March 19, 2022 on the Fire Tower Trail at Monte Sano State Park

March 19, 2022, I co-led a hike on the Fire Tower Trail at Alabama’s Monte Sano State Park for OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville). Chilly, mostly cloudy, and dry, the hiking weather and conditions proved perfect.

In retrospect, this hike proved special. I had been released just a week prior from the intensive physical therapy following my November 8, 2021, left shoulder replacement. I was primed for an anticipated spring of woodland exploration, focusing on the coming season replete with our region’s prolific spring ephemeral wildflowers. However, just five mornings later I suffered a stroke that kept me out the woods until a brief and labored forest hike April 29. Here’s my April 27 Post describing my efforts to retain Nature-connections close to home during my extended period of convalescence: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/04/27/sunrises-and-sunsets-over-the-period-of-my-stroke-convalescence/

Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust

 

Life and death are constant companions in our north Alabama forests. Nothing in our wild environments signals internal static. Although this loblolly pine appears robust, the woody bracket about eye height signals internal decay. The conk is the fruity body (spore producing structure) for the decay fungi within the bole. Perhaps a bit morbid, all living organisms begin dying the minute they are born, hatched, or germinated. Despite the death of individuals (trees, shrubs, squirrels, or insects, the forest continues.

I have a purpose for beginning this section with this particular photograph. Not only does it show a supposedly robust tree dealing with a serious decay organism, it happens to be supporting a spiraling vine. Based upon this excursion, I will dedicate a subsequent Post (watch for it) on the spiraling habits of our native forest canopy vines.

Monte Sano

 

Our trail circuited south before looping back on a parallel route near the eastern plateau edge. The elevation is a consistent 1,500-1,600 feet. The forest is likewise fairly uniform, consisting of mixed oak, hickories, and declining black locusts, along with a scattering of poplars, maples, cedars, and pines. I view the forest as even-aged, likely 80-90 years, regenerated from periodic cuttings for timber and intensive firewood harvesting. Black locust and red cedar are early colonists on our cleared forests. The remaining cedar stand suppressed in the understory, failing to compete effectively for space in the main canopy. Black locust trees ascended into the main canopy but stand mostly as skeletons or weakening remnants. They are not long-lived.

Cracked cap polypore (below right) is a primary final instrument of death on black locust. However, I am undecided (based upon my own observations and the literature) whether the decay fungus caused death, or simply takes advantage of this pioneer species’ fulfilling its life-mission early and then fading, losing its ability (and desire) to fend off the pesky fungus. Its life mission? One facet is producing tasty and nutritious seeds, appealing to birds, who consume them and pass them scarified elsewhere. But that may not be the primary mechanism for assuring succession to a future forest. The USDA Forest Service indicates that locust seed production peaks from ages 15-40 years and generally ceases by age 60. So, a terminal age beyond the seed production age may serve little purpose. Of importance, locust seeds may remain viable for decades and accumulate to thousands of viable seeds per acre on the forest floor. When the next significant blow-down occurs on the plateau, the black locust seedbank may once again that black locust will thrive in the succeeding stand.

As reference, I published a Post in March documenting a similar black locust decline at Joes Wheeler State Park (http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/03/22/black-locust-decline-and-two-champion-trees-at-joe-wheeler-state-park/).

Monte Sano

 

Another black locust sports a bark-less burl, indicating low tree vigor.

Monte Sano

 

This black locust has succumbed. These are the mushrooms of decay fungi consuming the standing dead tree from within. Eventually, gravity will prevail, the fungi will continue, and the organic matter will incorporate into the soil. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

 

Monte Sano

 

A Plateau-top Perched Wetland — a Relic from Days Past

 

Although the plateau-top forest retains the stark appearance of winter, the old lily pond (a footnote in the rich history of the Hotel Monte Sano resort period) offered a spring peeper chorus, hinting at the season just around the corner!

 

I’ve found that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be an order of magnitude better than the photos. Therefore, I’m hoping to incorporate more of these short videos.

Not Indian Marker Trees

 

We found several trees that stimulated a discussion of Indian marker trees, remnant individual trees intentionally shaped by native Americans to designate directions to some place of special significance. I reject that any of the trees in the forest we transited meet the criterion of age necessary to place them here during Indian occupation 150 years ago. Instead, these trees are artifacts of natural processes. I refer you to my relevant Post from February 2021: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/02/10/indian-marker-trees-separating-folklore-from-fact/

The oak trees below suffered physical damage from a falling tree or branch, recovered from the injury, then sent a shoot vertically at the point of injury that reaches at least into the intermediate canopy.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

This chestnut oak is pointing the way with a skeletal arm, reminding me of the scary, haunted Sleepy Hallow woods where Ichabod Crane may have wandered near Halloween time.

