Mid-April Dawn at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park!


Dockside Dawn


On April 17 and 18, 2024, I visited Joe Wheeler State Park for the quarterly meeting of the Alabama State Parks Foundation. Rather than present a single long Post from my wanderings during my free time, please look for four separate photo essays:

  1. Reading evidence of past land use in the current 80-90-year-old forests
  2. Tree form oddities and related curiosities
  3. Lakeside forest panoply
  4. Dawn from the Lodge docks — This Post


Going Gently Into That Good Night


Although I titled this photo essay Mid April Dawn, I found no better place to insert two photographs from late afternoon before joining the Foundation social and dinner. I never tire of placid water, lakeside forests, and evening clouds.

I snapped the images from the Lodge docks at 4:47 and 48 PM.



I reluctantly left the docks for the 5:00 PM Foundation session, knowing that the affair and dinner would allow no time for wandering outside before sunset.

Mid-April Dawn


I rarely miss dawn and sunrise. I wonder what could possibly keep me awake so late at night that I miss darkness retreating to the west and the new day breaching the eastern horizon. I made it to the docks during civil twilight at 6:07 AM, ten minutes ahead of sunrise. Overcast dimmed the scene.


By 6:13 (left) the sun had broken the horizon, shielded by trees and shrouded in the low overcast. Little had changed by 6:20 AM. Broken stratus clouds dulled the firmament, holding a bright day at bay. Note the bird on the water (photo at right).



The 6:20 AM bird on the water revealed itself as a common loon, who treated me to a tremolo greeting, a call that stirs me to the core, reminding me of lakeside summer mornings and evenings in the great northland. Loons have normally migrated from northern Alabama to their higher latitude breeding grounds by mid-April.



Contrary to clear-sky mornings when daylight explodes when the sun rises, little change in light level appeared by 6:21 and 6:23 AM.



I embraced the cloud-dulled new day and the mood, character, and serenity it suggested. I recorded this 43-second video at 6:23 AM:


I reemerged between our group breakfast and the start of our business meeting. The clouds lingered at 8:14 AM, yet a few breaks revealed blue above.



Two final morning views completed my morning reconnaissance at 8:38 and 8:42 AM, the first of a fully-leafed-out yellow popular behind the Lodge and the second a last view of the marina.



I realize that this series of dawn through early morning photographs depict only modest shifts in light, mood, and insight. In contrast I’ve experienced other mornings when change happened in leaps and bounds…when the sun burst from the horizon, twilight collapsed without delay, and the morning dispersed in the blink of an eye. Nature is like that. Sometimes predictable…other times surprising. Nothing in Nature is static, whatever the pace.

I recall during my career retirees telling me that they are busier in retirement than ever before. I can’t say that I am as pressed for time as during my two decades of executive university leadership (VP at two institutions and CEO at four others), however, I am more engaged than I imagined I would be. Importantly, my busy days focus on Nature! Secondly, the pace and direction of effort are mine; stress is generally absent.


Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations:

  • Nothing in Nature is static, whatever the pace of change.
  • It’s always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. (John Muir)
  • Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. (Rachel Carson)

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: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at


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 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 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.

I now have a fourth book, published by Dutton Land and Cattle Company, Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story. Available for purchase directly from me. Watch for details in a future Post.