A Grand Intersection of Human and Natural History at the Biltmore Estate

June 21-24, 2022, Judy and I celebrated our 50th anniversary staying at the Village Hotel on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. This Post offers observations, reflections, and photographs on the grand intersection of human and natural history on the Estate.

Rather than recount the full story behind the Biltmore Estate, allow me to offer a few relevant highlights. A young man of extraordinary, third-generation wealth purchased more than 100,000 acres in the southern Appalachians in the late 1880s…worn out land depleted by repeated attempted agricultural domestication, timber harvesting (not scientific forest management), and wildfire. The endgame — to create a one of a kind country retreat for the family and its rich, famous, and globally successful friends and acquaintances. The youngest of eight children born to William Henry and Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt, George Washington Vanderbilt was known from childhood for his reflective demeanor and thoughtfulness towards others. He brought three incredible generational minds to serve as the venture’s braintrust. Richard Morris Hunt, one of the most accomplished architects in the world, designed and supervised construction of the house and associated buildings. Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture, designed the grounds. Upon the advice of Olmsted, Vanderbilt hired trained forester Gifford Pinchot to direct forest operations and implement a self-sustaining stewardship of the land and its resources for years to come. Though it is hard to imagine now, portions of the lush forest surrounding Biltmore House was once overworked farmland and overcut woodland (excerpts in italics from online Biltmore Estate documents).

All the land within view (to the southwest) below right had been part of the estate in 1895 when crews completed home construction. Except for the immediate 8,000 acre current estate property, that viewscape land is part of the Pisgah National Forest, some of the vast acreage of “The Land Nobody Wanted” that became our eastern National Forests.

 

The estate included Mt. Pisgah (5,721′), visible in the center horizon. The original estate covered more than 150 square miles! Pinchot’s task was not insignificant.

 

When evaluating the task before him, Olmsted wrote: My advice would be to make a small park into which to look from your house; make a small pleasure ground and gardens; farm your river bottoms chiefly to keep and fatten livestock with a view to manure; and make the rest a forest, improving the existing roads and planting the old fields.

 

A man of obvious understatement, Olmsted reduced the overwhelming project of establishing the estate, its buildings, and its gardens and forests to its simplest elements.

Pleasure Ground and Garden

 

The pleasure grounds and gardens surround the house, from the rolling meadow at the southwest corner to the formal Italian Garden below right.

 

The Shrub Garden falls away to the south from the Italian Garden. Pathways wind through this feature.

 

I have a small river birch in my Madison, Alabama backyard. I wonder what it will look like in 2130, the equivalent duration of when Olmsted directed this tree’s planting and now. I’ve said often that nothing Nature is static, whether it be an individual tree or the transformation of an old worn out countryside to the magnificent estate grounds 0f 2022.

 

The ancient wisteria and trumpet vine arbor pay tribute to the genius of Vanderbilt and Olmsted. Vanderbilt died in 1914; Olmsted in 1903. How would today’s estate compare to the vision they had? I compare their works to the great European cathedrals designed by visionaries, and not completed for many generations of builders. All great human endeavors are acts of faith, investments in the future. Selfless enterprises for new generations. I am typing these thoughts just a few days before the 246th anniversary of our grand nation’s Declaration of Independence. Our founding fathers’ saw the future and incorporated its assurances in the governing principles they developed in those early years. Thank God for their clear-eyed vision.

 

Cultivated Elegance

 

Scores of books offer exquisite photographs of the Estate’s gardens. I offer just three floral examples: gladiolus (left) and fall phlox.

 

 

And an anthurium.

 

One of my favorite shrubs we encountered is this mophead hydrangea.

 

Over the course of an annual cycle I am sure that the gardens of Biltmore entertain visitors with hundreds of flowering plant species. I have given you just a wee taste, which is enough to allow me to move along to where my heart and expertise lie…the wilder elements of the estate.

 

Farm the River Bottoms

 

Olmsted urged Vanderbilt to farm the river bottoms. The French Broad River transits the property. Tranquil during our visit, the river experienced a 100-year flood in 1916, resulting from a ten-inch deluge in the river’s upper basin July 16, killing six in Asheville and a total of 80 within the region. Interpretive signage at the Estate indicated that several employees of the Biltmore home lost their lives. I would most certainly been many feet below water at my riverside perch below.

 

Curiosity took me to The Asheville Citizen newspaper of July 18, 1916:

Last night Asheville was as a city of the dead. The floods from the heavens ceased to descend, but the city was one of utter and complete darkness. Here and there a candle or a kerosene lamp cast but feeble rays into complete darkness. The streets were almost deserted, and a sense of fear entered many a heart unaccustomed to new and strange conditions.

Because 1916 fell 116 years ago, are we now destined for yet another 100-year flood? When can we expect a 1,000-year flood? A millennial-flood? Allow me a brief run down an ancillary rabbit hole. I admit that the Asheville flood of 1916 was an extreme event (much like the eastern Kentucky deluge and flooding of late July 2022). Not a single person or so-called expert attributed the flooding to climate change or global warming…or excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. Global population stood at about 1.7 billion; the industrial age had barely gained stride. Rivers have undergone extreme flooding events since the first thunderstorms trained across the first mountains. Rivers will flood until the end of time. Yet, in this age of crises, existential threats, and deep societal anxiety triggered by pseudo-science and wild imaginings, every reported extreme weather event is just another supposed signal of the approaching end of time…the climate doom.

I urge all of my readers to calm down, take a deep breath, and read Alabama State Climatologist Dr John Christy’s A Practical Guide to Climate Change in Alabama. John’s Summary is worth contemplating among the continuous noise of alarmists intent upon eliminating our use of fossil fuels:

Upon examination of several important Alabama climate variables such as extreme summer heat, yearly rainfall, heavy rain events, droughts, snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes, we find no significant changes associated with the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases.

Over the past half-century, sea level has risen at variable rates along the Gulf Coast with a reasonable estimate for the Alabama portion of a continued rate-of-rise of about 1 to 1.5 inches per decade.

The latest theoretical model simulations have been unable to replicate the types of changes in climate variables that Alabama has experienced since the late 19th century and so offer little guidance for the future. 

Because we face a continuing onslaught of climate extremist rhetoric from mainstream media, many in higher education, and dominant political quarters, I include two quotes on my email signature line:

     In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
     Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

All science distills to facts. Observation prevails over perception. I recall my first autumn of residence in Fairbanks, Alaska. Early in October, I asked many long term residents, “How does the month just ended compare to the Septembers of years ago?” To a person they commented that the month used to be much colder; in fact…seasonal snow cover often came before the end of September. I had already checked the National Weather Service long term records. That September was actually the third coldest in over 100 years of record. That is the difference between observation (science) and perception (the authority of a thousand). Real science is not determined and confirmed by popular vote.

The French Broad will flood again…and again…and again. The same for Gulf Coast hurricanes, tornado outbreaks, heat waves, and other extreme weather events. Such is the Nature of our world!

Okay, back to the tale at hand. To this day, the Estate is farming the river bottoms, this area within range of our early morning stroll from where Judy and I spent our three nights.

 

Make the Rest a Forest

 

And my strongest personal and professional alignment lies with Olmsted’s final element of guidance…make the rest a forest. These magnificent white pines grow on a formerly abused pastured hilltop nearly the Biltmore House main visitor parking lots east of the courtyard. I can close my eyes and visualize the eroded, barren pastureland. I see planting crews dibbling white pine seedlings, ready to reclaim the land that during Native American times probably grew natural stands of the same species, common to these southern Appalachians. To the uninformed this stand appears to be original forest…old growth. Nature is remarkably resilient. Nothing in Nature is static.

 

The 1992 The Last of the Mohicans movie generated three Oscar nominations, winning one for its soundtrack, which I have playing in the background as I type this section. This epic historical drama, adopted from 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper, takes place near British Fort William Henry (at the south end of Lake George) in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Note: my summer forestry camp (between sophomore and junior years) location was Warrensburg, NY (Pack Forest), just six miles from Lake George. The movie’s opening chase scene has key characters running through the unbroken, undisturbed Adirondack wilderness in pursuit of wild game. The untrammeled original New England forest chase scene, in fact, takes place within the Biltmore Estate on old worn out domesticated land that George Vanderbilt purchased and Olmsted and Pinchot rehabilitated and re-wilded! Nature’s healing and restorative power is unmatched. Nothing in Nature is static.