Monte Sano

 

I shall never tire of seeing mystery and magic in the forests I wander. I often get lost in the imagery and fantasy of my forest wanderings.

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

We found this old tortured white oak, which I am certain is older that the forest around it. A remnant from a prior forest? A property line marker tree? I have said often that every tree has a story to tell. So much in our forests lies hidden in plain sight. I enjoy trying to cipher the stories.

Monte Sano

 

I see this individual predating the Civil War and the Hotel Monte Sano. I’d love to hear its tales!

Lichens and Mosses

 

Some might consider a forest merely as a collection of trees. In fact, while trees are the primary characters from our perspective, they constitute only the essential matrix. John Helms’ The Dictionary of Forestry defines forest: as an ecosystem characterized by a more or less dense and extensive tree cover. The key word is ecosystem, which Helms defines (in his immutable academic language) as a spatially explicit, relatively homogenous unit of the earth that includes all interacting organisms and components of the abiotic environment within its boundaries. I applaud Dr Helms for his concise capture of the essence of the terms forest and ecosystem, even as I celebrate and rejoice that retirement licenses me to write outside the bounds and constraints of the academic world that once held me in its grasp!

This hiskory wears a moss-coat, interspersed with lichen patches. A fine garment! We all know that Nature abhors a vacuum. The moss and lichen find the hickory bark and its collections of surficial organic matter as ideal substrate for eking a living.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

This moss carpet is even more extravagant!

Monte Sano

 

The combination of poison ivy vine roote, lichen, and moss create an ornate surface on this chestnut oak. The forest as just trees? Not even close.

Monte Sano

 

Life extends far beyond the tree matrix. Diverse plant, animal, and fungal life by count alone reaches exponentially beyond the mere hundreds of tree per acre.

A Special Discovery

 

During our hike I spotted first the broken chestnut oak off-trail, admiring the character expressed by its fractured top, one side with hollowed core. I then noticed, without aid of magnification that a stuffed-toy-like face seemed to be staring our way. Marsha Langlois, one of our tour group, caught this image with her telephoto lens. The stuffed toy critter is, in fact, gawking at us, I suppose wondering who we are!

 

Monte San0

 

 

Lest you think this great horned owl baby is a stuffed animal placed high in the oak, here is an image from an online open-source collection:

Image result for images of baby great horned owls

Copied Online Image

 

I’ve said repeatedly that so much lies hidden in plain site. If I had not slowed to look closely enough to see, I would have passed beneath the old ravaged chestnut oak missing what for me was the greatest delight of the day. Borrowing from my Great Blue Heron website, I employ what I term five essential verbs to make the most of my forest forays:

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 — that action may be as simple as sharing what I see in these Posts

The owl family is as much a part of the forest as the trees, their moss and lichen coats, the birds and mice the owls consume, and every other facet on the biotic and abiotic elements of this relatively homogenous unit of the earth!

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.
  • Are forests are filled with beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. Occasionally we encounter special treats!

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

 

 

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.

Steve's BooksMonte Sano

 

 

 

 

Falconry at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 28-29, 2022, I participated in Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park’s Focus on Nature Weekend, a workshop on Nature Photography. I co-led a half-day field excursion on the Park. One element of the outing involved accompanying falconer Matt Whitfield as he worked his three Harris hawks in pursuit of the Park’s ubiquitous grey squirrels. I offer relevant observations, reflections, and photographs from the hour we accompanied Matt before our group ventured elsewhere in the Park.

Matt brought Wesson, the lone male among his three Harris hawks, to his demonstration after dinner that evening. Wesson (and Matt) behaved well, showing little sign of agitation or unruliness.

Joe Wheeler

Wikipedia offers a succinct introduction to Harris hawks:

The Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), formerly known as the bay-winged hawk or dusky hawk, and known in Latin America as peuco, is a medium-large bird of prey that is a popular species in falconry.

The name is derived from the Greek para, meaning beside, near or like, and the Latin buteo, referring to a kind of buzzard; uni meaning once; and cinctus meaning girdled, referring to the white band at the tip of the tail. John James Audubon gave this bird its English name in honor of his ornithological companion, financial supporter, and friend Edward Harris.

