two of full flower. Escaped from ornamental plantings, leatherleaf mahonia is far less aggressive than our ever-present invasive privet. I don’t despair over its glossy evergreen leaves, nor its early spring flowers and blue late summer berries. I know, I am expected by native plant purists to disdain its invasive presence. I just can’t do it — forgive me.

Mahonia

 

Non-plant Frames

Here’s the pleasant view from the falls at the lower end of the hike. Already, the privet (a nasty invasive) is greening the understory. I wonder how much longer until privet captures the entire site, reducing the number and variety of spring ephemerals, and ultimately limiting regeneration of native tree species. I shudder to think that 100 years hence the spring itself will be bordered only by privet shrubs.

Spring

 

For the present, I felt great joy in having this several-hundred acre touch of Nature just three miles from my door. As I ascended the trail back to the hilltop parking area, I felt confident that the same citizen-naturalist force that preserved and protected this within-urban gem will devise a privet-control plan of attack.

Signage

 

I pay yet another tribute to the Land Trust of North Alabama: https://www.landtrustnal.org/ Find your own local Land Trust. Engage to do your part for the next generation!

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Much of what is a forest lies hidden from view
  2. Nature’s power to lift us and heal us, physically and of the soul, is unlimited
  3. Learning more enables and inspires us to do more — changing some small corner of wildness for the better

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksRainbow Mountain

 

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

 

Nature Pauses Not for a Human/Viral Pandemic

 

As I write and publish this brief Post March 28, 2020, our air is thick with pollen — ’tis the season! Six-year-old grandson Sam spent an hour outdoors with us today — social-distancing and all that.

I couldn’t help but share a few photos and write a bit of verse about the paradox of a global viral pandemic changing every facet of our life and living… and Nature proceeding as though nothing is amiss.
 

Nature Pauses Not for a Human/Viral Pandemic

 
March 28, 2020 — Covid-19
Impacts human life and living,
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
Simply couldn’t care less
 
North Alabama catkins
(the pine’s male flowers)
Are ripe and shedding their load…
To grandson Sam’s delight
 
Warm sun, ready for gathering
Encourages new lateral growth,
Candles reach and lengthen
Ready for chloroplasts to power
 
Loblolly pine knows not of Covid-19.
Adding a little new wood each year,
The pine knows its future
Is not linked to human fate
 
Practice Covid-19 avoidance,
Like social distancing and self-isolation;
And dare to venture outside, but
Beware the air thick with spring pollen!

Fitting Photographs

 

North Alabama catkins
(the pine’s male flowers)
Are ripe and shedding their load…
Verse
To grandson Sam’s delight
Verse
Warm sun, ready for gathering
Encourages new lateral growth,
Candles reach and lengthen
Ready for chloroplasts to power
Verse
Stay safe — enjoy Nature-Inspired Life and Living!
 

Lyrical Expressions in Forest Pathogens… Under a Covid-19 Cloud

I write these words March 18, 2020, sheltered in-place in the midst of uncertainty as we face the Corvid-19 pandemic. As a forester (1973 BS) and applied ecologist (1987 PhD), my passion in semi-retirement is Nature, especially trees and forests. With all of my speaking, teaching, and consulting gigs on Covid-hold, I allocate my time among writing, reading, and venturing into Nature’s nearby wildness, camera in-hand and mind alive with thoughts of my place in this world.

Covid-induced house-fever (not of the body temperature kind) provoked me to contemplate the role of all organisms in the great circle and cycle of life and death. I loved undergraduate and graduate courses on forest pathology; I am still fascinated by tree pathogens. Because I have just finished taking a course on writing poetry, I offer you another Great Blue Heron Blog Post in verse… combining tree diseases (pandemics of a different sort) and Covid-19 considerations, thoughts, and reflections.

Trees, too, suffer pandemics

All in the cycle of life and death

Dead Oak

 

Da Vinci, master of simplicity, said,

In her (nature’s) inventions

Nothing is lacking

And nothing is superfluous

Bracket fungiDead Sugarberry

 

And below is my verse. Again, don’t expect rhyme and standard rhythm, nor a scientist’s pure explanation of the respective diseases. View it as more freelance, the musings of a naturalist… fueled by passion and philosophy… and a zeal for words.

The Lyrical Intonations: The Grand Circle of Life and Death

 

All life strives to persevere

Whether human or Covid-19,

Securing the essentials

And seeding the next generation

 

Trees, too, suffer pandemics

All in the cycle of life and death,

Their Latin monikers, harsh

Yet lyrical… even elegant

 

Chestnut blight, an Asian import

Eliminating America’s Tree,

A Cryphonectria parasitica pandemic

All in the cycle of life and death

 

Dutch elm disease, a fungal immigrant

Swept shade from New England streets,

Ophiostoma ulmi, guilty as charged

All in the cycle of life and death

 

White pine blister rust, another import

Threatening the pine of my youth,

Cronartium ribicola, a fungal nasty

All in the cycle of life and death

 

No doubt, I am in love with oaks,

Facing oak wilt’s death threat

Ceratocystis fagacearum,

All in the cycle of life and death

 

Colluding with beech scale insect

Beech bark disease of European origin,

Cryptococcus fagisuga, deadly force

All in the cycle of life and death

 

Courier of spring’s glory

Blunted by dogwood anthracnose,

 Discula destructiva, foe of beauty

All in the cycle of life and death

 

Loblolly pine of my industry days

Cursed by fusiform rust infection,

Cronartium quercuum, dealing woe

All in the cycle of life and death

 

All life strives to persevere

Whether plant pathogen or Covid-19,

Seeding the next generation

All in the cycle of life and death

 

Sobering reality of lesser organisms

Impacting human life and economy,

We learn their ways to reduce consequences

All in the cycle of life and death

 

Da Vinci, master of simplicity, said,

In her (nature’s) inventions

Nothing is lacking

And nothing is superfluous

 

Whether human dreams, or

Covid’s brute determination

To live, flourish, and reproduce,

All in the grand circle of life and death

 

Stating the obvious, death is the final chapter of life; death leads to renewal. All cells furnish nutrients to some consumer organism. Fungal hyphae feeding on dead wood in the two photos below are arranging their next meal, extending mushrooms to the trunk surface to distribute spores to tomorrow’s host.

