Nature Notations from an Early August Day of Biking and Hiking

Over the course of my senior executive years (reporting directly to the CEO at three universities; serving as CEO at four) I subscribed to a belief that four levels of fitness are essential to effectively serving, leading, living, and learning. I hold firmly to my conclusion that human capacity, performance, fulfillment, and enjoyment correlate with individual health and well-being…that maintaining fitness across all four dimensions enhances our ability to live fully:

    1. Mental – acuity and sharpness
    2. Physical – health and vitality
    3. Emotional – friends, families, colleagues
    4. Spiritual – embrace of a presence larger than self

I’ve carried these core beliefs and life-guidelines into retirement. In what way does this GBH Post relate to my four levels of fitness theme? August 3, 2021, I began my day walking 45 minutes with Judy (spouse) in our neighborhood as dawn broke. Check boxes 1-4. I’m most alert (mental) to the world around me when I’m outside, especially in the morning. Physical is obvious; emotional is quality time with Judy; and, nothing is more spiritual than welcoming a new day’s dawning.

After breakfast I loaded my bicycle, drove to Owens Cross Roads, parked at the trailhead just east of the Publix and began pedaling south at 7:30 AM (temperature ~67 degrees) on Big Cove Creek Greenway. I wanted to log at least 20 miles. The trail traces through mixed forest and meadow cover along Big Cove Creek on its journey toward the Flint River, which it enters in Hays Nature Preserve, a property of the Land Trust of North Alabama. The Greenway crosses the River on an elevated concrete and steel span. Once out of the Preserve the trail becomes the Flint River Greenway, continuing through meadows, forests, and part of the Hampton Cove Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, once again crossing the river before reaching the parking lot and trailhead at old highway 431.

Flint River

[Photos from Prior Visits]

 

I doubled back to the trailhead, then out and back to the Greenway’s end north of Route 28, then east on the Little Cove Creek Greenway along the north side of the Eastern Bypass out of Owens Crossroads, taking me five miles to the end, a place of beauty framed by meadows, farm fields, and surrounding hills standing up to 500 feet above the valley floor.

Hampton Cove

 

I returned to Publix, adding another out and back to the Hays Nature Preserve parking lot. Total mileage reached 22.3; riding goal accomplished!

Hays

[Photo from Prior Visit]

 

I feel a bit guilty about including the detail, yet, I would love to have had these combined route possibilities presented to me three years ago when seeking options upon arriving at my Madison retirement destination. So, I risk boring you for the cause of informing those with similar interest.

I captured the next five images of the Flint River just off the Flint River Greenway. Still carrying a good early August flow following nearly seven inches of July rains, the River passed from left to right, entertaining me with gurgles and soft ripples. Wild potato vine’s white flowers graced the shoreline, welcoming the morning sun.

Hays

 

A few hundred feet upstream, the river flows (again left to right) beyond a marshy area. Look hard to the far bank mid-photo. Squint if necessary to see a great blue heron. Okay, I can’t see it clearly either without telephoto help — scroll down.

Hays

 

These are magnificent birds, avatar and totem for my Dad, who left me with a deep and abiding love and respect for Nature that has only grown stronger since his death 26 years ago. See this three-minute read for the story of my spiritual connection to the great blue heron: http://stevejonesgbh.com/reflections/

Hays

 

Exchanging my biking clothes for my woods gear at my daughter’s nearby office restroom, I drove the three miles to the east entrance of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, also bordering the Flint River. I wandered into the bottomland hardwood forest and adjacent tupelo swamp. I had no purpose in mind other than, because I was already on that side of Huntsville, to see what secrets the forest might reveal in early August. Our southern forests never disappoint!

Persistent rains have kept the lower areas still saturated with lots of standing water in the tupelo stands, justifying my extra effort trudging through the forest in nearly knee-high rubber boots. I saw lots of wildlife sign (deer and raccoon tracks), but no actual forest critters except for a single squirrel. Okay, I suppose mosquitoes are critters…plentiful voracious critters intent upon finding nourishment at my expense!

I also wanted to see what mushroom varieties were prevalent. I found a scattering of aging chanterelles completing their cycle and recycling back into the forest litter. I spotted one grouping of oyster mushrooms past peak on a fallen log. Some remnant peppery milkcap were also losing their pure white luster, along with one fading bolete. Other fungi species tantalized me, reminding me of my far-too-inadequate mushroom knowledge.

The average daily high and low temperatures for early August are 91 and 70, above my preferred range for deep woods exploration. Looking ahead to more favorable conditions, I shall endeavor to return for another round of biking and hiking by mid-October, when the average temperatures are 76 and 52! Now that sounds inviting for cycling and hiking. In the meantime, I will restrict most of my summer Nature ramblings to our more accommodating morning weather.

 

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

Always alert for tree form oddities and curiosities, I encountered several worthy subjects in the bottomland forest. This warty hickory posed nicely, not at all embarrassed by its blemishes… cankers which I believe are of viral or fungal origin. Given the hordes of mosquitoes buzzing me, I imagined my face undergoing a similar transfiguration! The hickory’s dermal condition is clearly not fatal. The tree reaches high into the canopy and has a full crown. I wondered whether this individual is genetically predisposed to the culprit microorganism. Is this tree  particularly sensitive and reactive to infection? And, does the infection interfere in some way with the tree’s fecundity. As with so much that I uncover through my forest wanderings, I need to learn more. Is there a forest pathologist in the house?

 

Not far away, here’s another hickory with a single, and larger, canker.

 

These Sanctuary bottomlands suffer frequent winter floods and periodic summer flash floods, when the Flint River overtops its banks and rushes through the forest. Perhaps a particularly savage flood snapped a twin from this now 3-foot diameter sycamore decades ago opening a decay fungi infection court, gradually hollowing the entire remaining trunk, even as the tree attempts to callous over the old wounds…a losing endeavor. Regardless, a tree of considerable character with a great story to tell! Such trees bring to mind the opening lines of Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas

I wonder what appearance this tree might project on such a harsh November night along the Flint River! What spirits inhabit these dark woods? Even if none are present, what might we imagine in the eerie darkness?

 

Could Ichabod Crane have experienced forests with trees such as these (What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path) when he spotted the headless horseman?

On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveler in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! – but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle!

Perhaps Mr. Crane felt the nighttime invisible fingers of Vitis (grapevine) air roots as his horse plodded unsteadily forward, sending shivers of fear deep into his soul.

 

I was there in midday light, yet, even then, my mind had little trouble imagining the gloaming amidst a November wind howling a torrent of darkness. I long ago discovered that a vivid imagination enhances vision. I have learned to employ five essential verbs, leading me to see far more than what otherwise presents. So much in Nature lies hidden in plain sight, including lessons for living, learning, serving, and leading. The five verbs — Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act:

    • I find Nature’s Lessons because I know they lie hidden within view — belief prompts and 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 empathically enough to spur action… action manifesting informed and responsible Earth stewardship

Action for me may be as simple as drafting a relevant Blog Post to present a photo-narrative revealing and translating lessons from Nature to readers. Lessons that might further 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.

Vegetative Elegance

A lifelong enthusiast for woodland spring wildflowers, I have grown to appreciate our summer beauties as well. I encountered abundant black-eyed Susans along Big Cove Creek Greenway. I could not resist photographing this wall of black, yellow, and green… an elegant border back-dropped by trees along the creek with old-field planted loblolly pine beyond. Would I have appreciated the scene without context…without knowing what lies immediately behind the elegant wall? I think not. Occasionally my leisure reading will take me to a location familiar to me, like Call of the Wild or White Fang. Anytime that I can personally authenticate content, the book more effectively draws me into its grasp. The trailside floral arrangement would still provide aesthetic reward, yet, knowing and understanding the integrated whole deepens my appreciation.

Hays

 

A  trailside wall of peppervine obscured what lay beyond in one spot near the Hays Preserve. I turned to iNaturalist for identification. From the Gardening Know How website: peppervine is a perennial climbing vine that is native to the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico. To some it may be known as “buckvine” and “cow itch” but to others it may be known as an expletive because it is very invasive due to its vigorous root system. Another source noted that many people confuse this ubiquitous vine with poison ivy — note the leaves-of-three arrangement.