The Harris’s hawk is notable for its behavior of hunting cooperatively in packs consisting of tolerant groups, while other raptors often hunt alone. Harris hawks’ social nature has been attributed to their intelligence, which makes them easy to train and have made them a popular bird for use in falconry.

Matt and daughter Mattie complemented each other, operating as a team even as the hawks coordinated their activities, Wesson staying high, while the females stayed in the lower and mid canopies. Our Focus on Nature pack trundled along just behind Matt, Mattie, and the hawks.We could not have chosen a better day to surge, pause, surge, pause, repeatedly in pursuit of hawks and squirrels. Note below left that Mattie holds a maul over her shoulder. The hawks flushed two squirrels over a fifteen minute period, chasing them into canopy vine thickets and tree cavities. Mattie whacked the trees’ base to prompt the squirrel to make a run for it. In both cases, the respective squirrel eventually found safe harbor.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I can see how a nature enthusiast could be attracted to this ancient sport, hobby, and hunting necessity. Leonardo da Vinci observed, Inaction saps the vigor of the mind. There is nothing inactive about falconry, except perhaps the brief rest the females enjoyed as they posed for photos.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The group’s adulation of the birds and their coordinated hunting reminded me of a statement by Richard Louv:

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. The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age (2012)

I watched our group during our 60 minutes with Matt, Mattie, and the birds…and heard our expressions of awe, joy, and appreciation. With apologies to Louv, I offer my own applicable modification to Lou’s observation:

We cannot effectively photograph something in Nature that 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.

Modifying my essential verbs for truly enjoying Nature-wanderings, here are my essential steps for Nature photography:

  • Learn as much as you can beforehand about the object of your intended photography.
  • Believe in full measure that Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe lie hidden in plain sight
  • Look with intensity, not superficially, but deeply enough to see.
  • Add to your knowledge base with each successive journey into Nature.
  • As we learn more, our understanding deepens, our love intensifies, our focus sharpens, our eyes (and camera lens) see what had been hidden in plain sight.

Most other workshop participants carried expensive digital cameras with a collection of lenses; I use only my iPhone. I wondered often whether I could improve my photographs and these photo-essay Blog Posts with an investment in camera gear, in effect graduating to “real” photographer. Since the workshop, I’m wavering, but I am not convinced that the resulting improvements would warrant the upgrade. What I am sure of is this:

  • My iPhone takes good photographs of most elements within Nature that I seek (i.e. landscapes, trees, tree canopies, sky and cloud, grandkids).
  • I am not happy with my own macro shots — close-up details of flowers, insects, mushrooms, mosses, lichens, etc.
  • I frequently long for a telephoto lens far stronger than the simple and limited telephoto iPhone function.

I will continue to evaluate the adequacy of my camera gear. I am certain that I reached and perhaps exceeded the limits of my iPhone in capturing Wesson’s image in the mid-canopy. The photos I attempted when he perched in the upper canopy showed only a blurry image.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I imagined the life-pressure felt by a hungry wild falcon, perched in the mid-canopy, eyes searching for prey, as Wesson appears to be doing above. Louv once again offered an apt observation:

The pleasure of being alive is brought into sharper focus when you need to pay attention to staying alive ― Richard Louv, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder.

The sentiment applies to my own Nature-wanderings and the sense of purpose I bring to developing these Great Blue Heron Blog Posts. I want to bring sharper focus to my observations, photography, and reflections. And yes, these endeavors do indeed enhance my pleasure in being alive. Would better camera gear expand or intensify that pleasure? I will ruminate for the time being.

Although I cannot attribute this statement to a particular soure, I often say that whatever the endeavor, I am committed to employing the power of purpose and the passion of my beliefs to the service of reason. I view my purpose as my 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.

My passion derives from seventy years as a Nature enthusiast, a devotee of Nature-Inspired Life and Living. I contend that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Inaction saps the vigor of the mind — Leonardo da Vinci. Action prevailed as we scurried through the forest.
  • Nature is inexhaustible in its myriad fascinating interrelationships such as among hawk, squirrel, and forest.
  • Nature photography rests in knowing, understanding, and appreciating the nature of the subject. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Morning Perspective at Joe Wheeler State Park

January 28-30, 2022, I participated in the Focus on Nature (Nature Photography) Workshop at Joe Wheeler State Park. I offer photographs and reflections from my solitary hike beginning at dawn January 30. This Post highlights a 180-degree early morning perspective on the Awesome Trail and some tree form oddities from the entire weekend. I write these Posts to learn, understand, and cherish.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding — Leonardo da Vinci

Awesome Trail 180-Degree Perspective

 

I entered the Awesome Trail (see map below, or online: https://www.alapark.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/JWSP%20-%20Trail%20Map.pdf) from its First Creek Boat Ramp Trailhead.

