Mid-July Wanderings at DeSoto State Park

July 14 and 15, 2021, brought me to DeSoto State Park for the quarterly Alabama State Parks Foundation Board meeting. Taking advantage of being there for two days and overnight, I hiked all or parts of three trails at the Park: along the West Fork of the Little River, the Lost Falls Trail, and the Talmadge Butler Azalea Cascade Boardwalk Trail. Nature never disappoints, whether the first day’s nearly five-mile circuit or the second morning’s one-mile boardwalk stroll.

Hiking along the West Fork of the Little River

Although I had been to the Park several times previously, this was my first hike along the West Fork of the Little River, which cuts south along the east side of the Park at approximately 1,400 feet elevation, after dropping 104 feet upstream at DeSoto Falls. Downstream the West and East Forks merge before plunging 45 feet (Little River Falls) into the head of the Little River Canyon, Alabama’s deepest at 600 feet from rimrock to the river.

The West Fork below the Lodge (below left) flowed clearly and quietly southward, yet I saw water-borne debris at least 20 vertical feet higher than the current water level. Where I live, 90-miles to the west/northwest, mid-June’s tropical storm Claudette gave us less than an inch of rain. Fort Payne (near the Park) officially recorded 9.83 inches from Claudette, the deluge responsible for the high-hanging West Fork debris. The river-side hike spurred memories of similar size streams and creeks near my western Maryland central Appalachian home. If I were to substitute white pine for the loblolly pine (below right) I am transported 600 miles north.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

Recently retired North Region Operations Supervisor, Alabama State Parks, Tim Haney, joined me for the hike and stands along the river below left. Tim is facing downstream. At the next morning’s Parks Foundation Board meeting, Jim Emison (also on the hike with his grandson Jay) presented Tim with a commemorative plaque acknowledging three and a half years of service as a Founding Member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board of Directors as he retires from the Board and from Alabama State Parks following 44 years of exemplary service to the State Parks System.

DeSoto

DeSoto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-Summer Flowers and a Special Mushroom

Although I consider our woodland spring ephemerals as my lifelong abiding love, I have come to appreciate the forest interior species I encounter as our southern growing season develops into the fall. Here are yellow false foxglove in flower (below left) and galax below right with its resplendent glossy emerald foliage.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

I describe the riverside site as a canyon bottom, deeply shaded, rich and moist, and several very noticeable degrees cooler than the adjoining uplands. The plants seemed to demonstrate their appreciation for the micro-climate with verdant foliage. Like the galax above, also bearing showy foliage, pale Indian plantain presented flower buds just days from opening.

DeSoto

 

This southern bush honeysuckle extended its flower-bearing stems into and across the trail, a tentative touch I interpreted as a greeting. I loved the feeling of sheltered comfort, enhanced by the River’s persistent audible mirth as it descended toward Little River Falls.

DeSoto

 

We hiked during the peak season for chanterelle mushrooms, a culinary delight within the fungi kingdom. This patch grew at the trail edge. Two notes: never consume any wild edibles unless you are 100 percent certain of identity; do not harvest anything (mushrooms, plants, flowers, rocks, etc.) from State Parks. As a selective mushroom forager, I fought the urge to collect, wandering on contented by simply seeing these fine specimens thriving in the canyon.

DeSoto

 

Boulders and Prescribed Fire

After we ascended from the river to the uplands, we entered the Laurel Falls Trail behind the Park store to explore the house-sized boulder field, where Jay snapped a photo of Tim, Jim, and me. The young man who lives within me tried not to think that in aggregate we three exceed 200 years of life on Earth, a period which is nothing to the several hundred million year old rocks framing us.

DeSoto

 

Leaving the boulder zone, we strolled within a forest stand through which Park staff ran a prescribed fire just this past March. Fire is a wonderful management tool when used under ideal conditions, reducing fuel that might otherwise increase wildfire intensity, removing dense understory, enhancing wildlife habitat, and extending visibility within the forest. The larger main canopy trees suffer no damage; many of the targeted understory vegetation has or will succumb. Tim and I stand in front of a long-fallen tree trunk charred by the burn. Below right a chanterelle rises from the charred litter and ashes.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

The now more open forest will be blessed next spring with a burst of spring wildflowers.

 

Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail

 

The next morning before breakfast, three of us (fellow Board member Renee Rice, her niece Rachael Blalock, and I) hiked (really, we intentionally strolled) the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail to Azalea Cascade. We found scarlet beebalm (below right) at the entrance.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

The cascade is a magic place of deep shade, rocks, water, trees, and the sounds of birds, frogs, and stream gurgles. The second photo is Rachael’s, taken from her position (below left) looking back to the boardwalk.

DeSotoDeSoto

 

Both of these are Rachael’s from within the boulder tumble where the cascade emerges.

DeSoto

 

We admired a black birch growing atop a rock ledge, having germinated in accumulated organic debris, extending its roots into the mineral soil along the stream. Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. Any port in a storm will do.

DeSoto

 

The recent deluge and flash response from the azalea cascade stream had washed its bed under the terminal deck clear of litter and debris, exposing tree roots.

DeSoto

 

We found button bush in full flower, a curious spiked display, certainly worthy of a photograph.

 

Smiling Faces Tell the Tale!

 

Rachael’s selfie shows smiling faces, a result of our early morning immersion in a special, reverent place at DeSoto State Park. A place that in some small way reveals the soul of this fifth most-visited natural attraction in Alabama. That’s no small designation within a state that is America’s fourth most biologically diverse.

DeSoto

 

An important element of my retirement Mission is to help people understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship. We three accomplished that end…preparing us for the day ahead…and for all the days and years to follow.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature reveals so much to those willing to seek her truths.
  • I find Nature’s treasures wherever I take the time to seek them.
  • Nature’s wonder and awe lie hidden in plain sight. 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksDeSoto

 

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

Brush Creek Park in Beaver County Pennsylvania

May 23, 2021, I visited Beaver County Pennsylvania’s Brush Creek Park with my son (Matt) and grandson (Nathan). We hiked the 3.5-mile loop trail, viewing a dynamic forest populated with species familiar to my early-career forestry practice, teaching, and research days.

 

The only covered bridge in Beaver County, Brush Creek Park’s iconic wooden structure reaches across the creek. I am a lifelong fan of such bridges… their aesthetic elegance, the sound of footfalls echoing within their dry, protected shade, and the special nature of wood, the substance of our native trees. Carbon storage in service to pedestrian, horse, and cart traffic!

 

The trail transected much of the Park property, extending from approximately 900-feet elevation creekside to 1,150 at its highpoint. The trail is wide, evenly graded, and generally smooth. The lower-slope mixed hardwood forest is dominated by black cherry, mixed oaks, hickory, and maples. I love the meandering path through the woods. I felt a bit of melancholy as I fell behind the two generations surging ahead. Sure, I attributed my trailing, in part, to stopping to capture images. Yet, I knew another cause to be aging knees and a more faltering sure-footedness. The melancholy came with recalling years ago that it was I who slowed my pace for Matt to keep up, and occasionally offered a hand or even a shoulder-perch to traverse a similar trail. The Brush Creek Trail completed a loop, not unlike life itself which navigates its own full circuit.