Dead hackberry

 

Virginia pine at Buck’s Pocket State Park, dead of unknown causes… perhaps daring to select a precarious perch on the rim rock.

Buck's Pocket SP

 

Spotted this twin sweetgum March 18, 2020 on one of my Covid-house-arrest escapes to Bradford Creek Greenway. Buttressed base evidences deep heart rot, a fungal infection established decades ago. The stems have now split; the hollow right fork shattering eight feet above ground.

Da Vinci, master of simplicity, said,

In her (nature’s) inventions

Nothing is lacking

And nothing is superfluous

Bradford GWBradford Creek GW

A massive bur oak, dead of unknown causes, at the edge of gallery forest cover in Kansas’ Konza Prairie Biological Station… perhaps succumbing to more than two centuries of harsh life. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Konza Prairie

 

All individuals of every species across 3.5 billion years of life on Earth have succumbed, or will die. Understanding that death is integral to life does not diminish the import of our Covid-19 pandemic. I offer these remarks only to acknowledge that like every living organism, we humans are host to many infectious agents, some ancient and some still emerging and evolving. Unlike the American chestnut (America’s Tree) and the introduced Cryphonectria parasitica, we humans possess the means to combat Covid-19 through the science of modern medicine, just as we did with typhoid fever, smallpox, bubonic plague (black death), and polio. I take comfort that science will prevail.

All life strives to persevere

Whether plant pathogen or Covid-19,

Seeding the next generation

All in the cycle of life and death

Meantime, I shall continue Corvid house-arrest, occasionally venturing into local Nature for doses of Vitamin-N. All of us want to avoid the sorry condition I feigned below:

Covid-19 Sheltering

Three Books

Thoughts and Reflections

 

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

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

  1. All living cells are subject to infectious agents, some harmless, others deadly
  2. We have always been, along with every form of life on Earth, part of the endless circle of life and death
  3. Nature’s power to inspire and lift us is unfathomable — jettison the potential mental, physical, social, and spiritual anguish of Covid-19 by escaping to nearby Nature

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksPhotos of Steve

 

 

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

 

Bethel Spring North Alabama Land Trust: Yet Another Natural Gem

A Corona Virus Statement of Context

I am completing this Post on March 15, 2020 as the Corona virus pandemic is burdening our spirit, dashing economic activity, and giving us pause to reflect on the specter of a future bug that could place our entire humanity at peril. I am at my computer only because we cancelled a trip north to visit our son and his family in Pittsburgh. I admit that Judy and I are a bit bummed. Yet I know that Nature is unfazed. She marches on… unconcerned about our future. I take solace that life will prevail no mater what!

 

Visiting Bethel Spring Nature Preserve

February 29, 2020, The Land Trust of North Alabama cut the ribbon to open a new feature property and trails, the Bethel Spring Nature Preserve: https://www.landtrustnal.org/properties/bethel-spring-preserve/

I participated in the Land History Hike, led by local historian John Kvach, who shared 150 years of history for the 360-acre property on Keel Mountain in Madison County. A fabulous piece of southern Appalachian woodland complete with mixed upland forest, a few early spring ephemerals, limestone ledges, karst topography, a gorgeous waterfall, an old mill site, and a spring house at the trail-head. I won’t duplicate the website detail, nor rehash the history that John so ably presented. Instead, I’ll offer some Nature observations, reflections, and photos from our hike.

Opening Hike

 

In prior Posts for my explorations of Land Trust property, I’ve made these paraphrased comments, worthy of repeating:

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

Needless to say, I am a big Land Trust of North Alabama fan! The weather-makers blessed us with a perfect Saturday. Since December 1, 2019 I had measured just under 30″ of rain through February. You’ll see a bit later that the waterfall blessed us with full flow. The falls dump into a sink, resurfacing at the spring house (below left), near the trailhead at approximately 630′ elevation. That’s John below right addressing our group.

Bethel Springs Nature PreserveOpening Hike, at Spring House

 

I include the trail sign photo for two reasons. First, to show that the trails are well-marked. Second, to chronicle our flow through the property. You can follow along on the website trail map: https://41bfok2rrfmy84ghm2vvsaxf-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Bethel-Spring_Kiosk-Map-2020.pdf

Opening Hike, First Leg

 

We hiked beneath these distinctive limestone ledges through second-growth (at least) upland hardwood, predominately oak and hickory. The poor stocking, maximum heights 60-70-feet, and lots of dead and down woody debris suggested low site quality on the SSE-facing convex slope. However, at some point likely 80+ years ago a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) seed found relatively friendly and fertile footing lower right.

Opening Hike, Scrub along LedgeOpening Hike, Glynn at Big Lob

 

We stopped along what John called an “old federal road,” still at the foot of the exposed ledge, remaining in the poor quality (my forester’s timber value perspective) stand of mixed upland hardwoods.

Opening Hike, Old Federal Road

 

Gradually ascending to the 710-foot contour, we turned left from Carpenter Trail onto Falling Sink Trail, which led us to Bethel Spring Falls at 1,040-feet.

Opening Hike, Second Leg

 

We could not have hoped for a better day — early spring, bright sunshine, and lots of water cascading into the sink.

Opening Hike, Group at FallsOpening Hike, Waterfall

 

I could have sat there for hours, yet the tour continued. I had hoped to capture a photo suggesting that I was alone with the falls. However, a blue-jeaned leg appeared before I snapped the shutter!

Opening Hike, Leaving the Falls

 

The Mill Trail descended from the falls. A stream does not carry the flow from the falls above ground. The yawning-mouthed sink swallows the flow, ushering it through the karst topography to the spring house. The sink covers a little less than an acre, a concavity with deep rich soils. One yellow poplar exceeded 100-feet, reaching higher than the lip of the falls. I love these southern Appalachian Mountain sinks. They remind me of the tremendously productive cove sites, concave positions on lower north and east slopes throughout our ancient mountains.