 

Because of time constraints I ventured only 0.75 miles before turning. Except for dropping south from the trailhead, most of my trek took me eastbound. Both views below are to the east from roughly where I turned around. Lake Wheeler’s Weaver Branch Inlet (see map) is to the right. The early morning sun is casting longs shadows behind me over my shoulders. With this series of 180-degree photos I will pan clockwise.

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The view is now to the southeast, across the Weaver Branch arm. The Park Lodge and Marina lie to the right beyond sight. The absence of hardwood foliage makes this my favorite season to hike all trails along the water.

Joe Wheeler

 

I’ve swung to the southwest looking across First Creek at the far shore.

Joe Wheeler

 

The photo below swings beyond due west toward the trail head and the shallow end of the First Creek Inlet. I’m taken with the variations of image, impact, and beauty derived from standing in-place and pivoting the camera view. The effects are particularly strong at either end of winter days, when shadows are long and prominent. During the growing season, sunlight reaches the forest floor only as flecks and dapples.

Joe Wheeler

 

The sun-striped forest floor reminds me that change is a constant in Nature, whether diurnal, seasonal, or decadal, and beyond. Sometimes, as in this case, time means little. I simply pivoted in-place, creating change by shifting my position of view relative to sunlight and shadow.

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

 

I seek intellectual and creative stimulation by finding and photographing tree form curiosities and oddities, speculating on the cause of the peculiar shapes and forms, and communicating what I’ve ascertained to readers of these Posts.

Wisdom is timeless. Leonardo da Vinci wrote 500 years ago statements that are as true today as they were then:

It’s not enough that you believe what you see. You must also understand what you see.

This vertical pole-sized yellow poplar grows from a base previously laid to just 30 degrees from horizontal by a fallen tree or large branch. The force responsible shattered, crushed, or snapped the sapling’s top at that point. The wound served as an infection court for wood decay fungi that have actively decayed and hollowed the severely leaning trunk. I should have felt within the vertical stem to see whether decay is extending vertically as well. I suspect that it is.

Jow Wheeler

 

Some would see this survivor as an Indian marker tree, manipulated by Native Americans to point to something of importance. However, I reject the idea with certainty. Native Americans have not occupied this area for 150 years. The yellow poplar suffered its physical indignity just a few decades ago. Natural forces pointed this tree in the direction acheived by random forces.

Joe Wheeler

 

Not technically a tree, this large woody grapevine (a species of the genus Vitis) is typical of the seeming random shapes and forms I see wherever I’ve encountered large main canopy aerial wanderers. Reaching well into the main canopy, these vines grow with the tree. This one is rooted at least ten feet beyond the oak. Picture it sprouting and beginning its life at about the same time that the acorn germinated. The growing young vine found the young oak, grasped it, and proceeded to grow vertically with the oak. The oak performs the hard work of reaching for sunlight, providing the strong and rigid trunk and branchwork. The vine clings tightly to the growing tree, reaching with the tree to maximize its own sunlight capture.

Joe Wheeler

 

I’ve mentioned previously in these Posts that I am still seeking to identify the mutual benefit to the tree of having the vine co-occupy the canopy courtesy of the tree. I shall continue my quest for answers. There may be no benefit. Perhaps the vine is an unavoidable pest/competitor and that the evolutionary advantage goes to oak genotypes better able to tolerate the grape-nuisance. I’ve also wondered whether the grapevine-infested trees encourage the acorn-gatherer/cacher (e.g., squirrels and jays) populations to more effectively place acorns every fall into suitable germination sites. I shall continue to seek answers through my own observations…and keeping an eye for relevant scientific literature.

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

Like the yellow poplar, this hackberry suffered physical injury. A falling tree or another large object hit a major side branch or fork of the hackberry. The broken stub offered entry to a decay fungus that continues to decompose wood within the trunk, assuring that life ahead will be hollow, empty, and likely abbreviated!

