A 25-month Retrospective on Tornado Damage at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 29, 2022, I co-led a Joe Wheeler State Park half-day tour as part of the Focus on Nature Weekend. We walked the Day Use and Campground areas, devastated by a December 2019 tornado. Both Park use-areas are scheduled to be reopened this spring. I offer photos, observations, and reflections on the Joe Wheeler SP tornado. However, this Alabama State Park is not alone in suffering tornado damage in recent years. Tornados have hit four of our 21 Alabama State Parks since April 27, 2011; I’ll mention those incidents below. This Post does not include any mention of at least two hurricanes that have impacted Gulf State Park over the same period.

Occasionally I muse with numbers…in this case, mulling the odds of four tornados hitting our State Parks over a nine-year period. The 21 Alabama State Parks account for 48,000 acreas, which is one 698th of the state’s total area of 33,548,160 acres. Alabama records an average of 46 tornados annually. Over the nine year period (2011 to 2019), at the annual rate of 46, we would have expected 414 of these severe tornadic storms across the state. Therefore, I conclude that our four tornado State Park touch-downs account for approximately one percent of the period’s tornados, even though our Parks represent just 0.0014 percent of the state’s area. That makes our incidence of tornado impact seem way beyond the law of averages…that we somehow serve as a target, that our Parks attract tornados! I remind us that tornadoes touch more than just a single spot — we must consider the area impacted by a single report.

What I don’t know is:

  • the actual number of tornados over the period
  • the average length of the actual tornados
  • the average width of same

If these three variables were known (perhaps they are) we could calculate the average annual area impacted. Using only the number of tornados yields little to allow me to assess whether our Park incidence rate is relatively high or low. Let’s make some simple assumptions: average width = 0ne-quarter mile; average length = four miles; 640 acres per reported tornado. At 414 tornados over the period, the acreage impacted is 264,960, 0.0079 percent of the state’s area. Given my ignorance-fueled estimate of average tornado width and length, I am less inclined to conclude that our State Parks attract tornados!

Okay, having brought my musings to a close, I am now content that when visiting an Alabama State Park I am not slipping into the bullseye risk zone for being wind-whisked into eternity!

I shall continue, withour fear or deep concern, to give my passion for Nature-learning free reign, leading me into the forest…believing, looking, seeing, feeling, and acting on behalf of Earth Stewardship through my 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. The spirit and vision of John Muir live within me.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can. (Muir)

Joe Wheeler State Park

Let’s shift to Joe Wheeler State Park. I captured this first image in June 2020, the summer after the strike. The storm totaled the Day-Use Area bath house below and closed this area and the campground through all of 2020 and 2021. Park management hope to reopen by mid-March.

 

The view from the slope base in the Day-Use Area looks across the clean-swept tornado path to the far side (and beyond) of the Lake Wheeler inlet. In the immediate aftermath, this entire viewscape was a jumble of twisted and downed trees, along with other storm-tossed infrastructure. Thank God the area stood vacant when the twister ravaged the site.

Joe Wheeler

 

This sweetgum stayed vertical and retained its crown, although stripped of all branches on the windward side (facing the camera).

Joe Wheeler

 

Picnic shelter number two suffered serious  damage. I am not sure whether management’s intent is to repair (I doubt it) or replace. For now its stands as a memorial to wild December weather.

Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler

 

I think that most of us, had we been in the Day-Use Area on a summer afternoon with thunderstorms brewing would have sought shelter among the concrete picnic tables within the shelter. After all, it is identified as a shelter! Nature at her worst operates by brute force, humans beware. Nothing is more critical to outdoor enthusiasts of all manner than tracking pending severe conditions and listening for alerts, watches, and warnings.

John Muir observed Nature through wisdom’s eyes:

One should go to the woods for safety, if for nothing else. [As with all advice, be alert to exceptions.]

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.

What a psalm the storm was singing, and how fresh the smell of the washed earth and leaves, and how sweet the still small voices of the storm!

Monte Sano, Lake Guntersville, and Oak Mountain State Parks Tornados

Monte Sano

I snapped these Monte Sano tornado damage photos below on March 22, 2018. I Published a Blog Post in September 2020, chronicaling the affected forest recovery four growing seasons beyond the tornado: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/09/23/four-year-tornado-forest-recovery-at-monte-sano-state-park/#:~:text=November%2029%2C%202016%2C%20a%20weak%20tornado%20%28EF-0%3B%20winds,four%20full%20growing%20seasons%20since%20the%20November%20storm.

I began that four-year recovery Post with these words: November 29, 2016, a weak tornado (EF-0; winds 40-72 mph or EF-1; 73-112 mph) touched down briefly at the northern bluff-edge of Monte Sano State Park’s North Plateau Trail. 

The view looks to the northeast across valley fields, forests, and the urbanizing landscape.

Monte Sano SP

 

I’m standing on the North Plateau Trail. The campground lies just uphill (to my right). The winds savagely uprooted the oak (below right).

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

Again, Nature is oblivious to human lives and infrastructure. The Monte Sano tornado side-swiped the Park’s campground. Park staff provided this photo they took the afternoon the tornado hit. The RV in the foreground evidences that the twister came perilously close!

Monte Sano

JWSP Staff Photo

 

We are the ones who must be vigilant.

 

Lake Guntersville

The Lake Guntersville State Park tornado struck April 27, 2011, the date of the double-barreled front that, among other blows, devastated Tuscaloosa. The front spawned 65 tornadoes statewide. Nature’s power is both magnificent and terrifying. Above all, we who celebrate her incredible beauty, magic, wonder, and awe, must also understand her ways and respect her fury. Again, we are the ones who must be observant and vigilant.

Tornadoes, not tax fight, may be fatal blow for ...Tornadoes, not tax fight, may be fatal blow for ...

Internet Stock photos

 

Oak Mountain

Oak Mountain State Park suffered tornado damage in April 2021. Then Park Superintendent Kelly Ezell provided these photos that she took the morning after the storm hit.

Oak Mountain

 

I visited the Park within a week (April 14, 2021) for other reasons…and insisted upon a side trip to the tornado-ravaged sector. Most of the damage had been cleared from the Park roads, yet the tree damage is severe within the adjoining forest. I will commit to returning in several growing seasons hence to monitor recovery, which I am sure will be rapid.

Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal. (Muir)

Oak Mountain

 

Again, Nature operates with brute force, but with no malicious intent.