Opening Hike, Acre Sink Below FallsOpening Hike, Descending to Mill Foundation

 

As we dropped toward the old mill, this loblolly pine evidenced its relationship with insects and yellow-bellied sapsuckers. We foresters call this “bird peck.” Sapsuckers tend to work their bark search and mining operations back and forth, hence the horizontal pecking pattern.

Opening Day, Y-B Sapsucker Pecks

 

The old mill house foundation (below left) stands at about the 850-foot level. All of the wooden top-structure has long since returned to the soil through decay or fire. Only a few iron relics belie the foundation’s purpose. I had spent too much time exploring in the sink to hear much of John’s history explanation. I saw no evidence that water power had originated from natural surface flow. No apparent mill race. I assume that operators directed water from the falls via closed pipes or half-pipes. Again, the tour moved on down the trail. Perhaps I can devote a future visit to exploring at depth. The photo below right suggests that the site warrants considerable study and contemplation.

Opening Hike, Mill FoundationOpening Hike, at Mill Foundation

 

I persuaded a fellow hiker to catch me at the preserve sign after we completed our hike.

Opening Hike

 

Early Spring Ephemerals

 

It’s that time of year when spring ephemerals begin exploding on the forest floor. They appear in predictable sequence. None of the “first will be last” for these reliable understory beauties. Near the spring house we found rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) and sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba). Like all woodland spring ephemerals, these two splendid white denizens flourish during the warming period prior to forest canopy leaf-out, when sunlight reaches the forest floor uninhibited. Even their foliage senesces by early June, thus the ephemeral moniker.

Open Hike, Rue anemone

Opening Hike, Hepatica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, we also found cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) and common blue violet (Viola sororia) in full flower. The woods are alive with beauty, magic, wonder, and awe for those willing to walk slowly and marvel at the vernal gifts!

Opening Hike, cutleaf toothwortOpening Hike, violet

With each day of spring’s progression, the flower sequence will shift and numbers increase. There will come a time soon when rather than chronicle all my observations I will simply hit the highlights. For now, I shall cherish each appearance of a new flower face!

And Some Resurrection Fern

 

I never tire of our resurrection fern (Pleopeltis michauxiana) — our aerial moisture-meter. Whether draping from the fork of a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) at the parking lot or perched atop a trail-side rock, the fern flushes with recent rain or wilts to desiccation during dry periods. Nature’s ways astound at every turn. This remarkable fern need not waste energy reaching for the sun — tree branches give it lift. Dead organic matter furnishes all the anchorage and nutrients necessary for this non-flowering plant that asks for little. Our 55-inch annual rainfall brings full life often enough to help this wonderful plant thrive in our southern sylvan oases.

Opening Hike, Parking LotOpening Hike, on Rock in Forest

 

 What a thrill and privilege to wonder Nature’s places new to me. I will return to Bethel Spring… hopefully with a grandkid or two in tow. I am grateful to live in a land blessed with wonders near and far… and with an active Land Trust dedicated to preserving and protecting our natural legacy.

The Land Trust of North Alabama mission is simple, succinct, and noble: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future. I urge you to visit the Trust’s website: https://www.landtrustnal.org/vision-history/ Please consider joining and or contributing. 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

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

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

  1. Nature, with the help of the dedicated efforts of a local Land Trust, is identifying, protecting, and preserving natural heritage for tomorrow
  2. Nature’s power to inspire and lift us is unfathomable
  3. We can all do our part to make some small corner of the world better through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHarvest Square

 

My two Alabama grandsons did not accompany me to Bethel Spring Nature Preserve. Instead of them flanking the Bethel Spring Preserve Land Trust sign, I reverted above to the Land Trust’s Harvest Square sign.

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

 

Nature Poetry: Sowing Seeds for Earth Stewardship

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

I am committed to Earth Stewardship, a mission component driving my entire life in these years of semi-retirement. Spurred by being no longer fully employed, watching the first two of our five grandchildren nudge to within a few months of their teenage years, and feeling both knees (among other body elements) making woods hiking more difficult, I am focusing more and more on leaving some kind of legacy. Sam, the youngest of the five, enjoys hitting the local wildness with me. I am thrilled with his enthusiasm for exploring the woods! Here he is with a lichen-encrusted American beech.

Sam at Wet Beech

 

I’ve published these Great Blue Heron Posts for nearly four years, reaching a tally of 200+ Posts. The vast majority have integrated text and photos, explaining and reflecting on Nature’s magic, beauty, wonder, and awe. I’ve striven to present written messages with inspiring, grammatically correct verbiage. I took a course on Writing Poetry during the 2020 winter quarter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I love words… and their integration with my photos. Now I’m ready to try words in verse. I want you to know that it is not easy for this old forester to bare his soul in what for me is a brand new medium. Don’t look for the rhyming verse that most people consider poetry. Neither should you look for the mushy stanzas of love, epic challenges, and tragedy…rooted symbolically in odd twists and turns of phrase. My verses are low on deep hidden meanings and far-reaching interpretation requiring exhaustive study. I am far too literal with words to wear the reader out trying to interpret what I really meant.

Sam is my Nature buddy. My role as his trail guide is simple — passing the fever of Earth Stewardship to him in a manner purposeful, yet subtle, enough that he ultimately shares my addiction into the deep future. That he embraces and spreads the Earth Stewardship gospel. Here is my poem, Sowing Seeds.

Sowing Seeds

Steve Jones March 7, 2020

 

Inoculating youth

With the love of Nature,

       and joy in wildness

 

Encouraging him with Nature immersion

To embrace his responsibility

To know and understand,

To respect and enjoy

To steward the future

 

He’s not just a boy; he’s tomorrow

Nothing else counts so much

As devoting myself to the future,

Making sure Sam knows his joy,

And accepts his burden

 

I pass the torch to him

With passion and purpose

He accepts it without yet knowing

How blessed he is to light the way

 

Inoculating him

With the love of Nature

 

 

 

I pass the torch to him

With passion and purpose

Sam at Wheeler NWR

 

He accepts it without yet knowing

How blessed he is to light the way

Non-flowering Plants

 

He’s not just a boy; he’s tomorrow

 

Nothing else counts so much

As devoting myself to the future,

Making sure Sam knows his joy,

And accepts his burden

Wheeler NWR

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Photos of Steve

 

I like to imagine that representative samples of my books appreciate accompanying me into the woods. So far, none has complained nor groaned. Knowing that I am getting way out in front of remote possibility, perhaps there is a book of Steve’s Nature-Inspired Life and Living Poetry awaiting me around the corner of some forested trail!