Joe Wheeler

 

Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets — da Vinci

Similar circumstances led to this black cherry with a hollowed stem.

Joe Wheeler

 

These two black cherry trees also suffered physical damage from above. Both are retaining life by contorting to reach available sunlight, in each case by reaching beyond their forest edge location. Black cherry is shade intolerant. Had they been located within a closed forest and suffered similarly, they could not have survived. Life within our forests is tough and demanding. The rule of survival of the fittest (best adapted) applies. Importantly, these individuals, while not thriving, have reached the seed-production stage. Their contorted shape is injury-induced…not attributable to a genetic, inheritable weakness. If even a single progeny survives, they have achieved a measure of success in the goal of extending life into next generations.

The average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking — da Vinci

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

I learn more from seeking answers raised by my Nature wanderings, ponderings, and writings than I do by venturing with the mindset that I already have the answers. Learning is a contact sport.

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions — da Vinci

If you find from your own experience that something is a fact and it contradicts what some authority has written down, then you must abandon the authority and base your reasoning on your own findings — da Vinci

Self-immersion in Nature is one means to my self-fullfillment, and the vehicle through which I learn, enjoy, and satisfy my quest to understand and share my passion for informed and responsible Earth stewardship.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding — da Vinci

Learning is the only thing that never disappoints us — da Vinci

We must experience Nature to develop our perceptions of what she is and how she performs.

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions — da Vinci

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself — da Vinci
  • What we see in Nature depends upon how we look…and at what depth.
  • It’s not enough that you believe what you see. You must also understand what you see — da Vinci

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 BooksJow 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.

 

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 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Cheaha State Park October 20 and 21, 2021: Dusk to Dawn Sequence

I returned to Cheaha State Park October 20, 2021, for an Alabama State Parks Foundation evening reception and dinner, and next day Board meeting. A group of Board members and guests strolled to the Bald Rock Overlook to view sunset prior to our scheduled evening gathering in the Lodge. I think you will enjoy this chronicled series of photographs extending from when we met at the trailhead at 5:43 PM until the post-sunset glow at 6:15.

I returned to the overlook alone in the dark the next morning, enjoying the dawning sequence from 6:20 to 6:39 AM. Unlike most of my Blog Posts, this one offers just a few observations and comments, with parenthetical notations of exact time for each image.

The crew gathered enthusiastically for our leisurely walk on the ADA-accessible boardwalk, stopping occasionally along the way for interpretation (5:43 and 5:45).

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

Dusk

Ten minutes later we reached the overlook, enjoying a splendid evening sky accented with wisps of cirrus signaling the cold front approaching from the west to arrive the next morning. Official sun tables for Cheaha Mountain showed October 20 sunset at 6:03; these images are about ten minutes shy (5:53 and 5:54).

Cheaha

 

The actual exact time of sunset proved rather dull, yet deep colors emerged as the sun, streaming from below the horizon, illuminated the underside of the clouds along the western horizon (6:02 and 6:09).

Cheaha

 

The show deepened as the sun sunk lower. Note in the right image the solar rays reaching from below the horizon (6:10 and 6:12).

Cheaha

 

Colors faded quickly after I captured the final glow. By the time we returned to the Lodge darkness had fallen. We welcomed the roaring fire outside (6:15).

Cheaha

 

What could possibly exceed the fulfillment and inspiration from an evening stroll, an observation deck sunset from Alabama’s highest peak, and an embracing bonfire!

Dawn

I read that sunrise would bless the new day at 6:54 AM. I wanted to be at the overlook with plenty of time to spare. I’ve learned that my iPhone camera, with its three-second exposure, captures available light far better than my eyes. These two photos, taken more than 30 minutes in advance of sunrise, reveal early color and mostly cloudy skies (6:20 and 6:22).

Cheaha

 

The view to the NE (below left) clearly shows Anniston, Alabama. The lower right view is north, midway between Anniston and Talladega. Again, I snapped the images during what appeared to me as nearly full darkness (6:23 and 6:23).

Cheaha

 

Just a few minutes brought noticably greater illumination to the Talladega horizon (below left), the foreground Virginia pines, and even to the boardwalk signage (6:29 and 6:31).

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

Although sunrise would not occur for another 20 minutes, visual detail both near and far rapidly emerged (6:31 and 6:32).

