Eleven Time Zones Apart, Yet Oh So Familiar!

I will always cherish the opportunity afforded to me by an August 2019 visit and tour of National Parks in Kazakhstan by Kimep University in Almaty: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/09/10/three-national-parks-in-kazakhstan-an-august-immersion/

Although eleven times zones to the east of my Central Time USA location, southeastern Kazakhstan (latitude the same as Syracuse, NY) struck me as remarkably similar to what I’m accustomed here in the eastern US. I viewed the ecological commonalities as a reminder that regardless of location, we share a Common Home…our One Earth, isolated by nearly unfathomable time and distance. Eleven time zones is nothing when contrasted to our solar system’s location 25,000 light years from the center of our home galaxy!

Oh So Familiar!

Cultural consistencies presented themselves as well. I wonder whether civilizations elsewhere (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) have embraced the Golden Arches, which stand as a common thread connecting us Americans to our friends in Almaty, KZ. No breakfast served, so we enjoyed a hamburger and fries before departing one morning for our National Parks exploration.

 

And my hotel residence in Almaty carried a banner-name in English. Virtually the entire staff spoke English quite well. Only I was the pitiful global traveler who spoke only a single language.

 

Few things are more important to humanity, whether in America or Kazakhstan, than our culture and heritage. En route Saturday morning to Issyk Lake National Park, we stopped by the State Historical Cultural Reserve-Museum of Issyk. From the website: The museum is a complex of 80 Saks burial mounds (kurgans), the residence of the Saka rulers “Rakhat” and ancient city “Oricti.” One of the world-famous founding, discovered in 1970, is a burial of Golden Man – a skeleton, warrior’s equipment, and assorted funerary goods, including 4,000 gold ornaments, reflecting the sacred meaning of Saks mythology.

The main function of the museum is organization of research, cultural, educational and tourist activities. There are four exhibition halls: History and Cultural of the Saks, The Golden Man, The Archaeology of Kazakhstan and The Secrets of the Golden Man. We stopped too early to enter the museum (below left) or hike to any of the 80 mounds.

 

 

So much unites us, including the way we tie ourselves to culture, history, and our environment. We cannot trek into the future unless we recognize and preserve the richness of antiquity. The lower left mound lies within 100 yards of the fence. The signage evidences the importance and power of our link to the past.

 

Kazakhstan: From Culture and History to Ecology

So, culture and history connect us to the past and forge a bond to what lies ahead. Yet for me, my primary focus sought the ecologic connections. I identified the specimens below as members of the thistle group, common across the eastern half of the US. The US Forest Service reports that 58 species of the genus Cirsium are native to the US. I suppose it’s not surprising to find thistle in Kazakhstan. I snapped the photograph below left at a lower and drier elevation, where it had already reached senescence. The lower right specimen was still flourishing at a higher and better-watered elevation.

 

We encountered what I identified as Picea schrenkiana, known as Schrenk’s spruce or Asian spruce, native to the Tian Shan mountains of central Asia. At least six species of spruce (genus Picea) are native to the contiguous lower 48 states. Red spruce (Picea rubens) grows closest to Alabama in the high elevations of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The three photographs below capture Asian spruce trees and forests that were ubiquitous in the high country of both Lake Issyk and Kolsai Lakes National Parks, which we visited during my stay in Kazakhstan.

 

Lush spruce forest blanketed the steep hills in both locations.

 

Along the shore at Lake Issyk, this birch closely resembles our northeastern US white or paper birch (Betula papyifera). I offer a somewhat informed stab at identification: Betula tianshanica, whose species name identifies the mountain range (Tian Shan, the Mountains of Heaven) within which both parks are located.

 

I will certainly disappoint the reader with this photo of a flowering vine in full, exotic bloom at Kolsai Lakes. The flower is familiar, yet I could not even approximate an identity. Reminds me a bit of our native fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus). Sorry, but that is the best I can offer. Note the lush Asian spruce forest on the hillside beyond.

 

Along the streets of Almaty I spotted this planted Norway maple (Acer platanoides). It appeared to be quite content with its location. Although common in the US, this ornamental is native to Europe and western Asia and Russia, despite its common name as a “Norway” maple! How was I to know that “Norway” maple is native to Kazakhstan!?

 

Also along the streets of Almaty I spotted what looked to be staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). I suppose that Kazakhstan has native species of the same genus.

 

And I found Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), native to Eurasia, and planted extensively in the eastern US as an ornamental and as a timber tree on tens of thousands of acres during CCC days (1930s) and the Soil Bank conservation program of the late 1950s and early 60s. It strikes me as odd that a forester from the eastern US should be surprised to see a species with which he is intimately familiar in the States appearing in its native Kazakhstan! We occupy a small planet located on an outer spiral arm of a rather unspectacular galaxy, one of some two trillion such massive star clusters. Our planet is but a mote of dust… one supporting life for 2-3 billion years. How could we not expect life across our home planet to be similar within its temperate northern hemisphere? Continental borders and ocean buffers are becoming less and less isolating as we trend increasingly to more and faster means of global transportation. Those Scots pine really get around! Who would know that dandelion isn’t a North American native!

