Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and in-draft Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration (anticipated 2020) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Now — announcing publication of a third book!!!

 

Co-author Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit and I issued this statement today, August 14, 2019:

We’re so proud to announce the publication and release of our first co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature.

Our book is a collection of Nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth. Weaned and Snowy represents a labor of passion and purpose on behalf of humanity and our precious pale blue orb.

Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=weaned+seals+and+snowy+summits&ref=nb_sb_noss

Warm regards,

Steve (and Jennifer Wilhoit)

Check Amazon for other books that Jennifer has authored: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Jennifer-J-Wilhoit/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3AJennifer+J.+Wilhoit

My two previous books are likewise available on Amazon: Nature Based Leadership and Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading. See my website for ordering information: http://stevejonesgbh.com/

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Teton National Park

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Floating the Snake River

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

 

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

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

 

Nature’s Diverse Dimensions

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

 

Deeper into Grand Teton National Park

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Chapel of the Transfiguration

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

 

Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Grand Teton Wildflowers

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

From deep red and salmon:

 

To an entire battery of yellows:

 

And more yellows:

 

And some softer hues:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To subtle rose:

 

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

 

To soft purple:

 

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

 

Leaving Grand Teton Behind

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

 

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Return to Joe Wheeler State Park

I returned to Joe Wheeler State Park mid-day July 10 for an extended afternoon Park orientation with Superintendent Chad Davis in advance of our evening and next morning State Parks Foundation Board meeting. I had spent several hours exploring a couple of trails in June 2018. See the Post I issued last July: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/07/05/joe-wheeler-state-park/

The Park website says of Joe Wheeler SP: “Whether you arrive by land or water, there’s no mistaking the beauty and serenity of this 2,550-acre resort park. On the shores of Wheeler Lake, the resort features a stunning waterfront lodge with restaurant and convention facilities, championship 18-hole golf course and clubhouse, full-service marina with permanent and overnight docking slips, modern and primitive camping, lakeside cottages, cozy cabins, and a rustic group lodge.” Visit the website: https://www.alapark.com/parks/joe-wheeler-state-park

The main entrance hints at the sylvan environment lying within.

 

Before I report on our afternoon wanderings, allow me to leap ahead to the next morning.

Sunrise at the Lodge along Wheeler Lake

Joe Wheeler is a resort park. I spent the night at the Lodge, a full service hotel and restaurant. I can’t remember when I last awakened after daybreak. Morning is my preferred (cherished) time of day. I know that I regularly awoke in full light years ago during our four years in Fairbanks, Alaska at nearly 65-degrees north latitude. Although the sun dipped below the horizon even on the summer solstice, its very shallow arc kept 24-daylight with us for some 80 consecutive summer days. So, for 10-11 weeks there was no rising before dawn!

Judy and I enjoyed our early morning walk along the Lodge waterfront as the sun broke the eastern horizon, back-lighting sailboats docked at the Park’s 140-slip marina.

 

We saw no cabin cruiser (my term for some rather large boats) human passengers up and about so early. Yet avian boarders found convenient perches as they caught their insect breakfasts above the lake surface. I wondered whether the boat owners anticipated the necessary hosing and scrubbing that awaited them… courtesy of the swallows.

 

The resort pier extends far enough into the First Creek arm of the Lake to permit this view of the Lodge. What a gorgeous place to call home for an early July escape!

 

An Afternoon in the Woods

So much of the Park’s forests are within a few hundred yards of the Lake. Chad and I examined several segments of Park’s new eight-mile trail that should be open and ready to hike this coming fall. Here’s just one place where the new trail drops to shore level.

 

It also comes near this Lake-facing signage advising boaters of their proximity to the resort park.

 

And likewise to near this wall-blind intended for dormant season visitors to observe waterfowl without tree foliage interference.

 

Here’s Chad with the trail crew we intercepted doing the hard labor of clearing and grading. I am eager to schedule another visit to trek the full length… once fall delivers more tolerable temperatures.

 

As I’ve often observed, I am a tree-junkie who entered forestry studies at university fifty years ago in August! I am so fortunate to have merged vocation and avocation. Growing up in the Central Appalachians, I love trees… and I am in love with oaks. The red oak below left, graced with a characteristically hairy-stemmed poison ivy vine, measures two-and-a-half feet diameter breast high (DBH). Chad stands beside another nearby that we measured at 33-inches. Most of the lowland forests at Wheeler State Park are rich former agricultural sites abandoned when TVA acquired the land in advance of dam construction and flooding.