Cheaha

 

Looking back from the overlook, the nature of the forest is apparent. Stunted Virginia pine and oak amount to little more than a shrub layer near the rimrock. Fractured rock, impoverished shallow soils, and exposure to harsh winds prohibit high-forest development. However, I did not visit the overlook pre-dawn to see towering trees and deep forest (6:32 and 6:39)!

Cheaha

 

The aforementioned cold front brought morning showers and even one clap of thunder, reminding me how much I would like to stand at the overlook watching a thunderstorm race across the valley from west to east, yet I knew that I would more than likely have retreated to the safety of the lodge.

Afternoon

The front passed to our south and east by noon, leaving a clear view of Cheaha as we departed early afternoon (1:11 pm).

Cheaha

 

The continuing cycles of weather, sunrise and sunset, and season add infinite variety to my Nature explorations. A sage once posited that variety is the spice of life. So, too, is variety the spice of Nature. I suppose that I could visit Cheaha daily across a year…or a lifetime…and each day marvel at its beauty, magic, wonder, and awe.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • What could possibly exceed the fulfillment and inspiration from an evening stroll, an observation deck sunset from Alabama’s highest peak, and an embracing bonfire!
  • A sage once posited that variety is the spice of life. So, too, is variety the spice of Nature.
  • I could visit Cheaha daily across a year…or a lifetime…and each day marvel at its beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. 

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.

 

Cheaha State Park October 20 and 21, 2021

I returned to Cheaha State Park October 20, 2021, for an Alabama State Parks Foundation evening reception and dinner, and next day Board meeting. I am pleased to offer photos and reflections from explorations that afternoon with Mandy Pearson, Park Naturalist. We visited the recently opened Interpretive Center and hiked parts of two new trails. I’ve published eight previous Great Blue Heron Posts on Cheaha. The most recent: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/03/20/non-flowering-plants-atop-the-mountain-at-cheaha-ee-aa-annual-conference/ For the other seven, go to my web site Blog tab (http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/) and search for ‘Cheaha.’

Having grown up in the central Appalachians, those ancient mountains live deep in my body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. Among Alabama’s 21 State Parks, Cheaha acts as a beacon calling me back to what feels like my roots. These southern Appalachians soothe and comfort me, restore my sense of well-being, and rekindle memories otherwise dormant.

Judy and I checked into the Bald Rock Lodge at a little after noon (below).

Cheaha

 

Interpretive Center

We rendezvoused with Mandy at the Interpretive Center at Lake Cheaha, which sits 800 feet below Cheaha’s 2,407-foot summit.

 

The Interpretive Center, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, had served as the lake’s bath house before being converted this past summer to its new use. The “CCC Boys,” who also built the Bald Rock Lodge, sure mastered the craft of exquisite stone masonry! Little could they imagine that more than eight decades hence their stonework, backdropped by a cerulean sky, would inspire visitors from all fifty states and beyond.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the CCC, memorializing his intent:

I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps to be used in simple work…More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work.

Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.

The balance of men and nature FDR sought lives on resolutely today at Cheaha State Park.

Cheaha

 

The new Interpretive Center will serve park visitors for generations to come.

CheahaCheaha

 

The Lake and its Cheaha backdrop, as I hinted above, transport me back in time…and 600 miles northward along the spine of the Appalachians. My third book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits (co-authored with Jennifer Wilhoit), carries an apt subtitle: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. Cheaha is one of those special places for which I feel deep passion. Muir foreshadowed my own sentiments:

We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

Cheaha

 

Tim Haney Sensory Trail

 

Tim Haney retired in 2021 from his post as Alabama State Parks’ Operational Supervisor for the North Region. He began his State Parks career in 1977. Cheaha recently established a trail in Tim’s honor. The Sensory Trail focuses hikers on understanding and connecting to multiple facets of Nature along the way. I’ve hiked with Tim, and I have admired and appreciated his own intimate harmony with trees, flowers, fauna, soil, rocks, water…the entire ecosystem.

CheahaCheaha

 

 

Among many other highlights along the trail, this station reminded us that living forests…vibrant ecosystems…include both life and death, a continuing cycle of carbon, water, organic matter, and nutrients.

Cheaha

 

Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy Trail

 

From an online National Library of Medicine site:

Current literature supports the comprehensive health benefits of exposure to nature and green environments on human systems. The aim of this state-of-the-art review is to elucidate empirical research conducted on the physiological and psychological effects of Shinrin-Yoku (or Forest Bathing) in transcontinental Japan and China. Furthermore, we aim to encourage healthcare professionals to conduct longitudinal research in Western cultures regarding the clinically therapeutic effects of Shinrin-Yoku and, for healthcare providers/students to consider practicing Shinrin-Yoku to decrease undue stress and potential burnout.