All Nature’s wildness tells the same story: the shocks and outbursts of earthquakes, volcanoes, geysers, roaring, thundering waves and floods, the silent uprush of sap in plants, storms of every sort, each and all, are the orderly, beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart. (Muir)

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Earth has no sorrow that she cannot heal (Muir).
  • Nature’s brutal furiosity is tempered only by her sublime glory (Muir).
  • Nature’s power to humble and inspire is without limit, whether in her grandeur or her violence.

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

 

Late January Sunsets at Joe Wheeler State Park

Preface

I drafted the text of this Post in February, at least a month before posting it March 30 (today), six days after I suffered a stroke March 24. I offer in these prefatory remarks two particulary poignant quotes from my original draft, which I present unaltered following the Preface.

Life on Earth cycles through transitions, whether diurnal, seasonal, or generational. I know I am looking into my own sunset, far removed from my long-ago dawn.

My own days pass ever more quickly. I wonder, will I go gentle into that good night?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

 

Original Unaltered Post

 

January 29 and 30, 2022, I participated in the Focus on Nature Weekend at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park as a volunteer staff member, co-leading one of the three Saturday field trips. I focus this Post on evening and sunset sky photos both Friday and Saturday evenings.

Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.
― Aldo Leopold

Friday January 28, 2022

January 28, 2022, I snapped a forest canopy photograph, backdropped by the late afternoon sky (3:52 PM), dotted with a few cumulus associated with the arctic front ushering some much colder air into north Alabama. Retired Alabama State Park Naturalist Emeritus Mike Ezell and I were just departing the Multi-Use Trail heading to the Day Use area. Snow flurries accompanied our hike on the trail.

Joe Wheeler

 

We wandered along the Lake Wheeler shoreline (4:52 PM) as the sinking sun hid behind the near-horizon cumulus.

Joe Wheeler

 

The photo a minute later picked up the overhang (upper left) of the hilltop picnic shelter at 4:53 PM, when Mike and I departed for the nearby cabins…to what Mike assured me would be a better sunset viewing location.

Joe Wheeler

 

Mike nailed it! At 5:04 PM we caught the sun dropping to the horizon. We could not have selected a better moment to bid farewell to our winter sun.

Joe Wheeler

 

Dropping closer to the shorline, I captured this image, as a snow shower slipping from the north (right of the sun) shortly thereafter captured the orb. Although certainly not on par with the blinding lake effect snow bands we experienced regularly during our winters in Syracuse, NY, I enjoyed the combination of a sunset gift and the unusual sight of an Alabama snow shower.

Joe Wheeler

 

I am blessed to have been included in the Focus on Nature Weekend, which brought me to two sunsets at the Park, the second the following evening.

Saturday January 29

Late afternoon (3:53 PM) found me in the Day Use area, monitoring the sun’s traverse of a crystal sky, and feeling the mid-30s chill.

Joe Wheeler

 

By 5:01 PM the group I co-led had positioned lakeside to enjoy sunset.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The setting sun kissed the horizon at 5:09, then sunk into the forest on the opposite shore of Lake Wheeler.

Joe Wheeler

 

At 5:14 and 5:16, light began fading as the chill deepened.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I love both dawn and sunset, the first a brightening start for a day of promise, and then the gloaming (5:18 and 5:22 PM) that precedes a cold winter’s night. Life on Earth cycles through transitions, whether diurnal, seasonal, or generational. I know I am looking into my own sunset, far removed from my long-ago dawn. Yet I understand that such is the way of life, spurring my own pratice of Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

Joe Wheeler

 

At 5:25 PM, already dark in the forest, the western sky faded rapidly, reminding me that my maternal grandmother observed. “The older I get, the faster time passes.” Today I understand…and agree. My own days pass ever more quickly. I wonder, will I go gentle into that good night?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

Or, will I yield quietly and contentedly as did January 29 as we held vigil, peering westward from the Day Use shoreline?

Joe Wheeler

 

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. – John Muir

By my intimacy with nature I find myself withdrawn from man. My interest in the sun and the moon, in the morning and the evening, compels me to solitude.Henry David Thoreau

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I love both dawn and sunset, the first a brightening start for a day of promise, and then the gloaming.
  • Life on Earth cycles through transitions, whether diurnal, seasonal, or generational.
  • Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. – John Muir

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

 

 

Black Locust Decline and Two Champion Trees at Joe Wheeler State Park

I participated January 28-29, 2022, in the Focus on Nature (Nature Photography) Workshop at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park. Sunday morning (1/30) I hiked the Blue Loop Trail shortly after sunrise. This Post offers photos, observations, and reflections on the declining black locust component in the upland forest along the trail. I report also on the two State Champion trees along the Blue Loop Trail.

Blue Loop Trail Black Locust Deterioration

 

Black locust is an old field, early successional pioneer species. The vast majority of Joe Wheeler’s current forestland had been previously in some form of agriculture (tilled or pastured), since abandoned. The land naturally regenerated with pioneer tree species like black locust, Eastern red cedar, and black cherry, all prolific seed-producers, bird-desseminated, rapid-growing, and demanding full sunlight. None of the three grow well under  even the partial shade of a forest canopy. All three are relatively short-lived. I won’t speak to the fate of our forests’ black cherry and red cedar in this Post. I urge curious readers to seek additional information from this online US Forest Service publication on the silvics of black locust: https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/misc/ag_654/volume_2/robinia/pseudoacacia.htm.

Important quotes from the publication:

  • Black locust is a pioneer type, usually man-influenced, and temporary.
  • It follows disturbances and may be natural or planted.
  • The (black locust forest) type is found locally throughout the Eastern United States and in southern Canada. Black locust makes up a majority of the stand during early stages but is short lived and seldom matures to a sawtimber stand.
  • A wide variety of species become associated with black locust and usually replace most of it.
  • On good sites, single trees or small groups may persist, grow to a large size, and form a small part of the ultimate canopy layer.

Across northern Alabama I see diseased black locust fading from forest stands, showing evidence of serious fungal infection (heart decay) and crown dieback. The black locust decline along the Blue Loop Trail is well underway and advancing rapidly. The dead 18-inch diameter locust below evidences long term internal decay, witness the hollow butt log. The forest floor beyond is littered with dead and down locust debris. What was once a locust-dominated forest is transitioning to hackberry and oak.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The two vertical photographs of the same tree show a close up of the bark and an extended view into the obviously dead canopy with most small and medium branches already shed to the forest floor. The tree to the locust’s lower left is an adjacent hackberry (more shade tolerant than locust) which is persisting the shade of the locust.