 

An even larger white oak stands at the base of a steep bluff. Not willing to risk falling into the Lake, I did not descend the slope with my diameter tape. Call me chicken! I estimated its DBH at north of three-feet, with a massive crown (below right). I find inspiration in these forest denizens.

 

Although not nearly so large as the red and white oaks above, this bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) reigns as the State Champion, the largest of its species in the entire state!

 

It joins two other species state champions located at the Park: chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) and September elm (Ulmus serotina).

I’ve offered just a glimpse of the Park’s magic, beauty, wonder, and awe. I’m blessed that this gem lies just a little more than an hour from my home. I will endeavor to further explore this fall. Occasionally visit the Park’s website for announcements about the trail’s opening: https://www.alapark.com/parks/joe-wheeler-state-park

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  • Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages; whether Cheaha in the heart of our Alabama Southern Appalachians, or Joe Wheeler’s lake-shore forests near Rogersville.
  • The Tennessee River impoundments provide rich regional recreational value, furnish electrical power, enable navigation, and serve as perfect lake-side locations for both Joe Wheeler and Lake Guntersville State Parks.
  • In my humble view, daybreak is one of Nature’s finest gifts.

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!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

 

 

 

Salt Lake City, UT to Jackson, WY

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

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

 

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

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

Bear Lake Overlook

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflower Magic at the Overlook

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or this subtle white and beige cushion-cluster.

 

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

 

Interpretation at the Overlook

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

 

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

 

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

 

Down to the Oregon/California Trail Center

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

 

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Basin and Range

Beginning a 12-Day Natural Adventure

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

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

 

Explaining Basin and Range

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Great Salt Lake and Wasatch Range

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

 

Basin and Range

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

 

Grand Teton National Park

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

 

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

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

 

Yellowstone Caldera and THE Hotspot

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

 

Badlands

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

 

Devils Tower

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

 

Crowds – To Cherish We Must See and Fondle

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

 

For Spacious Skies — Cloud Wonder and Magic

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

 

Spectacular Scale

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

 

Wildflowers

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

 

Wildlife

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

 

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

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Peace and Tranquility on Big Blue Lake; Not All is as it Appears!

Peace, Tranquility, and Serenity

 

I speak often of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. Judy and I normally complete our morning neighborhood walk by 6:00AM, then enjoy coffee on the patio overlooking four-acre Big Blue Lake (BBL), along whose north shore we reside.

We experience peace, tranquility, the onset of a new day, a gentle stirring of birdsong and breeze, soft colors, and the promise of a full day ahead. That’s how every day in Nature’s beatific world unfolds, right? An Eden where life embraces life… among all creatures great and small. Where peace and harmony dominate life and living!

Sure, one may presume on such placid dawnings that all is love and joy here on BBL—and the lion shall lie down with the lamb! But wait, there is more. I choose to focus my writing on Nature’s inspiration–I relate her everyday tales in ways that lift lives and elevate the human spirit. However, I am not a Pollyanna, nor am I blind to Nature’s complex ways and multiple faces. As an applied ecologist, I know that Nature is harsh. The food chain is real. Few animals reside at the apex. Every organism, dead or alive, is edible to some consumer, primary or secondary. Death begins at the onset of life… and life at the time of death. From the Christian hymn:

“Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
Is a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?”

The secular is absolute… ashes to ashes, dust to dust cannot be denied. A better home awaiting is a matter of Faith and of Spirit. Okay, I will leave the Spiritual element of the cycle of life and death to another day. Allow me now a quick recitation of just a few examples of the cold, brutal violence among BBL’s community of life from just the past few weeks. My intent is not to generate despair, but to illustrate that life is a complex web. Nature does not pass judgment. She is objective. Only we humans see good and evil, right and wrong, honest and deceptive. Nature just is… nothing more.

Two-hundred fifty years ago, Leonardo da Vinci observed of Nature: “In her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous. Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity. Nature never breaks her own laws.” Every morning we witness Nature’s fidelity to the laws she has adopted and observed over 3.7 billion years of life on Earth. Life and living on Big Blue Lake never break Nature’s laws. Serenity? Yes, the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe are present. No denying the obvious (below).