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

Leafless Tree I.D. Hike along Bradford Creek Greenway

 

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

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

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

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

A Glorious Winter Day

 

Land Trust NAL

 

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

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

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

North AL Land TrustLand Trust of North Alabama

 

 

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

Land Trust NALLand Trust NAL

 

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

Land Trust NALLand Trust NAL

 

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

Land Trust NAL

 

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

Land Trust NALLand Trust NAL

 

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

Land Trust NAL

 

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

Land Trust NAL

 

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

Land Trust NAL

 

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

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

Steve's BooksWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

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

 

 

Winter is a Relative Term

A Nomad’s Perspective

Judy and I have lived in the US South for a total of nearly a quarter of a century (about half of my adult life), punctuated by shifts northward totaling 27 years:

  • Syracuse, New York — 2 years
  • Southeastern Virginia — 7 years
  • Savannah, Georgia — 2 years
  • Prattville, Alabama — 3 years
  • Syracuse, New York — 3 years
  • State College, Pennsylvania — 9 years
  • Auburn, Alabama — 5 years
  • Cary, North Carolina — 3 years
  • Fairbanks, AK — 4 years
  • Urbana, Ohio — 5 years
  • Keene, New Hampshire — 3 years
  • Fairmont, West Virginia — 1 year
  • Madison, Alabama — 3 years (and counting)

Winters in those northern climes can be (and often are) serious, arriving on schedule and holding on (with a few thaws) until spring. Southland winters to the contrary amount to fall beginning mid-November, then gradually transitioning to spring by early March. Toss in an occasional day or two of winter weather to excite (and panic) the locals. So, my conclusion, based upon near-nomadic wandering over some fifty years from Fairbanks’ latitude 65 degrees north to Savannah’s 32 degrees north, is that winter is a relative term.

Winter’s December 2019 Visit

I’ll begin with a recent example. December 10, a strong cold front muscled into the Tennessee River Valley before a steady rain ended, transitioning the rain to sleet then snow. The result: a half-inch coating… and thousands of absolutely distraught drivers convinced that this storm was apocalyptic! Not a flake stuck on the warm pavement or even on our flagstone landscape paths. Here in the South, this amounted to a brief interruption of the long autumn reaching for spring. The sleet and snow did not portend the arrival of winter, but merely an ever-so-short pause in autumn.

Legendwood Drive Legendwood Drive

 

 

 

The dusting persisted through the next morning, adding a little winter zest to our mailbox Christmas decorations. I recall far more snow mid-September in Fairbanks!

Legendwood Drive

 

Real Winter

Huntsville locals will remember the December 10, 2019 storm as that season’s early winter arrival. Our New Hampshire winters were a trifle less subtle. Snow cover there did not disappear with the next day’s noon sun. That’s Judy and me along our driveway below, probably in mid-February one of those three winters. A succession of storms piles it high. Spring is nowhere in sight. Fall departed long ago.

New hampshireNew Hampshire

 

 

 

 

And yet by Fairbanks standards, southern New Hampshire winters, while snowy, are relatively mild. That’s Willie Karidis (then Director of the Denali Education Center) and me mid-March snow-shoeing on the frozen Nenana River at negative 37 degrees Fahrenheit just outside Denali National Park. The bright sun belied the danger. Frostbite nipped my nose not long after the photo captured our image. Unlike our Alabama mid-winter sun, the winter solstice sun at Fairbanks rises only 1.7 degrees above the southern horizon at solar noon (below right). Thermal power? Nada! Noon sun melting yesterday’s accumulation? Not a chance — early October’s snow still resides under this solstice mantle of the white stuff! Fairbanks’ average daily high for March 31 is 32 degrees. Contrast that to the average high for the date in Huntsville, AL at 69 degrees. Our first year in Fairbanks saw April Fool’s Day reach a record low high temperature (for the date and month) at one below zero. Winter is relative.

UAF

 

UAF

 

As Chair of the University of the Arctic Governing Board during those Alaska years, I presided over an international session in Rovaniemi, Finland, University of Lapland, which sits at the Arctic Circle. Plenty of daylight during the March equinox period. Conditions not much different from the near-Denali photos above. Still deep winter. We are in full-blown spring by that date here in the South.

RovaniemiRovaniemi

 

 

 

Alabama Winter

The western US sandhill cranes left the high Arctic and passed south through Fairbanks before the end of August. Our own Tennessee Valley sandhill cranes (below left) arrive here mid-November to spend the winter with us (nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge) before departing mid-February northward. Also at WNWR, the cypress swamp below right depicts another version of our deep winter.

National RefufeNational Refuge

 

I recall living twice in Syracuse, NY, which self-proclaims the title of cloudiest major US city. I could not confirm that honorific title on the internet, yet I can vouch for the deep darkness of dense cloud cover that seems to persist from October through April. One did not need to search long for clinics treating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in The Salt City (named for the nearby salt deposits, and not for the anti-icing road treatment that will rust your wheel wells in just a few seasons!). Not so cloudy and dark here in the South. A front slips through with abundant rain and the following few days bless us with deep blue, often complemented with wisps of horsetail cirrus (below in late November 2018 at McDowell Camp and Conference Center). Nature graciously rewards us with aerial magnificence.

McDowell

 

Snow seldom falls and almost never persists. Also at McDowell, the frosty grass at sunrise must satisfy my winter snow nostalgia.

McDowell

 

Camp McDowell

 

 

Over our many interstate moves I’ve learned to temper my seasonal weather expectations. Does me no good to pine for a deep snow, high-wind Nor’easter here in northern Alabama, nor in New Hampshire could I wish for sitting on the patio at sunset January 1 as I did this evening with no wind and the temperature at 52 degrees! I’ve become adept at flourishing wherever we find ourselves.

Again, the Real Thing!