Joe Wheeler Joe Wheeler

 

The hackberry (to the right below) will now reach into the upper canopy, lasting well beyond the life of the stand’s last surviving black locust. Such is the way of forest succession. Individual forest trees compete for available sunlight. Locust excells during the early stages of stand development, producing prodigous seeds that are widely distributed by wildlife, then fading because of multiple insects (e.g., wood borers),  diseases, and physical (wind and ice) damage.

Joe Wheeler

 

This individual looks healthy and vibrant to the casual hiker. It appears unaffected by any agent of death.

Joe Wheeler

 

However, 20-feet above the ground, a cluster of cracked cap polypore fruiting brackets belie the impression of vigor and health. From the online Fungus Fact Friday:

Phellinus robiniae, commonly known as the “Cracked Cap Polypore,” is a woody bracket fungus that is most easily identified by its habitat. This fungus grows almost exclusively on locust trees. In fact, the fungus is such a common pathogen of locusts that nearly every Black Locust tree has at least one P. robiniae mushroom on it. The mushroom is also distinguished by its furrowed cap – which gives the fungus its common name – and its dull brown pore surface.

Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler

 

Here is an intact cracked cap bracket on a locust stem recently fallen to the forest floor at Monte Sano State Park. Many brackets on standing trees are too high for me to snap a decent photo with my iPhone.

Monte Sano

 

The deteriorating black locust stand along the Blue Loop Trail keep trail maintenance crews busy cutting and clearing fallen locust debris from the trail.

Joe Wheeler

 

As I’ve said repeatedly in these Posts, nothing in Nature is static. The dance of life and death in our forests is constant and never ending. Death initiates at the moment of birth. Individual trees come and go; only the forest persists, ever-changing. I often rely upon noted naturalists or wise forebearers for apt words. Albert Einstein captured relevant wisdom through observation:

Like indvidual trees and the forest, Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us. Our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life. That is, annually shed leaves are to the tree as inividual tree death is to the forest.

Blue Trail State Champion Trees

 

The Blue Trail loops past two State Champion trees. This September elm stands near the bluff overlooking Lake Wheeler.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The State Champion chinkapin oak also stands along the bluff. Lake Wheeler lies visible beyond.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I covered the Blue Loop Trail in well under two hours, beginning at sunrise. I suppose a speedy hiker, intent only upon covering the distance, could have easily circuited the loop in 30 minutes. That wasn’t my intent, nor is it ever for me. I am sure I missed much along the way, yet I saw so much more than most who trek the loop. Always, when I draft these Posts weeks later, I regret not having explored more deeply. I see blanks that I wish I had filled; questions I wish I had considered; and photographs I failed to take. I am learning…I shall never stopping learning. Education is a lifelong endeavor.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Lessons are written along every forest trail
  • Life and death dance continuously within all forests and across all of Nature.
  • As in all human enterprises, throughout Nature there are winners and losers. State Champion Trees are among Nature’s winners. 

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: “©2022 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 BooksJoe Wheeler

 

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.

 

 

January 8, 2022 Mid-Day Wanderings in a Bottomland Forest

January 8, 2022, I enjoyed a perfect mid-day winter ramble in a hardwood bottomland forest on the eastern end of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Huntsville, Alabama. This Post illustrates how keen observations as well as directed and informed curiosity can make a routine woods stroll something truly special.

Riparian Saturated Forests

Nightime temperatures froze some of the standing water on these saturated sites. I found intrigue in the subtle reflective properties of ice and water.

HGH Road

 

Innundated forests are likewise places for reflecting, both literal and mental. Nothing like the soul-soothing Nature of our southern winter forests.

HGH Road

 

 

 

 

Riparian Upland Forests

The upland, which is generally just 5-10 feet higher than the wetter sites with standing water, offers better footing and old logs for resting to contemplate the deep beauty of the naked forest and the sparkling sky above.

 

Turn the camera 90-degrees to vertical and we get another perspective, one that enables us to see the magnificent firmament unobstructed by the leafless canopy. Summer’s foliage eliminates the view into the heavens.

HGH Road

 

Death and Fungal Consumers in the Riparian Forest

Death is ever-present in even these extraordinarily fertile and vibrant bottomland forests. Decay fungi and other decomposers ensure that the carbon cycle continues unabated.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

This seeming heathy and vibrant oak evidences the decay occuring within its trunk in form of the robust oak bracket mushrooms “blossoming” from the tree’s base. So much in our forests is hidden within plain site.

HGH Road

 

Closer inspection reveals the shape, texture, and characteristics of these 5-8 pound annual mushrooms. The spore producing underside is to the left. Imagine this behemouth emitting billions of spores. Any wound in a standing oak will prove fertile ground to the fortunate spore that finds it. Then the big battle begins. Can that microscopic spore overcome that potential host tree’s complex biochemical defense mechanisims?

HGH Road

 

As the infected living oak above signifies, the oak bracket fungus is an effective parasite. The several-years-dead oak tree below still hosts the fungus, which as we see is also a saprophyte, consuming dead wood.

HGH Road

 

The huge oak brackets are far from being on my culinary list. They are coarse, woody, and, even if edible, not palatable. These oyster mushrooms, to the contrary, are culinary delights when fresh! These are just marginally fresh, now turning tan and brown.

HGH Road

 

This plate-size elm mushroom drew my attention both because of its size and its potential edibility. I could not unequivacably come up with a field-site positive identification. When home, I identified it, but not with full confidence. From the Edible Wild Food website: “The elm oyster mushroom is an excellent edible mushroom which is also grown for commercial purposes. It is an excellent source of protein and vitamins (especially the B-complex). They must be cooked before consuming.” Even had I been certain, this specimen was aged beyond freshness.

HGH Road

 

When fresh, this species is nearly pure white. I will keep my eyes open in future foraging ventures.

HGH Road

 

A single winter afternoon riparian forest ramble can reveal the subtle beauty, magic, wonder, and awe hidden in plain site! Make sure you take time to seek what is otherwise invisable to those who rush through the woods, and simply out of reach to those who avoid our magnificent riparian forests that are wet-season-saturated and growing-season-infested with insects, snakes, and poison ivy. I am fine with others keeping their distance. I view these forests as year-round paradises. Via these Posts, I will treat the unwilling-to-venture to my own photos, reflections, and observations!