 

Kazakhstan and USA: Cultural Constants

Returning from Kolsai Lakes National Park we stopped for our evening meal at a village bazaar, which differed little in spirit from a rural community festival anywhere across the US. Farmers selling local produce under a street-side canopy (below left). Local meats and other delights at a vendor’s open grill (below right)… in this case lamb, duck, and chicken kabobs. Delicious!

 

Like Salt Lake City or Denver, Almaty sits at the base of craggy mountains (below left)… the Tian Shan Mountains, which just south of the city rise to ~13,000 feet (lower right; file photo from the internet and not mine). Spectacular natural scenery knows no geographic, cultural, political, or language bounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shymbulak ski resort is a very short bus ride from where I stayed in Almaty. Like so many US ski resorts, Shymbulak welcomes summer visitors to experience the mountains, enjoy the cooler air, and taste of the lofty heights. Kimep University’s Dr. Arai Kuderbayeva ushered me to the slope, accompanied me on the gondola, and shared a thundershower’s rain, breeze, and rumbles. Aside from signage, we could have been at Wyoming’s Snow King Resort.

 

On our descent we shared a gondola with a Kazakh family. I had not considered that I stood apart from any other person at the resort. However, this sixth-grader sat mesmerized by the American.  I apparently did not blend in nearly as well as I imagined! She asked me shyly in English, “Are you American?” Arai kindly translated beyond the young lady’s initial query. Such a delight to make acquaintance with one person who found me interesting!

 

My hotel offered another universal amenity that I heartily embraced after the ski slope as I prepared for the next afternoon’s workshop. A happy-hour outdoor beer garden offering draft beer and fresh popcorn — a special treat anywhere on Earth!

 

And the joy of seeing an old friend! Dr. Tim Barnett, my Kimep University host, arranged for my visit, warmly welcomed me, and enabled me to immerse deeply in the Nature, culture, and history of southeastern Kazakhstan. Tim and I worked together at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. We share a tiny planet…our One Earth…whether in Central Asia or the southeastern USA
  2. Eleven time zones notwithstanding, we are far more alike than different… in geography, Nature, and culture
  3. Our Common Home draws us together in shared obligation to practice informed and responsible Earth stewardship

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

August Revelations at DeSoto State Park

My late August trek at DeSoto State Park enlightened and rewarded me with more than just a set of April-to-August ecological comparisons: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/09/15/desoto-state-park-april-and-august-2019/. I offer in this subsequent Post my observations and reflections on non-flowering plants, the native black birch’s propensity to cling like hell to its rock, some great sandstone glades late summer flowering gems, and the early signs of summer stepping gently aside for autumn even in late August.

 

August Non-Flowering Plants

The following photographs simply capture what struck my eye and offered captivating images in August. The cluster of little brown mushrooms (sorry I can do no better with identifying them) exploding to life on an otherwise barren-looking sand flat near a stream under full forest cover. And fungal and lichen life stacked vertically on a standing dead hickory. I’ve said often that Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe pay no attention to scale. Whether its the planet-level glory of Earth captured by a lunar orbiter, or these up-close views of life exploiting a niche in a late-summer southern hardwood forest, majesty is within reach and sight. Nature’s coffee table style book comes in both macro- and micro-print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what a rich palette she chooses. I’ve said before that I prefer paintings that look like photographs… and photos that can be mistaken for paintings. The brown and beige-fringed shelf fungus among lichens, hanging above balls of moss, could be either.

 

Myriad lichens fashion this aerial Eden on a standing dead birch bole. Once again, the prior night’s rain enlivened this diverse community.

 

Although I could not identify the host with certainty, this long down and dead Virginia pine (I think) sported a gorgeous coat of crustose lichen. The old ashes to ashes dust to dust is always at play in Nature. Recycling is the ultimate guarantor of life.

 

Cling Like Hell to Your Rock

I frequently quote Robert Service’s Security when I’m on the stump (the figurative speaking stump) talking about leadership and lessons from Nature. His poem chronicles the travails of a limpet (a crustacean filter-feeder of the intertidal zone that holds tight to rock surfaces) who tires of her fate as a clinger. She bemoans her lot, saying “It isn’t I who clings to the rock, it’s the rock that clings to me.” The sea tells the limpet of a beautiful sandy beach, saying to the limpet, “Set off tonight when the moon is bright, and I’ll swing you there on my tide.” She does as the sea offers and finds herself in deep trouble, unable to survive on the sandy beach:

“She cried till she roused a taxi-crab
Who gladly gave her a ride;
But I grieve to say in his crabby way
He insisted she sit inside. . . .
So if of the limpet breed ye be,
Beware life’s brutal shock;
Don’t take the chance of the changing sea,
But – cling like hell to your rock”

Security is a parable suggesting to me the imperative that each of us embrace a set of core vales, tenets, principles, and ethics that guide us through life and living. I thought of Service’s Nature-bound and derived wisdom when I walked DeSoto’s forests, spotting the ubiquitous black birch, a species that often finds seedling anchorage upon the sandstone boulders, germinating on the rocks’ elevated surface and then sending roots to exploit true mineral soil below. The lower left birch appears as though it walked two-legged, pausing to half-lean and half-sit on the ledge, catching a well-deserved break. I knew the feeling as I trekked water-logged that August morning! Its mossy thigh and the moss-bedecked hummock beyond merited a closeup (below right).