Hays

 

Cardinal flower, a particularly showy Lobelia, ranks among my summer favorites. The Missouri Botanical Garden website offers informative insight: native perennial which typically grows in moist locations along streams, sloughs, springs, swamps and in low wooded areas. A somewhat short-lived, clump-forming perennial which features erect, terminal spikes of large, cardinal red flowers on unbranched, alternate-leafed stalks rising typically to a height of 2-3′ (infrequently to 4′). Tubular flowers are 2-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. Finely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 4″ long). Late summer bloom period. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, but not cardinals. 

I like the subtle humor of mentioning that the flower does not attract cardinals. The flower does not draw its name from the bird. Instead, both the bird and the flower owe their moniker to the exquisite red robes worn by members of the College of Cardinals within the Catholic Church. The Cardinals (princes of the blood) wear red to symbolize the blood of Christ.

 

Rich summer flower colors magnify my appreciation of time spent in Nature, whether pedaling along a shaded greenway or hiking deep into a bottomland hardwood forest. The vivid colors provide sufficient counter weight to heat, humidity, and hungry mosquitoes. Far too many people choose not to venture into Nature during our southern summers. I take a different tack, refusing to succumb to one season or another. I live in the south where summers can be hot, humid, and long. I accept that reality and embrace the season. I restrict my mid-summer wanderings (biking or hiking) to mornings, a far more agreeable time of day. Just as I chose to experience Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe throughout winters in Fairbanks, Alaska, I elect to embrace the heat and humidity of north Alabama summers.

There will come a day when my own seasons will come to an end. I don’t intend to depart regretting that I accepted sitting on the sidelines for the sake of my own shallow comfort. As we used to say, Man Up!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature wanderings enhance mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.
  • Nature fuels mind, body, heart, soul, and spirit
  • Every season of the year provides unique rewards.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHays

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interaction of Human and Natural History

 

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

Chapman Mountain

 

 

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

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

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

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

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

Chapman Mountain

 

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

Chapman Mountain

 

 

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

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

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

Chapman Mountain

 

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

Chapman Mountain

 

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

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

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

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

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

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

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksChapman Mountain

 

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

 

 

 

Spring Visit to Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve; Fierce Competition in the Forest Canopy

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

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

With this current Post, I offer reflections on the intense inter-tree competition for sunlight, and the consequences of that fierce struggle within the forest, and pose some observations about the interplay of natural and human history on this…and nearly every…forested property in northern Alabama. I’ll begin by mentioning the forest diversity across the Nature Preserve.

Forest Diversity

 

Evergreen tree species on-site include loblolly pine (below left), eastern red cedar and shortleaf pine (further below). Hardwood forest  (typical stand below right) species include: yellow poplar; black, chestnut, northern red, white, and chinkapin oaks; shagbark and pignut hickories; green ash; black walnut; persimmon; American elm; osage orange; honey locust; red and Ohio buckeyes; and dogwood. The list may not be exhaustive.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

Eastern red cedar is another of our common evergreen species. This individual is one of the very few I saw thriving in the main canopy. The species is a pioneer. Birds disseminate the seeds widely by consuming the fruit and passing the hard inner-seed, scarified by digestive juices, as they forage for insects and seeds in areas disturbed by fire, timber harvesting, or grazing. Cedar often remains in maturing stands like the Chapman Mountain forests, but often as residuals under the topmost canopy.

Chapman Mountain

 

Although situated off-trail, I found this shortleaf pine, with its circumferential bird-peck-agitated bark deformity, reaching high into the hardwood canopy. Note its narrow crown relative to the adjacent hardwoods, especially the wide-spreading white oak at the lower left of the image. I will say more about relative density, a forestry term that indicates the variability of crown space demanded by species. For any given tree base diameter, shortleaf pine expresses a lower relative density than white oak. On identical sites, a fully stocked stand of 12-inch-diameter shortleaf will have more stems per acre than a stand of 12-inch white oak.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

Battle for Canopy Space

The relative density discussion around the shortleaf pine above sets the stage for transitioning into the battle for canopy space. Think about the essential factors for tree growth and development:

  • Rooting volume (soil depth)
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil nutrients
  • Sunlight
  • Temperature (soil and air)

My doctoral dissertation evaluated the effects of these factors (and surrogates for them) for Allegheny Hardwood forests of NW Pennsylvania and SW New York. We can’t see direct evidence of the fierce belowground competition for soil volume, moisture, and nutrients. I am beginning to focus greater attention on the upper canopy battle for sunlight.

We saw the very narrow shortleaf pine crown relative to the adjacent white oak. In contrast to the white oak, the green ash (below left) and southern red oak (below right) have narrow crowns.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

The white oak crowns below are massive. This species demands a lot of aerial space. Thus, its relative density is high.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

Below are adjacent white oak and red oak crowns, with white oak (lower half of frame) commanding far greater space. If I limited my examination to only eye level, I would see the two individuals at roughly the same diameter. Like the blind men and the elephant, we cannot limit our forest assessment to only one facet. I’m learning more and more. And, the more I learn, the less I realize that I know. That is a fact of life for the inquisitive…the student of life and living.

Chapman Mountain

 

Black walnut stands adjacent to a white oak in the image below. Keep in mind that this stand is even-aged, regenerated following a disturbance, probably continuing fuelwood production up to the time of farm abandonment. All of the trees are likely within a 10-15 year age range. The walnut and white oak began their vertical development concurrently. Importantly, black walnut is shade intolerant. The USDA Agricultural handbook No. 271, Silvics of Forest Trees of the US: “In mixed forest stands, it must be in a dominant position to maintain itself.” The black walnut below (left side of image) is in the main canopy, but the white oak has muscled the walnut, forcing its crown far to the left, struggling to maintain its main canopy position. I wonder how much longer the walnut will remain in the stand.

Chapman Mountain

 

American beech, like white oak, demands lots of crown space. This 30-plus-inch diameter individual commands the canopy, keeping adjacent trees at bay.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

A dead, bark-stripped tree stands to the left (in both images) of the beech. Every battle for crown space yields casualties.

Every Battle Yields Casualties

 

This recently dead black oak still carries a Terry Big Tree Trail number. All of its fine branches have already fallen. The neighbor trees are closing the canopy void left by the black oak.

Chapman Mountain

 

As I’ve observed repeatedly in these Posts, death is a real and continuing component in the life of a forest. This substantial oak snag bears testimony. I saw no outward evidence of physical trauma (lightning or wind) that may have resulted in death. Instead, I will presume that it failed in the competitive battlefield.

Chapman Mountain

 

Here’s another dead oak with its accompanying canopy void.

Chapman Mountain

 

Often the evidence of physical trauma is apparent, whether windthrow (below left) or wind snapping the trunk at its base (below right).

Chapman Mountain

 

Site resources are finite. The competition for those fixed assets is a zero sum game. Some trees continue to grow and thrive at the expense of others.

To the Survivors Go the Spoils

 

Simply, to the victors go the spoils. Multiple windblown individual main canopy oak trees (below left) resulted in a large canopy opening (below right). A windfall (pardon the pun) of sunlight for the survivors. Adjacent trees will vie for the bounty of sunlight. Until the void closes, sunlight reaching the forest floor will generate a flush of vigor for herbaceous and woody growth in plants who patiently await just such disturbance. The entire ecosystem knows perturbance and sustains itself on the process of life, death, stability, and disturbance. The forest changes and persists.

Chapman Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

Disturbance yields more than sunlight. Downed trees and branches decay quite rapidly in our warm and moist climate. Moss drapes the log below left. Fungi sprouting the devil’s urn mushrooms (below right) are just one of the innumerable species of decay fungi returning organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

The decay process is certain and predictable. The downed log below left will eventually decay to the more advanced condition below right and, in time, will incorporate fully into the soil organic matter.