Get into the outdoors, even if vicariously through these Great Blue Heron Posts!

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Beauty, magic, wonder, and awe await those willing to enter our riparian forests in winter (as well as summer).
  • Both saturated and upland riparian forests offer unique gifts across the seasons.
  • Fungi enhance my treks into Nature.

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

How Nature Can Inspire Us, Teach Us, and Keep Us Happy!

Exploring a New Partnership

 

I’m announcing a new collaborative between Great Blue Heron and We Get Outdoors (based in South Africa). As a first product of our partnership exploration, we are pleased to present my nearly 90-minute interview (recorded late 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGlRWUUSTS0), conducted expertly by Rob Yates (We Get Outdoors Co-Founder and consummate outdoors enthusiast). Interview Title: How Nature Can Inspire Us, Teach Us, and Keep Us Happy!

I offer each one of these Great Blue Heron Posts in the spirit of Inspiring, Teaching, and Keeping fellow outdoor enthusiasts Happy!

That’s me on the left looking into the south side of Huntsville, AL from the utility overlook on Blevins Gap, enjoying getting into the outdoors.

Blevins Gap

We-Get-Outdoors-Img_2

[From We Get Outdoors Website]

Our Formal Mission Statements

We Get Outdoors Mission: We are committed to preserving the outdoors for future generations. We want YOU to be part of the story and to come on the journey with us. It’s time to become an outdoor ambassador.
The WGO mission resonates beautifully with my own retirement 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.
We all are resident to planet Earth, this mote of dust in the vast darkness of space, whether residing in South Africa or Madison, Alabama! Rob and I are personally aligned as well, sharing deep passion for ensuring that we all care for this Blessed planet. Look for more collaborative initiatives from us.
My family; humanity’s future!
We Get Outdoors
The future lies in our hands.

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, Blogs, and video interviews 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.

January Mosses, Lichens, Mushrooms at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 29 and 30, 2022, I participated in the Focus on Nature Weekend at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park as a volunteer staff member, co-leading one of the three Saturday field trips. I focus this Post on a sampling of mosses, lichens, and mushrooms I encountered during my wanderings.

The world is a skyscraper! Don’t always stay on the same floor! Go upstairs, go downstairs; visit the lives of other tenants! Visit eagles; visit mushrooms!
― Mehmet Murat ildan

Trees are the forest’s skyscrapers. The moss on this long-dead eastern red cedar is downstairs, residing silently on the forest floor.

Joe Wheeler

 

This moss carpets the State Park road shoulder, adding color to the otherwise drab winter forest. Blue sky beyond complements the green moss and the copper marcescent leaves of understory beech.

Joe Wheeler

 

Moss likewise covers scattered forest floor surface stones. As we all know, Nature abhors a vacuum.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

A leaning deceased black cherry sports mushrooms whose mycelia are consuming the dead wood. Moss and a few pale spots of lichen seem to flourish on the bark surface. A nearby vigorous loblolly pine bears a lush moss basal skirt; lichen extends up the trunk, providing a canvas rich with Nature’s artwork.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

Lichens and mosses find fruitful purchase on black cherry bark. Both individual trees evidence internal decay with holes that provide entry to decay-swollen stem abnormalities that signal significant decay within the stem.

Joe Wheeler

 

Bark-resident lichens (and mosses) are ubiquitous in this stunted black cherry stand near the Park’s water treatment plant.

One could speculate that lichens would be among the last inhabitants to succumb on a dying earth at some distant point in the future.
― Steven L. Stephenson The Kingdom of Fungi: The Biology of Mushrooms, Molds, and Lichens.

Joe Wheeler

 

I recall the magnificent black cherry forests of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Plateau, where I conducted my doctoral research in the heart of black cherry’s core range. Rapid growth on those fertile soils with optimum climate discouraged the lichen vigor I encountered at Joe Wheeler.

The black rock was sharp-edged, hot, and hard as corundum; it seemed not merely alien but impervious to life. Yet on the southern face of almost every rock the lichens grew, yellow, rusty-brown, yellow-green, like patches of dirty paint daubed on the stone.

— Edward Abbey The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time

Joe Wheeler

 

There is a low mist in the woods—
It is a good day to study lichens.
― Henry David Thoreau A Year in Thoreau’s Journal: 1851

Life abounds in and among our forest skyscrapers, whether the tree is a towering white oak or a stunted black cherry. Thousands of trees do not a forest make. Mosses, lichens, fungi and all manner of organisms constitute the forest’s intricate web of life. Think how much the rote forest wanderer misses, whose sole intent is to pass through (instead of within) the forest, oblivious to the magic that lies hidden in plain sight.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Forests are far more than trees and shrubs.
  • We all know that Nature abhors a vacuum — mosses and lichens cover virtually every surface within our forests.
  • Fungi, as evidenced by their mushrooms, are actively decomposing all dead and most dying plants, including the largest of our forest trees. 

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: “©2022 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 BooksJoe Wheeler

 

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 Revelations at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN

December 30, 2021, Judy and I visited the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We did not anticipate the Nature-based lessons, revelations, and inspiration associated with distilling this golden elixir. Because the internet is flush with the story of this world famous distillery, I offer only that Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel founded the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in 1866 in his hometown of Lynchburg, Tennessee, where it still operates. His Old No. 7 earned a gold medal at the 1904 World’s Fair.

Owing to serendipity and fortuity, Mr. Daniel chose a perfect birthplace for a would-be distiller. The region is underlain by limestone, which ensures that its waters are limestone-filtered, perfect for making whiskey. The limestone filtering removes iron, yielding a sweeter tasting mineral water. An article in Kentucky Bourbon Country states, Whiskey made from water containing iron would turn black, which is absolutely unappealing. As you will see later, the region is also blessed with forests stocked with two tree species essential to the Jack Daniel’s recipe: white oak and sugar maple.

 

Streamside Location

 

A stream flows in front of the distillery visitors center, supplying ample water for essential tasks (cleaning and washing; not distilling) associated with the primary distilling process.

 

The stream also provides an aesthetic appeal and setting worthy of an international tourist destination. The primary pedestrian entrance crosses the waterway on a suitably attractive bridge.