 

Our anniversary visit coincided with peak rhododendron flowering season at the Estate’s approximate 2,200 feet elevation. The peak season of the surrounding Pisgah would lag a week behind for each 900 feet or so of elevation gain. Spring climbs these mountains at 900 feet per week. Winter descends at the same pace.

 

Black cohosh also accommodated our visit, standing 3-5 feet in full flower.

 

Always on the lookout for tree form curiosities and oddities, I found this burled white oak in plain site adjacent to the House parking lot. I wondered how many of the daily visitors even noticed.

 

 

Sunrise of Our Departure

 

We arose early our final morning to roam the river bottom near our hotel. Dawn seldom disappoints, this one no exception. The Biltmore Inn sits atop the hill, above our Village Hotel, to the right in the below left photo. Our room looked out on a courtyard and the Winery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From our near-river vantage point, the sun rose directly above the hotel. Stratocumulus clouds greeted sunrise above the hillside woods lifting from the river bottom.

 

What could be more fitting than my bride of 50 years backdropped by sunrise. We’ve seldom missed dawn and the rising sun across those five decades.

 

We both welcome each new day, a treat far exceeding any theater production, a night on the town, or a fancy dinner. It’s the Nature of our marriage!

Celebrating 50 Years

 

The glory of the intersection of human and natural history, culminating a 50 year journey of true love…still in progress.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • These magnificent southern Appalachians came to us out of eternity…and it is our common duty to steward their rich ecosystems.
  • Sometimes the grandest of Nature’s presentations can be enhanced by the genius and informed passion of man.
  • The story of Biltmore and the glory of Nature lift me, soothe my soul, and fill me with peace and gratitude.
  • Places such as this are best shared with my soulmate and the love of my life!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

Launching the Land Legacy Video for the Wells Memorial Trail at Alabama’s Monte Sano State Park

This Post launches the 12-minute land legacy video tale for the Wells Memorial Trail at Alabama’s Monte Sano State Park. The Post chronicles and presents the year-long video production. Bill Heslip, retired videographer, and I conceived and co-led the effort…Bill Directed; I Produced. Bill dubbed our two-person team Two Guys & A Camera. We enjoyed the project immensely. We took our work seriously, considering the product a memorial to William Arthur Wells, a lasting tribute to Robert and Catherine Wells, and a model for a selfless gift of land and Nature to perpetuity. We tried not to take ourselves too seriously, hence we had lots of fun, learned a great deal, and will never forget the rewarding experience.

Bill worked the camera (and editing software) flawlessly; I sat like a bump on a log, contemplating what I might say for the camera succinctly and with some modicum of scientific relevance and merit.

Monte Sano

 

My fascination with the Wells Trail began long before Bill and I envisioned the video. See my Posts from September 2018 through April 2021:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/09/17/monte-sano-state-park-exploring-an-addition/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/12/04/memory-and-legacy-for-a-sailor-and-hero/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/05/19/earth-day-visit-to-the-cathedral-forest-along-the-wells-memorial-trail-at-monte-sano-state-park/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/06/12/earth-day-visit-wildflowers-along-the-wells-memorial-trail-at-monte-sano-state-park/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/04/20/tall-trees-in-monte-sano-state-parks-cathedral-forest/

I told the story of our efforts over a series of three Posts, October 2021 through June 2022:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/10/05/contemplating-a-video-tale-of-the-william-arthur-wells-memorial-trail-monte-sano-state-park/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/01/25/continued-progress-on-monte-sano-state-park-wells-memorial-trail-video/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/06/14/wells-memorial-trail-at-monte-sano-state-park-five-weeks-after-stroke/

Bill and I viewed the project as a labor of love!

The Alabama Park System accepted the land donation with great enthusiasm. Below right is a proud sailor, William Arthur Wells, preparing to depart for the Pacific in WWII. I think of this hero giving his last full measure of devotion to our great country every time I hike the trail. His spirit lives forever in the Wells Trail cathedral forest.

Monte SanoMonte Sano

 

Robert and Catherine, likewise devoted to memorializing Bob’s older brother, supported our efforts with enthusiasm. I am grateful.

Monte Sano

 

The cove hardwood forest is indeed a cathedral! I feel a sacred connection when I trek under its magnificent canopy.

 

 

 

 

Our Alabama grandsons feel it as well.

Monte Sano

 

Large trees, deep shadows, and unlimited inspiration buoy the spirit of all who enter.

 

Still photos tell the tale only superficially. Alas, here’s the Video!!!

 

As a Board member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board, I am hopeful that the Land Legacy Video might spur other Parks-related philanthropy. Likewise, I see local land trusts across Alabama finding it useful for encouraging similar donations of land and treasure.

Some of Alabama State Parks Foundation team at the trailhead.

Wells

 

I am pleased that the both the Park System and the Foundation Board embraced the project and now accept the video with enthusiasm.

I lean heavily on the words of John Muir to express my own feelings about places like the Wells Trail:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

Come to the woods, for here is rest.

In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.

Wells Trail

 

I thank Bill Heslip for joining this project with me, and leading our way to excellence. I cannot adequately thank Robert and Catherine for donating the land and enthusiastically bringing deep insight and inspiration to our efforts. And I express eternal gratitude to William Arthur Wells who gave his life to protect and preserve American Liberty.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Special wild places touch us deeply.
  • Special wild places lift us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
  • Every special wild place has a tale to tell.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksMonte Sano

 

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

 

A Forest Book of Mysteries, Surprises, and Revelations

Every forest…nay, each stand in every forest…contains rich stories of ecosystem life and living. Plants, animals, fungi, microorganisms, water, sunlight, soils…all dancing in evershifting patterns, choreographed by 3.8 billion years of evolution. The book’s type is not set, its stories and characters change minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, year, decade, century, millenia, and deeper into time. The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge riparian forest welcomed a human, one woefully ignorant of most intricate facets of the Nature of this forest and its long-held secrets, yet he brimmed with curiosity the afternoon of June 18, 2022.

The gravel access road served the visitor well, leading him to parking near the canoe launch on the southwest side of Blackwell swamp. He had previously biked many miles of the Refuge’s gravel roads. Since his November 2021 shoulder replacement surgery, the rough gravel has dissuaded him from other than hiking and bushwhacking.

HGH Road

 

The Swamp

Blackwell Swamp always presents a pleasant face. This 3:07 PM view to the ESE across at least a quarter-mile of open (and vegetation-clogged) water takes advantage of the clear early summer air and mid-afternoon sun.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Never disappointed by this southern swamp just a quarter mile from the Tennessee River, fifteen miles from his Madison, Alabama home, the visitor visually consumed the aquatic vegetation, cerulean sky with cumulus puffs, abundant bird life, and swamp-edge forest. He recognized some plant species, understood the broad dynamics of the swamp, yet saw, too, so much complexity and life that he did not fully comprehend. You would think that after living as a passionate student of Nature for more than seven decades, he might know more. But alas, he has learned that the more he learns, the less he knows. Knowledge of natural systems, or for that matter, of almost anything, reminds the visitor of climbing a mountain. The broader the viewscape, the greater the mystery and secrets within the exponentially larger acreage. The more he sees, the less he knows.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. (Albert Einstein)

 

The Forest

Entering the forest, he immediately felt the air temperature drop ten degrees, but the heat-relieving breeze swampside stayed topside in the canopy 90-100 feet above the forest floor. Hungry mosquitoes buzzed and whined, attempting to penetrate the netting covering his face and neck. The forest canopy captured most sunlight, permitting only flecks and dapples to touch the forest floor.

HGH Road

 

The visitor bushwhacked through a mixed pine/hardwood stand that yielded to pure hardwood-stocked lowground punctuated by higher well-drained ridges. Don’t jump to conclusions…the ridges stand just 3-7 feet above the lowground that during winter is often covered by shallow surface water. To the unacquainted the forest, just 70-90 years old, could be mistaken as old growth, taking on characteristics indicative of such:

An old-growth forest – also termed primary forest, virgin forest, late seral forest, primeval forest or first-growth forest – is a forest that has attained great age without significant disturbance and thereby exhibits unique ecological features and might be classified as a climax community. (Wikipedia)

Old growth characteristics include: large trees; multiple canopy layers; both seral (successional) and climax species; large standing snags; abundant dead and down woody debris; pockets of younger trees. This stand qualified. However, as the visitor rambled he found old drainage ditches dug decades earlier, when much of this forestland produced agricultural crops. He’s observed often that nothing in Nature is static. Some would have estimated that this large oak (below) stood for centuries. Not so. The visitor knew enough about forest development and Refuge history to surmise that many of these rich riverine sites had been farmed prior to TVA acquisition and that natural forest regeneration progresses rapidly, and that impressive forests emerge after just 70-90 years. He also observed that old growth stand characteristics can develop over periods of less that a century.