Chapman MountainChapman Mountain

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reflections:

  • Forest diversity offers a richness worth noticing.
  • Life and death dance without end in our forests.
  • To the victor go the spoils.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksChapman Mountain

 

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

 

 

My First Visit to Green Mountain Nature Preserve

Pleasant and Well-Managed Trails

April 11, 2021, along with my two Alabama grandsons, I visited Green Mountain Nature Preserve for the first time. The Land Trust of North Alabama owns and manages this 922-acre preserve south of Huntsville in Madison County. The three of us hiked four miles, exploring features of interest that I share in this Post. As with all the Land Trust’s public Preserves, the signage met (and exceeded) expectations. That’s seven-year-old Sam on the right; 13-year-0ld Jack to the left.

Green Mountain

 

We began our journey along the west rim, where the slope dropped abruptly below us. As he always does, Sam found a stick-weapon, posing from his rimrock perch with the narrow canyon just beyond him and in the distance a broad valley. Had we delayed our hike a week longer, fuller hardwood foliage would have obstructed the view.

Green MountainGreen Mountain

 

I applaud the Land Trust for superb trail condition and maintenance, the occasional bench-amenity, and bridges across seasonal streams.

 

Yet Another Look at Sharing Space in the Main Canopy

Along the west rim, we passed through stands dominated by Virginia pine. I aimed the camera 60-degrees from the horizontal into the live crowns. I then swung the camera to the vertical. As I’ve begun to notice across our north Alabama forests, crown shyness is apparent; adjoining Virginia pines respect the space of their neighbors. Long before Covid-19 and, I surmise, way before even our Native American forerunners settled north Alabama, our forest species practiced their own brand of social distancing!

Green Mountain

 

Where hardwood mixed with the pine (below left), crown shyness maintains respectful distance between trees. Such is the case, I’m learning, where the stand consists of trees generally sharing the upper canopy space. I am eager to explore stands with a more complex vertical structure, where the canopy is tiered. Imagine a lower story of shade tolerant species like dogwood and beech, an intermediate canopy of mid-story species like sourwood. From my ground-level perspective, crown shyness would be masked by occupants of the tree crowns beneath the main canopy. Yet another task for me to pursue when dormant season returns next fall.

Green Mountain

 

Recently dead main canopy occupants help illustrate interrelationships high above the forest floor. For scale I asked Sam to stand beside the two-to-three-year deceased oak. Its sloughed bark and naked stem caught my eye as we rambled past. Death’s decay has taken nearly all branches, leaving only its main spar surrounded by open sky, a void in the main canopy that already the adjacent trees have begun to occupy. Nature surely does abhor a vacuum.

Green Mountain

 

Never do I enter Nature’s wildness when I found nothing new, puzzling, or meriting ecological examination.

Tree Form Oddities and Curiosities

 

Once again, tree form oddities and curiosities drew my attention. The boys shared in the fun…and seemed eager to learn the causes and consequences. During its teenage years, standing as a sapling, this chestnut oak tree fell victim to another tree or treetop falling onto it. Bent to nearly horizontal, the sapling snapped at ten feet above its base, retained its anchorage, and redirected its life force to a small branch at the point where its vertical trunk now rises into the main canopy. The boys posed riding this wild sylvan stallion.

Green Mountain

 

My Dad, himself an avid outdoorsman, called this form pump handle trees, because they resemble, you guessed it, water pump handles. Like the chestnut oak, falling debris bent both the now-dead oak ( below left) and the smaller one at right. Both corrected and sent a shoot heavenward. Certainly, neither is old enough to be an Indian marker tree. Nature, instead, used a failsafe remedy to overcome physical injury.

Green Mountain

 

The same is true for this chestnut oak. In some ways it’s uncanny how many of the injured and recovered stems we found within reach of the trail that morning.

Green Mountain

 

Here is what I learned to call a wolf tree during my forestry days. Older than the adjoining stand, this chestnut oak grew unencumbered by direct adjoining tree competition. Its large coarse branching and extensive crown validate that early life of full-sunlight luxury. Why a wolf tree? As explained to me, for some years it stood as a lone wolf. Makes sense!

Green Mountain

 

I always enjoy finding and puzzling over tree form oddities and curiosities. I find them wherever I roam in our hardwood forests.

Fanciful Features

 

Green Mountain offers far more that just pleasant woodland trails and tree form curiosities. Without elaboration, below is Alum Cave, a rock ledge overhang that likely sheltered Native American hunting and gathering parties for 12-13,000 years.

Green MountainGreen Mountain

 

Two views of the spring rain-flushed stream cascading over rock ledges, fulfilling us as we stood in awe and appreciation.

Green MountainGreen Mountain

 

A secondary falls nearby attracted Sam and Jack. Pap admired from above, electing not to tempt fate and tumble into the falls!

Green Mountain

 

Sam has never found a stick he couldn’t convert into some form of implement. He termed this one his Indian war club.

Green Mountain

 

Although the above factors favored us with great reward, we found other wonders along the way.

Special Spring Wildflowers

 

I have long been a spring wildflower enthusiast. Here is a highlight reel of just six we discovered and appreciated. Mountain azalea (below left) is one of my favorites. Woodland stonecrop (below right) provided a fresh splash of star-white.

Green MountainGreen Mountain

 

Fire pink (below left) is also among my spring-select ephemerals! I never tire of seeing blue phlox (below right).

Green MountainGreen Mountain

 

Violet wood sorrel (below left) graced us, and VA spiderwort blue-shouted its way into our field of vision.

Green Mountain

 

I’ve been a spring wildflower enthusiast since my freshman year of college, when I took systematic botany in the spring term. It’s been a lifetime obsession!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my April introduction to Green Mountain Nature Preserve:

  • Nature always spurs inspiration and teaches humility.
  • Every trek through the forest is better with young people, especially grandchildren.
  • Spring wildflowers are always a forest highlight! 

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2021 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

Seasons Flowing with the Waters of Bradford Creek

I’ll begin with the broad lesson I draw from these photos and reflections:

Just as the waters of Bradford Creek flow ceaselessly seaward, Nature’s seasons advance reliably day after day, annually completing a full cycle. So too do the seasons of our lives pass year after year.

Seasonal Progress Across Geography

I published a Blog Post June 5, 2018, chronicling the advance of spring across a 660-mile south-to-north road transect from Madison, Alabama to just north of Pittsburgh, PA: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/06/05/six-hundred-sixty-mile-transect/. Elevation and latitude are powerful variables controlling spring’s inexorable trip northward.

Yet we don’t need to travel to observe seasonal shifts. I offer here my observations at a fixed place (nearby Bradford Creek) from October 12, 2019 (climatically very late summer here in north Alabama) through the end of May, 2020 (early summer here). Keep in mind that my characterization of climatic season is based upon a life perspective across thirteen career-driven interstate moves, including stays in upstate New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, western Maryland, and Alaska, as well as Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama..

Seasons Flowing with the Waters of Bradford Creek

October 14 in Fairbanks, Alaska (our home for four years) is the autumn date when the average high temperature first rests at freezing. From that point through April 1, the average daily high stays below 32 degrees. I snapped the photo below October 12, three weeks ahead of Huntsville’s average date of first freezing temperature (November 2). Snow had already fallen in Fairbanks by October 12 each of the four autumns we resided there. In fact, first flakes arrived by the end of September. Along Bradford Creek October 12, the hardwoods had begun dropping brown leaves, blanketing the sand and gravel bars. Canopy-greens are fading. In central Interior Alaska, aspen and birch reached full fall color during the first two weeks of September; branches were bare before the fall equinox. Therefore, I do not hesitate to observe that October 12 represents very late summer along Bradford Creek.

Bradford Creek

 

By November 5 the mood had changed. Still a lot of leaves clinging above. Greens weakening to yellow-brown. More fall than summer, yet clearly short of winter.

Bradford Creek

 

By December 4, I am willing to declare winter-like. A few residual main canopy brown leaves, some which will persist until spring leaf-out. Bradford Creek flowing gently, evidencing that seasonal rains had not yet begun to return creek levels to typical winter flush.

Bradford Creek

 

Ah, by December 28 we have reached deep winter (again, winter is relative), looking nothing here like the Hallmark Card ideal of New England Christmas cards. Bare trees and occasional bank-full flow along the creek.