 

The upstream view (left) and downstream perspective reward the visitor with a touch of Nature demanding a stop on the bridge to absorb the magic of the place.

 

Although I did not see direct evidence, I am certain that legal professionals at the distillery demanded placing this warning to absolve the company of any visitors devoid of common sense foolishly venturing too close to the flowing water, which on the day we visited stood at bankful from recent heavy rains. However, note in the expanded view that the sign does not caution about the risks of falling into the water to be swept away and drowned. Einstein observed an underlying truth respecting those who may venture too close to the slippery banks:

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.

I suppose we might next see McDonald’s placing warnings on coffee cups about the liquid within being hot! No, wait a minute, that’s been in place for a decade or more.

Pardon my interupting this Post with a personal awareness and responsibility side-rant.

Source of Pure Water

The surface stream is a supplemental attraction to the real water star — the sweet-water, limestone-filtered aqua that originates from a cave central to the JD Distillery site. The flow is reliable year-round. Lynchburg, Tennessee receives an average annual rainfall of 57 inches, evenly distributed across the seasons.

 

I find nothing any more remarkable in Nature than fresh springwater rising from the ground, sheltered by natural limestone walls on three sides, creating a welcoming mossy canyon, filled with the pleasant sound of gurgling release.

 

I see the winter landscape, enjoy the sense of life beginning, and imagine the comfort and coolness within on a mid-summer afternoon.

 

I relished experiencing the stream and the springhead.

Distillery Fungus

I had envisioned before our visit that we would find a stream and a spring. What I did not anticipate was a black fungus covering vegetation, rocks, and material infrastructure throughout the distillery proper and its grounds.

From the Indiana State Department of Health online:

What is Baudoinia compniacensis?

Baudoinia compniacensis, also known as Distillery Fungus, Whiskey Fungus, and Warehouse Staining Fungus, is a black fungus that is velvety or crust-like and can reach 1-2 cm in thickness. While it is black in color, this is not Stachybotrys, often referred to as black mold.

Where is Baudoinia compniacensis found?

Baudoinia compniacensis is found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. It has the ability to withstand a large range of temperatures but requires high relative humidity and periodic rain. The fungus can grow on a variety of surfaces, including plants, brick, metal, stainless steel, concrete, and plastic.

The fungus thrives in places where fermentation occurs, such as bakeries and bogs. Distilleries for whiskey, scotch, vodka, brandy, and rum are affected by the fungus too because ethanol is off-gassed in the making of distilled spirits. Baudoinia compniacensis uses the ethanolic vapor to initiate germination and to express proteins in the fungus that allow the fungus to tolerate high temperatures. The fungus can be found at other places where ethanol can off-gas into the environment uncontrolled, including bakeries and bonded warehouses.

Are there human and animal health risks from Baudoinia compniacensis?

Research conducted by ISDH Environmental Public Health Division did not find any reports of
health risks from short or long term exposure to Baudoinia compniacensis.

That off-gassing occurs during the open-tank distilling process is not surprising. However, another important question might be: Why do the supposedly liquid-tight casks leak? The oak barrels are not equivalent to stainless steel vessels. The seams are solid, yet not without some slight permeability…enough for some molecules to escape, especially during the multi-year aging process in warehouses. Huge Star Wars size warehouse cluster dot the countryside around Lynchburg. They, too, are blackened, giving a cold stark, otherworldly feel to the sites.

The casks would leak beyond tolerable were it not for the God-given characteristic of the white oak tree group. The white oak group’s wood pores and vessels clog with tyloses once the tree grows new conductive rings. That is, only the relatively recent rings transport water and nutrients up from the roots and sugars and carbohydrates down from the summer crowns to the roots. The tyloses block the transport mechanism, assuring relative impermeability. Oaks in the red oak group have open vessels from bark to the tree’s core.

So, white oak is essential, whether the distillery is producing whiskey, bourbon, or Scotch. I learned also, that the JD process requires charcoal made from sugar maple to filter JD whiskey during the fermentation step. I won’t attempt to explain the special taste and fragrance imparted by the sugar maple charcoal.

The combination of oak barrel aging and sugar maple charcoal filtration imbue JD with its unique taste and coloration, valued world-wide. I knew in advance that white oak was the species required for the casks, just as it is for wooden ships. I was not aware of the requirement for sugar maple charcoal.

Near the spring stand the blackened trunks of hackberry (left) and sugar maple, trees that aside from the coating seem healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour guide told us that the distillery fungus aided revenuers during prohibition in locating stills. Blackened tree trunks told the tale and revealed the location. These boxelders, along a walkway outside a building housing mix tanks, are likewise blackened.

 

As are these ornamental hollies. The holly foliage is yellowed (chlorotic) and obviously suffering from the thick coating.

 

The black distillery buildings appear to be from a dystopian world arising after armegeddon! I felt like I was on the set of some disaster movie…until I reminded myself that this was nature at play.

 

The loss of ethanol from out-gassing (ethanolic vapors), apparently an unavoidable result of distilling and aging, is referred to as the angels’ share. I am hopeful that JD or some other distilled libation is, in fact, available when we reach the angel stage of our existence!

 

Holiday Spirits

 

Our visit between Christmas and New Year’s coincided with the time of Holiday Spirit, in form here of a festive tree of JD casks.

 

The antique JD delivery truck transported loads of Seasonal Spirits. The same cargo for the later model (right).

 

 

 

 

 

According to our guide, because Lynchburg is in a dry county, the distillery store sells souvenir JD bottles that just happen to be filled with the various JD products. I purchased several of the souvenir bottles, from which I have been occasionally sipping.

 

So much of what sustains and rewards us results from our wide partnership with Nature, whether agricultural production, energy generation, or seafood harvesting. We are often reminded that we are one with Nature. The JD Distillery tour opened my eyes to how inextricably we are linked with the natural world. I had not anticipated that my tour would result in a Post communicating another tale of Nature-Inspired Life and Living.

I’ll close with a few apt quotations from notable persons, from Abe Lincoln to Johnny Carson, all with an abiding affection for liquid sunshine:

Mark Twain:

Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.

It was a place of sin, loose women, whiskey and gambling. It was no place for a good Presbyterian, and I did not long remain one.

Winston Churchhill:

The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.

Johnny Carson:

Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whisky, and a dog to eat the rare steak.