The Cold, Harsh, and Unforgiving Dimension
Yet, just as obvious, there are two sides to the coin of life. No, not really sides, but a continuum. For example, we have a resident sharp-shinned hawk on BBL. I say resident only because we see this aggressive predator every couple of days. I have no idea the extent of its range beyond frequenting BBL and posting near our quite active bird feeders.
Twice this spring we observed first-hand two near misses. A dove lighted off the patio in our back ornamental bed just ten feet from our own patio perch. Within seconds, Sharpy stooped suddenly from above onto the fortunate dove. Fortunate only because after feathers exploded, both birds immediately departed the chaotic scene. Down and a few tail or wing feathers marked the scene (below left). We’ve previously found such impact evidence in the backyard. I’ve always assumed a kill had resulted. Just three days following the near-miss, we witnessed Sharpy hitting another dove just 20-feet away… this one in flight. Again, a puff of feathers and two birds leaving in opposite directions. I pondered… an outstanding baseball batter will connect successfully three out of ten at-bats. What’s the hit-rate for sharp-shinned hawks? Three of ten? I found the feathers below right in mid-June. Another miss?
We know without doubt that dove-life on BBL is not free and easy. Aldo Leopold wrote of the need for geese on his Wisconsin farm to be vigilant about their place in the food chain. He asked, as he lamented the efficacy of a modern education 70 years ago, “Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.” We occasionally see Sharpy nearby. Just two weeks ago, we heard our setting killdeer (15 feet off of the patio) screaming in serious agitation. We peeked from our sun porch. Sharpy stood ten feet from the mamma-less nest, then walked to within six inches of the four eggs, never seeming to notice them. We were prepared to rush out to save the eggs if necessary. As you will soon read, we had already lost a clutch of four killdeer eggs to a gang of ruffian crows in late March. Sharpy abruptly left without our exiting the house.
I recently finished reading Wendell Berry’s Our Only World, published 65 years after Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Interestingly, Berry came to a conclusion similar to Leopold’s: “There can never be too much knowledge, but there certainly can be too much school.” Perhaps a sacrilege from a former university president (four institutions), yet I fear that a modern university education is heavy to things of lesser worth.
Marauding Crows
Early March our killdeer couple that had successfully fledged two broods of four last summer, returned to their nesting site near a Japanese maple just 15-feet from our patio.
The adults at first performed the broken wing act to lure us from the nest and soon, accustomed to us, they would sit quietly as long as we gave them a reasonable berth.
During our morning patio-relaxing time this spring, five noisy crows would enter and pass through our little paradise. We would hear and see them emptying the sunflower seed feeders, one doing the feeder work while the others collected seed knocked to the ground. They would likewise make short work of a suet cage. We found them to be obnoxious bird-bullies, yet I accepted them as part of Nature’s web on BBL. Later one morning as we ran errands, our next door neighbor heard a loud clamor of crows and killdeer, and emerged to her porch in time to see the crows completing their task of scattering the killdeer parents and eating the four eggs. The crows have not been frequenting our end of the lake for the past six weeks.
Before the crows abandoned us, they also destroyed five goose eggs at our shoreline (goose at nest below left). The same neighbor heard the noise of the five crows attacking and eating the clutch of goose eggs (below right). I suppose there is good reason that the collective noun for a crow gang is a murder of crows! Will they return next spring? If so, what will I do, if anything, to dissuade them from their evil ways?! Yes, I know, it is I who place relative value, good and evil, preference among species of birds. I may simply observe and learn from Nature’s ways.