 

A week later (January 3) Bradford Creek had receded from flood, leaving debris scattered across the trail. Grandson Sam poses on a stranded log. I admit to missing the threat and reality of a classic major north-land snow, yet I continue to embrace the magic of a Gulf-fed deluge over a couple of days, triggered by a low pressure system encountering an attempt by winter to surge southward.

Local Greenways

 

For two reasons I skipped ahead to the spring equinox (March 22). First, I don’t venture out on the trail often during the wet and chill of winter. Second, the seasons don’t progress much during January and February. By this point stream-side green is bursting and the canopy is evidencing bud break. Spring has sprung! In contrast, one of our Fairbanks year we experienced a high of one-degree below zero April 1, no fooling!

Bradford Creek

 

And from the webcam on our University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, here is the image taken at the spring equinox 2020. Still a snowpack of nearly three feet. Bud break remains a distant dream. Spring has not sprung, except as a point on the calendar.

West Ridge Webcam

 

Spring along Bradford Creek soon surges… explodes. By April 4 light green dominates.

Bradford Creek

 

Within the next few days, greens deepen and shade begins to grace the forest floor.

Bradford Creek

 

By April 26 the mood gives faint evidence of the winter just ending. I consider this full-spring, deep spring if you will.

 

Even the understory shrubs and herbaceous perennials are in full leaf by May 5.

Bradford Creek

 

May 19, by any standards and criteria I might select, we are squarely in what I would characterize as early summer!

Bradford CreekBradford Creek

 

Aldo Leopold famously captured the flow of seasons on his Wisconsin property seventy years ago in his timeless classic, A Sand County Almanac. I don’t suggest that this brief photo essay is on par with Leopold’s near poetic, deeply philosophical, and scientifically spot-on musings. However, I do hope that my photo and reflective journey along nearby Bradford Creek from October through May does in some small way enlighten, inform, and inspire readers to appreciate, value, and enjoy the magic of local wildness across the seasons.

Thoughts and Reflections

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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

The fundamental truth I draw from this Blog Post: Just as the waters of Bradford Creek flow ceaselessly seaward, Nature’s seasons advance reliably day after day, annually completing a full cycle. So too do the seasons of our lives pass year after year.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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

 

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 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 others lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's Books

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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 Covid-19 Escape Hike — Inspiration from Nature’s Curiosities

I published a previous Post (including one of my poems) based upon my March 21, 2020 Covid-19 hike at nearby Rainbow Mountain Preserve: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/24/resurrection-fern-a-metaphor-in-verse-for-natures-simplicity/ I focused that Post on the wondrous nature of resurrection fern. I subsequently issued a Post on spring wildflowers I encountered on that same spring equinox hike: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/04/27/a-covid-19-escape-hike-wildflower-lift/

A lot more than resurrection fern and wildflowers impressed me on that several-hour leisurely hike through the preserve.

Rainbow Mountain

 

No matter where or when I ramble through Nature I search for the unusual shapes, forms, and curiosities. I included this photo in that prior Post, focusing then on the still-living contorted eastern red cedar’s (Juniperus virginiana) resurrection fern drapery. I now puzzle with how the cedar managed to get in the shape it’s in. I see no direct evidence of physical injury, yet I know the tree had no reason to independently contort itself. Often when I encounter odd tree forms I can construct a scenario to explain, usually finding causal evidence. I can only offer that this specimen brought to mind some alien creature from Men In Black! Seriously, this ridge top has seen human influence for more than a century. The abundant cedar, an early successional pioneer species, suggests that what is now closed forest may have been pastured, then abandoned and naturally transitioned to forest. This individual, long ago a supple sapling, may have been manipulated (bent/doubled over) for some reason not now apparent.

Rainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

As I said, cedar is a major stand component across the upper elevations of Rainbow Mountain. Much of it is dead and dying, including this face (showing its dead and decaying interior wood) of the larger of these two living cedar. I found fascination in its agonized (my impression) branching,  with its deep red exposed decaying heart. I imagined that in its dying throes the tree is reaching out with brittle and bare arms to beseech help. I may have communicated false hope when I stopped to snap a few photos. Had I been hiking in evening’s gloaming, I may have steered away from those grasping arms. I recall my early career days as a forest products industry forester, who found sheer joy and reward in viewing standing trees through my commercial lens: assessing number of 16-foot logs; potential lumber yield; and dollar value. I still admire a tall, straight bole without apparent defect. But at this stage of life, I register value mostly through my lenses of emotion, aesthetics, art, heart, spirit, and soul… a sort of sacred value metric.

Rainbow Mountain

 

Offering high visual reward, here are twin dead stems of the original cedar successional stage. Longer-lived oaks and hickories are now the dominant main canopy species. Nothing unusual about dead and dying trees within even healthy forest stands. Death and life go hand in hand; nothing in Nature is static. Because cedar is naturally decay resistant (sure, it decays but just takes a lot longer), its dead soldiers remain standing sometimes for decades, providing many persistent ghost trees… marvels for my camera and fuel for my imagination.

Rainbow Mountain

 

Not just Cedar Tree Curiosities

But cedar served as just one dimension of the curiosities I encountered. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser! Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English.”

I encountered magnificent works of pure art, crafted by Nature’s hands. I am sure that a mere human would find challenge in creating the trail-side decayed stump sculpture. I could not discern whether this tree had been cut or the stem toppled by wind or ice. Because it is hollow I will assume breakage either before or after its death. Electing not to defile its beauty, I did not attempt with knife or foot to ascertain wood/species identity. I am satisfied with simply dubbing it the mossy stump sculpture.

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain

 

Trees suffer physical injury from multiple causes, including: ice and snow load breakage; wind; a nearby tree or branch falling. Trees have endured such damage since the first tree rose above the brush. They begin immediately compartmentalizing the wound to limit penetration by agents of decay, usually fungi. The first line of defense is chemical. Longer term the tree stimulates adjoining cambial tissue to callous over the injury. Below are two examples from that hike of oak trees combating serious injury. The coat-hook stub below left is about eight feet above ground. The resurrection fern hanging garden perches on a similarly-healed stub at about twenty feet. The old timber forester residing within me would have viewed both oaks as marginally merchantable due to poor stem form and apparent quality defects. The now-retired forest/naturalist sees an entirely different value metric. The metric gives high weight to a curiosity factor!

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

Some trees provoke fear and terror. I dared not stand too long near this sign-eating hickory. Perhaps the moss infuses some evil elixir, stimulating a hunger for the metal placard. Maybe the soil is deficient in some minerals derived from the sign. Or the tree could be of superior intellect starving for the written word. No matter what prompted this absorbing behavior, the forest is rich with curiosities that enrich any Nature venture.

Rainbow Mountain

 

And I just can’t get enough of our ubiquitous non-flowering plants! What better than a stem moss carpet with a few scattered lichens! A gentle cushion for my trekking pole. And another such pole support, this one providing anchorage for a vertical resurrection fern garden.

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain

 

And this dead cedar stem bedecked with moss, lichens, and resurrection fern. A rich palette of life flourishing on a staff of death. May the circle be unbroken. Could we possibly create such paradox by design and intent? I think not — such is the magic of forest curiosities.

Resurrection Fern

 

Ah, I enjoyed the Nature-dream images of a quiet hike on an early spring morning following a night of soaking rain. Perhaps Rainbow Mountain derives its moniker from resting occasionally at the base of a rainbow. Who knows whether the leprechauns have danced their spells of druid-like curiosities, assisting Nature in weaving magic across the Preserve. Yet, I am not convinced that Rainbow Mountain cultivates a disproportional density of forest curiosities. I find such delight wherever my Nature wanderings take me across this pale blue orb we call home. My secret — believing the magic exists; looking intently for its presence; seeing what to many is hidden in plain sight; feeling the wonder of it all. And then embracing my mission to: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Rainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

I have kept my sanity during this extended Covid-19 House Arrest by escaping repeatedly into local Nature. I practice recommended social distancing. I enjoy fresh air, discover Nature’s secrets, and contemplate my insignificance in the grand web of life.