This new trail introduces hikers to the Shinrin concept, also known as forest bathing, a form of nature therapy. Because our afternoon window permitted only skimming the interpretive signage along both new trails, I will dedicate time to full immersion on my next Cheaha visit.

Cheaha

 

My routine forest strolling pace allows plenty of time for seeking the Nature-magic that lies hidden in plain sight. However, what I gleaned from the signage suggests ratcheting down the pace another notch. My own Nature wanderings involve close observation. Observation, I’ve found, requires concentrated effort.

Observation and perception are two different things; the observing eye is stronger; the perceiving eye is weaker (Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings).

From shinrinyoku-united.org:

A Shinrin-Yoku forest bathing walk consists of a series of activities & sits, designed to help the participants to bathe in the surroundings, the environment and energy of the forest, allowing them to slow down, breathe, and refocus on their body, while connecting to their various senses.

Admittedly, slowing to the Shinrin forest pace may not be easy for me. However, as I contemplate the notion, I may already practice a variant of forest bathing. I do observe deeply, capture photographs, then do my contemplative forest bathing at home as I sort and organize images, reflect upon the images, and then develop a cogent tale…a story of the visit that draws connections, illustrates Nature in action, and offers lessons for living, learning, serving, and leading.

Cheaha

 

I did pay a lot of attention as I traversed the Shinrin-Yoku trail. In all honesty, I trundled along at my standard pace, except stopping to read a sign or two. Lichen-coated rocks and emerging fall yellows caught my eye.

Cheaha

 

I suppose the true Shinrin practitioner would have found a spot to lie flat, gazing into the high-canopy foliar show (left). No such spot below right among the pavement of shattered stones and downed woody debris!

Cheaha

 

The Shinrin Trail brought us to the rimrock looking west some 800 feet above Cheaha Lake.

Cheaha

 

Another perfect spot, within the context of forest bathing, to sit awhile, encouraging me to bathe in the surroundings, the environment and energy of the forest…to slow down, breathe, and refocus…while connecting to…various senses. I cannot argue with the wisdom of Shinrin. In fact, I often do just that…sit and quietly absorb the essence of special places. Yet, here is where I fall short of the Shinrin ideal. Normally, I sit in contemplation with my senses alert to keen observation, until I urge myself to get back to my feet in search of the next focus of concentration and observation. My shortfall? I fail to sit in relaxed absorption, resisting the urge to forge ahead, allowing myself to become infused within the place…to permit me to free my body, mind, soul, spirit, and heart to float among the elements of Nature…to experience where I wander on a level unfamiliar to me.

CheahaCheaha

 

And now, I must concede that I might not be able to take that next Shinrin step. I may not be willing to give my subconscious free reign, allowing myself to float among the forest vapors. In fact, I know that given the kind place I would choose to sit in Shinrin reflection, a near-certain result would be Steve slipping into nap time! Okay, I won’t know until I try. I commit to you that I will push myself in the Shinrin direction. I’ll report back to you.

With or without Shinrin, I will always take time to notice things as simple as this dead and decaying tree along the Shinrin Trail, emblematic of the ongoing cycle of life and death.

Cheaha

 

In Defiance of Fall

Death and renewal, year after year after year, is a forest ecosystem theme now and forevermore. The yellow beyond the shattered stump above and below right is golden aster, still flowering, an act of renewal in a season of senescence. Likewise, a purple aster is flowering in defiance of the imminent autumn.

CheahaCheaha

 

I find magic in our forests whenever and wherever I roam. Even without practicing Shinrin-Yoku, I believe I experience our forests far deeper and more meaningfully than the average hiker I encounter. I attribute the difference to employing what I term my Five Essential Verbs for maximizing benefit from my Nature wanderings: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

    • I find Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe 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
    • Staying alert to see deeply, beyond the superficial
    • See clearly, with comprehension, to find meaning and evoke feelings
    • Feel emphatically enough to spur action

Alabama State Parks Foundation

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Cheaha Mountain State Park is a special gem.
  • We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us (John Muir).
  • Two new interpretive trails at Cheaha spotlight the System’s mission element to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment.

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 BooksCheaha

 

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.