Yet I do love the extremes, including the raw and brutal power that turned our team back at 5,300-feet one February day when we attempted to summit Mount Washington. That’s my back second from the rear, enjoying the pleasurable terror.  When we tucked tail (the photo depicts our furthest progress) the wind was gusting above 100 MPH with the ambient temperature below zero Fahrenheit at the summit. That’s deadly. That’s real…nearly unbelievable…winter.

New HampshireSteve Jones at Mount Washington

 

That wasn’t daily existence across New Hampshire. That was at a location known for The World’s Most Extreme Weather. As I write these words New Years Day, the summit temperature is 10 degrees, wind chill is -19, and the wind is gusting to 85 MPH!

 

Summer as Winter

Sitka, Alaska sits along the state’s southeast coast. The city welcomes cruise ships into its protected harbor during its brief summer. Snow-capped mountains ring the bay (below left). The trailhead for the Mt Verstovia trail is just east of town. Mid-June 2012 I made a valiant attempt to reach Verstovia’s nearly 3,000-foot summit. My ascent ended when I encountered decaying snow 3-5-feet deep still 500 feet below the summit (below right).  The higher peaks still carried fresh snow. Summer? Like winter, summer is a relative term! My forehead perspiration (my entire body was soaked) had nothing to do with summer’s heat. I had just climbed 2,500 feet vertical (a steep trail) and struggled with the coarse granular snow until I accepted defeat.

UAF

Steve Jones near Sitka, Alaska 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dormant volcano, Mt Edgecumbe, stands across the bay from Sitka’s airport. Mark Twain once said, we are told, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” No, the statement just would not have worked for the humorist had he substituted Sitka for San Francisco!

Alaska

 

Again, a Southern Winter — It’s All Relative!

No deep decaying snow to deal with at Beaverdam Creek Boardwalk at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge just a few miles from where we live in Alabama.

Wheeler NWR

 

Just once during our four winters in northern Alabama has our Big Blue Lake frozen soundly enough to support the weight of our over-wintering Canada geese. The Nenana River annual Ice Classic at Nenana, AK (midway between the entrance to Denali National Park and Fairbanks) awards a significant cash prize to the to the person who comes closest to guessing the exact date, hour, minute, and second of break-up. Average April 1, ice thickness over the years is 42 inches. Strong enough to support a goose? Even a moose — perhaps a caboose!

Legendwood

 

January 7, 2020 I snapped this shot of emerging daffodils in my neighborhood. Who can dispute my statement that our fall gradually transitions to spring? I need not provide further evidence than these daffodil blades beginning to break through the mulch.

213 Legendwood Drive

 

Yet there is more. Planted pansies provide winter color at our latitude. When temperatures drop below freezing, the plants wilt (their way of protecting cells from the cold) while awaiting warmer days. I took this photo January 9, 2020 on a mild afternoon in the upper 50s.

LegendwoodLegendwood

 

January 12, I biked once again on Bradford Creek and Mill Creek Greenways. Spring presented a little more evidence of its headway, further tracing the seasonal transition. I spotted my first henbit (Lamium amplxicaule) flower of the year. Henbit is a naturalized non-native, common across the eastern US.

Local Greenways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also saw chickweed and a small cress in flower, but did not attempt to photograph their tiny white flowers.

January 2018 I visited Gulf State Park, Alabama. The season was clearly fall/spring… and Sam the resident pelican offered no counter argument. Some 400 miles south of where I reside, the climate is much warmer along the coast.

Steve at Gulf Shores

 

No winter pelican acquaintances when we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. Moose-friends frequently visited our yard, especially in winter. Make that WINTER! I’m placing the finishing touches on the Post January 8. I just checked the Fairbanks temperature: negative 33 Fahrenheit! This is the warmest part of the day.

Again, as is nearly everything in Nature… Winter is relative.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Everything in Nature is relative
  2. Nature cares little about the weather we hope to experience; it is what it is
  3. Knowing local norms and averages helps us adjust our expectations and adapt to place

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHarvest Square

 

Every place in Nature tells a story, as do all stories within my books.

 

Three Books

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longleaf Pine along Bradford Creek Greenway

Autumn Serenity along Bradford Creek

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

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

 

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

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenway

 

Summer’s New Growth on Planted Longleaf Pine

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Local Greenway

 

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

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenways

 

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

Local Greenways

 

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

Local Greenways

 

A mid-December Postscript

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

Local GreenwaysLocal Greenways

 

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

 

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

A Footnote

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

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

North AL Land Trust

Land Trust of North Alabama

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

Three Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

At the Nexus of Human and Natural History: Paw Paw Tunnel

C&O Canal National Historical Park

I issued multiple Posts this past summer and fall from July visits to National Parks, Monuments, and Memorials in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. Add in two more Posts from visiting three National Parks in Kazakhstan. November 20, 2019 I published yet another, this one from a September visit to the C&O Canal National Historical Park. I now post another from visiting the C&O Canal National Historical Park: I offer a few photos and reflections from stopping by the western terminus at Cumberland, Maryland, my home town, and then enjoying an extend hike through the Paw Paw Tunnel and back over its Tunnel Hill Trail. As is my Blog Post pattern, I will focus on Nature, and weave through the essay observations on the interplay of human and natural history.

The Canal’s Western Terminus

I’ll begin with a view of Cumberland from my September visit. The original Canal planning brought the Canal to this point, and then built it up and over the Allegany front and onward to the Ohio River. Cumberland became its final destination after the enterprise met overwhelming competition from the railroads and ultimately succumbed to brutal flooding from the adjacent Potomac River in 1924.

 

I snapped this terminus visitor’s center wall mural photograph (below), taken during the Canal’s peak operations well before 1924. The view looks east over the terminus operations, including two canal boats, loading and unloading docks, and a lone mule. The hills beyond rise a couple of hundred feet above the canal level. I grew up perhaps a quarter mile to the south (right) where the hills softened. The high school I attended, built in the mid 1930s, now sits beyond the unidentifiable building top-center in the dip above the center casks. I played in those hills, which we then called “The Clay Hills.” The image below depicts the hills as scarred and denuded, likely cut repeatedly for firewood, and perhaps even stripped for aggregate and clay to support residential and commercial development in the growing city. I knew explicitly and intuitively as a youth that the land had been abused. Prior to any formal forestry and natural resources education and training, I observed that the terrain evidenced deep erosion gullies. I recognized that such treatment of our Earth was hurtful and probably irreparable. In my youth, shrub-cover had begun to colonize the hills, yet exposed red “soil” dominated the appearance. The shrubs had not fully captured the hillside. I can recall only that sumac (Rhus typhina) and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) dominated the emerging vegetation.