Thoughts and Reflections

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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Each venture into Nature opens my eyes ever more keenly to discovering her secrets
  2. Nature’s power to lift us and heal us, physically and of the soul, is unlimited
  3. Nature hides richness within plain sight

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

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 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 others lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksRainbow Mountain

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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 Covid-19 Escape Hike — Wildflower Lift

Covid-19 Escape

March 21, 2020, in the midst of our societal Covid-19-induced social distancing, I hiked nearby Rainbow Mountain Preserve. I posted March 24 about the spectacular resurrection fern profusion that afternoon at the Preserve just three miles from my front door: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/24/resurrection-fern-a-metaphor-in-verse-for-natures-simplicity/

I saw enough beauty, magic, wonder, and awe to distill to two additional Posts:

  1. This one reviewing the spring wildflowers I encountered
  2. The subsequent one highlighting the curiosities presenting themselves to me

Rather than once again providing the full Land Trust of Northern Alabama background for the Preserve, please visit the March 24 Post.

 

Rainbow Mountain

 

Spring Ephemerals — Hope and Beauty within the Haze of Covid-19

Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) graced trail-side near the balancing rock just below the southwest rim. Keeping with the same stated theme, within a few feet I found colonies of Virginia saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis), a reliable very early spring bloomer often quite content on shallow soils among such stony outcrops.

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain

 

 

 

Two species of trillium greeted me as I began descending the Rainbow Mountain Loop Trail, which continuing counter clockwise would eventually return me to the trail head. Both express green-mottled leaves and what I call purple petals. Persons more color-fully endowed may have a more sophisticated color moniker. I refer to the green-mottled structures as leaves. And although I will continue to do so, I am not technically correct. A USDA Forest website explains:

All trillium species belong to the Liliaceae (lily) family and are rhizomatous herbs with unbranched stems. Trillium plants produce no true leaves or stems above ground. The “stem” is actually just an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces tiny, scalelike leaves (cataphylls). The aboveground plant is technically a flowering scape, and the leaf-like structures are actually bracts subtending the flower. Despite their morphological origins, the bracts have external and internal structure similar to that of a leaf, function in photosynthesis, and most authors refer to them as leaves.

The first two photos show little sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum), perhaps the most common of all northern Alabama trilliums.

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain

 

Similar to little sweet Betsy, twisted trillium (T. stamineum) has clearly twisted sepals. Both species are sessile trilliums. That is, their flowers sit right on the leaves (bracts), without having a stalk. I love the distinct twists, even as I ponder the evolutionary reason. There must be some explanation — a competitive advantage. For now I will leave the pondering to others.

Rainbow Mountain

 

Wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) also graced the forest floor. Also called woodland phlox or wild sweet William, its delicate five-petaled flowers on erect stems provided color in an otherwise drab setting of last season’s leaf debris.

Rainbow Mountain

 

Violet woodsorrel (Oxalis violacea), aka sour glass, sour trefoil, and shamrock, presented itself 2-3 days before the flowers fully opened. The one below right came teasingly close to showing its full beauty.

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain

 

I’m a big fan of our ubiquitous northern Alabama red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), also known as firecracker plant, whose range extends across the southern and eastern US.  I love its spring firecracker flowers as well as its wonderful fall buckeyes packaged in tan hulls that split when ripe. Red buckeye is sold as a cultivar across the US and apparently thrives at latitudes far north of its native range.

Rainbow Mountain

 

Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is another common spring-flowering small tree whose native range extends across the eastern US… from southern Ontario to northern Florida. The tree is an aggressive colonizer, finding a perfect setting along road openings. Redbud’s spring color dominates roadsides where I lived in Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and upstate New York. Redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma. Interestingly, our Alabama state tree, longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), is not native to our Tennessee Valley region of northern Alabama.

Rainbow Mountain

 

Another of my early spring favorites, jack-in-the-pulpit (Ariseama triphyllum), also known as bog onion, brown dragon, and wild turnip, enjoys a range across the eastern US… from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota and south into lower Florida. Look closely to see Jack standing at the pulpit under the green-striped hood. The USDA Forest Service offers a technical description of this unusual flower form: Jack-in-the-pulpit is pollinated by small flies and flowers from March through June depending on locale. The flower is an unusual green and maroon striped spathe surrounding a fleshy, maroon-colored spadix that bears the tiny, embedded flowers. This particular example is particularly pale, absent the maroon shades common to the species.

Rainbow Mountain

 

A Different Kind of Spring Wildflower

To this point I’ve focused on what I’ll term as traditional spring wildflowers. The next two photos likewise picture a spring wildflower… but one of an entirely different nature. This is a non-photosynthesizing (achlorophyllous) parasitic plant. Meet American cancer-root (Conopholis americana), nurturing on the roots of oak and beech. Other common names are squawroot and bear corn, either of which is a more pleasant moniker. I suppose this odd plant cares little what name we give it. I found scores of clusters along my route. I recall seeing my first squawroot when I worked undergraduate summers on the Savage River State Forest in far western Maryland, my home state. Imagine the wonder of finding squawroot on a magical Appalachian Mountain forest bearing a name that included Savage! Fact is, I felt absolute continuing beauty, magic, wonder, and awe during every moment of those two summers. Five decades later, the memory and lift remain within my being… mind, heart, and soul. Amazing what Nature has gifted me across my time’s travel. I suppose there is some level of irony in a non-photosynthesizing (achlorophyllous) parasitic plant transporting me fifty years back in time! I wish such pleasant memories and flashbacks for all who trek Nature’s paths.

Rainbow MountainRainbow Mountain

 

 

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Each venture into Nature opens my eyes ever more keenly to discovering her secrets
  2. Nature’s power to lift us and heal us, physically and of the soul, is unlimited
  3. Nature hides richness within plain sight

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

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 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 others lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksRainbow Mountain

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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.

 

 

 

Land Trust Mushroom Hike on Rainbow Mountain

Covid-19 Context

We’re now more than two weeks beyond the call to distance safely from our circle of friends, family, and associates. Judy and I speak of being under Covid-19 house-arrest. We continue our twice-daily neighborhood walks. I’m escaping as often as I can to local hiking trails and greenway bike riding. We are in the heart of spring green-up as I write this Covid-19 Context section. A sad irony that Nature’s cycle goes forward unabated by a pandemic virus that found life (and wrought disease and death) half a world away. A primitive micro-organism that has turned modern society and economy inside-out.

I subscribe to the EarthSky electronic newsletter (https://earthsky.org/). The March 31, 2020 issue reminded readers of this quote from the 3rd book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings: “There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” God’s green Earth…Nature…and our relationship to it is our light and high beauty… our hope.

I believe sincerely that this, too, shall pass. Already I sense a fundamental change in the world — a deepening humility, a greater recognition of our human frailty, and perhaps a strengthened belief in our oneness. I can’t speak for others, but I accept my own growing spiritualism, more palpable Faith, and an even stronger sacred connection to our Earth, this pale blue orb in the vast darkness of space.

A Final Group Gathering Before Our Collective Social Distancing

March 8, 2020, just a couple days before the US declared a Covid-19 National Emergency, I participated in a Land Trust of North Alabama Mushroom Hike at Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve in Madison, Alabama: https://www.landtrustnal.org/properties/rainbow-mountain-preserve/ I’ve been a tree guy since entering my undergraduate forestry studies in 1969. I’ve known since those early days that a forest is far more than a collection of trees. Yes, a forest includes the trees, as well as the complex community of biotic and abiotic elements composing the forest ecosystem. Practicing industrial forestry (managing forests for a Fortune-500 Paper and Allied Products Manufacturing company) for 12 years, I focused principally on trees. Yet I retained an abiding interest in the total forest community.

I have never lost my love and enthusiasm for spring wildflowers… wherever we’ve lived along our journey across 47 years and 13 interstate moves. You’ll see a few wildflowers I photographed on the mushroom foray in a section to follow.

