Fellow retired forester Chris Stuhlinger and I visited Oak Mountain State Park on June 8, 2023. I focus this Post on our exploration of Camp Tranquility, constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps artisans to house the work crews assigned to build infrastructure at the Park.
The 1930s photograph below left depicts a youthful group at the entrance sign. The sign indicates Oak Mountain State Park even as it references the National Park Service and the US Department of the Interior. The crew below right is clearing and grading Peavine Road in the 1930s. Note the cutover forest, which in time developed into the typical second-growth forest that covers most of the Park’s 11,600 acres.
Camp Tranquility housed the CCC crews through the 30s. Once WWII absorbed the Corps workers, the Camp eventually transitioned to the Boy Scouts of America after the War.
Although this was my first visit to the site, I had previously spent nights at the Park’s Tranquility Lake cabins. The lake lies just 100 vertical feet below the Camp summit, on the hill at left in the image below right.
The CCC’s stonework is notoriously permanent, in this case appearing unweathered 90 years after being laid around the flag pole. This cabin stands at the hilltop peak, clearly the main building for the Boy Scout camp. I wonder what morning reveries sounded to greet the new day during CCC days…and subsequent to them.
I recorded this 39-second video to capture the timeless hominess of the camp.
What incredible workmanship these stone masons exhibited! I puzzled with how many coats of forest green paint preserve the cabins. How many young scouts wandered home from camp with green paint accenting their camp uniforms? How many rich memories persisted into adulthood?
Did those scouts appreciate that an entire generation of CCC stalwarts learned their life trades building the Camp and the park, then ventured into WWWII saving the world from absolute evil? Late at night atop Tranquility Camp Hill, do the echoes of thousands of hard working young men and adventuresome scouts brighten the darkness? Are memories alive in these woods?
I believe I felt their presence. We strolled through the Camp, musing about the past. Only the buildings reflect the 90-year-old Camp. The forest, while some trees date back to those long-ago days, does not resemble the forest surrounding the Camp in the 1930s. Individual trees and the forest they reside within change over the years and decades.
The photo below depicts a cluster of scouts reviewing a scouting Handbook. The photo is faded, yet I can only speculate when the shutter exposed the image. The haircuts and manner of dress place the image around the time of my youth, but I am far less than certain. Lets say 1960. Note the tree to the right and the stem in front.
Here is the same cabin the day we visited. The tree in front is gone. The one to the right is now 18 inches in diameter. The forest around the cabin is much matured, a deep forest. Oh, to have CCC-era photos of Camp Tranquility! I am now ever-more committed to sleuthing the interconnected human and natural history of our state parks and the Civilian Conservation Corps. I want park naturalists and interpreters armed with historic facts and photographs charting the pace of forest development since the 1930. Then I wish to see each park establish permanent photo points now to systematically monitor development at those points from this day forward.
These two images provide a human interest snapshot in mid-summer 2023, including an Eagle Scout footnote from 2012. What will remain in 2033? In 2043? What of the tree that I’m leaning on above? Let’s find a way to memorialize some of the stories that are yet to be told.
Oak Mountain State Park contains a rich on-the-ground library of tales and remains from the 1930s CCC era. Let’s capture that history with current photos, descriptions, GPS coordinates of features like this old CCC-constructed culvert.
Just seven days after my Oak Mountain SP visit I failed my stress test, leading to my June 19, 2023 triple bypass surgery. I am writing these reflection August 24, a little more than nine weeks after surgery. I feel confident that I will regain strength, endurance, energy, and general wherewithal to continue pursuit of this mission. However, none of us can guarantee even a single tomorrow.
Alabama State Parks Foundation
Thoughts and Reflections
I offer these observations, from a single Louis Bromfield quote (Pleasant Valley):
- The adventure at Malabar is by no means finished…
- The land came to us out of eternity and when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here.
- The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it,
- to die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better it better by wisdom, knowledge, and hard work…
Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2023 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”
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And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at email@example.com
A 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 by 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.
- 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 understand their Earth home more clearly.
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 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 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 grandkids, 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
All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship with the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.