 

The two birch trees below did more than rest against their boulders. They are secured there for the long haul!

 

Flowering Sandstone Glade Plants

This August glade-flower beauty is a species of Liatris, know commonly as blazing star, offering a nice splash of lavender to the cloud-darkened day.

 

 

 

Nuttall’s rayless goldenrod (Bigelowia nuttallii) graced the glades, standing tall and stunning against the backdrop of summer drawing to a close. I had not previously seen (or do not recall seeing) this species. DeSoto Naturalist Brittney Hughes provided an immediate i.d. via email. She reminded me, too, of the tremendous reference available online through a partnership of the Alabama Herbarium Consortium and The University of West Alabama: Alabama Plant Atlas at http://www.floraofalabama.org/

 

Brittney also came through with another flowering glade inhabitant identification: Sandstone tickseed (Coreopsis pulchra). Another common name, suggesting its restricted home range, is Lookout Mountain Tickseed. We in Alabama are blessed with extraordinary diversity of micro-habitats and the resultant vegetation that has specific site requirements.

 

Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) likewise seemed at home on the glade. According to the US Forest Service, This cactus grows in open, dry areas, often on calcareous rock or thin soils. It can be found in or on fencerows, roadsides, rocky glades, rock outcrops, cliffs, old quarries, dunes, and prairie. The roots need to be dry during winter to prevent rot, so well drained sites are necessary. In contrast to the tickseed’s restricted range, the prickly pear grows from Montana to Florida and from New Mexico into Ontario. An interesting set of facts from the same USFS website: This species is a typical cactus with a photosynthetic stem that acts as a leaf. This stem also stores water. Because of special antifreeze chemicals in its cells, it can survive the freezing temperatures of the northern and middle states. So much to learn about diverse life within our State Parks.

 

I can only imagine what I could learn from even a monthly down-on-my-knees visit to DeSoto’s sandstone glades over the course of a full annual cycle! I would not be surprised to learn that somewhere in the scientific literature there is such a calendar-year chronicle of life on our sandstone glades.

 

Fall’s Early Advance

As I commented in the prior DeSoto Park Post, I’ve lived elsewhere (up north!) where fall barges into summer’s final parties, guns blazing, winds whipping, and northerlies portending first frosts and freezes, sleet and freezing rain, and howling blizzards. Leaves turn with glory because the trees over the sweep of time have learned what’s coming… and soon. Here in the south, I contend, summer just tires of heat, late summer drought, and shortening days. Summer simply gives up and wears out, retreats, backing out the door, refusing to confront autumn with any resistance.

Near the lodge where I stayed, I found Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) in seed, finished for the season, ready to sow their seed and rest before the still weeks-away frosts.

 

After an unusually wet spring and early summer, little rain had fallen since late June. Reduced soil moisture, and eons of adapting to frequent late season dry spells, triggered some tree species to begin shutting down, dropping leaves rather than engaging in net negative production. Evolution favors action that conserves energy and adds value. The forest had engaged productively for at least four months. Its trees had performed as designed.

 

This 30+ inch yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), even with deep roots along a perennially moist drainage-way, had begun to let go, dropping a few deliciously yellow leaves along the trail.

 

 

 

I had not seen this wonderful signage on previous DeSoto wanderings. I could not resist capturing its apt message.

 

May your own treks through Nature gather only photos and memories… and may your steps be light!

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Autumn in the South seldom rushes; summer slowly fades, yielding as much to heat and seasonal drought as it does to impending cold.
  2. Each season in life and every place in Nature offers special treats and predictable, yet sometimes surprising, nuances.
  3. Beauty, magic, wonder, and awe await every venture into Nature — be prepared to discover what always lies hidden within!

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature

I’ve now published some 180 of these Great Blue Heron Blog Posts on Nature-Inspired Life and Living: http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/

Over the course of the nearly three years represented I’ve maintained fidelity to the original theme, tenets, principles, and purpose, which I’ve developed far more comprehensively in my three books:

  • Nature Based Leadership: Lessons for Living, Learning, Serving, and Leading (2016)
  • Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading: Revealing and Applying Nature’s Wisdom (2017)
  • Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit)

During the same period, for the first time in my life, I’ve distilled my Nature-rooted philosophy, beliefs, and practice to my own Mission Statement: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

And a resultant 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.

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

The three book subtitles synthesize the elements incorporated in my Mission and Vision. In fact, as I think about the Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits (WS&SS) subtitle, I am struck that each of my Blog Posts is, in fact, a Story of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature! My entire life is a several volume set of chapters, each an episode of such passion for place and everyday Nature. How perfectly fitting that I refocus my professional career, after serving the Mission of a series of employer organizations (a Fortune-500 company and nine universities), to my own ultimate Mission.

I’m a shameless evangelist for informed and responsible Earth stewardship. If you are reading these words, I know you share my deep passion. I encourage you to obtain a copy of WS&SS. Dr. Wilhoit and I describe our joint effort as 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. I know you will enjoy our tales… and find inspiration for this world of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe!