Among my favorite courses during my forestry studies: forest pathology, the study of forest diseases and disorders. The vast majority of villains are fungi, including notable nasties like chestnut blight, dutch elm disease, oak wilt, beech bark disease, white pine blister rust, fusiform rust, and other forest deplorables. I wrote about such forest pandemics relative to Covid-19 in my March 19, 2020 Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/19/lyrical-expressions-in-forest-pathogens-under-a-covid-19-cloud/

However, most forest fungal denizens are not pathogenic. Instead, they are saprophytes feeding upon dead woody material. I want to know them better for a set of important reasons:

  1. They are ubiquitous
  2. I see their fruiting bodies (mushrooms) high on the trunks of standing snags and on dead and down woody branches and logs, and reaching up from mycelia in the soil
  3. Some of the mushrooms are edible — the couple that I know are delectable, even if sparsely represented
  4. I want to forage for others fit for my frying pan

We started our hike at the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve trailhead atop 1,100-foot Rainbow Mountain, led by Matt Shaw (yellow/green shirt). Polypore fruiting bodies (at least two species) evidence that the responsible fungi’s hyphae and mycelia are hard at work decomposing oak tissue. Fungi, bacteria, and insects act as principal agents to assure “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” in the forest ecosystem’s cycle of life and death. The twenty or so hike participants (below right) enjoyed a perfect spring day, chilly at the outset and warming comfortably as we trekked down to about 760 feet and returned. Hard to imagine from our hike and these photos that we are surrounded by urban development of both Madison and Huntsville, AL. Thank goodness for the Land Trust and the wisdom of citizens and leaders to protect and preserve this wildness.

Mushroom Hike

Mushroom Hike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we began our descent we hiked along limestone walls bedecked with lichens and mosses, non-flowering plants that flourish on every surface in our humid climate. Our tour guide focused on the place and role of fungi in our forests, but did not shy away from discussing the total ecosystem, of which lichens and mosses occupy major ecological niches. The old saw, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” seems to hold true… the non-flowering plants occupy every surface.

Mushroom Hike

 

Moss on Limestone Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mycorhizal Fungi

Our fungi are not limited to pathogens and saprophytes. We explored the critical function of another major subset to the associated living community — mycorhizal fungi, which are represented in tremendous mass below ground. Mycorhizae are fungi in symbiotic relationship with trees, intimately interconnected with the tree’s fine roots, multiplying many fold the trees’ absorptive capacity for both moisture and nutrients. So much in Nature is hidden from view. Here is an excellent explanation of these essential tree partners from an NRCS-USDA website:

Within the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a growing awareness that most vascular plants could not grow and reproduce successfully without the assistance provided by networks of fungi in the soil. This association between plant and fungus is called mycorrhiza (plural: mycorrhizae). In most instances, the relationship is mutualistic (symbiotic). The plant provides sugars and carbohydrates to the fungus and in return the fungus uses its branched, threadlike hyphae (mycelium) to gather water, minerals, and nutrients for the plant. Mycorrhizal fungi greatly expand the reach of the plant’s root systems and are especially important in helping them gather non-mobile nutrients such as phosphorus. These fungi have also been found to serve a protective role for their associated plants; they can reduce plant uptake of heavy metals and salts that may be present in the soil. Many also help protect plants from certain diseases and
insects. Scientists believe that it was mycorrhizal fungi that allowed ancient vascular plants to populate the land. Of the current plant families, 95% include species that either associate beneficially with or are absolutely dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for their survival.

I have often observed that as citizens and leaders we must first see the invisible before we can perform the impossible. Now that we see the invisible below ground partner, we can appreciate and understand how trees perform the impossible task of gathering soil sustenance from their limited actual root hair capacity. The NRCS-USDA website sums up the effect beautifully:

Because we cannot easily see mycorrhizal fungi, we tend to overlook their significance. Their presence in the soil is vitally important to the growth of most plants on our planet. They also perform a critical function in building soil structure and sequestering carbon. Therefore, we need to begin thinking about how what we do to the soil, for example tillage, affects these almost imperceptible fungal systems.

I find a universal truth in the first sentence of that excerpted paragraph… pertaining to all life and living: we tend to overlook (or even ignore) the significance of what we mere humans cannot easily see. We rush headlong through our days oblivious to what escapes our shallow knowledge and myopic vision. I hold steadfast to my belief that every lesson for living, learning, leading, and serving is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Also applicable with this example is my admonition that five core verbs are essential to learning from Nature. From my stevejonesgbh.com website:

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

 

Ubiquitous Fungi

The large ash (Fraxinus spp) below certainly grew luxuriously because friendly fungi shared the cause of mutual thriving. The ash now stands recently deceased (or close to death; I could not discern for certain whether some of the crown would yet produce leaves this spring). I don’t believe this individual is an early victim of the emerald ash borer, an introduced pest racing southward, decimating one of our major native commercial forest species. When I drove north in November 2019, the killing front had reached nearly midway between Knoxville and Chattanooga. A sad epidemic to this forester who revered the tall, straight boles of Appalachian cove-site ash, coveted the feel of a Louisville Slugger, and cherished the easy-split and clean burn of ash firewood.

We stopped at this point to observe the cracked-cap bracket fungus clinging about 20 feet above ground. Rather than the emerald ash borer, I believe that this specimen is dying the slow but certain death of a serious and pervasive heart rot, a woody decay fungus. The visible bracket is the fruiting body (mushroom) of the fungus. Like all living organisms, this fungi seeks to reach into the future, sending spores to infect its next host. I won’t hazard a guess at the fungal species. The closest I dare go is to deem it a polypore. Let this serve as a reminder that the cycle of life and death is continuous. What matters most is that the ecosystem persists beyond the demise of individuals. One hundred years ago other ash trees likely stood nearby, dropping the seed that produced this individual. Because we don’t know whether this tree is male or female (that’s right, ash are dioecious; two houses, male and female flowers on separate trees), it may not have produced seed. If not, the plan is that its pollen fertilized a female flower that dropped seeds for its successor generation. Again, life goes forward.

 

Mushroom Hike

 

This red oak (Quercus spp) snag is loaded with desiccating polypore mushrooms. Their associated mycelia are hard at work reducing wood to soil supplement.

Mushroom Hike

 

I recall my mother occasionally admonishing me for speaking about things for which I had too little knowledge, foolishly offering a too-shallow opinion. She would say, “You know just enough to be dangerous.” With respect to our fungal forest associates, I don’t even reach that threshold. The three-inch branch below, wedged between a supple jack vine and a sweetgum sapling, wears a whitish coat of what felt like a spongy layer of fungal mycelia. Our tour guide did not disagree. Its identity awaits my learning more. My only certainty — it, too, is another decomposer, transitioning death back to the assembly line of life.

Mushroom Hike

 

Our tour leader suggested this reference for those of us wishing to assist our learning. It’s now on my wish list!

Recommended Reference

 

Regionally more relevant than my own reference book, which I have as a result of being so mobile over the years.

Reference Book

 

Ah, this stage of life — so much to learn in this time of knowing enough to know that my understanding and knowledge are shallow at best.

Venturing Beyond the Non-Flowering Plants

 

We’ve been examining fungi and other non-flowering plants. Now let’s visit with a non-photosynthesizing (achlorophyllous) parasitic plant. Meet American cancer-root (Conopholis americana), nurturing on the roots of oak and beech. Other common names are squawroot and bear corn, either of which is a more pleasant moniker. I suppose this odd plant cares little what name we give it. We found two clusters as we descended Rainbow Mountain. I recall seeing my first squawroot when I worked undergraduate summers on the Savage River State Forest. Imagine the wonder of finding squawroot on a magical Appalachian Mountain forest bearing a name that included Savage! Fact is, I felt absolute continuing beauty, magic, wonder, and awe during every moment of those two summers. Five decades later, the memory and lift remain within my being… mind, heart, and soul. Amazing what Nature has gifted me across my time’s travel. I suppose there is some level of irony in a non-photosynthesizing (achlorophyllous) parasitic plant transporting me fifty years back in time! I wish such pleasant memories and flashbacks for all who trek Nature’s paths.