 

The foot-slope soils are deep, fertile, and moisture-rich. I marveled at the massive northern red oak we encountered!

 

I conducted my doctoral research on the black cherry dominated Allegheny Hardwood forests of north-central and northwest Pennsylvania. Here in Beaver County I was at the periphery of the species’ core range, where it excels in growth, form, and value like no other place. Sure, we have black cherry in northern Alabama, but it is more scrub-like and of poor commercial value. My heart rate elevated to be back in black cherry’s preferred range. I suppose to readers who do not share my forestry roots, my emotion- and sentiment-connection to an individual tree species may seem odd. I had not given this near-spiritual relationship much thought prior to drafting this Post. I now see a future Post focusing on this special attraction to black cherry.

 

The trail crosses numerous wet weather drains protected from foot traffic by some well-designed and sturdily-constructed foot bridges.

 

Sugar maple and black cherry stand shoulder to shoulder, 12 and 18-inches diameter, respectively (below left). Black cherry is shade intolerant, flourishing only when its crown reaches into the main canopy. Sugar maple tolerates shade, waiting patiently if necessary in the mid-canopy for some perturbation to free space above. The two crowns bear witness to the unique personalities of black cherry and sugar maple (below right). The black cherry resides in a canopy-dominant position (below right it is the left of the two stems). The sugar maple crown bends out to the photo’s right, most of its crown under the cherry’s full-sunlight position above it.

 

The sugar maple is patient, in large measure, because it is hard-wired to anticipate that its companion species will eventually fade. The black cherry above it may one day suffer the fate of this fallen black cherry, caught by its sturdy hickory neighbor. Somewhere above the fallen denizen a crown opening will soon fill-in, perhaps by a patient sugar maple below it.

Senior Forest Citizens and Tree Form Oddities

 

At creekside we found two ancient sugar maples, both large and coarse. I’m guessing that they have stood sentry by the creek for at least two centuries.

 

This old basswood likewise stands bankside at Brush Creek. These senior citizens, whether basswood or sugar maple, evidence the same coarse, wizened appearance, commanding deep respect and reverence from tree people like me. I felt moved to offer a silent salute and quiet moment of reflection.

 

Life at bankside can be wrought with peril. These three intrepid souls hang on as periodic flooding erodes their perch. They will eventually transition from shoreline shade generators to woody stream debris. Life, whether human or tree, travels full circle with time.

 

Black locust is a pioneer species across its range, colonizing disturbed areas with the first advance of woody species. The woodland we hiked still carries black locust relicts from past clearing, abandonment, and forest regeneration. Among many others we found these two locust skeletons. The remaining mixed species arrived and flourished in the second wave of tree conquest. The locust held on for as long as we can expect of a short-lived pioneer species. It served its purpose… and will once again be prepared to fulfill its mission if and when the current forest suffers some major disturbance.

 

Sweeping change is, in fact, occurring. The emerald ash borer has already swept white ash from the Park. Bark is sloughing from the 18-inch ash (below left). A canopy void exists (below right) where its crown has shed leaves, twigs, and branches. Once more, the cycle spins.

 

The borer’s larvae leave excavated galleries as they eat the living cambium beneath the bark. I mourn the loss of our white and green ashes as this introduced insect pest sweeps inexorably southward toward our Alabama forests. Our eastern USA hardwoods have suffered immeasurably from chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease, eliminating two foundation hardwood species. We now face a similar fate for our ashes. Nature will fill the void with other native species, but oh the price we pay for such devastating introduced insects and diseases.

 

Intersection of Human and Natural History

 

At the trail’s highest reach we discovered this stone foundation that I suppose housed former residents from the days when the property was part of a working enterprise composed of cropland, pasture, and woodlots. Ah, if only these stones and the trees could talk! I’ve said often that every parcel, stand, and tree has a story to tell, enriched at the intersection of human and natural history.

 

The bridge and its stone foundation likewise tell a story and, probably hold some secrets. Now, courtesy of a three-generation hike, Nathan has a story to share and perhaps lead a similar hike with a fourth generation…and beyond.

 

I am grateful for the chance to visit yet another special place…with special people.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature and our own lives move in circles and cycles… some stirring melancholy.
  • I embrace my mission to share Nature and her tales with family… and beyond.
  • Wherever I roam, Nature inspires and teaches lessons for life and living.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

Dutton Farm May Skies and Viewscapes

I returned to my Land Legacy Story project site, Dutton Farms near Flushing in east central Ohio, May 26-28, 2021. We scheduled the visit to correspond with the first annual Farm Day for the Dutton Land and Cattle enterprise. I had last been to the project site in September 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/11/25/late-september-wanderings-and-ramblings-on-my-ohio-land-legacy-project-site/

I will not cover the intent and Nature of the project in this Post. Watch for a subsequent Post reflecting on a Warm Season Grass trial we will establish on the property with faculty and graduate students from The Ohio State University College of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Farm Day

May 27, 2021, I helped (a tertiary role at best) host the first Annual Farm Day by taking the mic (no, that’s not me below left) to brief attendees on the land’s tale of 1850-1925 abusive agriculture; mid-20th century strip mining; current period of land reclamation to health and vitality through informed and responsible stewardship practices. A story of recovery and rehabilitation…a metamorphosis from wasteland to viable agricultural enterprise. The family (below right) is committed to stewardship across the three generations represented. I am pleased to be playing some small part in telling their Land Legacy Story for posterity and as a means of encouraging others to do same.

 

Three-day Skies and Vistas

My purpose with this Post is to highlight some elements of the Nature-Inspired Life and Living I experienced across those three days on-site. I arrived at the Dutton’s May 26 mid-day. I introduced a fellow retired forester (a former senior player with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry who lives within an hour to the north) to the Land Legacy Story on-site. Understanding the past treatment (85 percent of the 1,100 acres were stripped for coal at least once) is best accomplished, I’ve found, by first visiting the remaining high wall on the northeast side of the property. The old scar reminds us of the harsh past in ways that the reclaimed acreage belies. Even the high wall, however, expresses an aesthetic that we both appreciated that day. Nature has remarkable healing powers.

 

Later that afternoon we stopped by the Dutton’s recreational retreat, with everything in sight having been stripped and rehabilitated. To the uninitiated, few would imagine the blasting, scooping, dust, noise, and earth movers, followed by reshaping, seeding, and recovery.

 

These photos, too, present a landscape entirely stripped. It’s impossible to deny the pastoral beauty and appeal of the recovered land.

 

By late evening many of the invited guests, stakeholders, and international experts tracking the success and future of this unique enterprise had arrived. The gentlemen among our small group at the Cabin came from New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas. I snapped the two photos in waning light at 8:58 and 9:01 PM.

 

By 9:30 AM May 27, the sky had cleared. I have never experienced a morning at the cabin that was not photo-worthy. I heard no echoes of the explosives and massive equipment that shaped this place of present-day peace, tranquility, and beauty.