HGH Road

 

Life (and death) trace a story across the forest. The fallen (away from the camera) decaying tree (now a log) when alive stood at the boundary between where the lenticular, straw-hued mound stands elevated (perhaps a foot vertical) above the gray-white depression in the immediate foreground. A strong wind toppled the tree a decade or longer ago, lifting its soil-packed root ball, which with the roots decayed constitutes the mound. The depression, where the root ball lifted, is water-filled through the soil-saturated winter months, bleaching surface organic matter.

HGH Road

 

This two-foot diameter oak tells its own story. Picture the original seedling/sapling as a twin. Perhaps a deer or rabbit nipped the very young sprout, resulting in two sprouts competing in their reach skyward, creating a forked trunk. When the near-stem (probably both) had grown to a diameter the size of the opening, a natural force (wind, ice, a nearby falling tree) shattered the union, permitting decay fungi to infect the raw exposed wood. The fallen fork has long since returned to the soil. The visitor saw no trace of it. Although the still-living tree has fought valiantly to callous over the opening, alas the fungus has prevailed. The tree will forevermore remain hollow. Eventually, the laws of Nature and physics will bring the surviving fork to the ground, but not before it has produced decade after decade of acorns. The oak, when all is said and done, will have done its duty, doing everything in its power to have survived the test of time, and produced seed to assure its succession.

HGH Road

 

Fungi

The visitor, conscious of the role of fungi in the hollow oak tale, has learned to appreciate (and learn more about) the fungi kingdom of life. Rather than present a detailed narrative of the mushrooms he encountered, here is a brief recap. The peppery white milkcap appeared just once in his two-hour journey. Interestingly, this species is edible, a bit too peppery for most foragers (one reference referred to its taste as suddenly and intensely spicy or peppery). Our visitor photographed and cataloged the find, appreciating its place and sublime beauty. Below right see its fine dense gills.

HGH Road

 

Its base is thick and meaty. It forms mycorrhizal associations with trees, therefore, this species appears on the soil surface, not on woody substrate.

HGHRoad

 

Another common early summer mushroom, Russula flavida is known as yellow russula. Like the peppery white milkcap, it forms mycorrhizal associations with trees, especially oaks.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

This artist bracket mushroom, a wood decaying species, graced a cavity at the base of a living oak. The distinct color and varnished appearance caught the visitor’s attention.

HGH Road

 

Leaning closer to photograph the shelf mushroom, he noticed its southern leopard frog companion. So much in Nature lies hidden in plain sight.

HGH Road

HGH Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The visitor found his first chanterelle mushrooms of the young summer season. Smooth chanterelles dotted the forest floor on the gentle slide slopes separating the upland forest from the still-saturated bottoms. Recall that the upland forest lies only 3-7 vertical feet above the bottoms. This mycorrhizal fungi is particularly common in the Southeast and widely distributed in eastern North America (Mushrooms of the Southeast).

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

 

 

The chanterelle (various species here in northern Alabama) foraging season extends from mid-June through September. An ample helping of sauteed chanterelles (complemented with sliced onions) rewarded the visitor that evening!

HGH Road

 

How grand that fungi 50 years ago merited their own kingdom. Their forms and functions are diverse, from the superbly edible chanterelles to the delightfully colorful yellow russula…from the tree-partner mycorrhizae to the decaying Ganoderma.

 

Flowers and Plants

The visitor encountered a flowering forest floor plant he did not recognize, genus Hylodesmum, a ticktrefoil. Leaves compound with three leaflets, its flower stock would not have drawn his attention had he not straddled it in passing. Upon reference checking for identification, he found that the plant’s seeds are little green packages when ripe, covered with adhesive bristles that cling to most any clothing brushing against them. The visitor nodded recognition of the seeds as beggar’s lice, displaying an ingenious method of seed dispersal, clinging tenaciously to animal fur (or human clothing), traveling along with its animal-uber until wear and friction release the passenger, with good fortune, at a suitable spot for gemination.

HGH Road

 

 

The black-eyed Susan has no secret hitchhiking intentions. It’s sole attractive purpose is to draw pollinators to taste its nectar, and in the act spread a bit of pollen among other flowers of its kind. In time, birds and other critter disperse its seeds.

HGH Road

 

The missouri Botanical Gardens offers a hard-to-top description of a parasitic flowering plant the visitor identified along the access road as he returned to his vehicle:

Dodder is an annual seed-bearing parasitic vine in the dodder family (formerly placed in the morning-glory family). Its thin, thread-like, yellow or orange stems grow rapidly entwining and covering their host plants. Cuscate is the most common genus and is found throughout the US and Canada. Of the 50 species that occur, most are found in tropical and warm-temperate areas but some species also occur in cooler areas including St. Louis where they can grow from seed each year and infest herbaceous and small woody plants. Since seeds can be difficult to separate from some agricultural crops dodder has been spread widely through agriculture.

Dodder seeds germinate in soil and can live on their own for 5 to 10 days until they are about a foot tall. If they have not found a suitable host by this time the seedlings will die. Seedlings that find a suitable host twine around the plant and insert haustoria (modified adventitious roots) into the tender stem. The haustoria penetrate and tap the plant’s vascular system for water, minerals and nutrients. Plants are weakly photosynthetic, but most produce very little food on their own. They rely upon their host plant for survival. As the vine taps the host plant its connection to the soil is severed. Small, white, bell-shaped flowers form in late summer and early fall and can produce copious amounts of seed. Plants are annual and are killed by frost. Plants regrow from seed each year.

Harper’s dodder is native to northeastern Alabama. However, iNaturalist verified only that this is a dodder. A number of invasive dodders are naturalised to Alabama.

HGH RoadHGH Road

 

Other Critters

The visitor can attest that the riparian forest is home to all manner of insects and spiders. The aforementioned leopard frog is here for a reason. Insects are his primary caloric fortune. The frog performs his magic with a sticky elongated tongue. The orb weaver spider posted at the center of his solar-illuminated webbing likewise fuels his life on insect protein. The visitor, mosquito netting secured under his ball cap and draping over his his chest and shoulders, heard the constant whine of the Dipterian, blood-sucking hordes yearning for his blood.

HGH Road

 

He characterized the mosquito-consuming arachnids as friends!

Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago, perhaps as he considered a frog’s sticky tongue or the marvels of orb weaving spiders observed:

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.

 

Back to the Swamp and His Vehicle

Still regaining strength and conditioning from his November 2021, shoulder replacement and March 2022 stroke, the visitor felt the tiring exertion of two hours bushwhacking, foraging, briar-snagging, and occasional mucking in his rubber boots through standing water and brimful drainageways. He returned at 5:09 PM to once more capture Blackwell Swamp images, forest edge shadows now extending further into the swamp vegetation, the far-side forest vegetation super-illuminated by the lower angle sun rays.

HGH Road

 

The visitor recalls his early career years practicing forestry, spending long days in the forest, performing inventory, assessing standing timber, laying out access roads, inspecting logging operations, supervising site preparation and tree planting, and doing prescribed burning. He speculates as he completes his first year following his 70th birthday how many hours, if at all, he could keep pace with his younger self. He knows that he would quickly frustrate that young man, serving more as anchor than companion. However, he relishes the quantum leap he has made in understanding and appreciating the marvels of the forest and the miracles revealed within. He can see more clearly and deeply, and with greater satisfaction and reward. His younger self had never met a wild edible chanterelle and would never have seen, much less been able to identify, the Ganoderma mushroom. He would have missed the leopard frog. He seldom saw what lay hidden in plain sight. Most amazingly, the younger man thought he already knew most everything he would ever need to know. And now, although the visitor knows far more now than he did then, he accepts that his knowledge and understanding are shallow and incomplete.