Abraham Lincoln:

Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.

George Bernard Shaw:

Whisky is liquid sunshine.

W.C.Fields:

Drown in a cold vat of whiskey? Death, where is thy sting?

I wonder whether any of these gentlemen thought about the Nature of whiskey?

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I had not anticipated the Nature-based lessons, revelations, and inspiration associated with distilling this golden elixir.
  • Understanding Nature spirited me to see and learn far more than most visitors.
  • Knowing the Nature (and science) of whiskey distilling amplified my appreciation of the finished product!

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: “©2022 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.

 

An Afternoon Exploring a Riparian Forest with My Two Alabama Grandsons

December 22, 2021, I wandered the riparian forest on the east end of Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife (near Huntsville, Alabama) with my two Alabama grandsons (Jack and Sam). I take Sam and Jack into the wild for the enjoyment it gives me, the learning provided to the three of us, the seeds sown to enrich their lives, and the good they may do for the future of Earth and humanity.

I offer the following quotes from Richard Louv, well-known authority and best-selling author on the topic of re-orienting youth to the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of Nature, and the value-added to life and living:

  • We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.
  • Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.
  • Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.
  • Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and therefore, for learning and creativity.
  • The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.
  • All spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and nature is a window into that wonder.
  • Reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival.

December 22, 2021, my two Alabama grandsons (Jack 14 and Sam 7) hiked HGH Road and visited Blackwell Swamp on the eastern end of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Huntsville, Alabama, just 15 miles from my Madison, AL residence. I measured a little over an inch of rain five days earlier. With blue sky and the temperature near 50, we enjoyed a spectacular afternoon. The winter riparian forest offered many treats for Pap and his two young outdoor enthusiasts: perfect weather; crackling leaves; visibility deep into the forest; no biting insects; active squirrels and woodpeckers; mushrooms galore; plentiful opportunites to explore curiosities and stimulate imagination; escape from digital screens; and tree form oddities along the way.

Here’s looking west with hardwood-dominant riparian forest on both sides of HGH Road.

HGH Road

 

The Refuge boundary lies just 50 feet north of the road at this point, a cultivated field on private land beyond this ancient four-foot diameter oak.

HGH Road

 

I will never tire of big trees, and I trust that the boys will carry the same passion for Nature into their old age. My role is to fan the flame of Nature appreciation. My email signature line quotes Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894):

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

Stevenson would have favorably judged my December 22!

HGH Road

 

The tree’s massive crown evidences its long and successful reign over this edge of the forest.

HGH Road

 

Since retiring, I have adopted a personal mission statement:

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

Because good mission statements are succinct, compact, and memorable, I deplore one that attempts to say all. What mine does not say (and doesn’t need to say) is that active imagination is requisite to all educating, learning, and enjoying. One of the 20th Century’s leading intellects, the remarkably mirthful and fun-loving Albert Einstein (1879-1955) recognized the essential role of imagination:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

Likewise, John Muir (1838-1914), one of the period’s most influential naturalists, relied upon his own vivid imagination to better understand and appreciate Nature and wildness:

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

I stopped along the trail when abreast of a tree I had previously photographed, imploring the boys to find a creature not normally found in our forests. Prompted by a few hints, they spotted the elephant, “seeing” its eyes, trunk, and tusks. I subscribe to the notion that so much of Nature’s wonder lies hidden in plain sight.

HGH Road

 

Carl Sagan (1934-96), world renowned astronomer, agreed with the power of imagination:

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

I implored the boys (as I do with all individuals and groups I lead on forest hikes) to follow my essential verbs for Nature examination:

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

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

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Those wise souls who have preceded us have already expressed the wisdom I embrace and attempt to pass forward:

Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever – Walt Disney (1901-66).

The man who has no imagination has no wings – Muhammad Ali (1942-2016).

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality – Lewis Carroll (1832-98).

Oak bracket fungus mushrooms at the base of this 28-inch living red oak evidence that this otherwise robust-appearing tree suffers decay within. The oak bracket mycelia are hard at work consuming wood within.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Oak bracket continues feeding upon dead wood once a host has succumbed. This large dead oak sports a fresh oak bracket mushroom. My hope is that our woods hikes will stir and inspire within Jack and Sam lifelong interest in our natural world.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school — (Einstein).

HGH Road

 

Sam knows and is impressed by knowing that these gnarly brackets are part of the rich dance of life and death in the forest.

 

Here’s a closer view of both the bottom (left) and top of these impressive mushrooms.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning — (Einstein).

The boys know that I am a wild edible muchroom enthusiast; they witnessed first-hand my excitement when we found these oysters. The boys can now identify oysters.

HGH Road

 

We observed the low sunlight and slanting shadows on this near-solstice winter afternoon. So good to be in the forest this time of year. Its as though it is ours to enjoy without dense aerial and understory foliage, insects, and other obstacles to full enjoyment and appreciation.

HGH Road

 

Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. This four-inch diameter downed branch supports a vibrant community of moss.

HGH Road

 

We left HGH road to explore the west shore of Blackweel Swamp as the sun dipped closer to the horizon, the sun kissing the upper canopy of the loblolly pine trees beyond the boys. I’m told that alligators inhabit the swamp. I have yet to see one. The fact that these primitive reptiles may be present adds a dimension of wildness and adventure to our experience.

HGH Road

 

As we drove north, departing the Refuge, we stopped to view a barred owl bidding us farewell, a fitting end to a fine afternoon.

HGH Road

 

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding — Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519).

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Our greatest duty as adults is to pass the spark of  Nature learning and imagination to the young.
  • Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart (Richard Louv).
  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school (Einstein).

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

Mid-Winter Treks at Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

I returned to Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary January 13 and 15, 2022, the first day to dry-run the interpretive hike I co-led on the 15th for 23 participants from the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). I focus this Post on the rich diversity of the Sanctuary, especially its multiple habitats, ecosystems, and ecotones.

I’ve written often about the Sanctuary, most recently: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/01/18/early-november-2021-b-roll-at-the-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

Water Dominance

 

December 28, 2021 through January 8, 2022, I recorded 6.96 inches of rain with my industrial grade-home rain gauge. The Flint River, which borders the Sanctuary, overflowed its banks and inundated the Sanctuary during that drenching. We were fortunate that the intervening week allowed the river to retreat to within its banks. However, Sanctuary lowland soils remained saturated. We had alerted hikers in advance to wear shoes/boots to handle conditions. Cloudy skies prevailed during our 1.5-mile hike. The threatened rain arrived later in the afternoon. That evening and overnight I measured another 1.90 inches.