 

I took the photo below from roughly the same spot looking east at least a hundred years later (November 2019). My high school is visible beyond that same dip as a flat-topped building with its smoke stack rising midway. The approximately 1.5-mile distance belies the school’s size, a large three-story school. The Clay Hills now sprout a few homes and an emerging forest. The raw red “soil” is no longer visible. Examining the photo, I now have a desire to venture into those once-denuded hills to assess progress of recovery.

 

I have observed often in these Posts that nothing in Nature is static. Even Clay Hills revert with time and protection to forest. Nature heals all human induced scars. I first saw the Clay Hills as a raw wound, apparent even to a kid. Interestingly, if I assume I first ventured into the hills at age eight, I’ve watched the recovery for 60 years. No telling how many years more I will visit. Were I able, I would return every decade for the next millennium… and beyond. I can instead enjoy the conjecture. I visualize a forest eventually prospering in the naturally rejuvenated soil. Will that forest prosper before humanity fades and disappears, sadly from self-inflicted wounds, or will we humans awaken and live harmoniously as informed and responsible Earth citizens? Let’s hope the latter.

 

Paw Paw Tunnel

Over those six decades I’ve spent countless hours exploring Paw Paw Tunnel and environs, located near milepost 155.2, 29 Canal-miles east of Cumberland. We camped often near the tunnel, fished in the Potomac, and hiked in the forest. From a National Park Service online source about the tunnel:

14 years of construction.

Over $600,000 spent.

6 million bricks used.

3,118 feet long

Those are just a few of the staggering statistics of the greatest engineering marvel along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Located at milepost 155.2, the Paw Paw Tunnel helped eliminate 6 miles of canal and opened up economic success for Cumberland, Maryland. However, completing the Paw Paw Tunnel was not an easy task. Through labor strikes, money issues, and illness, the construction of the 3,118 foot long tunnel took nearly 14 years to complete and was placed well over budget. Today, when you plan your visit to the Paw Paw Tunnel, bring a flashlight and discover the weep holes, rope burns, rub rails, as well as brass plates that bring the tunnel’s history to life. Following your travels through the tunnel, enjoy the two-mile long Tunnel Hill Trail where you can discover breathtaking views of the Paw Paw Bends.

The interpretive signage (below left) shows the tunnel route and describes avoiding the six miles of sweeping bends along the Potomac. Lower right the tunnel’s western (Cumberland) end beckoned me in mid-November.

 

A hundred feet inside the western entrance, I caught the view out of the tunnel. Combining the light entering from behind me and employing a three-second exposure, I exalted in how well I captured the tunnel interior and the far eastern end. Some of what appears well-illuminated actually stands in pitch blackness. Mid-way, except for the “light at the end of the tunnel,” I could not see my hand in front of my face. Engineers and workers completed the tunnel in 1850, 14 years after the initial pick blows and dynamiting. As I strolled through the tunnel and returned over the Hill Trail, I marveled at the construction technique: coming in from both ends, dropping twice vertically to tunnel level and working all four of those internal faces! Imagine those immigrant laborers who arose early morning, hiked up to one of the shafts, and lowered to excavation-level where they performed heavy and dangerous tasks… for 14 years!

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

The tunnel exited east into a deep cut that extends for another half-mile, connecting again to the Potomac a half-mile beyond that. The snow-coated boardwalk offered a pleasant complement to the clear blue sky. I felt deep sentiment revisiting a stretch I had walked scores of times as a boy, then as an adult whenever trips home gave me an opportunity to renew that Central Appalachian spirit of my life. I wish I could remember the last time I hiked the tunnel with my Dad. His memory and his essence accompanied me even on this most recent pass nearly 25 years after his death. We do communicate on such treks, but it’s just not the same.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

He long ago impressed upon me the importance of paying attention to little things in Nature. A row of icicles along a small ledge. Or the engineering beauty of a long-abandoned lock east of the long cut. I recall standing with him, or sitting on the exquisite stonework, trying to re-imagine the lift-lock in operation. Dad’s spirit and the ghosts of thousands watched silently with me that cold and sunny morning.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

 

 

 

 

I turned back when I reached the Potomac, six river miles from where I entered the tunnel, some 1.7 towpath miles behind. About to re-enter the cut (below left), I left the canal and began the Tunnel Hill Trail, a path I had taken dozens of times. The Trail presents a strenuous hike for those not accustomed to physical challenge. As I reflected on my ventures with Dad, I paused to wonder how many more times I will make the trek. Once I am gone, will my spirit haunt these hills? What difference will these musings have made?

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

On a more positive note, I know that my writing soothes me, lifts my spirit, and adds value to my own life. I welcome and treasure these reflective hikes into memory…into special places that I have long treasured and that shaped my life.

 

Human and Natural History Interacting on the Tunnel Hill Trail

The National Park Service tells the Paw Paw Tunnel stories quite well… with interpretive signage, publications, and online information. I won’t recite the signage for you. My intent through this section is to comment on the natural history I observed along the trail and with my photos. Think about the tremendous volume of rock excavated during construction from both ends and brought up through the vertical shafts. Those resultant debris piles (spoils) are dry and infertile. I like the thick lichen cushion nestling a long-dead, weathered Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) stump-remnant below right.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the trail passes through “wildness,” signage reminds us that this particular spot once supported a community and its schoolhouse. I listened in vain for the ancient echoes of children playing. Nature is sweeping away most direct evidence.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder what Park Serve archeologists discovered at this former construction village. Nature doesn’t care… intent upon reclaiming what is hers.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