 

Following a full day of demonstration, planning, and dreaming, dusk once again settled over the property. I snapped my final photo of the day at 9:02 PM May 27.

 

Dutton sunrises seldom disappoint. This 6:33 AM May 28 view is roughly aligned with the prior evening’s gloaming perspective. I grew up just 150 miles east of here in western Maryland. Because the westerlies assured that most of our weather came generally from west to east, I often heard, “Pink in the morning; sailors take warning. Pink at night; sailors delight.” A pinkish sunrise greeted me.

 

 

Less than three hours later, at 9:12 and 9:13 AM, the old weather wisdom had brought darkening and thickening clouds. I watched the weather radar as the bulk of the associated precipitation skirted to our south. A lifelong weather enthusiast, I welcomed the fearsome-looking (but toothless for us) clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gathered at the warm season grass trial site (watch for a subsequent Post) amid periods of light rain. I snapped this photo at 10:31 AM over the maturing cover crop of Triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye). I like the pale green under the wavy stratus.

 

Nitrogen-fixing Pasture Plants

 

Pasture clovers are nutritious and fix nitrogen. The forage specialists among us (others, not me) found pleasant satisfaction in seeing both birdsfoot trefoil (left) and black medick (right).

 

And purple crown vetch.

 

Happy and Healthy Animal Residents

 

The first day we interrupted a female painted turtle depositing eggs just above the cabin. We also spotted over the course of our visit a pair of great blue herons along the shoreline. The 1,100-acre site is ecologically diverse and rich.

 

I draw a sense of hope from the Dutton Farms story of Nature’s resilience and recovery when directed by the wisdom, knowledge, and hard work of dedicated, informed, and responsible Earth stewardship.

I stand in awe as I reflect upon the wonder and magic of three rather ordinary early summer days on an east-central Ohio farm recovering from a century-and-half of harsh treatment and degradation. I’m reminded of one of Albert Einstein’s Nature observations:

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

Every time I visit Dutton Farms I feel the dual senses of humility and inspiration. I am grateful for the chance to chronicle the tale of land resurrection.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my late May visit:

  • Even the mundane among Nature’s days fills me with wonder.
  • Nothing lifts me more than seeing Nature recover from harsh treatment!
  • Earth stewardship is a transcendent (and necessary) action.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

Evitts Creek Three Ponds

I admit to a decades-long Nature-love-affair with West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness and Wyoming’s Teton Mountains, among other sweet spots. Although not rising to love-affair status, my relationship to a handful of other places rates as lifelong friendships. I recall fishing with Dad at Evitts Creek Ponds at pre-school age some 65 years ago. I revisited the ponds May 24, 2021, stirring a few vivid memories and forcing me to discern changes from long ago. Spring 1970 my Systematic Botany lab traveled several times to the ponds in search of spring ephemerals as the season progressed from winter dormancy to a succession of species flowering before the mid-May semester close.

Three Ponds

 

My History with the Three Ponds

I left western Maryland to complete undergraduate studies out of state in late summer 1971, returning occasionally over the years to visit family and friends. When visits overlapped with spring wildflower season I would visit the three ponds. I believe that my May 2021 hike followed a two decade absence from the property. Once I entered the higher education senior administrative ranks (president at four different universities), I drifted professionally from my natural resources roots. Retirement has blessedly returned me to my passion-zone for Nature-Inspired Life and Living, releasing me from the distraction of business back at the respective university. I am now free of that burden. I can savor and relish total immersion in whatever natural area I visit, hence my celebration at returning to the three ponds, even with persistent rain that morning.

I’ll guide you across the diverse sites and soils I traversed to illustrate why professor Glenn O. Workman (Doc) brought his students here. We’ll begin with the location, oriented NE to SW along the left bank of Evitts Creek (Google Map aerial view): https://www.google.com/maps/@39.662306,-78.717083,663m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en-US

I’ve been unable to ferret the story explaining what prompted this DNR/Soil Conservation Project prior to the days of my youth. The mowed berm of the ponds (below left; view from the first pond to the SW) strikes me as little changed from my earliest fishing visits. I recall fishing along the hillside shoreline (below right), which I remember having far less forest and brush cover.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Below left is the view to the NE from the second pond. I do not remember the creekside border of trees (center left of that view). The 18-inch-long snapping turtle (below right) cruised along the surface of the third pond. I did not capture a clear image of the several hefty largemouth bass I saw as I hiked past the ponds.

Three Ponds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fields and pond margins provided conditions for early spring meadow habitat flowers, all distinct from what Doc knew we would find blooming within the forests.

The Forest

A small stream (likely seasonal) entered the southwest corner of the third pond. This leaning sycamore stands just 40 feet from its channel on rich alluvial soil. The sylvan hollow adjacent to the drainage area, with high overhead canopy and deep shade likewise harbored its own set of spring ephemerals for our course lab visits, to include trilliums, trout lily, bluebells, and other species common to moist, rich, and sheltered sites. Speaking of shelter, I made it on my exit from the woods to the tree’s protective overhanging trunk (below right) just as a heavy shower arrived. I enjoyed the rain-show there for 10-15 minutes.

Three Ponds

 

A 24-inch diameter white oak with its mossy trunk stood in a draw (see the leafy debris to its left from a recent freshet) entering the small stream from the east. The perspective below right of the same tree illustrates the slope lifting away convexly (from right to left) to the north. The slope therefore faces to the south (a south aspect), a hotter and drier slope position, less favorable to tree growth, particularly on the shaley soils here in Allegany County.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

I followed the slope to the ridge top running east/west south of the ponds. I came across a hickory tree (below left) eager to point the way to a destination undisclosed to us human travelers. An Indian Marker Tree — no. Perhaps it is a tree-spirit marker tree? I like that mystical (and mythical) suggestion. Nearby, the chestnut oak (below right), just 10-12 inches in  diameter, has the most deeply furrowed bark I have ever seen. Like some small dogs I have met, this tree’s bark stands out from its peers! These two trees are certainly unique…but why? Why is a hickory pointing to the right on my Blog Post page? Why does this chestnut oak have such a deeply furrowed brow? I can only surmise. Rather than I surmising for you, I suggest that you put your own imagination to work. I say often that every parcel of land…every tree…has a story to tell. What is your story for these two forest denizens?

Three Ponds

 

Traipsing up the convex south-facing slope, I saw clear evidence of its xeric nature. Stocking (the density of trees per acres) declined; heights shortened; species composition shifted to predominantly white and chestnut oaks;  mosses and lichens increasingly covered the forest floor.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Lichens and mosses flourished in cushiony mounds.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Lowbush blueberry and rattlesnake weed likewise are quite content on these excessively well-drained, inherently low fertility upper west- and south-facing slopes.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Yet, even these relatively poor sites evidence the continuing cycle of life and death. The wood ear mushrooms (below left) are the fruiting bodies of the fungi consuming the dead branch lying on the forest floor. I have since found enough wood ear mushrooms here in Alabama to attest to their culinary attributes. Wood peckers are foraging for beetle larvae on the downed Virginia pine stem below right.