Squaw Root

 

Nearby we met little sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum), just hours from full-flower. Other common names for this beauty include: whip-poor-will flower, large toadshade, and bloody butcher. No question which of those monikers I would choose to ignore! I believe that little sweet Betsy would agree.

Sweet Betsy

 

I wanted to make this be rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), but I’ve never seen that species without its delicate stem leaves just under the flowers. So, I stayed with sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba), whose basal leaves are often well-hidden under the prior autumn’s leaf litter. I should have lingered long enough to remove enough fall detritus to confirm the hepatica’s basal leaves. Both species grace us with their creamy white blossoms long before overstory leaf-out. How can we not be grateful for such a gift?!

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

 

Our world is far too small to expect only native plants. We found leatherleaf mahonia (Berberis bealei), native to China, this one within a day or two of full flower. Escaped from ornamental plantings, leatherleaf mahonia is far less aggressive than our ever-present invasive privet. I don’t despair over its glossy evergreen leaves, nor its early spring flowers and blue late summer berries. I know, I am expected by native plant purists to disdain its invasive presence. I just can’t do it — forgive me.

Mahonia

 

Non-plant Frames

Here’s the pleasant view from the falls at the lower end of the hike. Already, the privet (a nasty invasive) is greening the understory. I wonder how much longer until privet captures the entire site, reducing the number and variety of spring ephemerals, and ultimately limiting regeneration of native tree species. I shudder to think that 100 years hence the spring itself will be bordered only by privet shrubs.

Spring

 

For the present, I felt great joy in having this several-hundred acre touch of Nature just three miles from my door. As I ascended the trail back to the hilltop parking area, I felt confident that the same citizen-naturalist force that preserved and protected this within-urban gem will devise a privet-control plan of attack.

Signage

 

I pay yet another tribute to the Land Trust of North Alabama: https://www.landtrustnal.org/ Find your own local Land Trust. Engage to do your part for the next generation!

Thoughts and Reflections

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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Much of what is a forest lies hidden from view
  2. Nature’s power to lift us and heal us, physically and of the soul, is unlimited
  3. Learning more enables and inspires us to do more — changing some small corner of wildness for the better

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

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 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 others lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksRainbow Mountain

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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.

 

Resurrection Fern — A Metaphor in Verse for Nature’s Simplicity

11 Photos

An Exemplar for Simplicity in a World of Expanding Complexity

I will mention but not dwell upon the fact that Covid-19 house-arrest spurs reflecting, creating, and writing… and encourages me to flourish in Nature whenever I can. March 21, 2020 I drove the short three miles to Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve to hike the Rainbow Mountain Loop Trail. I know, the old forester below looks like he may already be suffering from some serious malady!

Rainbow Mountain

 

I hiked the day after yet another inch-plus of rain. My timing had purpose — I wanted to see the rich variety of life clinging to trees, especially the amazing resurrection fern… in its full moisture-laden glory. I also saw ubiquitous lichens and mosses in vivid splendor adorning saturated bark, branches, and rocks… their presence highlighted by the deep shade of continuing dense cloud cover. However, today I am focusing on one of my favorite gifts of Nature: resurrection fern.

Resurrection Fern

 

And as I have recently been emboldened to do (by completing a winter term poetry writing course), I offer today’s reflections principally in verse. Magically, even the trail sign is framed by resurrection fern.

Rainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

I discovered this morning as I write this that over the past couple of years I have restricted my photography by and large to the verdant, fully-hydrated version of resurrection fern. I could find no clear photos of the desiccated, dry-dormant version. The best I could do to represent that state of shut-down is this massive oak at Camp McDowell adorned with its robe of dry resurrection fern. Ah, if only I had anticipated this Post and compiled a portfolio of withered fern.

Resurrection Fern

 

So, there you have my foreword, setting the stage for my latest verse… a testament to a wonderfully resilient non-flowering native plant, with a stress-dealing mechanism tested and honed over 360 million years!

Striving for…and with…Simplicity

 

Release a spore to the wind

Trust it to find suitable anchorage,

This special fern finds all it needs

Perched high in the fork of a tree

 

Resurrection fern, Pleopeltis michauxiana

Southeastern USA forest resident,

An epiphyte of high aerial regard

Clinging to branches and bark

 

No parasite this exquisite plant

Non-flowering, just like other pteridophytes,

But vascular, unlike neighbor-mosses,

Yet all are green with chloroplasts ablaze

 

No need to reach for the sun

The tree does the vertical work,

No need for forest soil and deep roots

Tree surfaces bear water and nutrients

 

Yet from time to time showers lessen

Hot breezes swing the boughs,

No moisture within reach

Time to close the door… rest

 

The fern knows the drill,

Responding with adaptation,

Hitting the off switch, drawing within,

Wilting without complaint

 

Master of dry-spell deception

The fern sleeps with drought,

Desiccated, feigning death, withered

Simply turning life off with ease

 

Waiting patiently, anxiety-free,

Knowing the rain will come,

As it always does in these humid climes,

Resuscitating the deceased

 

Springing to life with turgid cells

Moisture awakens the dead,

Resurrected from deepest sleep

Arboreal garden alive and green

 

No lesser organisms are these,

Finding plenty amid scarcity,

Thriving for 360 million years

Adaptable to whatever tomorrow brings

 

(Do we humans know the drill,

Responding with science and sense,

Hitting the off switch, drawing within,

Beating Covid-19 with social distance?)

 

Should humans fail the test,

Ferns will grace the remains, and

Festoon the decay of civilization,

Declaring their reign of simplicity

 

Release a spore to the wind

Trust it to find suitable anchorage,

An epiphyte of high aerial regard

Clinging to branches and bark

 

 

Leonardo da Vinci observed: Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world. I agree… and offer that Nature is the consummate artist.

Resurrection FernResurrection Fern

 

An epiphyte of high aerial regard

Clinging to branches and bark

Resurrection FernRainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

Release a spore to the wind

Trust it to find suitable anchorage,

This special fern finds all it needs

Perched high in the fork of a tree

Rainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

No parasite this exquisite plant

Non-flowering, just like other pteridophytes,

But vascular, unlike neighbor-mosses,

Yet all are green with chloroplasts ablaze

Resurrection Fern

Rainbow Mountain, Resurrection Fern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A two-hour Covid-escape hike reveals magic, spurs contemplation, and lifts spirits. Perhaps we require something like a global pandemic to give us pause, consider our place in the world, and draw together for the common good. We need Nature’s places far more than she needs us. No matter our fate, Nature will reach far beyond our time and place.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Natural Rules of Simplicity

 

I often look back 500 years to seek enlightenment from Leonardo da Vinci, who saw wisdom in Nature and expressed it simply and profoundly. Some examples:

  • In her (nature’s) inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.
  • Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.
  • Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.
  • 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.
  • Nature never breaks her own laws.

Resurrection fern, whose moniker so beautifully expresses its secret to life and living, is simplicity itself:

  • An ancient form, long ago proven fit and sustainable
  • Spore disseminated, wind-dependent
  • An epiphyte, elevated anchorage courtesy of trees
  • Stress-coping as its mainstay
  • Relatively free from grazers
  • Writes no poetry
  • Concerns itself not with philosophy, fate, or social distancing
  • It is what it is

Simplicity rules the day, the year, the centuries, the eons!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Simplicity ensures evolutionary success
  2. Nature is the consummate artist
  3. Nature’s power to inspire and lift us is unfathomable — jettison the potential mental, physical, social, and spiritual anguish of Covid-19 by escaping to nearby Nature

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire and Reward you… and keep you healthy!

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

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 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 others lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksPhotos of Steve

 

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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.

Release a spore to the wind

Trust it to find suitable anchorage,

An epiphyte of high aerial regard

Clinging to branches and bark

Bethel Spring North Alabama Land Trust: Yet Another Natural Gem

A Corona Virus Statement of Context

I am completing this Post on March 15, 2020 as the Corona virus pandemic is burdening our spirit, dashing economic activity, and giving us pause to reflect on the specter of a future bug that could place our entire humanity at peril. I am at my computer only because we cancelled a trip north to visit our son and his family in Pittsburgh. I admit that Judy and I are a bit bummed. Yet I know that Nature is unfazed. She marches on… unconcerned about our future. I take solace that life will prevail no mater what!