Yet, he knows enough to feel the power, glory, grace, and fulfillment that derive from his love affair with Nature. He is a student and practitioner of Nature-Inspired Life and Living. Too, he is learning more and more about Nature-Inspired Aging and Healing.

The young man would not have appreciated da Vinci’s wisdom in this simple observation:

Nature is so delightful and abundant in its variations that among trees of the same kind there would not be found one which nearly resembles another, and not only the plants as a whole, but among their branches, leaves, and fruit, will not be found one which is precisely like another.

Life is Good!

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Wild places reveal new secrets every time we visit; their mysteries lie hidden in plain sight.
  • The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. (Einstein)
  • Walking in the forest rewards far more than walking through the forest. Wander patiently…and with purpose!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHGH Road

 

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

 

NC Arboretum: People, Plants, Place, and Passion

Thursday June 23, 2022, Judy and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary at the North Carolina Arboretum, where I served on the Board 2001-2004, in my capacity as NC State University Vice Chancellor for Extension, Engagement, and Economic Development. Our dear friend, founding (1987) and still current Executive Director George Briggs, hosted us. This Post explores what I fondly refer to as Eden in the Southern Appalachians, with its mission driven by interconnecting People, Plants, Place, and Passion.

 

We arrived a few minutes early for our 10:00 AM rendezvous with George at the Education Center and its upstairs administrative offices.

 

We enjoyed this 18-year-absence homecoming. I fell in love with the Arboretum when my NC State duties occasionally led me 250 miles west from our Cary, NC residence near Raleigh and the NCSU campus…from the Piedmont/coastal plain fall-line to the heart of the southern Appalachians. The air never failed to feel cooler, fresher, and ripe with promise.

John Muir loved the mountains:

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

My NC State office looked out over some shrubbery and a parking lot. George’s office vista looks south deep into the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, Pisgah National Forest. Once again, John Muir:

  • One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.

I could have gazed into the Bent Creek watershed for days…for ever.

 

 

 

 

 

The Arboretum honors the legacy, the philosophy, and the spirit of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. George and I posed beside one of the many images (each with an interpretive sign) of the designer of Central Park and the Biltmore grounds, among many others: The sign below contains an Olmsted quote that resonates with this old forester: If a man is not to live by bread alone, what is better worth doing well than the planting of trees.

 

 

This sculpture depicts Olmsted holding a mapped garden design. The plaque reads: I must yet for a time keep the plan before me as a sculptor keeps his work under damp cloths, in a plastic form. Olmsted sought what he termed the elegance of design, the creation of a composition in which all parts are subordinated to a single, coherent effect, achieved perfectly in the composition below left.

 

Olmsted left the lasting mark of his genius across the US, perhaps no more elegantly than here in these magnificent southern Appalachian mountains. I asked George whether the man actually visited, walked over any of the 434 acres of the original Biltmore property that became the Arboretum. We can’t be certain, yet George and I both felt his presence and his essence. What is clear and evident is that early in his work with George Vanderbilt, Olmsted offered this guidance for the Estate’s entire 125,000+ acres:

My advice would be to make a small park into which to look from your house; make a small pleasure ground and gardens; farm your river bottoms chiefly to keep and fatten livestock with a view to manure; and make the rest a forest, improving the existing roads and planting the old fields.

An acre covers 43,560 square feet, roughly equivalent to to a modern day football field between the sidelines and goal lines. One hundred twenty five thousand acres would extend a mile wide for 195 miles, the approximate distance from Huntsville to Montgomery, Alabama. The current Arboretum accounts for 3.472 one thousandths of the original estate. Did Olmsted set foot on this current-day Eden in the Southern Appalachians? Let’s not worry about the odds or the likelihood. Instead, if he views the progression of Biltmore and the original Estate grounds from his now otherworldly domain, let’s assume that he is quite familiar with the Arboretum!

People, Plants, Place, and Passion

 

I detect echoes of Olmsted in George, who holds dear to operating at the intimate intersection of people, plants, place, and passion…a congruence that defines the past, present, and future of this special place. The formal Mission: Cultivate connections between people and plants through creative expressions of landscape stewardship, including education, research, conservation, economic development and garden demonstration.

People

More than one-half million people visit the Arboretum annually. A group of K-5 students and teachers enjoyed a picnic lunch as we strolled the grounds on a mid-summer Thursday. I am sure bustling crowds visit the Arboretum during summer weekends.

 

Plants

I’ve been a plant person my entire life, beginning as a toddler under the tutelage of my maternal grandmother, continuing through my forestry undergraduate degree, then through five decades of career practice and study, and then a final return to my immersive plant/Nature hobby in retirement.

Tree bark fascinates me, whether in the riparian forests of northern Alabama’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge or this eye-catching lacebark elm, so beautifully and aptly named.

 

During my term at Auburn University as Alabama Cooperative Extension System Director (1996-2001), Judy and I grew quite fond of oakleaf hydrangea’s flowers, foliage, and exfoliating bark, a treat for all seasons. I’ve never seen it more abundant than on the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama’s Bankhead National Forest. What a joy to see the species flourishing at the Arboretum and the nearby southern Appalachian forests.

 

During my nine years on the forestry faculty at Penn State (1987-96), I worked closely with dear friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Finley, who passed away far to soon last October. We spent countless hours in Pennsylvania’s hardwood forests, whether deer or ruffed grouse hunting, conducting forest landowner workshops, or simply botanizing. Because I had practiced forestry in southern states 1973-85, I knew  the sourwood tree well. Because sourwood’s principal range does not fall within Pennsylvania, it became a running inside joke that whenever I did not recognize a Pennsylvania tree we encountered, I would tell Jim that it may be a sourwood. I miss Jim, probably the most accomplished general forester I have known. The full-flower sourwood below center, visible outside George’s office window, brought back fond memories of shared woods ramblings and lessons learned.

 

People and plants — a marriage essential to society and humanity. Consider our human dependence on plants for food, oxygen, building materials, and soul-nourishment. I don’t view the relationship as interdependent. Plants existed and flourished long before Homo sapiens made an appearance. Plants will extend indefinitely with or without us.

Place

My third book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits, co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit, carries a relevant subtitle: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature! Place fuels my psyche and stirs my heart.

 

I’ve observed previously in these Posts that when driving to my birthplace in the central Appalachians, I feel a deep soul-stirring…a persistent peace and familiarity…when we range within 30 miles of Cumberland, Maryland. In fact, I sense strong comfort anywhere in the Appalachians. The view from George’s office, I admit, when combined with the sentiment of great memories, triggered a brief case of misty eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not just mountains that draw me to place, yet wrinkled land surely intensifies my place-attachment! John Muir agreed unabashedly:

  • Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers but as fountains of life.
  • Going to the mountains is going home.
Passion

I have said often, People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Caring deeply evokes passion, defined as strong and barely controllable emotion. Throughout my higher education executive career I urged my teams to exhibit and employ passion in their own endeavors. Caring is essential to leading. George embodies care and passion, evidencing it in his eyes, hands, words, and actions. It shows as results in the Arboretum.

 

The plaque below also conveys his embrace of passion and commitment: Overlook in Honor of Sara Hunt Briggs, A Tribute from Her Husband in Celebration of 50 Years of Marriage. How fitting that Judy and I were there celebrating our 50th!

 

This just-under-four-minute video tells the tale of the Arboretum and evidences the interdependence on plants, people, place, and passion.

 

Special Features

 

Without a lot of narrative, I offer a photo collage of special features and this special place. The Quilt Garden and fountain.

 

Working greenhouse with lenticular clouds in the background.

 

Stillness Meets Trajectory Sculpture of a great blue heron.

 

 

Bonsai Exhibition Garden with native southern Appalachian forest species: white pine and red maple.

 

The exhibition offers far more than just these two representative examples.

 

Nature’s Subtleties: Lichens

 

Although not a subject of any intentional demonstration, lichen caught my eye, hidden as so much in Nature is in plain sight. Here on the bark  of an American yellowwood.

 

On an ornamental flowering cherry.

 

On a split rail fence bordering a woodchip-surfaced pathway.

 

Note the creative employ of windthrow-uplifted roots as a fence segment, and lichens and moss on one of the fence rails.