We did raise (actually, we observed and did not participate) two successful killdeer hatches last summer. Likewise, a goose pair raised a clutch of five goslings from their shore-side nest at our place (below). This summer, we’ve watched goose families of three and six goslings cruising BBL. This morning I counted 39 geese on the lake, including the nine goslings. Despite the murder of crows, I sense that we are at least sustaining our goose population.
Some good news. We now have another four killdeer eggs at the identical location and estimate a late June hatch date. I’m completing final editing July 1; the parents are still tending the four eggs. We anticipate hatching any moment. A last minute update: the four hatched mid-morning July 2, then spent the night under Mom’s wings. We watched them venture forth to lakeside during the morning. We celebrated their success!
Goose Homicide
All of our goose problems are not attributable to marauding corvids (family of Corvidae; crows and ravens). During pairing-off season, we noticed very territorial behavior among males. We’ve observed violence when a male senses competition for his mate. The aggrieved male will attack the perceived threat-bird. The aggressor will demonstrate a neck-parallel-to-the-water paddle toward the other male, leading to a flying attack that we’ve seen result in the target being taken underwater repeatedly with a great deal of thrashing. Occasionally the take-down lasted long enough that I wondered whether the attacked male would escape. In fact, in late April, one apparently did not. We found the victim floating belly-up at our shoreline. I waited several days, anticipating that our turtles would scavenge the corpse. Warm days compelled me to place the body in a large plastic bag and transfer the corpse to our garbage can for disposal.
Heron
We have what we consider our resident great blue heron. Again, the bird’s range includes BBL, but is certainly not exclusively restricted to BBL as its domicile. A rookery (below left) is perhaps six miles distance. I have little idea of how far a heron may range from its home rookery. We see Big Blue (our name for the resident bird) often. We’ve spent many hours in total watching the bird hunt along our shore. Few things surpass the thrill of seeing a thrust or dive resulting in a catch, whether a frog or fish large enough to witness repeated stabs, de-mobilization, and maneuvering to swallow head-first. These magnificent wetland birds are voracious predators. I view them as symbolic of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. Were I an intended meal, I would see our heron as an imminent threat, a fearsome beast, a horrible monster hell-bent on ruining my day. I enjoy peace and tranquility in observing the stealthy, stilted, royal heron. The frogs, fish, and snakes of BBL do not share my enthusiasm and appreciation!
Ducks
The three eggs below remain from the ten eggs a female mallard deposited and tended in our front bed under a rosecreek abelia. The seven hatched overnight June 14. Momma had the ducklings on the pond within hours. As I write these words the afternoon of July 1, she is  cruising with just three survivors. Interestingly, she appears to be a single mother. We’ve watched other families cruise BBL. Mom leads, the ducklings paddle in close single file, and Dad brings up the rear. We have not yet seen a male with our family group. As of July 10 (yesterday), the number remains at three. I puzzled over what percentage of mallard eggs in the wild typically hatch. Is 70-percent normal? I searched the web quickly for an answer, coming up empty. Same for what proportion of hatchlings normally survive to adulthood. Did the absence of Dad result in higher mortality?
Kingfisher and Osprey
We likewise frequently see kingfishers hunting along BBL. They perch on fence posts or in shrubs and trees watching the water before diving headlong for some hapless prey. Once this past winter we watched (with great surprise) a magnificent osprey approach from the southwest a couple of hundred feet above BBL, then circle slowly three times, carefully surveying the surface below.
Water Turtles
Big Blue Lake is home to water turtles, some of which are snappers, fearless predators in their own right. Fish, frogs, snakes, snails, and mollusks are among the prey. I’ve seen individuals approaching 18-inches from beak to tip-of-tail. I am sure that the snappers are responsible for some duckling and gosling mortality. Last year, we saw a duckling family of 11 winnow to four reaching adulthood. The parade of tiny yellow fuzzballs must look quite appetizing from beneath! The snapper below is a mount at the recently-opened Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur.
Insects and Spiders
Spiders like to set insect webs along our patio roof-line. It’s a tough life for flying insects. If not a spider’s meal, insects are subject to the species of large dragonfly that frequents our backyard a little later in summer. Barn swallows hunt BBL and its immediate air-space much of the day. Many of our common birds feast on insects, worms, and other small life forms.
Fish
Largemouth bass cruise the pond, consuming frogs, fish, and perhaps even the ducklings and goslings when swallowable size. I’ve had days when nearly every cast with a spinning lure draws a strike.
Snakes
We’ve spotted grey rat snakes several times this spring. In past years we’ve had garter snakes in our beds. They, too, consume birds, bird eggs, mice, and other rodents. By mid-June we had spotted five grey rat snakes road-killed at the entrance to our development, along a stretch of road bordered by mature hardwood forest. So sad to see the mortality. Unlike many neighbors, I find the sinuous reptiles beautiful and of great value within the complex faunal ecosystem. Regardless, I am grateful to be atop the food chain!
Other Factors

I show the male house finch temporarily stunned on our patio to evidence that not all dangers are biological. The finch flew into one of our back windows. He soon recovered and departed. Again, a tough life amidst BBL’s peace and tranquility.