Again, massive amounts of spoil now fill many ravines and coves along the Trail. The photo lower right shows spoil to a depth of nearly fifty feet. To the casual observer, without benefit of the sign, the land tells no tales. I am fortunate to know Nature’s language well enough to interpret her stories. Her shelves hold many volumes, each one written in forest and landscape evidence. Man has never left a mark that will survive time and Nature’s incessant healing.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

 

 

 

 

Picture the lower left wagon trail 165 years ago running along the base of a denuded hillside, stripped repeatedly for firewood to fuel cooking stoves and warm winter quarters. Imagine wagons loaded with spoil heading down to dumping grounds; carts forwarding workers and supplies up to the shafts; and exhausted laborers clinging to the cart rails returning to camp after their daily shift. What I don’t know is whether the crews worked during the night. Daylight or dark would make no difference for those working the four internal tunnel-level excavation faces. The snow-dusted Tunnel Hill Trail, to those not privy to the 14-year construction struggle, appears now as merely a sheltered footpath leading through the wildness of Sorrel Ridge, part of Maryland’s 46,560-acre Green Ridge State Forest (GR SF). Another sentimental connection for me is that I worked my junior summer as a forestry aide on GR SF, a dream job!

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

I view this as another glimpse of the magic synergy between human and natural history, and my own intersection with it. I can recall no untouched forestland (virgin forest) on Green Ridge State Forest, neither from my summer employment there or from my reading of Land of the Living: The Story of Green Ridge Forest (1996), authored by my summer-of-1972 boss, Green Ridge Forest Supervisor John Mash. In his Preface, John wrote, “When I first came to the Green Ridge Forest in 1971 as a young forester I soon became aware that others preceded me. One of the things I learned in forestry school was that the past influences the present and that there was evidence of many past disturbances in the forest.” John’s 875 pages tell the stories of Green Ridge Forest eloquently with great passion.  Again in his Preface he said, “The proper way to read this book is lying on a hammock in the forest, listening to the birds and imagining what happened on the very spot you lounge. You were not the first there to experience the sights, sounds, joys, wonders and sorrows of the Green Ridge mystique.”

As I hiked the Trail (below left) on that gorgeous November morning, I thought of John, who loved the entire Green Ridge Forest and all life within it, present and past. John died far too young. I would love to have accompanied him over the Tunnel Hill Trail. We spent a lot of time together that summer. I marveled at his sharp eyes in spotting rattlesnakes and his never-failing intent upon picking them up, examining each one, and gently releasing it where he found it. He likewise studied the signs of past disturbance religiously, always alerting me to faint trail traces, evidence of past timber cutting, old foundations, and settlement relics. I visualized John stretched on his hammock between two oaks that morning. He tipped his forester’s hat, twirled his handlebar mustache, and wished me well.

C&O Canal

Photos of Steve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hike over Sorrel Ridge offers ample reward for the exertion. The central Appalachians likewise reward me with deep feelings of home. I’ve stood at scenic overlooks across the US and even at a number of places internationally. I never fail to appreciate the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of elevated perspective, yet nothing surpasses the scenic, emotional, and sentimental elixir of what I will always consider home. I suppose the echoes of youth across time magnify my appreciation. I am sure I was adolescent the first time I stood at this overlook. How much of what I now see is modified through the filters of life, memory, and education? I believe earnestly that what I now see far exceeds the simple image I enjoyed 55 years ago at age 13!

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

 

 

 

 

 

I snapped a selfie to make sure that it was old Steve up there on the trail. Sure enough,  I had not passed through some time warp! I wanted a photo with the hilltop sparsely-stocked oak stand behind me (below left), and another with the Virginia pine overhead (below right) as I enjoyed a well-traveled bagel with peanut butter. I now confess to failing to pay enough attention to my surroundings. The lower right photo shows beyond a doubt that the pine behind me is recently dead, its crown reddish-brown, having given up the ghost during the summer. How could I have missed it? Blinded by the vista? I who pride myself in seeing far more in Nature than most! Nature offers unlimited inspiration and humility.

C&O CanalC&O Canal

 

I know my missing the obvious has nothing to do with my age. After all, how could an old guy have just traversed a trail that carries the warning statement, “Danger. Steep cliffs and loose footing. One misstep could result in serious injury or a life threatening situation.” Perhaps I was so focused on the danger I faced to note that the pine was dead! No, I shall not shamelessly reach for excuses. Quite simply, I missed the obvious, and “saw” it only after examining the photo that evening.

C&O Canal

 

As I’ve observed many times, nothing in Nature is static. Witness the now-dead pine. Recall the recovering Clay Hills in Cumberland.

 

Life marches on in this Land of the Living — Green Ridge Forest, the C&O Canal, and the Paw Paw Tunnel. John Mash’s simple book Dedication fittingly closes this Great Blue Heron Blog Post:

This book is dedicated to all those souls, known but to God, who lie forever in so many places in the unmarked forest graves. They have nourished the soil with their bodies and in turn live in the trees and plants that feed the wild animals. Although no one knows of their earthly joys and sorrows, they will be a part of the forest forever.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Nature, with the help of a National Historical Park designation, inexorably reclaims what humanity once cleared and domesticated.
  2. Human-scale time has no meaning to a river, nor to the mountains within which it courses.
  3. The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” The C&O National Historical Park is no less a part of our heritage than Yellowstone or Yosemite.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

As with my weekly Blog Posts, I weave Nature’s thread through the essays within my books. I reflect on my own life experiences in Nature and their relevance to my life and living. I try to have a little fun, mostly at my own expense. I take what I do very seriously, yet I don’t take (and never have) myself too seriously (see me lower right working feverishly on my writing!).

Steve's BooksThree Books

 

Actual time in Nature stimulates my reflections, fuels my passion, and provides fodder for my essays. I occasionally treat my books to walks in the forest (see below).

Photos of Steve

 

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

 

 

 

Revisiting Harvest Square Nature Preserve

Natural Treasures Are Always Close at Hand

I posted an essay in February 2017 on a trip I made to the North Alabama Land Trust’s 70-acre Harvest Square Nature Preserve: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2017/02/09/the-simple-things-become-our-ultimate-pleasure/ My then nine-year-old Alabama grandson Jack accompanied me. Nearly three years ago, at that time I did not always include photos as I do now.