Three PondsThree Ponds

 

Among the prior autumn’s leaf litter, the flowers of an oak root parasite (AKA cancer root, bear corn, squaw root) are sprouting.

Three Ponds

 

 

 

 

 

As I said earlier in the Post, as a youngster I would walk along and fish from the shear far-side of the ponds. I stayed on the Evitts Creek side on this visit for two reasons. I believe that the brush and tree growth is more of a thicket than it was then. Secondly, I am far less sure-footed and nimble now! I am not in the mood to tumble into the drink!

Three Ponds

 

I owe much of my thirst for Nature-knowledge to Doc Workman, who remains my hero and career-long mentor. We have stayed close over the fifty-plus years since that systematic botany course. A few years ago Judy and I helped endow a named Allegany College of Maryland forestry scholarship in his honor. I urge readers to consider contributing to the endowed fund.

Charitable donations can be made to the Dr. Glenn O. Workman, Jr. Scholarship with checks made payable to the Allegany College of Maryland Foundation and mailed to the following address:

      Allegany College of Maryland Foundation, Inc.

      12401 Willowbrook Road, SE

      Cumberland, MD  21502

I have occasionally used this axiom over my career: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Doc cared…and that made all the difference in the world…for me and for those I’ve touched over my own career! Help me carry Doc’s legacy forward through the annual scholarship.

 

I view Doc through both the lens of an 18-year-old forestry freshman and the eyes of a former president of four universities. Life has been kind to me by placing me with mentors who mattered…and who cared.

 

See my November 2017 Post paying tribute to Doc: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2017/11/28/sowing-seeds-tomorrow/

Again, Please consider furthering Doc’s legacy. I now see a man in his low 90s, yet, I will always remember and salute the 40-year-old dynamo who provided wind beneath my wings.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • We all are time travelers; I’ve covered six and one-half decades since my first visit to this place of deep Nature-memories.
  • I relish stirring fond ancient recollections in places of long ago familiarity. 
  • Perhaps my words and photos will inspire others to visit and reflect upon such places. 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

DeSoto State Park Addition Upstream of DeSoto Falls

July 15, 2021, in conjunction with the quarterly Alabama State Parks Foundation Board meeting, I attended the official on-site announcement of an additional 157 acres to Desoto State Park. The tract lies just upstream of DeSoto Falls on the port (left) side of the West Fork of the Little River. This view looks across the river from the ceremony site. The addition lies upstream (to our left) on that opposite side of the river.

DeSoto

 

Relative to the 48,000 acres of existing State Parks, 157 acres may sound meager. However, 157 acres (well, 160 acres to be exact) is equivalent to a square block of land with one-half-mile sides! We have all heard references to the back forty… the addition is just shy of four back forties! I’ve published several of these Great Blue Heron Posts highlighting a particular 40-acre parcel donated a few years ago to Monte Sano State Park. Here’s one that exemplifies how significant even a single forty can be: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/12/04/memory-and-legacy-for-a-sailor-and-hero/

DeSoto State Park covered 3,502 acres, now 3,659! That’s a 4.5 percent increase, which also seems a bit unimpressive. However, it adds more than 1,000 feet of river frontage, an addition that is aesthetically, environmentally, and recreationally quite significant! That’s how Conservation Department Commissioner Chris Blankenship described the addition at the lectern (below left) and in responding to media (below right).

 

DeSoto

DeSoto

 

 

 

 

 

The early afternoon weekday ceremony attracted an appreciative audience (below left in shorts), including Randy Owen (below right), lead singer for the internationally known country group Alabama, home-based in nearby Fort Payne.

 

 

Another view from the site validates my wonder and appreciation for the West Fork of the Little River, tranquil here just a few hundred feet from where it drops 104 feet over the falls. Absolute peace and tranquility beneath a cerulean firmament.

DeSoto

 

That peace and tranquility drifts serenely away over the next couple of hundred feet (below left)…until the drifting accelerates, tumbles, foams, and drops (below right).

DeSotoDeSoto

 

The sky doesn’t notice, hanging royally over both the languid and the tempestuous. The river carried a good mid-July flow owing to ample July rains.

DeSoto

 

However, the falls showed a more violent face when I visited April 23, 2019 after extended heavy rains! It roared its appreciation for downpours, water volume, terrain, and gravity. The power of water increases exponentially, in this image orders of magnitude greater than during my July 15 visit. I felt a sense of pleasurable terror, a feeling of my own nothingness in a world where Nature rules.

 

The DeSoto Falls plunge basin (the semi-circular cliffs and deep pool beneath the falls) evidences the power of epic events, forces well above and beyond the still impressive July 15 flow. I recall visiting a creek in New Hampshire where the summer before had brought a real frog-strangler, a nearly stationary thunderstorm that sat in place for hours. The resultant flooding washed out bridges and destroyed buildings creekside. My host, a biology faculty member at the university I served as president, told me with full confidence that this unprecedented flood was attributable to human-induced climate change, a clarion call to action. I stood bankside marveling at the scouring from the prior season’s flood reaching far above the then rather calm water level. I could see clearly that the flash flood was one of note. However, I also noticed that in the stream channel and all along its course, huge, automobile- home-size rounded boulders rested in place awaiting the next major torrent. The evidence suggested to me that the prior year’s flood was nothing new to this stream. Those rocks told a tale…that this stream writes its signature in form of periodic flash floods, events that occur routinely over centuries, even if not within the time horizon of current human inhabitants.

DeSoto

 

Nature is docile by and large, even as she can be wildly variable. I have lived twice near Syracuse, New York, for which 11-13,000 years ago its current footprint lay under a mile-thick continental ice sheet. The climate warmed; the ice melted; the land is still rebounding (isostatic rebound) from the crust-depressing weight of the ice sheet. Whether the terrain-shaping event is periodic continental glaciation (separated by tens of millennia) or epic flash flooding every few score years, the landscape signature owes to the anomalies and not to the docile flow of the West Fork July 15. Unless we can read Nature’s language we might erroneously attribute each and every storm, drought, cold spell, heat wave, and perturbation as a direct result of human-induced climate change. From Wikipedia, In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they stay the same. I believe Karr’s 170-year-old wisdom applies to climate.

John Muir’s Wisdom Remains Timeless

DeSoto State Park Naturalist Brittany Hughes organized the stair-riser mosaic ascending from the falls observation point.