 

Deep in the Southern Appalachians

 

Allow me to circle back to the original Biltmore Estate. Olmsted was not impressed with the condition of the 125,000 acres (195 sq mi; 510 km2) and advised having a park surround the house, establishing farms along the river, and replanting the rest as a commercial timber forest, a plan to which Vanderbilt agreed. Gifford Pinchot and later Carl A. Schenck were hired to manage the forests, with Schenck establishing the first forestry education program in the U.S. in 1898, the Biltmore Forest School, on the Estate grounds. I photographed the plaque below on the Biltmore Estate.

 

The birthplace of American forestry (known as The Cradle of Forestry) is in the center of the Pisgah National Forest, 24 miles from the Arboretum and 31 miles from the Biltmore House, all three locations within the vast original Estate. I remind you that the forests of 1890 looked nothing like the mature forest below left or the sweeping vista from George’s office (right).

 

I could write for days…no, years…and never so succinctly capture my own feelings for these southern Appalachians than did John Muir on mountains in general:

  • Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.

This old forester, enriched by 71 years of Nature-oriented and inspired living, and a 50 year journey with the love of my life, loves mountains. Yet, I am in love with these ancient southern Appalachians. They lie deep within me. They sculpt my very being. I am rich forever.

Repeating Muir:

The mountains will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Going to the southern Appalachian Mountains is going home (modified from John Muir).
  • A true Nature enthusiast enters wild places buoyed by deep and persistent passion.
  • Embrace your own special-place Eden; carry it in your heart and soul!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

Early Summer Visit to a Riparian Forest: Wheeler NWR

May 27, 2022, my wife Judy and I, along with our two Alabama grandsons Jack and Sam, visited the Blackwell Swamp area of nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. We stopped to look at the January 1, 2022 tornado swath; hiked along HGH Road at the northern edge of an extensive riparian forest; and viewed the open water breadth of Blackwell Swamp.

Back to the January 1, 2022 Tornado Swath

 

Here’s my May 5, 2022 Post on the aftermath of the tornado: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/05/04/aftermath-of-january-1-2022-tornado-at-wheeler-national-wildlife-refuge/

I photographed this view mid-March from the north margin of the tornado swath looking due south. The raw scene, absent trees and debris the Refuge crews removed from the road, suggests total destruction. I wrote extensively in that Post about Nature’s alternate perspective…that the tornado prompts renewal, enabling regeneration and encouraging new forest regrowth. A seeming act of devastation, when viewed through Nature’s lens, is a force of renewal. The tornado did not wipe out a forest, but instead paused its development. Without a land use change (not likely on a National Wildlife Refuge), the forest will prevail far beyond the life and demise of individual trees.

Tornado

 

Just two months beyond my mid-March visit, the regrowth…the renwal…dominates the scene! Green prevails. Even the sky, coincidentally, brightens the outlook. John Muir knew Nature’s healing power intimately:

Earth has no sorrow that earth can not heal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shattered bur oak, evidencing the violent winds, caught my eye and my lens in March. Sprouting leaves from adventitious buds along the trunk now reveal the snag’s species.

Tornado

 

During the period (mid-1970s) when I purchased standing timber for a hardwood sawmill, I had to be a student of hardwood log defects. I could not pay veneer prices for a lower quality tree. From an online wood defects reference:

Adventitious buds are subnormal buds found at points along the stem. They arise from latent or dormant buds in the leaf axils of the young stem and persist for an indefinite number of years within the cortical-cambial zone. They retain connection back to the pith by means of a stele, a bundle of water-conducting tissues also known as a bud trace. These buds can be activated at any time during the life of the tree in response to various stimuli; such a response leads to the development of an epicormic branch.

So, while adventitiou buds can be a lumber defect, they serve an important purpose. The shattered bur oak is actively developing epicormic branches that will afford the tree a chance to compete in the new canopy. Nature doesn’t give a hoot about potential hardwood log defects. The long term evolutionary advantage goes to an individual (and its species) able to effectively rebound from disturbance.

 

HGH Road Adjoining a Riparian Forest

 

HGH Road runs east/west from its juncture with Jolly B Road just west of Blackwell Swamp. The view here is to the east. A rich riparian forest, predominantly hardwood, lies to the right, extending nearly unbroken to the Tennessee River. Pine mixes in on the uplands. The “uplands” may be no more than 5-10-feet higher than the saturated lowlands. Streams and seasonally flooded forest create species and soil variability within the forest. Sam, Judy, and Jack are pausing to examine a roadside patch of invasive bamboo.

HGH Road

 

I normally wander the forest off-road, where I deal with biting insects, face-draping spider webs, poison ivy, the presence of snake, briars, and other such inconveniences. I know better than to subject beloved family members to the riparian forest during the deep growing season.

Critters

 

As we entered the Refuge, I alerted the boys that we had a good chance of seeing one or more of the following: turtle, snake, frog, and more. Our mile hike did not disappoint!

We stopped and exited the SUV when we encountered a common slider crossing the road in front of us. What stronger vote of grandson reaction than Sam kneeling by the turtle signaling a thumbs-up!

HGH Rd

 

Within a few hundred feet of where we eventually parked the vehicle we saw what was for me a first-of-its-kind critter situation. This garter snake with a hapless leopard frog generated first a shriek (A SNAKE!!!), then expressions of wonder and awe, and finally sympathy for the amphibian. Notice that I have no image of Sam kneeling by the duo smiling with his thumbs-up signal!

 

 

 

 

 

Another first for me, a red swamp crayfish seemed to fiercely guard his section of road, like a troll with his bridge. We observed from a respectable distance, worked our way around him, and continued westward. He had exited the roadway when we later returned en route to the gravel parking area.

HGH Rd

Sam spotted a red-legged purseweb spider crossing the road. Another fierce-appearing creature. He gave no evidence of concern for us, continuing in straight-line from one side to the other.

hgh Rd

 

We found a clump of moss with a false Caesar’s mushroom protruding, and a millipede enjoying the fungal delicacy (but only from a milipede’s perspective).

HGH Rd

 

Woodland critters abound within the forest, where I spend most of my foraging and exploring bushwhacking. However, thick undergrowth limits my vision and my not-so-silent passage gives forest floor life a chance to shelter in-place out of view. The HGH Road hike proved perfect for maximum discovery.

 

Flowers

 

I’ll transition to flower encounters with a plant holding to an animal’s name: lizard’s tail (other names include water-dragon, dragon’s tail, swamp root. The plant’s inflorescence droops as below, turning brown after flowering, resembling its namesake lizard’s tail.

HGH Rd

 

What could be more attractive than this redwing milkweed?! From a US Forest Service online publication:

This milkweed like most milkweeds produces copious amounts of nectar and is an important pollinator plant. The flowers have a sweet odor. Bees, wasps, butterflies, flies, and ants can be seen on its flowers. Redring milk is not an important food plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, although they can be occasionally be found on the plants. The plant tends to be in low densities and in some shade and this may make it harder for monarchs to find it.

Redring milkweed is a species of moist to dry shaded roadsides, woodland, savanna and open forest. It tends to grow in light to moderate shade, but tolerates full sun. It is known from Texas north through Oklahoma and Missouri to Illinois and east to the Atlantic from Connecticut to Florida.

HGH Rd

 

 

 

 

From an NC State University online Extension reference:

Carolina ruellia or Wild-petunia, is very common in North Carolina, found in lawns and woodlands. This native wildflower is so common that,  despite its beauty, it is sometimes considered a lawn weed. This unbranched perennial can grow to 2 to 3 feet tall. Its leaves are light green and tend to have a crowded appearance. Its purple flowers bloom in spring, summer, and fall. The unstalked flowers are in axillary clusters of three to four and usually only one or two are open on any given day. Even though wild petunia’s flowers only last for a day, its long flowering period more than compensates. It seeds readily.

HGH Rd

 

 

I am now a big fan of both redwing milkweed and Carolina ruellia — such exquisite beauties!

However, I don’t want my biases to detract from this next flower, with which I have a lifelong affinity. Most amateur naturalists know black-eyed Susan, summer-common across the range of my own eastern US wanderings.

HGH Rd

 

 

My iNaturalist Ap identified this roadside flower as thickleaf phlox. Once again from an NC State University online Extension reference:

Carolina Phlox, as the name suggests, is a  flower native to the southeastern US. Its native habitat includes deciduous woods, forest edges, clearings, and roadsides. Its upright growth habit may reach 2-3 feet, blooming mostly during the hottest part of the summer in full sun, although it may rebloom intermittently until frost.