I returned with Judy, Jack (now 12), and five-and-a-half year old Sam November 9, 2019. This time I snapped lots of photos, offering them with reflections in this Post. The photos certainly help me compose my observations and reflections, and assist with memory retention! Jack and Sam stand with me at the entrance sign… shamelessly promoting my three books.

 

Ponds — AKA Borrow Pits

The interpretive “Ponds” sign leaves no room for confusion — these “are not natural ponds.” Minnesota’s state tagline claims, “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.” My limnology faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks reminded me that Alaska has 2,000,000 lakes and ponds! Alabama? Most of our “ponds” and lakes are human-made, including the four-acre Big Blue Lake where I reside. It’s hard to be a pond and lake purist here in the South, far from Minnesota’s 10,000 glacier-carved ponds and lakes. So, I treasure even our Alabama ponds carved by development engineers and excavators.

Harvest Square

 

My appreciation is not dimmed at Harvest Square knowing that Terry and Turner Ponds provided scraped spoils for elevating the construction site for Harvest Square Shopping Center. I spent little time explaining to grandsons Sam and Jack the ponds’ origin. Instead, we focused on the wonder of Nature’s healing such raw disturbed sites. Harvest Square memorializes the inspired action of the Land Trust of North Alabama acquiring the site, protecting it from further perturbation, arranging access, placing interpretive signage, and telling the story of informed and responsible land stewardship. Who would know…and who would second guess…the rehabilitation and rebirth of an evolving natural community following the equivalent of harsh strip-mining. The open meadows, succeeding brush and forest, serene ponds, full array of wildlife, and the stunning beauty of a fall day belie the violence acted upon the land. What absolute genius to convert wasteland to nature preserve!

Harvest SquareHarvest Square

 

Nature has been rehabilitating disturbed land for eons… for-ever! Think of the Mount Saint Helens blast zone from May 1980; devastated… and now green and recovering. The most recent continental ice sheet retreated 12-14,000 years ago after scraping the land clear from Canada through the Great Lakes and into southern New York State — Long Island is a terminal moraine! The Yellowstone caldera last blew 630,000 years ago; it is now among the nation’s most beautiful national treasures. Nature knows full well how to tear asunder… and then heal. What’s a little man-made shopping center construction to Nature’s insistence to rehabilitate and heal?! Throw in a dedicated Land Trust, some trail and dock infrastructure, and limited healing time… and the result meets even my rigid criteria for declaring it a wildland worthy of visiting, studying, and sharing! Who could imagine Judy and the grandsons are nearly within sight of the shopping center?

Harvest Square along Terry Pond

 

Well-placed and attractive signage complements the experience. Toss in the wildness of the great blue heron who lifted from the shoreline near this trail marker to add to our enjoyment.

Harvest Square

 

The trail is aptly named. Beaver occupy bank lodges along Terry Pond’s northwest corner. They’ve constructed ingress and egress canals along the shore. Sam is holding two branches stripped clean of bark/cambium by foraging beavers. Sam uses one as a walking stick; the longer one suits me quite well.

Harvest Square Beaver Canal

 

 

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is colonizing the preserve, providing colorful fruit, a fall buffet for dozens of bird species.

Harvest Square Preserve

 

We hiked the short trail to Turner Pond and the boardwalk along its west edge. Vegetation is everywhere — Nature abhors a vacuum. Natural reclamation is accelerating. As an ecologist, I know how quickly succession moves these highly disturbed sites into more mature brush and forest stages. I’d like to see the Land Trust establish permanent photo points so that visitors years and decades from now can travel photographically back in time. What will these two views show in 2050? Or 2100?

Harvest Square, Second PondHarvest Square

 

Will the forest behind Jack and Judy tower above visitors 50 years hence?

Harvest Square, Turner Pond

 

We spotted a pair of great blue herons as we left Terry Pond heading toward the woods. I never (and will never) tire of seeing these avatars for my life and my memories of Dad! To see this pair made me ever more appreciative of Nature’s supreme power to heal… the land and my heart.

Woods Trail

The woods trail winds past an already towering loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Good fortune that the shopping center clearing did not strip the entire tract. This is wildness that stirs my forester’s heart!

Harvest Square Preserve

 

The Trust does an excellent job of trail interpretation and tree identification.

Harvest SquareHarvest Square

 

I have observed often that having  an understanding of Nature enhances appreciation and strengthens our resolve to steward the land.

Harvest Square

 

Nothing in Nature is static; nothing lives and stands tall forever. Life and death are in a perpetual dance; ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Wind-throw is as natural as the new growth that will fill the space vacated by this old soldier toppled by a gusty thunderstorm a few summers prior. I think Sam understands the mechanism.

Harvest Square Harvest Square

 

The magnificent loblolly will one day return its mass, fiber, and nutrients to the soil. Death is part and parcel of life. The Harvest Square Nature Preserve is close at-hand to many of us in the greater Huntsville area. Its story is one of disturbance, preservation, and recovery. In so many ways, as I mentioned earlier, the Harvest Square Story ironically parallels the ecological tale told by Mount Saint Helens and Yellowstone. Nature knows how to close the circle; in fact, Nature designed and created the circle.

Harvest Square Preserve

 

If you would like to visit Harvest Square, see the Huntsville Adventurer website: https://huntsvilleadventurer.com/harvest-square-nature-preserve/?fbclid=IwAR18Fyskf-vv0IWzXjMCO3L7mF4VTxHiOOXS1qeExGLG4Pj-MFAdfUcF6xM

The Land Trust of North Alabama mission is simple, succinct, and noble: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future. I urge you to visit the Trust’s website: https://www.landtrustnal.org/vision-history/ Please consider joining and or contributing. 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Nature, with the help of the dedicated efforts of a local Land Trust, is converting sows ears to silk purses
  2. Nature’s power to heal (the land and our hearts) is unlimited
  3. We can all do our part to make some small corner of the world better through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHarvest Square

 

The same windthrow back-dropping Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits! I like to imagine that representative samples of my books appreciate accompanying me into the woods. So far, none has complained nor groaned!

Land Trust of North AL

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