 

Visiting Bethel Spring Nature Preserve

February 29, 2020, The Land Trust of North Alabama cut the ribbon to open a new feature property and trails, the Bethel Spring Nature Preserve: https://www.landtrustnal.org/properties/bethel-spring-preserve/

I participated in the Land History Hike, led by local historian John Kvach, who shared 150 years of history for the 360-acre property on Keel Mountain in Madison County. A fabulous piece of southern Appalachian woodland complete with mixed upland forest, a few early spring ephemerals, limestone ledges, karst topography, a gorgeous waterfall, an old mill site, and a spring house at the trail-head. I won’t duplicate the website detail, nor rehash the history that John so ably presented. Instead, I’ll offer some Nature observations, reflections, and photos from our hike.

Opening Hike

 

In prior Posts for my explorations of Land Trust property, I’ve made these paraphrased comments, worthy of repeating:

I offer another tribute and appreciation to our Land Trust of North Alabama for its partnership in creating the Bethel Spring Nature Preserve and other special places locally. I love the Land Trust’s tagline: “Conservation in Action!” As a former four-time university president, I hold that application adds value to knowledge. Applying knowledge (driven by dedication and passion) brings action to bear. Without applying action to conservation, we as humanity, communities, and individuals practice only a shallow and meaningless conservation inaction. Amazing how removing that one space (between ‘in’ and ‘action’) changes the entire essence. Talking by itself can amount merely to conservation virtue-signaling. The Land Trust gets it done! I applaud its action, guided by a succinct and noble mission: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future.

Needless to say, I am a big Land Trust of North Alabama fan! The weather-makers blessed us with a perfect Saturday. Since December 1, 2019 I had measured just under 30″ of rain through February. You’ll see a bit later that the waterfall blessed us with full flow. The falls dump into a sink, resurfacing at the spring house (below left), near the trailhead at approximately 630′ elevation. That’s John below right addressing our group.

Bethel Springs Nature PreserveOpening Hike, at Spring House

 

I include the trail sign photo for two reasons. First, to show that the trails are well-marked. Second, to chronicle our flow through the property. You can follow along on the website trail map: https://41bfok2rrfmy84ghm2vvsaxf-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Bethel-Spring_Kiosk-Map-2020.pdf

Opening Hike, First Leg

 

We hiked beneath these distinctive limestone ledges through second-growth (at least) upland hardwood, predominately oak and hickory. The poor stocking, maximum heights 60-70-feet, and lots of dead and down woody debris suggested low site quality on the SSE-facing convex slope. However, at some point likely 80+ years ago a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) seed found relatively friendly and fertile footing lower right.

Opening Hike, Scrub along LedgeOpening Hike, Glynn at Big Lob

 

We stopped along what John called an “old federal road,” still at the foot of the exposed ledge, remaining in the poor quality (my forester’s timber value perspective) stand of mixed upland hardwoods.

Opening Hike, Old Federal Road

 

Gradually ascending to the 710-foot contour, we turned left from Carpenter Trail onto Falling Sink Trail, which led us to Bethel Spring Falls at 1,040-feet.

Opening Hike, Second Leg

 

We could not have hoped for a better day — early spring, bright sunshine, and lots of water cascading into the sink.

Opening Hike, Group at FallsOpening Hike, Waterfall

 

I could have sat there for hours, yet the tour continued. I had hoped to capture a photo suggesting that I was alone with the falls. However, a blue-jeaned leg appeared before I snapped the shutter!

Opening Hike, Leaving the Falls

 

The Mill Trail descended from the falls. A stream does not carry the flow from the falls above ground. The yawning-mouthed sink swallows the flow, ushering it through the karst topography to the spring house. The sink covers a little less than an acre, a concavity with deep rich soils. One yellow poplar exceeded 100-feet, reaching higher than the lip of the falls. I love these southern Appalachian Mountain sinks. They remind me of the tremendously productive cove sites, concave positions on lower north and east slopes throughout our ancient mountains.

Opening Hike, Acre Sink Below FallsOpening Hike, Descending to Mill Foundation

 

As we dropped toward the old mill, this loblolly pine evidenced its relationship with insects and yellow-bellied sapsuckers. We foresters call this “bird peck.” Sapsuckers tend to work their bark search and mining operations back and forth, hence the horizontal pecking pattern.

Opening Day, Y-B Sapsucker Pecks

 

The old mill house foundation (below left) stands at about the 850-foot level. All of the wooden top-structure has long since returned to the soil through decay or fire. Only a few iron relics belie the foundation’s purpose. I had spent too much time exploring in the sink to hear much of John’s history explanation. I saw no evidence that water power had originated from natural surface flow. No apparent mill race. I assume that operators directed water from the falls via closed pipes or half-pipes. Again, the tour moved on down the trail. Perhaps I can devote a future visit to exploring at depth. The photo below right suggests that the site warrants considerable study and contemplation.

Opening Hike, Mill FoundationOpening Hike, at Mill Foundation

 

I persuaded a fellow hiker to catch me at the preserve sign after we completed our hike.

Opening Hike

 

Early Spring Ephemerals

 

It’s that time of year when spring ephemerals begin exploding on the forest floor. They appear in predictable sequence. None of the “first will be last” for these reliable understory beauties. Near the spring house we found rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) and sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba). Like all woodland spring ephemerals, these two splendid white denizens flourish during the warming period prior to forest canopy leaf-out, when sunlight reaches the forest floor uninhibited. Even their foliage senesces by early June, thus the ephemeral moniker.

Open Hike, Rue anemone

Opening Hike, Hepatica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, we also found cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) and common blue violet (Viola sororia) in full flower. The woods are alive with beauty, magic, wonder, and awe for those willing to walk slowly and marvel at the vernal gifts!

Opening Hike, cutleaf toothwortOpening Hike, violet

With each day of spring’s progression, the flower sequence will shift and numbers increase. There will come a time soon when rather than chronicle all my observations I will simply hit the highlights. For now, I shall cherish each appearance of a new flower face!

And Some Resurrection Fern

 

I never tire of our resurrection fern (Pleopeltis michauxiana) — our aerial moisture-meter. Whether draping from the fork of a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) at the parking lot or perched atop a trail-side rock, the fern flushes with recent rain or wilts to desiccation during dry periods. Nature’s ways astound at every turn. This remarkable fern need not waste energy reaching for the sun — tree branches give it lift. Dead organic matter furnishes all the anchorage and nutrients necessary for this non-flowering plant that asks for little. Our 55-inch annual rainfall brings full life often enough to help this wonderful plant thrive in our southern sylvan oases.

Opening Hike, Parking LotOpening Hike, on Rock in Forest

 

 What a thrill and privilege to wonder Nature’s places new to me. I will return to Bethel Spring… hopefully with a grandkid or two in tow. I am grateful to live in a land blessed with wonders near and far… and with an active Land Trust dedicated to preserving and protecting our natural legacy.

The Land Trust of North Alabama mission is simple, succinct, and noble: The Land Trust preserves land and its legacies for conservation, public recreation, and environmental education to enhance quality of life in North Alabama now and for the future. I urge you to visit the Trust’s website: https://www.landtrustnal.org/vision-history/ Please consider joining and or contributing. 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

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. All three are available on Amazon and other online sources.

Here are the three succinct truths I draw from this Blog Post:

  1. Nature, with the help of the dedicated efforts of a local Land Trust, is identifying, protecting, and preserving natural heritage for tomorrow
  2. Nature’s power to inspire and lift us is unfathomable
  3. We can all do our part to make some small corner of the world better through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 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://stevejonesgbh.com/contact/

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 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 others lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's BooksHarvest Square

 

My two Alabama grandsons did not accompany me to Bethel Spring Nature Preserve. Instead of them flanking the Bethel Spring Preserve Land Trust sign, I reverted above to the Land Trust’s Harvest Square sign.

All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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.