HGH Rd

 

The road-edge flowering jubilee continues at the Refuge through the summer. Here is my Post from a roadside floral ramble on a nearby gravel road mid-August 2020: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/10/07/mid-summer-life-flourish-along-a-wheeler-nwr-gravel-road/

The seasons of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe extends year-round!

 

Overlooking Blackwell Swamp

 

We shifted our attention briefly to Blackwell Swamp. A roadside canoe launch provides a quarter-mile wide view across the swamp’s southern end. That’s lizard’s tail in the foreground, extensive flats of water lily beyond, and an edge of riparian forest on the far side.

 

I often see numerous ducks, great blue herons, great egrets, and other birds at this vista. A barred owl greeted me from his perch above the landing on a prior visit.

 

Green, blue, and white — the striking colors of Nature across our moist temperate wildlands of most of the eastern US. Although some people find our north Alabama climate too humid and rainy, I thrive in this region receiving annual rainfall at 55″. Water is Life!

H

 

I am never disappointed by my ventures into our 35,000-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, whether riparian forest bushwhacking in search of forest fantasies or edible mushrooms, hiking gravel roadways with family, or marveling at the annual mid-winter migratory cranes and diverse waterfowl at the visitor center observation building.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The Refuge, and any wild place, reveals new secrets every time we visit.
  • There is magic in Nature’s mundane objects, whether insects, flowers, or a hungry snake grasping a hapless frog.
  • I find deep healing and renewal in my wildness wanderings and their inspired wonderings!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two: Late Spring Return to The Sanctuary

This Post serves as the immediate sequel to last week’s photo-essay: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/06/20/chapter-one-late-spring-return-to-the-sanctuary/

May 13, 2022, I returned to Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary with Bill Heslip, retired videographer, Margaret Anne Goldsmith, benefactor who donated the property to the City, and Marian Moore Lewis, author of Southern Sanctuary, a month-by-month almanac of the Nature of the Sanctuary. I’ll take you along with photos, observations, and reflections on our late spring afternoon tour.

Our visit would serve as the capstone for compiling a video Land Legacy Tale for the Sanctuary, which we hope to release later this summer. Bill is the producer; I serve as his naturalist. Margaret Anne and Marian offer additional indispensable knowledge and perspective. Last week’s Post offered observations, reflections, photographs and a video on our hike through the riparian forest and along the Flint River. This Post covers our emergence into the meadow habitat and our brief trip to the edge of the tupelo swamp.

Here is my June 2021 Post introducing our vision for the video project: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/08/25/contemplating-a-video-of-the-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

Emerging to the Meadows

Bill is preparing to record more video with Margaret Anne and Marian. Becky Heslip watches while carrying some of Bill’s gear. Below right the group stands at the meadow/woods edge.

 

I’ve found that the Sanctuary is photogenic across the seasons. Late spring to early summer is no exception. It’s hard to top cerulean sky, open meadow, bordering forest, and distant ridge.

 

 

I couldn’t resist capturing Bill and our two principal subjects, outstanding in their field, in this 1:47 video. My narrative refers to two people; we all know there are three. Attribute my error to the stress of a forester-introvert speaking into a microphone!

 

 

I couldn’t get enough of the meadow, forest, ridge, and sky combination!

 

 

At the risk of overdoing it, here are two more.

 

The Tupelo Swamp

 

We left the field, heading north through the forest edge, quickly entering into the tupelo swamp, a land of water, somewhat exotic trees and reflections, and myriad evening bird calls.

 

 

 

 

 

Bill recorded the scene, once again asking Marian for comments and reflections.

 

And I took advantage of the opportunity to record another 90 seconds of video, this time capturing my own observations on a third ecotype here on the Sanctuary: previously riparian forest and open meadow, and now tupelo swamp.

 

Every one of my wanderings within the Sanctuary reveals magic and mysteries that enrich my life and living. Although aging is a reality for all of us, I find deep healing and renewal with my wildness wanderings and their associated wonderings!

Some Final Reflections on my May 13 Return to the Sanctuary

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022, Richard Rohr’s online Daily Meditations spoke to the same concept I’ve noted, that is, the Sanctuary revealing magic and mysteries that enrich my life:

Waiting for Things to Unfold

On a bird watching trip in Baja, Mexico, theologian Douglas Christie reflected on the need for patience and letting go of control so that we can see in a new way:

What is being asked of us in this moment is patient attention; a willingness to slow down, listen, and look; a willingness to let go of our expectations, to accept the possibility that our efforts may not bear any fruit—or at least not in the way we have been hoping that they will.

The French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil (1909–1943) once noted: “We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.” This idea comes back to me in this moment with new force and meaning. I smile to think of my own impatience, my relative incapacity to wait for much of anything. I wonder what this is about. Why do I put so much stock in my ability to seek and find what I am looking for? . . . Why is it so difficult for me to wait for things to unfold, to reveal themselves? . . .  

The idea that what we most deeply desire must ultimately reveal itself to us is not easy to accept. It suggests a relinquishment of control that most of us, if we are being honest, find difficult to practice. There is too much risk, too much vulnerability. Yet the willingness to relinquish control and open ourselves to the mysterious unknown is at the heart of every great spiritual tradition. In the Gospel tradition, it is described as becoming again like a child, or being born anew: learning to see with fresh eyes.

I often contrast walking through the woods and wandering in the forest in a manner that forces (or enables) me to slow down, listen, and look. I embrace the notion of waiting for wonders to reveal themselves…to unfold. Yes, to open myself to the mysterious unknown…becoming again like a child…being born anew…learning to see with fresh eyes!

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The Sanctuary, and any wild place, reveals new secrets every time we visit.
  • When in Nature, slow down, listen, and look…learn to see with fresh eyes.
  • I find deep healing and renewal in my wildness wanderings and their inspired wonderings!

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

Early Summer on the Richard Martin Rails to Trail

May 17, 2022, I hiked a section of the Richard Martin Rails to Trail in Limestone County Alabama with Chris Stuhlinger, fellow Board member of OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. We were doing a dry run for a hike we’ll be co-leading for OLLI June 11, 2022.

Introducing the Trail

 

We parked at Elkmont, Alabama (old Tennessee and Alabama depot below left), which sits midway between the trail’s southern terminus just north of Athens and its northern end at Veto, AL on the Tennessee line.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve biked the entire trail (22 mile round trip) multiple times prior to my November 2021 left shoulder replacement surgery. Our recent hike took us just 1.1 miles south to the the National Historic Park site of the Civil War Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle. The trail is gravel and mostly shaded. A few benches (one with Chris) sit along the trail. The trees trailside have grown since the Tennessee and Alabama RR (TA RR) abandoned the line in 1986.

 

Our trek, as I recall, had just a single bend before we reached the battle site, where Chris stands below right reading National Park Service interpretive signs.

 

I won’t offer much explanation of the battle. The internet has lots of detail. I believe you can read the general summary below left. The actual trestle from a January 1, 1864 photo below right, just nine months before the Confederate attackers burned it to the ground.

 

Rather than rebuild the wooden structure, engineers constructed a limestone viaduct across the creek, and filled the crossing above it with a sound earthen and stone base to support the railbed.

 

I recorded this three minute video at the battle site to give you a feel for the terrain and the trail.

 

The Nature of the Trail

 

Our hike emphasized the intersection of human and natural history. The trail passes through what some would view as wild country, rich with diverse trees, plants, and critters, as well as several stream crossings, a swamp, and occasional meadows along its full eleven mile length from Athens to Veto. Even the segment Chris and I walked could be viewed as wild. However, there is a big difference between wild and wilderness, the kind that meets the 1964 US Wilderness Act definition: an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. The trail corridor is anything but untouched. Crews maintained the rail line for nearly 130 years as trains passed daily or more often, belching smoke and breaking the silence. Agricultural pursuits and timber cutting in the area changed the face of the land repeatedly. A modern country road parallels the line in places. Now, an appearance of wildness, yes. Wilderness? Not even close!

Let’s examine some of the wildness along the stretch we hiked. I’ve frequently mentioned in these Great Blue Heron Posts my fascination with forest vines. Muscadine grape vines greeted us along the trail, secure in their main canopy occupancy high above us.

 

I don’t often encounter red mulberry. The US Forest Service notes the principal value of this species:

The wood is of little commercial importance. The tree’s value is derived from its abundant fruits, which are eaten by people, birds, and small mammals.