 

Secure a copy from your favorite local independent bookseller or online at IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

Or from Amazon, LifeRich, or most any online book source.

My two previous books likewise comprise collections of Nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth. Both are available at Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=nature+based+leadership and https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=nature-inspired+learning+and+leading

 

 

Contact me to learn more about what I can bring to your organization or business through speaking (or niche consulting) related to my mission and vision: steve@stevejonesgbh.com.

I draw from a rich lifetime of related education, leadership, avocation, and practice. Here’s just a quick photo portfolio from the past 15 years:

 

On the Road for Nature-Inspired Life and Living

I am blessed to have experienced life and Nature across 13 interstate moves, 12-year employment with a Fortune-500 paper and allied products manufacturing company, nine universities, chairing the governing Board of The University of the Arctic, and diverse international travel. Please find below a brief portfolio of my somewhat recent immersions in Nature.

August 2019 half-day Academic Leadership Workshop with executive team at Kimep University in Almaty, Kazakhstan

 

Kolsai Lakes National Park in Kazakhstan

 

Charyn Canyon National Park in Kazakhstan

 

Old Faithful 2019

 

With two of our grandkids at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland 2018

 

Commencement Address at Fairmont State University in West Virginia 2018

 

Fall 2017 at base of large yellow poplar at a West Virginia State Park

 

After delivering keynote address to 2018 Environmental Educators Association of Alabama annual meeting, Cheaha State Park

 

With Sam the Pelican at Alabama’s Gulf State Park 2019

 

Alabama’s Gulf State Park 2019

 

Rovaniemi, Finland 2006 after chairing the UArctic Council during the International Polar Year; north of the Arctic Circle

 

March 2007 snowshoeing on the Nenana River near Denali National Park at 37-degrees below zero

 

Cypress swamp 2016 at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge with two of our five grandkids

 

Aborted Mount Washington summit attempt January 2015; I’m the guy to the far left

 

That morning before the attempted ascent

 

McConnell’s Mill State Park in Pennsylvania with three grandkids and our son

 

Great blue heron photo in my Fairmont State University office 2017

 

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge 2016

 

At 3,000-feet mid-June 2012 Mount Verstovia, Sitka, Alaska

 

Mid-June 2012 bay-side at Sitka

 

Valley Falls State Park West Virginia in August 2017

 

Monte Sano State Park Alabama 2018

 

National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Kansas 2018, when I key-noted the annual meeting of the Kansas Natural Resource Professionals

 

Enjoying Nature from the skies above northern West Virginia 2017

 

Early autumn at Dolly Sods Wilderness at 4,000-feet in north-central West Virginia

 

 

My Great Blue Heron logo

 

My three books on display — obtain the full set!

 

The thrill of opening my first shipment of Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

I bring my lifetime passion for Nature, a 40-year career, a BS in forestry and a PhD in applied ecology, 13 interstate moves, international travel, and still-increasing Nature enthusiasm to my speaking and writing. May Nature Inspire Your Life!

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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!

Beyond Yellowstone: Badlands, Devils Tower, and Mount Rushmore

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

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

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

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

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

Badlands National Park

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

An apt moniker for this feature: Yellow Mounds!

 

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

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

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

 

Devils Tower National Monument

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

 

Allow me to borrow from a National Geographic website:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Interpretive signage describes the species’ critical fire ecology.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Understanding the Science underlying Nature’s attractions amplifies enjoyment, appreciation, and inspiration.
  2. Seeing Nature deeply sows and nurtures the seeds for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.
  3. Nature is spatial (and special) — connect viscerally to The Land wherever you are. Such union of personal passion to place will stir your heart, body, mind, spirit, and soul.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

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

 

 

 

DeSoto State Park: April and August 2019

Nothing in Nature is Static

Beginning July 12, I embarked upon a 12-day five-state tour of National Parks, and an eight-day, three-National Parks tour of southeastern Kazakhstan. Three days after returning to Madison, Alabama I met with ten Alabama State Parks Naturalists, assistant Naturalists, and staff at DeSoto State Park. The next morning I ventured forth on several trails that I had hiked most recently in mid-April, the morning after three inches of rain during a period when spring rains had already been ample: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/05/15/the-magic-of-waters-thunder-at-desoto-state-park/

We had discussed the prior evening that some visitors assume that a single visit is sufficient for them to “know” a particular Park and its environs. Such is not the case. Nothing in Nature is static… not for a day, a week, a month, a season, a year, a decade. The rate of perceptible change increases exponentially with extended time. Aldo Leopold wrote exquisitely of the seasonal fluxes on his Wisconsin farm (A Sand County Almanac, 1949). Many other environmental writers have done same, although not exceeding Leopold’s prose. I don’t intend to challenge Leopold’s nearly-lyrical supremacy, yet I do dare to demonstrate with text and photos the sweeping differences between my April 18-20 visit to DeSoto and my August 27 trek. On both hikes my boots grew soggy, my clothes saturated, and camera lens foggy. The big difference was that very little rain had fallen at DeSoto since the first of July. The half-inch that had fallen the night before and continued occasionally that morning had wet the vegetation and trail surface without generating surface flow.