DeSoto

 

The mosaic treats visitors to one of my (and Brittany’s) favorite John Muir quotes  — Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. My wanderings in Nature do just that…heal and give strength to my own body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. We are blessed in Alabama to have 21 State parks totaling 48,000 acres, with at least one Park easily within reach of every Alabama citizen, from Gulf Coast, to Appalachian Mountains, to the Tennessee River. Among those Parks, DeSoto is special, according to the Alabama Tourism Department, the fifth most visited Park and Natural Destination in Alabama (May 2021 Report):

  1. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
  2. Little River Canyon National Preserve
  3. Oak Mountain State Park
  4.  Wind Creek State Park
  5. DeSoto State Park

Note: July 16, 2021, Outdoor Alabama (The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) posted an article about the ceremony: https://www.outdooralabama.com/articles/desoto-state-park-adds-157-acres-adjacent-little-river . I do not know how long the article will be accessible.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • We in Alabama are blessed to have a State Park System still evolving and growing.
  • Assuring our collective Future-Nature requires investing now.
  • Exploring nature enriches my life, healing and giving strength to my own body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksDeSoto

 

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

 

 

 

 

Rocky Gap State Park Lake Habeeb Trail

Visiting with family occasionally takes me back to my central Appalachian hometown of Cumberland, Maryland. While there, regardless of season, I strive to visit one or more of my old Nature-haunts. May 25, 2021 I hiked the Lake Habeeb Trail at Rocky Gap State Park. Here are three prior Blog Posts from my September 2020 Rocky Gap wanderings:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/10/15/a-tough-hike-and-deep-reward-at-rocky-gap-state-park-in-western-maryland/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/10/21/september-2020-rocky-gap-state-park-central-appalachian-fall-flowers-ferns-and-fungi/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/10/28/the-intersection-of-human-and-natural-history-a-1766-survey-marker-above-rocky-gap-state-park/

There is something about retracing some of my younger-day outdoor adventures that fills my body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit.

Home Sweet Home

 

I begin with the these two photographs from a prior visit. A towering yellow poplar (below left) on the short hike with Alabama grandsons Sam and Jack up to the actual Rocky Gap overlook. I did not retrace that trail during my recent late May journey.

Rocky Gap

 

The 5.3-mile Lake Trail circuited the lake shore at approximately 1,100-feet elevation. Both scenes below view WNW to the nearly 2,200-foot Evitts Mountain. This is the scenery of my youth. I am a child of those ancient mountains…mountains whose spine reaches southwest into Alabama, where I now reside.

 

The memory-echoes from my youth reverberate deep within me when I range into our Alabama Appalachians. And, I literally trembled circuiting Lake Habeeb. Nature, especially home-nature, lifts me into a zone of comfort, peace, and serenity.

Trees

 

Allow me to introduce you to some of my old friends, tree species that welcome my return. They are not foreign to Alabama, yet they are far more common to my home region. Eastern hemlock grows abundantly streamside. I encountered it every time that the trail crossed a drainage way, with or without bridge crossing, along the route.

 

White pine is ubiquitous, along with Virginia and table mountain pines. Below left is an old agricultural field planted to white pine trailside. The close-up (right) is of white pine needles on a sapling growing along the western shoreline.

 

Sites along the circuit ranged from deep, moist, rich soils to shallow, shaley, xeric soils. Variability in site quality and species composition proved to be a constant. Always fascinated by tree form oddities and site variability, I regretted not allowing enough time to stroll more leisurely, to wander more purposely, and gather many more photographs. I could not resist spending a few minutes with this headless black cherry, arms raised high in praise and celebration. Of what I do not know. Black cherry on its favored soils and sites, can be a magnificent, high-quality timber tree, its thick straight trunks reaching well over a hundred feet skyward. This individual stands on a xeric upland among chestnut oak, a species common to these dry, nutritionally impoverished soils. Perhaps this denizen is simply celebrating life. What good does a forest citizen gain from a fat, straight trunk, with veneer quality logs? Is one such life more worthy than the other?

 

 

 

 

 

One need not have a doctoral degree in the relative site quality of soils derived from varying parent material, topography, and micro-climate to discern that this is a poor site, unfit for growing veneer quality black cherry!

 

For every excellent sites there are impoverished areas, often distributed predictably across a single property. The best sites in northern Alabama and in the western Maryland Appalachians are alluvial zones and lower concave east and north facing slopes.

 

Native Shrubs in Flower

 

One of my lifetime favorites, mountain laurel, which ranges abundantly into northern Alabama, greeted me in soon-to-be full flower.

 

Winter berry likewise was entering its peak season. Not as showy as the laurel, winter berry still presented a strong statement along the way.

 

Blackberry competed for attention in forest edge zones receiving full sunlight. Were I to take this hike a couple of weeks later I might want to carry a basket for collecting its ripe fruit.

 

Common hawthorn also demanded floral appreciation. Ironic that such a fragrant and showy flower should grace a tree intent up puncturing those getting close with its long sharp thorns.

 

Even without its flowers, the white mulberry I encountered stopped me mid-step with its glossy oddly-lobed fresh spring leaves.

 

My iNaturalist identified this red-bristly-stemmed vine as wineberry. I’ve always called this invasive woody plant Japanese raspberry. Its red stem and deeply crenulated foliar surface attract attention.

 

Spring Wildflowers

 

I found a few non-woody spring flowers worthy of mention. A favorite of mine, Jack-in-the-pulpit, makes my list, growing as abundantly and reliably in the mid-Atlantic states as here in northern Alabama.

 

 

 

Along marshy edges of Lake Habeeb, yellow iris was a real show-stopper!

 

Every wild place I visit poses a dilemma for me. For example, how can I condense a 5.3-mile hike into a single Blog Post? How do I distill the tremendous variety of plants, sites, vistas, and reflections into a compelling tale? I suppose the answer begins with the photographs I snapped, screened, culled, and ultimately retained. As I select and order them, I draw my own observations, reflections, and sentiments. All of that translates into the text you eventually read.

This final photo is the overarching view, capturing some of my hike and holding within it at a much smaller scale the elements of site, trees, shrubs, and flowers presented above.

 

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The Nature of my youth calls to me, and welcomes me back time and again.
  • The natural places of my younger years touch places deep within me.
  • Perhaps the strong homing is akin to what draws a salmon back to its birth headwaters. 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

Another Nature Visit to Cumberland, Maryland, My Home Town

Accompany me on a trip of reminiscence to my hometown, where powerful forces shaped the course and curve of my lifelong Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

Heart of Cumberland

Although I reside now in north Alabama, at the southern end of my beloved Appalachian Mountains, I return to Cumberland at least once a year. We visited for a couple of days at the end of May 2021. I offer a quick glimpse into the Nature of that visit with this Post, soon to be followed with one each of a rainy morning at Evitts Creek Three Ponds just north of I-68 east of Cumberland and a glorious afternoon hike around Rocky Gap State Park’s Lake Habeeb.

Whenever I return to my hometown I find time to at least stop by the eastern terminus of the C&O Canal, with an up-close view of the heart of The Queen City, the juncture of Wills Creeks and the Potomac, and the deep embrace of our Appalachians.

 

Low stratus obscured all but the lower notch of The Narrows.

 

Likewise, clouds eclipsed most of Knobly Mountain as it stretches deeper into West Virginia. The Potomac is the border between Maryland (left) and West Virginia. I recall as a kid walking from home (on the slight rise to the left) to fish the Potomac a half mile downstream from the photo point, beyond the sweeping curve. The pre-Clean Water Act Potomac harbored no game fish then (only carp, suckers, eels, and mudcats), and carried debris from untreated municipal and industrial effluents, and on summer days wafted foul odors. The river is now fishable and swimable. Who says we are destined for environmental ruin!