Mid Twentieth Century author, conservationist, and naturalist-philosopher Aldo Leopold observed, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Harsh as it may seem, life along BBL appears to be right. The ecosystem is complex, integrated, and I believe stable. I offer another Leopold quote as I think about the crows and how I might deal with them next spring, “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” Whether cog or wheel, the crows are integral to our functioning ecosystem. I will likely accept them as too important for me to pass judgement and issue a sentence.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Nature is objective, refusing to pass judgement or assign relative worth.
  2. Follow the rule of intelligent tinkering
  3. Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.
  4. There is always a flip side to Nature’s apparent peace, serenity, and tranquility. 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Late April Wildflowers at Oak Mountain State Park

I made my first visit to Oak Mountain State Park (20 miles south of Birmingham) in late April. See my June 6, 2019 Post on my general impressions from Oak Mountain: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/17/late-spring-at-oak-mountain-state-park/ I’m sure I will visit again in the fall. A single point in time does not do justice to the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of our State Parks or any place in Nature. For this Post I will focus on the flowering spectacle that is spring in central Alabama.

Spring Ephemerals

Because I have squeezed so many destinations (and subsequent Blog Posts) into my spring 2019 wanderings, I will not burden the reader with lots of text, electing instead to run through the many spring ephemerals I encountered at Oak Mountain State Park April 25-26, 2019. An absolute wildflower enthusiast’s delight!

Four-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Ragwort (Senecio anonymous):

Lance-leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). I’ve noted in previous Posts that we are in Good Hands with our Alabama State Park Naturalists. That’s OMSP Naturalist Lauren Muncher’s hand assisting below!

Butterweed (Senecio glabellus):

Two-flowered Cynthia (Krigia biflora):

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens). I’ve known this plant my entire professional life, yet there is so much I do not know or remember. Occasionally I’m well-served to learn more. Here’s a paragraph from a USDA Forest Service online article:

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. The dark-green, evergreen leaves are simple, opposite, ovate, with a pale yellow midrib, are ½ inch across, with a short stalk. In late spring, a pair of white flowers (with a single calyx) appears. Each small, fragrant flower has four brilliant white petals that are pubescent and unite into a funnel-shaped tube that is also fringed with hairs. The pair of flowers occur in two forms (dimorphous). In the first form the pistil is short and the stamens are long; in the second form the pistil is long and the stamens are short. This structure prevents each flower from fertilizing itself. Both flowers must be pollinated to obtain a single scarlet berry. Each berry is the result of the fusion of each ovary of the pollinated pair of white flowers. As such, each berry has two bright red spots on its surface.

Wow, an amazing story rich with detail… and peculiarities. A single berry from two flowers! Leonardo da Vinci offered an apt observation:

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

Carolina Climbing Milkweed (Matalea decipiens) is one I had not previously encountered (or remembered). I love the deep color, the velvety leaf, and the royal appearance. I am now a big fan!

VA Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana):

Spiny Thistle (Cirsium carolinianum) is a plant commonly referred to as a weed, often growing on disturbed sites. I find it delightful with its large spiky blossom. I refuse to diminish its beauty by calling it a weed — I consider this beauty a valid and distinguished spring wildflower!

Eastern White Beardtongue (Penstemon pallidus):

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) has been among my favorites for decades. It flourished in the Central Appalachians where I first wandered the ridge and valley region. Whether a full plant in flower (below left) or an individual cluster (right) its magic is incomparable.

In some ways I’m sad to be issuing this Post mid-summer. I won’t have another chance to experience the wonderful spring blooms again for some eight months, yet anticipation is thrill and reward in itself. To every thing there is a season… and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Yet I take solace from John Muir’s wisdom: “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  • Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages; whether Gulf State’s coastal richness or Oak Mountain in the backyard of our state’s largest city.
  • Enter our rich forests with eyes wide open for seasonal blessings and gifts.
  • Spring ephemeral wildflowers and our ubiquitous flowering shrubs reveal priceless beauty.

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!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

 

 

 

Spring Day Color at DeSoto State Park in Northeastern Alabama

This is my fourth Great Blue Heron Blog Post from my mid-April visit to DeSoto State Park. See my earlier Posts describing the Magic of Water’s Thunder at DeSoto State Park: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/05/15/the-magic-of-waters-thunder-at-desoto-state-park/ and DeSoto’s Sandstone Glades: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/05/sandstone-glades-at-desoto-state-park/ and Special Features at DeSoto: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/24/special-features-at-desoto-state-park-in-northeastern-alabama/. I stayed at the Park April 18-20; rain fell in torrents the night of the 18th, and light rain and drizzle persisted until I departed mid-day on the 20th. Although I snapped this photo on a prior visit and used it in a previous DeSoto Post, it seemed fitting to repeat it!

The world is alive with the sound of music — flowing and dripping water! And, the woods abound with the hues and shades of spring!