Indian Falls ran full in April; nothing flowed over the foreground ledge in August. Water roaring versus near-silence except for canopy drip. Light levels the same.

 

Above Indian falls the August stream bed carried only the early leaf-drop promise of fall and its autumn rains. Trees here in the south are accustomed to late summer and early fall droughts. They don’t need cool nights and shortened days to trigger leaf senescence, abscission layer forming, and leaf-drop. The April canopy had not yet fully developed; August crowns had already begun to thin.

 

Even Lodge Falls carried good discharge in April. Not a drop beyond rain-dampened bed-stones in August.

 

Lost Falls pounded in April; a trickle dripped over the ledge in August. Who says a single visit reveals a Park, much less the hundreds of nooks and crannies within!

 

Azalea Cascade sits at the end of a several-hundred yard boardwalk through a tunnel of mature hardwood forest. April gifted me with a clear-water pool amidst the boulders, fed by the cascade tumbling from above. August offered bare rock with just a bit of pooled water… a refuge for minnows, crawdads, salamanders, and frogs.

 

Sandstone Glades

I wrote at length about the very special sandstone glades (from my April visit) in this June 5, 2019 Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/06/05/sandstone-glades-at-desoto-state-park/ The April glades literally flowed with the prior night’s rain (below left), the shallow bedrock generally blocking percolation and forcing surface flow. The August glades (below right) show wet rock, faded vegetation, and an absence of lush growth.

 

Again, the lower left photo demonstrates surface water and rich greens; the lower right rock surface carries a burden of shed maple leaves. I think of my stints in the more northern eastern US (Upstate New York; Central Pennsylvania; New Hampshire), where fall kicks in the late summer door, ejecting those lazy, hazy, days without quibble or resistance. Here in the south, summer simply begins letting go, backing out the door, exhausted from months of luxurious growing, extended periods of heat, and now diminishing rains… long before fall threatens to enter the neighborhood.

 

I celebrated seeing lush patches of elf orpine (Diamorpha smallii) in flower (below left; pinkish cluster at rock’s edge). Below right most April vegetation had long since senesced. The prior night’s rain, pooled on the rock, reflects a Virginia pine beyond.

 

Little difference in lichen and moss growth and luxuriousness appears between the April and August photos (left and right, respectively below). The August overnight rain had freshened both of these non-flowering plants, which are well-adapted to these sites and the associated periodic droughts. The August image evidences the new leaf fall.

 

Nature’s Weathering of a Trail Marker’s Handiwork

I noticed the handiwork and humor a trail maintenance person had employed re-marking the orange trail, creating a pumpkin on a pine cronartium scar. I retook the photo in August, remembering the artwork and curious to compare the images for any visible four-month weathering. Sure enough, Nature had exacted her own handiwork. Nature, even in her most gentle manner, is relentless. Nothing is static. Nothing escapes her persistent ways. I have become a tireless proponent for the Alabama State Park System to seek funding to begin a systematized plan to establish permanent photo points, GPS-located, azimuth-controlled, and scheduled for re-taking on some routine schedule, perhaps every 3-7 years. People generally believe that forests are unchanging, static forevermore. Photo comparisons tell no lies… and evidence changes, often rapidly, in most cases predictably, and always convincingly. Simple words never match the power of images.

 

Without the above photos, I would not likely have observed a difference.

 

Non-Flowering Plants

Although certainly not the same lichen (both appear to be of the genus Usnea), I see little difference between April (left with newly emerged grape leaves and rhododendron flowers as backdrop) and the late August rain-soaked tandem of lichen and moss (right with a backdrop of dry leaves and needles). I believe the freshening rain served as the great equalizer.

 

I loved the algae-greened bark furrows on the April bole (left) and embraced seeing the same look in August (right). Common on both is the prior night’s stem-flow sufficient even in the less intense August rain to wet the entire trunk. Nature abhors a vacuum, filling even the most seeming unlikely places with life.

 

My August trek enlightened with more than just this April-to-August ecological comparison. I’ll save for a subsequent post my observations and reflections on non-flowering plants, the native black birch’s propensity to cling like hell to its rock, some great sandstone glades late summer flowering gems, and the early signs of summer stepping gracefully and graciously aside for autumn.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Nothing in Nature is static; change is constant, usually predictable, yet difficult to see.
  2. A single visit to any Alabama State Park opens a glimpse in time… a single snapshot of the wonders that shift day-to-day, week-to-week, season-to-season, and year-to-year.
  3. To experience a Park deeply, visit time and time again

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Three National Parks in Kazakhstan: An August Immersion

I dedicate this Post to my new friends at Kimep University, a western-style English-speaking institution in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Dr. Timothy Barnett, Provost and General Deputy to the President, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks colleague of mine, invited me to present a half-day Academic Leadership workshop for Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, and Chairs Wednesday August 21. Tim and his Executive Assistant, Dr. Arai Kuderbayeva, and Almaty-based tour guide Jannat Suleeva graciously introduced me the preceding weekend to three wonderful National Parks in that southeastern region of Kazakhstan in and near the Tian Shan Mountains bordering Kyrgyzstan. The two days served as a perfect orientation to Kazakhstan, its people and their culture, its geography and Nature, and the spirit of this ancient land. Monday and Tuesday I devoted more time to learning the city and the university, preparing for Wednesday afternoon’s workshop.