 

 

The city’s history links to the river (the canal), the mountains (coal and timber), and the ultimate transportation corridor to the Ohio frontier. The artificially channeled Potomac through Cumberland resulted from engineered flood control levees after the epic and devastating 1936 St. Patrick’s Day flood. The 184-mile marker (clearly disrespected by our avian residents) prompts vivid memories of biking from Cumberland to Georgetown some 30 years ago.

 

Bikers continue making the journey along the 184.5-mile National Historical Park. Below left a biker with trailer departs from my point. Another biker with the same group approaches me below right.

 

I found yellow sweetclover (left) and hop trefoil (right) to brighten the cloudy late spring morning.

 

And broad-leafed sweet pea (left) and purple crown vetch (right). All four species are legumes that fix nitrogen and enrich soils.

 

Bladder campion added a special pink and white touch… a delicate beauty.

 

Great wooly mullein stands ready below to launch its 3-5-feet tall flower shaft. The leaves are covered by dense velvety wool.

 

Fort Hill High School

 

My wife (Judy) and I graduated from this very same building in 1969, as did my mother in 1942. The school sits on a hill some 300 feet above the elevation of the Potomac, providing an unobstructed view to the Allegheny Front, the nearly 3,000 foot elevation escarpment just west of Cumberland. I know I spent what my teachers deemed far too many hours gazing westward over the city and into those wonderful ridges beyond. A great place to observe and appreciate Nature, especially the weather, an addiction I embrace yet today.

 

I lettered in cross country at Fort Hill. I mention it not to draw attention to my distance running prowess (I was such a plodder!), but because practice sent me into the rural landscape mosaic of hills, forests, fields, and streams nearby. What a magnificent escape into Nature. Cross country planted a seed for distance running that I carried into my 50s, when knees began to protest.

Allegany Community College

 

I have written often of my belief that there are incidents in life that seem to be coincidences, but instead upon my closer inspection and deliberation amount to correspondence and divine providence. As my love for Nature and the outdoors began to deepen, the local community college opened a brand new campus (below) the fall of 1969 (I graduated high school in June 1969) and initiated a forestry program. The campus sits along Evitts Creek. Cross country training often took me past the soon-to-be campus entrance. When I attended Allegany Community College the campus occupied grassy fields. Over the intervening five decades, mature landscaping and impressive oak trees have grown to occupy the valley floor. Our dendrology labs often took us onto the forested hill on the far side of Evitts Creek (below right and left).

 

I offer this Post not as a detailed ecological examination, but as a short reflection on three cornerstones of my formative years: the Potomac flowing through the Appalachians within walking distance of my home; experiences in secondary education and athletics at a hilltop high school overlooking the ridges and valley that I cherished; and the inauguration of a professional program of study in my forestry passion-field just four miles from my home. Coincidence? No, divine providence has guided my way. Robert Frost told my tale in The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Divine providence presented the pathway that I chose. In fact, better stated, the path chose me.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • The Nature of my youth shaped the seedling and sapling Steve Jones.
  • I attribute so much of what has shaped me to Divine Providence.
  • Fortuity and serendipity have been powerful life forces for me.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

 

Nature Healing the Scars of Chickamauga National Memorial Park

April 25, 2021, we visited Chickamauga National Military Park (NW Georgia, south of Chattanooga, TN) with our two Alabama grandsons. My purpose with this Post is to reflect upon the tremendous restorative power of Nature. The official National Park Service brochure tells the tale of the three days of terror.

 

Chickamauga

 

War ravaged these Appalachian foothill ridges and valleys in northwest Georgia, just 120 miles from my residence, for three days 158 years ago in September 1863. The clash along Chickamauga Creek engaged 125,000 combatants. Nearly 4,000 men perished; the wounded totaled 24,000. More than 6,000 captured or missing. The opposing armies met during the struggle for control of Chattanooga, a critical transportation hub important to both Union and Confederate forces. Search the web for more information about the battle and the broader War Between the States.

The bloody three-day battle ravaged the land (and opposing armies) in that southern Appalachian foothill country. The setting now is pastoral…mixed open meadow and forest. Aside from battlefield monuments, signage, and cannons, the land looks pristine…untouched. Yet, 158 years ago the site saw the full fury of military might. The rehabilitation over the initial 27 years included cleaning up the mess, salvaging damaged materiel and equipment, and resuming some agricultural practices. Congress designated the site a National Military Park in 1890. Since then, Nature has conducted her own healing and recovery. I mention this only to say time and Nature heal most wounds and insults to the environment.

I will focus on Nature’s healing and offer photos and an ecologist’s reflections on what I saw and felt April 26, 2021 touring Chickamauga National Military Park with Judy, Jack, and Sam. Importantly, I grew up less than 100 miles from Gettysburg, Antietam, and Manassas Battlefields. Like Chickamauga, those famous battlefields are maintained by the National Park Service. And they, too, express Nature’s natural healing from gross abuse.

Today, Chickamauga’s pastoral vistas (left) and deep forest (right) belie the unfathomable violence that swept across the landscape. Acts of heroism, valor, and sacrifice marked the ferocious fighting. Men paid the ultimate price to either defend the South or preserve the union. That battle, the war itself, and the causes leading to succession and ultimate healing are written in history…a history we cannot and should not undo or rewrite. Humanity must learn from the past, and launch into the future. Despite the blemishes, we remain the bright light among nations on Earth, a USA attracting record numbers of wanna-be citizens to our borders. I remind you that today’s flow of humans is one-way. I hear nothing about an exodus from the US. One point of attraction, I suppose, is that while we memorialize all who died in our Civil War, we do so in beautiful Military Park settings. We don’t glorify the brutal war. Instead, we recognize that we can complement healing the nation’s soul by creating magnificent Parks to honor the casualties and help set our nation’s course into the deep future, far beyond this century and a half.

ChickamaugaChickamauga

 

The Wilder Brigade Monument Tower stand at the southern end of the Park. We climbed the 85-feet to gain perspective. Today’s beauty contrasts to the 1863 photographs that show shattered trees, broken and battered materiel, cannon emplacements, and raw earth.

ChickamaugaChickamauga

 

As I viewed the forest from above, I wondered whether any of today’s trees had witnessed the savaging. As I further explored at ground level, I found no trees that stood out as older than 150 years. I pondered, too, whether the cirrus-laced blue of our late April sky was similar to the firmament above the smoke-filled fields and woods of September 1863. How out of character such a peaceful sky would have been.

Chickamauga

 

Perhaps something more in line with the raging fury would have been these two images I snapped from approaching storms last summer here in north Alabama.

Approaching Derecho213 Legendwood

 

Standing atop the tower, I snapped this photo of a loblolly pine at my eye-level…let’s call it a 90-foot tall tree. Loblolly grows fast in our climate. I can’t imagine this individual being much older than 65 years. Perhaps its grandmother absorbed lead and blasts during that long-ago September period.

Chickamauga

 

Sam posed beside a gnarled tree just 30-feet from a deep-woods monument indicating the position of some battle unit. A war-scarred survivor just scraping by for 16 decades? I doubt it. I’ve seen hundreds of such odd tree forms throughout our regional forests. Nature’s treatments of wind, lightning, ice, and toppling neighbors exact a continuing toll. So, nothing to suggest that this tree suffered Civil War injury.