 

An online NC State University Cooperative Extension bulletin describes the spiny formidable plant below:

Aralia spinosa, commonly called devil’s walking stick or Hercules’ club, gets its common name from the stout, sharp spines found on its leaf stalks, stems and branches. This is a large, upright, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows to 10-15’ tall, but infrequently grows as a small flat topped tree to as much as 35’ tall. In its native range in the eastern U.S., it is commonly found in wood margins, fields and pastures as well as a forest or natural area at the edge of woods or along streams in moist woods.

I include mention and photos only because of this species’ odd name and thorny character.

 

An online Penn State Extension publication says this about Japanese honeysuckle (photo below):

It was brought to the United States, along with other non-native honeysuckles as an ornamental plant. Like many invasive species, Japanese honeysuckle likes to grow along the edge of a disturbance (wood edge, path). It prefers full sun, but it can grow in shaded environments. This plant reproduces by seed or from the runners that can root at the node. Growth is aggressive, and the plant will climb over other desirable plant material. In warmer areas, it is semi-evergreen to evergreen. The white, ornate flowers appear in the spring and are very fragrant. 

I recall as a child separating the petals and tasting its sweet fragrant nectar.

 

The Missouri Department of Conservation describes musk thistle (photo below) in a most unflattering manner:

Musk thistle is found in waste ground, old fields and pasture, and along roads and railroads. It is a major weed in range and pasture land, a nuisance pest along rights-of-way, and a looming nightmare for lands in conservation reserve programs. It can invade native grasslands, even where existing dense prairie vegetation exists.

However, I consider its flower quite attractive. I applaud its ability to occupy and even flourish on waste ground. In effect, the immediate buffer along the abandoned rail line did qualify as incredibly abused…smoke and its associated by products; herbicide, fire, and periodic mowing to keep vegetation at bay; diesel by-products once the railroad gave up coal burning steam engines. I doff my hat to this intrepid survivor.

 

Sometimes a Name Speaks Volumes

 

Constantly alert for our friends in the fungi kingdom, I spotted this dog vomit slime mold on the cut end of a branch that had fallen across the trail. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reports:

The dog vomit slime mold, also known as scrambled egg slime, is named after its distinct appearance.

I prefer the scrambled egg moniker! I’m reminded that the orange roughy, a choice edible deep sea fish, once went by the name slimehead! So, a name means a great deal. I challenge you to find slimehead on the menu of any seafood restaurant!

 

So, we’ve taken a short trip along the intersection of human and natural history. I’ve said often that every wild place has its tale. I can read some elements of the story from evidence in plain sight: vegetation, landscape, and remnant human artifacts and infrastructure. Other bits and pieces emerge only with interpretive signage. I hold that imagination also helps. Every time I bike the trail, I pause at the trestle site. My mind hears echoes of the sounds of battle, senses the agony of the wounded, and feels the heat of burning trestle beams. That day of violent engagement occurred 158 years ago, a seeming long time ago.

Yet, in the vast sweep of time our Earth has occupied its third-rock position, 158 years is nothing. John McPhee’s Basin and Range reminds us of our fleeting existence:

With your arms spread wide to represent all time on Earth, look at one hand with its line of life. The Cambrian begins at the wrist, and the Permian extinction is at the end of the outer palm. All of the Cenozoic is in a fingerprint, and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history.

I offer that context to remind us that life and society are fleeting and fragile. A violent Civil War engagement 158 years ago (the geologic blink of an eye) was not the last chapter in the saga of human and societal development. Carl Sagan reminded us that we are alone and solely responsible for our own future:

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. 

Our hike along the Richard Martin Trail reminded me that Nature is resilient. Are we? I don’t want dog vomit slime mold to enter a future without curious naturalists to study and, strangely enough, admire it.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The intersection of human and natural history provides a fascinating point of study and contemplation.
  • Nature is a master at healing wounds.
  • Every wild place tells a tale worthy of exploration.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

My Alabama State Parks 2021 Eagle Award

I’ve published more than 250 Great Blue Heron Posts over the past five years, ranging widely from observations in my own backyard to our western USA National Parks to visiting three National Parks in Kazakhstan in 2019. I’ve stayed true to the theme of Nature-Inspired Life and Living, and remain steadfast to 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.

An Unexpected Award for a Labor of Love!

Shorty after retiring permanently to Madison, Alabama January 2018, I accepted appointment as a founding member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation Board. Since then I’ve published dozens of these Great Blue Heron Posts inspired by my wanderings on many of Alabama’s 21 incredible Parks, encompassing 47,000 acres of Alabama wild! The count includes 16 State Park Posts just since January 2020. The Foundation’s Mission: The Alabama State Parks Foundation hosts a community of people who love our State’s parks. A philanthropic partner of the Parks Administration, the Foundation seeks gifts that will support and enhance park programming, parks facilities, and parks experiences. Members of the Foundation are people dedicated to building and sustaining a great, statewide park system.

The Park System likewise has a mission to which I fully subscribe: Acquire and preserve natural areas; to develop, furnish, operate and maintain recreational facilities; and to extend the public’s knowledge of the state’s natural environment.

And, my own retirement mission resonates with both: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

Lake Lurleen

 

So, I have found a meaningful way to integrate my love of Nature, my passion for making a difference for Earth and its future, and my knack for translating the science of Nature toward inspiring others to learn about and care for her. Volunteering on behalf of the Alabama State Parks System enables me to satisfy my personal retirement mission and serve Nature, the System, and our State.

Here are my three most recent Posts generated by wandering nearby State Parks:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/01/19/fungi-and-non-flowering-plants-mid-december-2020-at-monte-sano-state-park/

Monte Sano

 

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2021/01/07/tree-form-curiosities-mid-december-2020-at-monte-sano-state-park/

Monte Sano

 

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/12/09/destination-kings-chair-oak-mountain-state-park/

Oak Mountain

 

 

I am honored and humbled to receive one of the ten 2021 Eagle Awards! Here’s Jerry Weisenfeld, Advertising and Marketing Manager for the Alabama State Park System, presenting the Award, fittingly, in the plateau forest near the Monte Sano State Park offices March 12, 2021.

Eagle Award

 

If the above photo of two unmasked adults shaking hands alarms you, please know that we both had received our second vaccinations and we’re standing outside in a fresh breeze. If still upset, please see the photo below:

 

I accepted this Eagle Award with deep satisfaction and humility. Exploring our wildlands, getting to know our State Park gems, and offering my photos and reflections stand as a labor of absolute love!

Eagle Award

 

The crystal sculpture is apt — my heart soars like an eagle!

Here is the State Parks media release that preceded my accepting the Award from Jerry:

The Eagle Award is presented to people and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in support of the parks. For 2020, 10 winners were selected from nominations submitted. Congratulations to all of our 2021 Eagle Award Winners!
1) Randy Householder, of Montgomery, from Alabama Outdoor Adventurer (Community Partner)
2) Hailey Sutton and Christopher Cole, of Montgomery and reporters for WSFA News 12 (Community Partner)
3) Steve Jones, of Huntsville (Park Partner)
4) Shar and Phil Roos with A Year to Volunteer, Joe Wheeler and Buck’s Pocket State Parks (Volunteer in the Park)
5) Pam and Rick Kerheval, Gulf State Park (Volunteer in the Park)
6) Carol and Jim Wehr, Gulf State Park (Volunteer in the Park)
7) David Rogers, DeSoto State Park (Volunteer in the Park)
8) Ed Rogers, of Huntsville (Volunteer in the Park)
9) Garrett Southers, of Scottsboro and Eagle Scout Troop 708 (Youth)
10) Alabama State Senator Tom Whatley, of Lee County (Elected Official)

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these reactions in accepting the Award:

  • Reward in satisfaction and fulfillment alone is enough
  • Yet, receiving a significant Award I did not know existed is sweet beyond expression
  • The Eagle Award refuels my engine and inspires me to continue these Posts! 

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 BooksEagle Award

 

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.