Look for a second Kazakhstan Post dedicated to my general impressions and reflections. I focus this first Post on our venture into the National Parks. The concept of national parks is as applicable in Kazakhstan as in the US. The Mission of our National Park Service applies universally: Preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. I am thrilled to see the same spirit as the American park system operating within Kazakhstan (the plaques are from Yellowstone). I sensed the sentiment expressed so well by Roosevelt and Stegner at play right there in central Asia!

 

Lake Issyk National Park (August 17, 2019)

We ascended to a little over a mile high (5,700′) to Lake Issyk National Park, some 40 miles east of Almaty. We left dry weather behind in the lowland basin. Heavy cloud cover, temperatures near 50 degrees, light rain and mist, and an occasional earnest shower greeted us at the Lake elevation.  These young mountains remain seismically active, with Tian Shan high peaks reaching to some 24,000 feet. That’s two-thirds of a mile higher than North America’s high point atop Alaska’s Denali. Not unexpectedly, landslides are common, some triggered by earthquakes. A modern-day landslide damned the glacier-fed Issyk River to create Lake Issyk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were I able to read Russian, the signage would provide historical detail. Fortunately, my hosts read and interpreted for me. Far more detail than the fog revealed about the landscape.

 

A heavier shower helped dissipate the low clouds and fog, giving us a sense of how nestled and protected we were in the rain-soaked valley.

 

However, only later when I found this photo on the Kazakhstan Travel and Tourism Blog site did I see that we had been indeed deep in a beautiful alpine setting. Upon our return trip to Almaty, the mountain clouds cleared enough for us to see fresh snow-caps topping the range to our south. I concluded that our cold Issyk rain had fallen as snow at 10,000′ and above. There I was in Kazakhstan during the hottest (likely mid-90s) part of Alabama summer, feeling quite comfortable in my late fall jacket that I had thought to pack. Our own National Parks have nothing over the stunning beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of the three I visited in Kazakhstan’s central Asian mountains.

Lake Issyk, Kazakhstan, photo 1

Photo credit to Kazakhstan Travel and Tourism Blog site

 

Left to right, here are Jannat, Arai, and Tim.

 

I could have been transported blindly by Star Trek beam to this land 11 time zones east of my USA CDT home, and asked to guess my location on planet Earth. The terrain is too rough and the mountains too young to be eastern US. However, I would not have ruled out the Rockies without the foreign signage. The stock photo I borrowed above would also not have eased my identifying the locale. The deep yellow of fall-hued birch or aspen resembles Rocky Mountain autumn.

 

Again, even though the low fog cleared, I could only imagine the utter beauty of the Park’s natural setting. I have often written of my objective as naturalist, Earth steward, educator, or enterprise leader to always search for what lies hidden within. Hidden within a viewscape, an ecosystem, students, or a team striving together. Here is my brief website video explaining the relevance of what lies hidden within: https://youtu.be/jlv1wIIC7HI

 

The people packed under the small shelter (above photo) constitute a wedding party, complete with bride in full white dress. They had chosen this location for pre-ceremony photographs. They slogged about in the rain, her dress wet and hoisted as she walked trying to prevent further degradation to the mud-splattered hem. I didn’t detect defeat. In fact, they seemed to take it in stride. I suspect the weather and special location will become part of family lore. Nature has a way of reminding us what is, in fact, really important. I’m sure they chose this place because of memories from days like that depicted in the website photo.

Before we departed, the rain stopped, permitting Tim to stow poncho and umbrella back into our vehicle.

 

I certainly did not permit the soaking day from dampening (I know, I couldn’t resist) my enthusiasm for a chance to experience Nature at work and in play half-way around the world. Ours is an incredibly dynamic planet. The forces of gravity, ice, wind, freezing and thawing, floods, and landslides are ambivalent to longitude and time zone. Beauty knows no boundaries. Wonder and geophysical magic couldn’t care less about the geopolitical tides that granted independence to Kazakhstan in 1990 following 70 years under the iron thumb of Soviet rule.

 

Charyn Canyon National Nature Park

We drove east from Almaty Sunday morning, passing through first an industrial sector and then entering an extended agricultural basin, the east-west trending Tian Shan mountains always to our south (photo below). I wondered whether the snow cap had carried through the summer or was this exclusively yesterday’s frosting. I settled on the former. Where we came closer, I saw alpine glaciers high above. Almaty’s latitude is nearly identical to Syracuse, NY, where we’ve lived twice. Throw in elevation reaching to higher than Denali and it’s not surprising to find a summer snowpack. I puzzled over the geomorphology of this Almaty region. Are its origins similar to the basin and range physiographic province of the inland western USA? Whenever and wherever I wander in Nature, I long for more time to ponder, question, explore, and learn. I think often of Bob Segar’s Against the Wind  lyrics, ‘Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then. The older I get the more I realize how little I know. Thirty years ago I believe I would have been more likely to simply appreciate and enjoy the scenery. I accepted the what…now I seek the why, how, when, and what comes next. Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, I grow curiouser and curiouser as I accelerate with the years and pass through Nature’s wonderland!