 

Hidden Spring emerges at the Taylor Road entrance to the Sanctuary, fed from the ridge (visible to the west below left) that stands 800 feet above the Flint River flood plain. The two photos are of Jobala Pond (left) and its outlet stream with a pair of mallard drakes. I’ve pointed out in previous posts that Jobala is a naturalized pond created 80 years ago when highway engineers mined sand and gravel for nearby road construction. The periodic Flint River flooding overtops the pond’s embankment, introducing plant seed and the fish, reptiles, amphibians, and other life that naturalized the borrow pit. Jobala’s waters are clear, evidencing its spring-fed source.

 

A second borrow pit pond lies just 300 feet from Jobala. The January 13, 2022 photo (below left) shows its muddy water, which in all my visits has never been anything but cloudy. Unlike Jobala, this second pond does not have through-flow constantly refreshing its water. Its turbidity appears to be permanent. Some sediments such as clay particles and organic matter can be chemically suspended, never settling and permitting the water to clear. Other causes of permanent turbidity include bottom-feeding fish, mammals like beavers and muscrats, or cattle. Regardless, the second pond does not offer the aesthetic appeal as Jobala, yet we brought the 1 January 15 hike participants to this pond to draw the contrast and explore possible causes. As I’ve often said, every element of Nature has a story to tell, and every story has lessons for life and living.

 

Back in its banks, the Flint Rifer continued to run high. This an arm of the Flint flowing around an island, the far shore. The main channel lies just 200 yards downstream. The island, now isolated by the branch’s full flow, is easily accessible by ankle deep wading during most of the summer. The entire Sanctuary is a dynamic ecosystem, ranging from full flood to quiet calm.

 

The Flint River had rushed across these meadows within the past ten days. Waterlogged soils will persist through the remainer of the winter and well into the spring. The dynamic interaction of water and land through the seasons is part of the Sanctuary’s appeal and richness.

 

Meadow

 

Forest, meadow, distant ridge, and the ebb and flow of seasonal water define the Sanctuary. Ecotones (the boundary zones separating habitat types) enrich the Sanctuary. The forest edge below right supports more species diversity than either the interior forest or the open meadow. The ecotones, from my own appreciation perspective, likewise multiply the landscape aesthetic value. Weave in the seasonal changes, from what some would consider the drab winter view, to the fresh greens of spring, to the deep summer verdancy, to the colors of fall, and the aesthetic mosaic is unsurpassed. Even without knowing the shifting landscape complexion, I love the dormant season, when forest and meadows rest and recover as the river occasionally runs wild.

 

Hikers slip from meadow into forest. The ecotone is less distinct in summer when the separation can be lost in an overwhelming explosion of green. Leonardo da Vinci spoke of edges within paintings:

When you represent in your work shadows which you can only discern with difficulty, and of which you cannot distinguish the edges so that you apprehend them confusedly, you must not make them sharp or definite lest your work should have a wooden effect.

I know little about art, yet I see da Vinci’s wisdom in contrasting the discernable winter boundaries to the softened edges of summer.

 

I made that winter/summer distinction comment above, anticipating that I could demonstrate the difference with a simple photo from summer (June 26, 2021) at the Sanctuary. Having the winter/summer images, one above the other, does depict the winter edges as more distinct. The winter details of meadow elements and tree branching within the hardwood canopies are far more interesting. The summer characteristics are blurred greens with little detail within either the forest or meadow vegetation.

 

I offer two more sweeping vistas of meadow, edge, forst, and distant hills. Leaving more northern climes to retire to north Alabama, I admit to having dreaded the predominance of summer heat and absent winters that awaited me. However, I have grown to cherish the extended season of fall giving way to spring, with a few winter days thrown in for good measure. Our dormant season is complete, and for that I am grateful. I enjoy days like January 13 and 15, when temperatures made for pleasant hiking. Although soils may be saturated, we seldom have to contend with slushy snow. While nothing beats the marvel of a fresh and pristine snowy landscape, driving on slippery roads at this latitude with motorists unaccustomed to the treachery of frozen surfaces would have kept me at home. Perhaps someday I will hike the Sanctuary under snow cover.

 

Firmament

 

To this point, I have not mentioned the sky in this Post. However, a quick look back at the preceding 14 photos will confirm that the sky (January 13 mostly clear; January 15 dull stratus overcast) complements every image. Terra firma and the firmament, two very similar terms for the land and the sky, complete almost every landscape image I have captured. The January 13, 2022, images below placed in my mind that the firmament is an ocean above. I imagined that had this been a warmer day with drier soils, I could have reclined on my back to observe the ocean-sky as though I were on an airliner cruising at 32,000 feet above the Atlantic!

Albert Einstein believed passionately in the power of such imaginings:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

 

 

I shall never lose my imagination…my curiosity about Nature…shaped in my youth and sharpened by my practice of the craft across 70 years. It is the youngster in me that I shall strive to nourish until my final glance into the wild.

Other Life features

 

A 24-inch diameter elm snag stood along an abandoned side-channel of the Flint River. A Dryad’s saddle mushroom cluster sprouts from near the snag’s top, 12 feet from its base, out of my reach.

 

When fresh, Dryad’s saddle is edible. This cluster evidences that the snag serves as a perfect substrate for the mushroom’s decomposing mycelia. Eventually, gravity or a flooding Flint River will dislodge the snag, returning its remaining mass to the continuing cycle of forest organic matter.

 

Trametes lactinea (I found no common names) sprouted profusely from a red oak log along the trail.

 

The mushrooms felt fresh and rubbery, with distinct pores on the underside (right image).

 

A dead sugarberry snag is frequented by pileated woodpeckers, as evidenced by the pile of punky chips at its base and the large rectangular trunkside excavations.

 

Another nearby sugarberry snag likewise carried pileated woodpecker cavities.

 

The dead sugarberry below still hoists its crown, albeit much diminished subsequent to death and decomposition, into the main canopy. Within three years I believe the trunk will yield to decay and gravity, falling to the ground to decay in-place or head downstream with the next flooding.