Chickamauga

 

These forests look just like most other second- and third-growth stands I’ve explored, except that the trail (right) leads downhill to two cannon emplacements. I long ago concluded that Nature cares little, if at all, about human influences and imposed disturbances, which Nature matches with her own tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, wildfires, floods, etc. She knows perturbations.

ChickamaugaChickamauga

 

Yes, I know that the battlefield soil still carries the residue of those three days. A Park Ranger told me that they have catalogued untold numbers of mini-balls and metal fragments. Similarly, I’ve walked alluvial fields from Virginia south through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama and found arrowheads, chips from tool-making, and Native American pottery shards aplenty. Whether from hunting and gathering, routine living, or horrendous battles, we humans leave the debris of our living behind. I believe the boys enjoyed our Chickamauga venture, even as they felt the horror of the battle. The interpretive museum and movie told the tale effectively and honestly. History, like Nature, is best understood and appreciated on the ground. Although a replica, the log building representing a home on the site that served as a field hospital, a nexus of where men died in care, field surgeons removed limbs, and terrifying sounds and sights filled the hours.

Chickamauga

 

We can learn from history and Nature only if we accept the facts, parse the lessons, and consider all dimensions from beauty and magic to horror and terror. I’ll close this discussion with the white oak that stands majestically near the log building. To me it symbolizes the restorative and healing powers of Nature. I wonder whether during the dark of night it feels ancient echoes of musket fire, cannons roaring, and explosions.

Chickamauga

 

In some ways, we naturalists and historians share the task of bringing the past to life… so that we might discover and translate lessons for life and living into the future. I have written often that every parcel of forestland has a tale to tell. I strive to read every forested landscape that I enter.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • Nature is proficient at healing all wounds, whether human inflicted or natural.
  • Our National Military Parks complement healing the nation’s soul by creating magnificent parklands.
  • Human and natural history intersect in ways that stir the spirit within us.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

The Da Vinci Rule : The Universal Dendritic Pattern in Nature

Nearly all of my Great Blue Heron Blog Posts document with photos and reflections some recent venture I have made into a natural area. This Post encapsulates a general observation I draw from many of my Nature-wanderings, and that I corroborate with a 500-year-old truth revealed by Leonardo da Vinci and known now simply as the da Vinci rule.

Leonardo da Vinci, I am convinced, saw the invisible. Or more accurately, he saw clearly what was hidden in plain sight. I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci, a fine-print 600-page tome on this amazing man who lived five centuries ago. da Vinci expressed what I view as infinite wisdom in the simplest of terms:

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

Isaacson said of da Vinci’s power of observation:

Leonardo’s devotion to firsthand experience went deeper than just being prickly about his lack of received wisdom. It also caused him, at least early on, to minimize the role of theory. A natural observer and experimenter, he was neither wired nor trained to wrestle with abstract concepts. He preferred to induce from experiments rather than deduce from theoretical principles. “My intention is to consult  experience first, and then with reasoning show why such experience is bound to operate in such a way,” he wrote. In other words, he would try to look at facts and from them figure out the patterns and natural forces that caused those things to happen. “Although nature begins with the cause and ends with the experience, we must follow the opposite course, namely begin with the experience, and by means of it investigate the cause.”

Universal Dendritic Pattern

Such was the approach he employed in many of his scientific and artistic pursuits:

We saw an example of this pattern-based analysis on the theme sheet, where he made the analogy between a branching tree and the arteries in a human, one that he applied also to rivers and their tributaries. “All the branches of a tree at every stage of its height when put together are equal in thickness to the trunk below them,” he wrote. “All the branches of a river at every stage of its course, if they are of equal rapidity, are equal to the body of the main stream.” This conclusion is still known as “da Vinci’s rule,” and it has proven true in situations where the branches are not very large: the sum of the cross-sectional area of all branches above a branching point is equal to the cross-sectional area of the trunk or the branch immediately below the branching point.

River Systems and Erosion

This stock image from the internet displays the da Vinci rule on an unidentified river delta:

 

Like waterways themselves, erosion of exposed agricultural land follows the same dendritic pattern. This early 1900s stock image of rill erosion depicts a scene far too common across the eastern US from 1850 through the first quarter of the 20th century. The da Vinci Rule provided the pattern by which abused cropland sent feet of topsoil across tens of millions of acres downriver, bringing foreclosure and abandonment to family farms, and helping to ensure the misery of the Great Depression.

 

Human Circulation and Nervous System

Yet another internet stock image confirms the dendritic pattern of the human nervous system. The Britannic website offers this information on dendrites, an element of the nervous system that actually bears the root form of the term dendritic: Besides the axon, neurons have other branches called dendrites that are usually shorter than axons and are unmyelinated. Dendrites are thought to form receiving surfaces for synaptic input from other neurons. My intent with including the technical language is to suggest that the science is exact and that among the scientists concerned with such things the da Vinci Rule is fully incorporated, even if not referenced by name.

 

The same pattern holds true of our circulatory networks, depicted stylistically in this stock image.

 

Trees

We cannot dispute the wisdom of observation in this canopy view from the bottomland hardwood forests of nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The da Vinci Rule in action in broad daylight.

Monte Sano

 

And the same for trees at the nearby Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve, and for trees I have seen in every domestic and overseas forest I have visited across my 50-years-practice of forestry.

Chapman Mountain Chapman Mountain

 

The same holds true below ground. Witness these stream-bank-exposed roots at Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

The online Etymology Dictionary addresses the prefix “dendro”: word-forming element meaning “tree,” from Greek dendron “tree.” Trees, then, serve as the root (pardon the pun) for the dendritic pattern we are addressing.

Leaves

The da Vinci Rule applies broadly to leaf venation across the plant kingdom. Here is evidence on the leaves of rattlesnake weed and alumroot

Oak MountainOak Mountain

 

And for the pinnate venation on these autumn pawpaw leaves.

Elk River

 

These Ohio buckeye leaves comply with a da Vinci quote, “Nature never breaks her own laws.”

Chapman Mountain

 

The dendritic venation on the ornamental elephant ears in our landscape beds illustrates the da Vinci Rule, its exquisite design adds an artistic dimension that I am sure would have inspired and intrigued the creator of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

 

I’ve long been a da Vinci fan, finding timeless wisdom in his immutable observations from more than 500 years ago. Time and again, when I think I have made some groundbreaking discovery or revelation, I find that da Vinci, Humboldt, Leopold, Muir, Thoreau, Bartram, Marsh, or some other of the historic Nature-interpretation masters masterfully captured same in language more eloquent than my own.

da Vinci: Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.

Apparently the da Vince dendritic rule is time-tested by necessity over the eons. There is no better design for carrying out the work of Nature. Too bad that we humans often ignore the simple rules of Nature. Will we awaken before it is too late? Can we as an intelligent species apply Aldo Leopold’s wisdom:

Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching — even when doing the wrong thing is legal.