 

We left the basin (and the ancient Silk Road route) behind as we turned toward the range, ascending through terrain I considered dry, harsh, and tortured, reminding me of South Dakota’s Badlands. Vegetation sparse, the land expressed a rain shadow climate, far less verdant than the basin nearer to Almaty. Wikipedia characterized it as, “Cold Semi-Arid Climate (Koeppen Classification BSk: warm, dry summers with cold winters). 312 mm (~10.13″) of precipitation per year (maximum in summer). Average temperature ranges from −10.7 °C (12.7 °F) in January to 19.5 °C (67.1 °F) in July.” In contrast, “Almaty is situated in a mountainous area which has an influence on the climate in this city. Almaty has a warm continental climate with more rainfall than in the rest of the country. Especially in spring and early summer months there is a lot more rain.” Almaty averages twice the annual rainfall as Charyn Canyon, at 22.9.”  Charyn Canyon National Park awaited our arrival not far up the road. The average annual rainfall difference speaks volumes through each area’s vegetation.

The rising road cut (below left) is starkly barren. Below right shows just a bit of remaining green near the road shoulder depression. All other grassy vegetation has long since desiccated.

 

 

 

 

 

We exited the badlands onto a vast barren plateau (below left) that stretched far to the highlands beyond. A spartan billboard (below right) welcomed us to the Charyn Canyon turn-off. Interestingly, Charyn’s annual rainfall is only an inch less than we received in Fairbanks, Alaska, which supported vast forests of white and black spruce, trembling aspen, and white birch. The differences:

  • Fairbanks’ 65 degrees north latitude versus 43
  • Snowpack in-place without melting for six months; snowmelt coincides with the onset of spring, releasing slowly to saturated soils through mid-summer
  • Permafrost underlying many forested sites, not allowing percolation deep into the soil and groundwater
  • Summer temperatures far cooler… suppressing evapotranspiration

Average annual rainfall alone does not tell the tale.

 

Charyn Canyon lies roughly 120 miles east of Almaty. The Charyn River runs along the canyon’s 56-mile length at 3,600′ elevation. The surface sits 1,200′ above the floor. My hosts referenced Charyn as Kazakhstan’s mini-Grand Canyon. I have yet to visit the USA Grand Canyon, yet I could see the resemblance (from photographs and videos), granted that Charyn is on a much smaller scale. Still the forces of chemical and physical agents continue cutting into this high plateau. I suppose that time means nothing to a youthful canyon.

 

Allow me to draw another similarity to our Grand Canyon. The mighty Colorado River continues to carve its valley at approximately fifteen thousandths of an inch per year. I can only guess that the Charyn River cuts somewhere at that ballpark rate, plus or minus an order of magnitude. Here’s the similarity I mentioned. While both seek sea level, neither the Charyn or Colorado’s ample water reaches an ocean. Every drop of rain or snowmelt draining north from the Tian Shan mountains eventually evaporates in the vast basin occupied by Lake Balkhash, the world’s 15th largest lake. The basin is closed. Agricultural and industrial demands are reducing the volume of inflow. Sediments from the rapidly eroding Tian Shan mountains are reaching and filling the basin. The basin’s desert climate evaporates and continues to increase lake water salinity.

In contrast, the Colorado used to reach the Pacific Ocean at Baja. Agricultural irrigation now depletes the river before it can discharge. Whether in Kazakhstan or our western US, what are we doing to our One Earth?! This pale blue orb that sustains us. Our one and only home. Isolated by unfathomable time and distance. We are alone. We cannot expect to be saved from elsewhere. Our fate rests in our hands. Are we up to it?

I bear the burden… as do Tim, Jannat, and Arai below. My trip reminds me that 7.7 billion people exact a toll. We four appear lost in the plateau’s vastness, yet we and our fellow Earth citizens place demands on this planet that in aggregate, without informed and responsible stewardship, may ensure that we will be little more than a brief hiccup in the ultimate fossil record of life on Earth. The name, Tian Shan Mountains standing far behind us, translates to Mountains of Heaven or the Heavenly Mountain. What a shame to treat any aspect of our heavenly Earth home as though it is a commodity meant to consume, disrespect, and abuse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had no time to explore the canyon floor. Oh, if only we could have dedicated an entire week! I found yet another official National Park website to borrow this spectacular photo taken from the floor. Dark sky, sunlit walls, and heavenly glow project a spiritual essence that should guide all that we do to care for our common home.

 

We wound our way from Charyn to Kolsai Lakes National Park, deeper into the Tian Shan Mountains. This is hard scrabble land. Residents eke out a living and good life by raising sheep, goats, and horses.

 

The landscape began rolling and greening as we rose into the foothills and entered a more verdant climate zone.

 

Kolsai Lakes National Park

 

Seventy-five miles SE of Almaty, Lower Lake stands at 5,963 feet above sea level. Like Issyk Lake, Lower Kolsai Lake originated with a landslide blocking the valley outlet. Its deepest waters are 262 feet. I’m standing at the canyon edge downstream of the damming debris.