 

Two streambank sweetgum trees appear to be holding on to each other, resisting the undercutting flood waters that are eroding the bank and shifting the channel. These Flint River active riparian zones are constantly reshaped with each flood, some areas aggrading while others erode. The landscape is in dynamic flux. The sweetgums germinated and grew on a natural streamside levee; a migrating channel has now discovered the levee, cutting into and through it. The two trees will ultimately pay the price, no longer able to find adequate purchase to keep them erect.

 

The Sanctuary is a dynamic, varied ecosystem, blessed with shifting ecotones and rich life.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every element of Nature has a story to tell, and every story has lessons for life and living.
  • I shall never lose my imagination…my curiosity about Nature.
  • Albert Einstein: Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

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: “©2022 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Continued Progress on Monte Sano State Park Wells Memorial Trail Video

November 7, 2021, retired videographer Bill Heslip and I recorded B-roll video for our summer 2022 17-20-minute video project to present the Land Legacy Tale of the Wells Memorial Trail at Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville, Alabama. I’ve published prior Posts on this remarkable story of 40 acres gifted and memorialized for William Arthur Wells, a local boy, a former Civilian Conservation Corps worker on what is now the Park, and a Navy Sailor who perished in the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/10/05/contemplating-a-video-tale-of-the-william-arthur-wells-memorial-trail-monte-sano-state-park/

Don’t look for a lot of detail with this current Post. My purpose is to capture the autumnal beauty and diversity of this special place. Bill and I timed our visit perfectly (fortuity and serendipity prevailed) for fall glory.

Monte Sano

 

 

Low angle sunlight, a yellowing forest canopy, and thinning foliage allowed forest floor illumination and depth of field.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Everywhere I looked revealed a Kodak-moment! As Bill recorded, I relished having the time to look around as well as up and down.

Monte Sano

 

I never tire of putting my five essential verbs of forest enjoyment to practice: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

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

Too infrequently woods-walkers hurry through the forest intent only upon reaching a destination. I prefer walking in the forest to experience the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe that lie hidden in plain sight.

Monte Sano

 

The special conditions, and the luxury of time to immerse completely, opened all five of my portals: body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit. I floated through the canopy!

Monte Sano

 

Bill sought images both ordinary and unusual. This 18-inch diameter hickory had nearly blown over perhaps a decade ago. I say “nearly” because some neighbor tree held fast, halting the hickory before its roots had completely broken free. The tree still lives, and each year it better secures its 40-degree-lean anchorage. Will it survive this winter; the next summer thunderstorm; the next decade; longer?

Monte Sano

 

Bill captured the B-roll video, not knowing whether or how he might employ the footage.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Shagbark hickory offers deep texture among the world of tall straight trunks of species with smooth-barked boles.

Monte Sano

 

Life and Death in the Forest

Vibrant forces within this dead standing hickory are at work to return its mass to the soil. Bill is filming the diverse mushrooms that align its vertical trunk. Mushrooms are the spore-producing structures of the decay fungi breaking down the wood, eventually weakening the structure that has held the tree erect for decades. The dead hickory lifts into the canopy from the upper right corner of the image below right. Note its spindly top, the reult of death already bringing its upper branches to the ground.

Monte Sano

Monte Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve preached incessantly to Bill and others who will listen, that life and death engage without end in our forests. We want the video to honestly represent that all is not peace, tranquility, and blissful life in the forest…that competition among trees is fierce…that essential resources of light, moisture, and nutrients are finite. What one tree acquires is unavailable to another. The winner evidences no remorse; to the victor go the spoils. Individual trees have no need to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion as they go about the business of thriving, surviving, and sustaining their lineage. Below Bill is documenting the continuing cycle of life, death, renewal, and recycling.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Fungi act as ubiquitous decomposers, their mushrooms sprouting from the end of a dead trunk cut to clear the trail (below left) and from a downed branch (right).

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Moss occupies the surface of woody debris across the forest floor.

Monte Sano

 

Other Features of Interest

Grape vine foliage gathers light high in the forest canopy, having grown the 100+ feet in height as the tree developed vertically, year by year. The tree and vine are the same age.

Monte Sano

 

I completed my doctoral field research in southwest New York and northwest Pennsylvania in 1986, evaluating soil-site factors in second growth Allegheny hardwood forests. Four decades ago the literature acknowledged that total tree height in even-aged stands expressed site quality better by far than any other factor such as diameter, stocking, merchantable height, or basal area. Recent literature collaborates the wisdom upon which I designed my research and the findings I published:

Tree height is relatively independent of tree density for most forest tree species. Simply put, trees grow taller on good sites, and they grow shorter on poor sites. Therefore, tree height is a more reliable measure of the site’s inherent productivity than most other measures. Forest Measurements: An Applied Approach (2016, Joan DeYoung)

Over the three-and-one-half decades since, tall trees strike a chord with me. The yellow poplar and associated species along the Wells and Sinks trails are among the tallest hardwoods I have encountered anywhere in my travels. I measured one poplar in this stand last summer at 174 feet. My measurement, while the best I could do with my instrument from the ground, is by no means official. Nevertheless, how does it compare to official, verified heights of trees in the eastern US? National Parks Traveler (October 24, 2012, Jim Burnett) reported on the two tallest estern tree individuals, both in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: white pine at 188.9′ and yellow poplar at 191.9′. The Great Smoky Mountains poplar is the tallest broadleaf tree in all of temperate North America, surpassing a documented black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) in Olympic National Park.

Monte Sano

 

Already in late afternoon shadow, Bill is capturing some handheld footage as we depart for the trailhead.

Monte Sano

 

My heart soars when I wander through these hardwood coves. My spirit correlates directly with site quality. I have long been a champion of excellence, whether in athletics, business, or ecological performance. The towering poplars have competed effectively for rich, yet still finite moisture, nutrients, and sunlight. I hike the Wells and Sinks trails in awe of these cove hardwoods and the intense competition and evolutionary prowess that produce what I consider a magnificent southern Appalachian cathedral forest. I feel un unapologetic sacred connection to this very special place. Bill and I will do all we can to capture the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe that characterize the spirituality permeating this wonderful living memorial to a young man who gave his last full measure in service to our Great Nation.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Every tree and every parcel of land has a story to tell.
  • Oftentimes, the intersection of human and natural history brings the power of passion to the tale.
  • This land came to us out of eternity — when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here, preserved forevermore in tribute to William Arthur Wells. 

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: “©2022 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.