Spring Ephemerals

Because I have squeezed so many destinations (and subsequent Blog Posts) into my spring 2019 wanderings, I will not burden the reader with lots of text, electing instead to run through the many spring ephemerals I encountered at DeSoto State Park April 18-20, 2019. An absolute wildflower enthusiast’s delight!

Appalachia Milkwort (Polygala nana) and Downy Phlox (Phlox pilosa), below left and right, respectively. Note the water droplets on many of these floral photos, bearing testament to the persistent drizzle and dripping.

Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata) basal leaves and flower stalk. All three (above and below) species grew along a utility right-of-way (see lower right).

Four Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia) and most every other photo I captured depict interior forest species.

Shuttlesworth Ginger (Hexastylis shuttlesworthii) is a new find for me. I admit to being a sentimental sucker for any jug-like flower!

 

 

 

 

Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) and Shrub Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), below left and right, respectively. Both are dainty and delicate, especially appealing and beckoning in the low-light sodden understory. I’ve said in prior Posts that we are in Good Hands when guided by our Alabama State Parks Naturalists. That’s DeSoto Naturalist Brittney Hughes’ hand — she led me through a full day of plant discovery and identification. I am grateful.

Deerberry (vaccinium stamineum) and Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta), below left and right, respectively.

Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda) and Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).

Catesby’s Trillium (Trillium catesbaei).

Flowering Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

We found far more than spring ephemerals. We selected a perfect time to be afoot at DeSoto to achieve peak (and peek!) discovery; well, actually Brittney recommended the mid-April time frame. Again, rather than weigh you down with prose, let’s review a portfolio of what the Park presented to us and our wet feet.

Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus).

Catawba Rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense), which in my humble opinions is among the season’s most precious gifts!

Mountain azalea (Rhododendron canescensis) is another that rises to the level of woodland exultation!

Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), another flower of exquisite beauty in the wet and cloud-deepened forest light.

I could not have planned for better weather, highlighting the beauty and emphasizing the springtime palette.

Non-Flowering Plant Delights

Allow me now to switch to our non-flowering jewels, a realm about which I know far too little. Mosses and lichens offer a rich mosaic in the Park’s sandstone glades.

I love seeing jelly fungi when they are moisture-gorged. Wikipedia offers some reminder to me of how little I know: “Jelly fungi are a paraphyletic group of several heterobasidiomycete fungal orders from different classes of the subphylum Agaricomycotina. There is so VERY much I do not know. Reminds me of an old Pennsylvania Dutch saying, “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.” And of lyrics from some old song I recall, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”

Even the whites seemed more intense, whether as complement to the freckled upper surface or the gilled underside.

The resurrection fern stood in moistened resplendence… at peak vitality following the deluge.

Twig-festooning bearded lichen added its own element of glory.

Google dictionary describes a spleenwort as “a small fern that grows in rosettes on rocks and walls, typically with rounded or triangular lobes on a slender stem and formerly used as a remedy for disorders of the spleen.” Prior to touring DeSoto with Naturalist Brittney Hughes, I would have identified this rosette as an unknown (to me) fern. Now, I will accept it as a spleenwort.

Dead and down woody debris supports rich life… life whose principal function is to return the dead cellulose and lignin to the soil. It’s ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Forget about the life cycle. Instead, it’s the life and death cycle. The lower left photo shows two kinds of lichens, algae, and at least two species of fungal fruiting bodies. Below right life is also robust.

 

 

 

 

 

So, too, on the elevated downed woody debris below. Same roles… different species. Similar function; the same ultimate purpose and function.

A Trail Marker and Tree Bark Route Guide

At first glance, I see below just a loblolly pine with trail marker. But look a little more closely. Loblolly bark grows as flat plates, breaking into fissures as the tree expands in circumference. Life, as this sodden dark bark evidences, flourishes in the furrows. Algae expresses vividly under these moisture-saturated conditions. I’ve looked since at dry-barked loblolly. The algae is hidden from immediate view. This one tells the tale once more that Nature tolerates no vacuums. And reminds me of the magic, beauty, wonder, awe that lie hidden in plain sight. I’m also reminded that if we limit our Nature excursions to “good” weather, the exceptional may escape our notice.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  • Our Alabama State Parks are jewels for the ages; whether Gulf State’s coastal richness or a water-logged day on Sand Mountain at DeSoto.
  • Don’t deny yourself the gifts afforded by what we may call unpleasant weather.
  • Spring ephemeral wildflowers reveal priceless beauty, but don’t ignore the magic of ubiquitous non-flowering plants.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