 

 

 

 

 

The resultant alpine lake, in my humble assessment, projects a far more pleasant expression than the harsh canyon walls downstream.

 

Horses play a rich role in Kazakhstan’s long history: instruments of war, transportation, sport, livestock management, and even as a food-source. Exploring the trails by horseback is common.

 

Water exits the lake on shallow riffles, belying the violence of the landslide that dumped debris nearly 300-feet deep to plug the canyon.

 

As with our short time at Charyn Canyon and Issyk Lake, I longed to hike into the Park…to reach the Middle and Upper Kolsai Lakes, referred to as the Pearls of the Tian Shan Mountains. We were less than ten miles from the border with Kyrgyzstan at this point. I would like to have set a foot in yet another country. Perhaps for another visit! The aqua-blue hints at the river’s glacial source. A lovely shade framed by a native evergreen. That’s Tim, Arai, and Jannat behind me on the trail.

 

I had been to Japan and China… a week in the former and two weeks in China. Both trips courtesy of the respective university I led and represented. Our entourage and our hosts had dedicated those visits to exploring and defining relationships with other universities, businesses, and governmental entities. We covered a lot of countryside, passing through some magnificent topography and captivating landscapes, yet only incidentally. I ached then for a Nature-informed tour guide. My Kazakhstan hosts certainly reached an elevated interpretive level with their own knowledge and interest, assisted by interpretive signage and website references. I learned a great deal, yearned for more, and felt that we could not have packed any more into that wonderful weekend!

Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe do not recognize geopolitical boundaries. Ours is a spectacular country, yet this pale blue orb spreads the visual and aesthetic wealth globally. I grew personally and professionally with my eight-day exposure to yet another part of the world. I hope that I earned the privilege of this remarkable and memorable experience by returning some value to the Kimep University Workshop participants.

I admit initially questioning my own sanity for accepting a task of preparing for and presenting a workshop half-way around the world… a demanding scholarly endeavor and potentially exhausting travel. In retrospect, the decision was a no-brainer! Life is short… too short to pass up any opportunity to experience this Earth’s full richness and bounty. A native Alabamian, Helen Keller observed:

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.

Four years in Alaska amplified my own absolute passion for place and everyday Nature. Robert Service wrote in The Spell of the Yukon,

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

And I want to go Back–and I will…

It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,

It’s the forests where silence has lease;

It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,

It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

I left the Almaty Region and the Tian Shan Mountains with a kindred feeling. Were my Kimep University cousins to offer another future challenge and opportunity, I would respond enthusiastically and positively.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Nature’s constants apply planet-wide: climate; bedrock; tectonic forces; gravity; time.
  2. Understanding the science underlying Nature’s attractions amplifies enjoyment, appreciation, and inspiration…no matter the continent.
  3. Seeing Nature deeply sows and nurtures the seeds for informed and responsible Earth stewardship, whether in North America or Central Asia.
  4. Nature is spatial (and special) — connect viscerally to The Land wherever you are. Such union of personal passion to place will stir your heart, body, mind, spirit, and soul.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone National Park: Caldera and Hot Spot!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Gallery of Yellowstone’s Hydrothermal Features

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

The Place Where Hell Bubbled Up

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Ironically, Nature’s geologic-time-scale power and violence (fueling the Yellowstone supervolcano) present gifts of beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.
  2. Understanding the Science underlying Nature’s attractions amplifies enjoyment, appreciation, and inspiration.
  3. Seeing Nature deeply sows and nurtures the seeds for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.
  4. Nature is spatial (and special) — connect viscerally to The Land wherever you are. Such union of personal passion to place will stir your heart, body, mind, spirit, and soul.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Words of Endorsement for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016) and Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017) 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.

I recently announced publication of a third book!!!

 

[Photo is Jennifer Wilhoit’s; Copyrighted]

Co-author Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit and I issued this statement 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.

Warm regards,

Steve (and Jennifer Wilhoit)

[Photo is Jennifer Wilhoit’s; Copyrighted]

Now, read what others are saying about Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

“I can’t think of a better time for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature to appear. Given our current environmental crisis, connection (or reconnection) to the natural world is not just a crucial emotional or spiritual experience, it could well be the key to our survival. Jennifer J. Wilhoit, Ph.D. and Stephen B. Jones, Ph.D. pool their talents to present compelling essays explaining why we need nature every bit as much as nature needs us. These are rich tales of travel and wonder, and each contributes to our understanding of the interdependence of life. This is a first-rate road map to the heart of life.”

– Burt J. Kempner Award-Winning Writer-Producer, Author of The Five Fierce Tigers of Rosa Martinez, and Co-Creator of the Rewilding the Human Machine Forum

Get your copy from your favorite local independent bookseller or online at IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529

 

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!

 

P.S. Here I am with the snowy summit of NH’s Mount Washington rising above me, spindirft racing southward across its summit.

Yellowstone National Park: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Broad Impressions of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Teddy Roosevelt expressed the symbol beautifully:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fauna

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And a grizzly doing battle with a bull elk.

 

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

 

Toss in a colony of prairie dogs at the Center.

 

Fire

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers

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

 

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

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

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

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

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!