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

I worry that Homo sapiens may over the long sweep of time amount to little more than a footnote in Earth’s future fossil record. I accept the da Vinci Rule. Perhaps we can also embrace Leopold’s Rule of Earth-Ethical-Behavior.

I developed my Retirement Mission Statement within the spirit of that same Leopold admonition: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from reflecting on the da Vinci Rule:

  • The universal laws of Nature are tested, timeless, and effective.
  • Nature never breaks her own laws.
  • Nothing surpasses the power of carefully observing Nature’s ways. 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHGH Road

 

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

 

 

Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve: The Intersection of Human and Natural History

April 3, 2021 I revisited Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve, just east of Huntsville, Alabama (USA). See my November 28, 2019 Great Blue Heron Blog Post for previous reflections: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/11/28/happy-thanksgiving-chapman-mountain-nature-preserves-terry-big-tree-trail/

And my June 16 Post about the fierce competition for canopy space within the Chapman Mountain forests: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/06/16/spring-visit-to-chapman-mountain-nature-preserve-the-intersection-of-human-and-natural-history/

From the Land Trust of North Alabama website: Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve is a 472 acre property located just to the east of Huntsville on HWY 72. While we have plans for 10 miles of trails, a little over 3 miles are currently open and ready to explore. Like all of our public preserves, Chapman Mountain is open dawn to dusk and access is free. These trails are not just for hiking though. Mountain bikers and horseback riders are also welcome and an 18-hole disc golf course is now open to play.

With this current Post, I offer reflections on the interplay of natural and human history on this, and nearly every forested property in northern Alabama. From an interpretive sign along the Terry Trail:

Along the trail you may notice an assortment of abandoned objects, from rusted metal waste, discarded household and farm items to an old car. We have chosen to leave these reminders of the history of this land, which was previously a working farm. Parts of the Terry Trail follow an old farm access road and the preserve includes remnants of an old homestead and barn. Use your imagination to visualize what this area may have looked like in the past and what it may look like in the future. Nature will continue to slowly change this site until one day these objects and this site’s history will no longer be apparent.

Native Americans occupied (extensive impact) the entire eastern US for at least 12,000 years prior to European settlement. Over the past 200 years, the European newcomers left the mark of their intensive management and settlement. So, picture as recently as 50 years ago a working farm, on-site residents, tilled land, pasture, and woodlots.

Interaction of Human and Natural History

 

Across the parking lot from the trailheads, planted loblolly pine trees shelter the 18-hole disc golf course. The flat land had been tilled until tree planting. The evidence is clear. No understory of ground vegetation and brush. No sub-canopy of hardwood saplings and poles. The stand is pure, even-aged loblolly pine. Some day I will extract an increment core to determine the year of planting (i.e. age).

Chapman Mountain

 

 

Within the current forest this stone wall perhaps served one or more of several purposes:

  • Separated adjoining pastures
  • Divided pasture from cropland or garden
  • Resulted from stacking field stones removed from tilled land or improved pasture

No matter its intended function, the wall will outlast all of us, and in the meantime serve to memorialize the coarse hands and hard labor of those who built the wall. For those of us today who labor at our keyboards, what will be the physical manifestation of our work? I doubt that we will develop calloused fingertips or even a sun-blistered neck!

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

This now-massive American beech germinated from a beech nut that some squirrel, during the active days of the farm, cached among the stacked stones and failed to rediscover and consume. The beech grew for many years before the managed lands on either side of the wall reverted to forest cover. Its neighbors are younger by decades. The beech tree did not grow alone and without company. The huge spiral of dead grapevine grew tall with the beech, and has now reached beyond its terminal age, still weakly vertical and doomed within just a few years to finding home in decay on the forest floor. To every thing there is a season, whether grapevine or beech tree. A dead stem of unidentified hardwood species stands to the right of the beech in this image. I wonder how many Terry Trail hikers notice and appreciate the unique beauty of this trio? I see it as a sculpture, a work of art rich with its own legible historic context and story.

Chapman Mountain

 

Below left the Terry Trail diverges to the left. An old farm access road extends straight from the photo point. Oh, the stories it might tell! I’m reminded of the jungle-covered Mayan cities, almost invisible to casual observers. I wonder were modern humans to disappear from our fine planet today, would the evidence of our existence be as hard to discern 1,300 years hence? Interstate 65 passes just 15 miles west of Huntsville. What could Nature accomplish with that 300-foot wide right of way over 13 centuries of abandonment? How long do asphalt, concrete, and steel persist without ongoing maintenance? How long before mowed shoulders and medium strips revert to deep forest? How long until Central Park consumes all of Manhattan Island? The narrow abandoned dirt road below is already nearly invisible to those who do not speak the language of reading the landscape.

Chapman Mountain

 

 

Marie Bostic, Executive Director of the Trust, tells me that nearly every Land Trust of North Alabama preserve carries a story of at least one on-site still. This side trail leads to a spring head where the old still is rumored to have provided the homestead residents with the vital natural medicine. Distillation has rewarded civilized humans for at least 1,000 years:

The origin of whiskey began over 1000 years ago when distillation made the migration from mainland Europe into Scotland and Ireland via traveling monks. The Scottish and Irish monasteries, lacking the vineyards and grapes of the continent, turned to fermenting grain mash, resulting in the first distillations of modern whisky (Online from Bottleneck Management).

Why should the homesteaders on Chapman Mountain be deprived of the golden elixir?!

Chapman Mountain

 

Trees have been eating barbed wired since the fencing breakthrough first received a patent in 1874. Nail or staple a wire to a living tree…and watch the tree inexorably consume the wire. This fence-eating oak is along an old fence line at the preserve. I frequently find long-abandoned wire fences across northern Alabama, cutting across what many would consider an undisturbed forest.

Chapman Mountain

 

I normally like to see old trash removed from recreational land. However, I applaud the Land Trust for preserving the very real evidence of wildland domestication to tell the story of past land use. Nature is the ultimate healer. She will eventually erase the direct evidence. The old forest access road will meld into the forest. Even the old automobile will rust into oblivion. Only the rock fence will withstand centuries, (perhaps millennia) of weathering.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

I have made reading the forested landscape one of my focal points for my wanderings and then writing these subsequent blog posts. I’ve said often that every tree, every forested parcel, and every landscape has a story to tell. I am intent upon learning more about the language Nature employs to leave her messages. Here I remind you of my five essential verbs.

  1. Believe — I know the story is there; I believe that it is written in the forest.
  2. Look — I cannot walk blindly and distractedly through the forest; I must look intently and deeply. The truth will not leap from the underbrush.
  3. See — I must look deeply enough to see; to see the story Nature tells…and keeps hidden in plain sight.
  4. Feel — I insist upon seeing clearly enough to evoke my own feelings of passion for place and everyday Nature.
  5. Act — My passion needs to be intense enough to spur action: my writing, speaking, and doing what is necessary to promote informed and responsible Earth stewardship.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • Rarely are our north Alabama forests untrammeled by the hand of man.
  • Today’s forests tell the story of past use, particularly the influence of post-European attempts at domestication.
  • Understanding the forest past adds to my Nature inspiration and appreciation.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 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://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksChapman Mountain

 

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