Alabama State Parks Foundation

I’ll remind you that I serve on the Foundation Board, in part because of my love of Nature and in recognition for my writing many prior Posts about visiting and experiencing the Parks. I urge you to take a look at the Foundation website and consider ways you might help steward these magical places: https://asparksfoundation.org/ Perhaps you might think about supporting the Parks System education and interpretation imperative: https://asparksfoundation.org/give-today#a444d6c6-371b-47a2-97da-dd15a5b9da76

 

Mid-April Return to the Central Appalachians

Mid-April 2019 we returned (with our two Alabama grandsons accompanying us) to our Central Appalachian roots to help honor and pay tribute to my first Forestry Professor, and to this day mentor and hero, Dr. Glenn O. Workman, at Cumberland, MD’s Allegany College of Maryland. We also visited Rocky Gap State Park just east of Cumberland. I hiked heartily alone two early mornings along the old Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal towpath, and we visited our son and his family north of Pittsburgh. I try to immerse myself in Nature wherever I go. Here are some sights (photos), reflections, and observations of Nature from these several mid-Appalachian excursion stops.

Rocky Gap State Park

I’m the old guy standing at the Rocky Gap Canyon Overlook below with Jack (11) and Sam (5). I had stood there more than fifty years ago while wandering the trails as a high-schooler, an innocent time when I already loved the outdoors, yet had no idea my passion would only deepen as life progressed. I can’t recall the wonder I felt in the 1960s, only that I was at some level impressed, moved, and in love with Nature. I can only hope that Jack and Sam inhaled a bit of that same contagion!

The view to the north across Rocky Gap Lake extends the ridge into Pennsylvania. At some level, more felt and sensed than I can explain, this land, its forests, the terrain draw me in. I am home. It’s in my soul… my heart, body, head, and spirit. Does the salmon detect its headwater spawning home with signals as subtle and implied? Are the signals I receive more tangible (visual, olfactory, magnetic, auditory) than I can imagine? Or does simply knowing I am there trigger pheromones, emotions, blood pressure, memories, sensations that are timeless and integrated? What’s first–knowing I am there generating deep nostalgia–or signals informing me I am home and thus the nostalgia welcoming me home? My eyes well with emotion when Nature pulls me into her home-embrace.

At the trailhead — two young trailblazers whose enthusiasm shows on their faces. I pray that they retain that excitement for Nature as they trek the decades yet to come, the trails yet to be explored.

Rocky Gap State Park, like so many of Alabama’s, is a destination outdoor adventure. I longed for much more time for getting reacquainted than we had available.

Cumberland, Maryland and C&O Canal

Cumberland, Maryland’s Queen City, sits at the confluence of Wills Creek and the North Branch of the Potomac River. This view is upstream, to the northwest. The Potomac turns left above the Blue Bridge; Wills Creek has entered through the 1,000-foot Narrows (see the gap). As a kid I pondered how the creek had burst through a thousand vertical feet of mountain. I eventually learned that the creek performed its rock-cutting concurrent with incremental, persistent, and eons-long orogeny and erosion… one grain of sand at a time. The photo-point below is at the western terminus of the 184.5-mile C&O Canal.

Six hundred-eighty vertical feet below, the eastern terminus is at Georgetown in Washington D.C. Both mornings while in Cumberland, I enjoyed hiking downstream a mile-and-a-half and returning. This photo sparks memory of two memorable hikes with Dad when I was Jack’s current age (five-and-a-half decades ago). Mom had dropped us very near this western terminus (photo below looking downstream from about the same point as above). We carried backpacks containing sandwiches and snacks, and with our canteens fastened to our belts. Our destination: Oldtown, Maryland, 18-miles east on the towpath. I remember completing the trek exhausted by the effort and with blistered feet. Dad carried my pack the final few miles. I’m guessing that we may have taken nine hours (including breaks) to cover the distance. Mom met us there.

The ridge to the right of the river is Knobbly Mountain. That side of the river is West Virginia. The few visible houses are in Ridgely, where Dad grew up and where his parents then lived. On another day about the same period of time, we parked at my grandparents’ home to hike Knobbly to the crest of that third knob, then returned. We ate lunch at a field overlooking the river valley, which seemed far below us. For both hikes my visual recall is of a somewhat pudgy pre-teen gamely keeping up with a robust, good-looking, upper-thirties Pacific-theater WWII veteran. Oh, what would I give to retrace those steps with Dad today! Not as an adolescent, but as the 68-year-old man I am today.  As then, Dad would likely patiently tolerate my slower pace. My eyes mist just to imagine. I remind myself that he lives in me… as does the young woman who dropped us off along the towpath and nine hours later retrieved us 18-miles to the east.

Shifting gears from sentiment to environmental awareness, from this same observation point (above) when I was Jack’s age, the air would have carried the odor of raw sewage. Many upstream communities simply discharged waste into America’s streams, creeks, and rivers. The solution to pollution was dilution! The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 had little impact on such Appalachian waterways. The 1972 amendments creating the Federal Clean Water Act still lay ten years ahead. We fished along the Potomac in Cumberland, catching only catfish, suckers, and carp, pollution-tolerant “trash” species. No game species then. Today, these waters are fishable and swimable, evidencing that we humans are indeed capable of positive action with respect to our environment and our need and obligation to practice responsible Earth stewardship.

The Canal, intended eventually to link commerce from the Atlantic tidewaters to the Ohio River, opened in 1831, and operated until a catastrophic Potomac River flood in 1924. By then, the competing railroads had already long before crossed the Alleghenies. The Canal never reached beyond Cumberland. The flood provided the final nail in the canal’s economic obsolescence. Although built nearly 190 years ago, the stone locks stand strong today (below left). Wildness is inexorably reclaiming the C&O. Scenes like the ones below are common from Cumberland to Georgetown. I last biked the canal’s entire length nearly 30 years ago, some 20 years after its 1971 designation as a National Historic Park. I’ve also biked the 150-mile Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail from Cumberland’s C&O Canal western terminus to Pittsburgh, PA. The GAP is a rails-to-trail on the old Western Maryland rail bed completed in 1912. That bed crosses the eastern continental divide at rough 2,400′.

Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) brightened the towpath border during my two morning hikes.

This two-foot diameter black locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia) stands between the towpath and what would have been the canal water. The tree obviously sprouted following the 1924 operations cessation. In fact, for much of the 184.5-mile distance the tow-side of the path supports large trees of diverse species.

Not all species are native. This east Asian invasive is Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), an herbaceous perennial plant.

Nature is persistent, patient, self-healing, and tolerates no vacuum. Time is on her side. What are a few centuries to a Potomac River tributary that finds confluence with the river through a 1,000-foot canyon dubbed The Narrows?

Tennis Court Dedication to Doc at ACM

I dedicated my second book, Nature-Inspired Learning an Leading, to Dr. Glenn O. Workman, who established the forestry program at ACM, recruiting me to the program’s first incoming class. He also coached tennis there. He touched many lives through both teaching and coaching. We were in Cumberland April 2019 for the ceremony dedicating (and naming) the new tennis complex to Doc. That’s him below in sports coat and white shirt.

I learned so much more from Doc about life, living, and Nature than what I garnered from Dendrology and Systematic Botany.

He is a mentor for the ages… for now fifty years of my life! I am grateful, and shall always be.

What the Future Means to Me

I am not the future. I’ve been one with Nature for nearly 25,000 days on this fine Earth. Far fewer remain to me. We visited Cranberry Township’s (20 miles north of Pittsburgh where our son and his family reside) Graham Park. The Park, within walking distance of our son’s residence, occupies a linear streamside zone and wetlands along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Graham’s eagle center piece monument symbolizes Nature, wildness, community, freedom, and country. All of that… and the Park offers great playground gear, a first rate sports complex, creeks, ponds, fens, and hiking trails!

We managed to gather all five of our grandchildren with us for a first-time photograph. Spiraling down in reverse ‘S’ shape: me; Jack (11, AL); Mallory (PA, 8); Sam (5, AL); Judy; Nathan (6, PA); and Hannah (11, PA). They are the future… our direct lineage, carrying us far beyond our own journey, and eventually beyond their own. They are the reason I spread the gospel of informed and responsible Earth stewardship.

I want them to pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship. To see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and understand more clearly their Earth home.

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

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  • Home is a special place for those of us who are Nature enthusiasts, whether its where we live now or our birth region.
  • Our roots and life experiences define us. Wherever we are in Nature, sink roots deeply to gather the richness and fullness that nourish us.
  • Remember that those we love, admire, and cherish, whether family or mentors, enrich us.
  • Plant seeds each day to assure a brighter tomorrow.

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!