 

Reflections on My Maturing Love Affair with Nature

Nature-Infatuation

The Weather Channel (TWC) prompted today’s Blog Post, having recently introduced a new tag line, imploring viewers to Get Into… The Out There! The Channel launched Sunday, May 2, 1982. I was then soon-to-celebrate my 31st birthday. I recall as a kid watching Channel 7, WMAL out of Washington D.C. The first on air “weatherman” I remember with clarity from my childhood is Louis Allen. I had long been addicted to weather, watching him on the six o’clock news talking about “the ducks are on the pond,” when conditions promised (threatened) a snowstorm. I vividly remember one winter evening when cameras rolled outside the studio as Mr. Allen shovelled “six inches of partly cloudy,” poking fun at his errant prior day forecast that did not include snow. Allen’s daily five-minute forecast highlighted many school-day evenings for me. What’s that you say? How boring could a boy’s life be! That takes me to another ad currently running on TWC. A calm male voice says, “Some people say talking about the weather is boring; I say not talking about the weather is boring.” I could not agree more.

Big Blue Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purely and simply, I am addicted to weather… and to all of Nature. John Muir long ago captured my sentiment toward weather and Nature:

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

I love the weather analogy applied to all of Nature… here on Earth and beyond. Muir’s wisdom captivated me from the git-go. How could anyone of my Nature-persuasion not be enveloped by this profound statement:

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

UAF

 

My love for Nature persisted across my five-decade career… and deepened when retirement freed me to focus intently on the object of my lifelong Nature-passion. Wildness lies so easily within reach here in northern Alabama, whether in my own backyard or while exploring the many trails, parks, preserves, refuges, or other protected wildness within 30-60 minutes. No matter where I travel — locally, regionally, across the US, or internationally — I seek ventures into nearby wildness. Pre-retirement, travel usually entailed demanding work-related meetings of one sort or another, tantalizing and torturing me with the wildness in plain sight with no time to explore. I no longer have time to not immerse in nearby wildness wherever I roam. Life is too short for additional regrets.

Local Greenways

 

Late January 2021 through early February 2021 my Nature-inspiration multiplied in a manner I had not anticipated. This past fall (2020) my ophthalmologist informed me that I had developed cataracts. I write this paragraph the day following surgery on the second eye. This afternoon, Judy and I walked through our neighborhood. I observed tree branch geometry and detail I did not know existed. Exquisite patterns and intricate designs… not just a tree in winter silhouette, but a work of art. I hope the thrill of this enhanced vision-appreciation never diminishes. I agree wholeheartedly with Muir’s declaration of amazement. This grand Nature-show is eternal; the whole universe does indeed appear as an infinite storm of beauty!

HGH Road

 

No need to imagine an oak silhouetted against an early March nautical dawn twilight. Just get out there at 5:40am and snap a photo!

 

On Being Not Out of the Woods Yet

My deepening love affair spurs personal umbrage at a common saying. We often hear friends and newscasters comment regarding ailing relatives or celebrities, “He/she is not out of the woods yet,” as though being in the woods is something bad or ominous. I recall reading accounts of early European impressions of the New England forests: dark and foreboding; foul and repugnant; populated by terrifying beasts. Okay, from that perspective, being out of the woods might be a good thing. Instead, I’ll lean toward Muir’s take on the forests through which he roamed:

Going to the woods is going home.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

Henry David Thoreau expressed a similar attitude toward forest wildness:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

And, today’s Weather Channel tag line concurs:

Get Into… The Out There!

Lake LurleenJoe Wheeler

 

I hope never to be out of the woods. Nature’s woodland elixir salves my body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

Monte Sano

 

Every time I venture into the forest I find more than I sought!

The Soul of Nature — My sacred Connection

 

My love affair with Nature runs deeper than the aesthetic and scientific. I have strong sacred and spiritual connections to wildness, symbolized by the Chapel of the Transfiguration within Grand Teton National Park.

Tetons

 

And what Nature-enthusiast could not sense the presence of God in such a glorious dawning!

Big Blue Lake

 

Or embrace the awe of sitting atop even one of our minor southern Appalachian ridge tops at Oak Mountain State Park. Not rivaling even the least of our Rocky Mountain peaks, King’s Chair (below) is what I have here in Alabama. I seek to unveil Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and Awe wherever I am.

Oak Mountain

 

And, no matter where I am, I glory in big trees. This white oak stands in a cathedral grove within Monte Sano State Park.

Monte Sano

 

Nature delivers so much more than I seek. May you find whatever you seek… wherever you look. John Muir made no bones about it:

In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations relevant to my maturing love affair with Nature:

  • Get Into… The Out There!
  • In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.
  • Muir — the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

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 BooksOak 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.

 

Late September Wanderings and Ramblings on my Ohio Land Legacy Project Site

I spent two days in late September 2020 completing field work for my Land Legacy Story on 1,100-acre Dutton Farms in Belmont County, Ohio near Flushing. I issued two previous Posts chronicling this compelling tale of Earth stewardship:

  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2018/05/29/idyllic-pastoral-earth-stewardship-surprise-exemplar/
  • http://stevejonesgbh.com/2019/04/19/mid-march-revelations-on-worn-out-land-2/

Here is the very essence of the Dutton Land Legacy Story: abusive agricultural practices from 1850 to 1930 led to debilitating erosion, bankruptcy, and farm abandonment. By mid-twentieth century strip-mining further transformed (some would say destroyed) 85 percent of what is now Dutton Farms. The Dutton’s acquired the property and have systematically reclaimed, rehabilitated, and nurtured the Farm to its current condition as a productive cattle ranch focusing on prime Akaushi cow-calf operation. Theirs is a remarkable tale of adopting and applying a land ethic, treating the land with respect and a view to the distant future.

I intend to demonstrate with photos and text that caring and acting responsibly are necessary elements of meeting our stewardship responsibilities. I’ll begin with the closing observations in my April 2019 Post.

“Louis Bromfield, an Ohio-born novelist and playwright who devoted his life to rehabilitating the soil on his old worn-out farm (Malabar) near Mansfield, summarized a zeal and ethic embraced by the Dutton’s:

The adventure at Malabar is by no means finished… The land came to us out of eternity and when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here. The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it, to die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work.

I’ll offer broadly and succinctly that embracing and practicing Earth stewardship is reward and fulfillment in and of itself. I discerned four distinct lessons from developing this Post:

  • Nature knows disturbance — learn to harness her wisdom.
  • Very few things are as they first appear.
  • So much in Nature lies hidden within.
  • Earth stewardship is a multi-generational commitment of passion and action.”

 

Bucolic Landscape on a Rehabilitated Strip Mine

 

The entire viewscape in the three photos below has been strip-mined and subsequently reclaimed. The 120-page final Land Legacy document we are preparing (and will ultimately publish and post on my site) will tell the tale with full text and lots of photographs. My purpose with this Post is to provide a broad overview and hint at the power of an embraced and practiced land ethic. I took these three photos from the Dutton’s east-facing back patio.

September 2020September 2020

 

The steeper pasture below (tan, beyond the immediate green fields) is a reclaimed high-wall that sits opposite the cabin where I stayed (see later). Even with my doctoral level education in applied ecology and five decades of experience in the field, with only this photo as evidence, I would not leap to a conclusion that these are photos of a rehabilitated strip-mine!

September 2020

 

I suppose that is what drew me to work with the Dutton family, Earth steward exemplars, to tell their Land Legacy Story.

Dawn from a Cabin Back-dropped by Forested Mining Spoils

 

I took most of this Post’s photographs during my most recent September 2020 visit. The dormant hardwood trees below signal a winter snapshot, this one in March 2019. The cabin sits at the base of a fully-forested non-reclaimed debris heap. I’ve stayed three times at the cabin for a total of five nights.

 

I relish watching night yield to dawn and sunrise, no matter where I am. I captured both dawn (6:50AM; below left) and sunrise (7:26AM) the morning of September 28 from the cabin patio. Again, the entire view-scape is rehabilitated stripped land. Two of the Dutton’s four children shared their respective wedding vows lakeside, each one another kind of new and promising beginning.

September 2020

 

Here’s a view of the hillside across the pond. The rolling pasture is the reshaped 100-foot highwall remaining from the stripping that created the depression that is now the pond. I like the soft light of dawn reflections of hillside vegetation.

September 2020

 

And from the shore, another look at the cabin and its forested debris heap, which seems like such an unpleasant descriptor for a sylvan slope forest that has healed a harsh old scar.

September 2020

 

What a labor of love my Dutton Land Legacy work has been. I will always think of the cabin, the land, and the Dutton family as part of my natural soul.

Creating a Nature Trail Demonstrating Successful Reclamation

 

Since my first visit, Chris Dutton has envisioned an interpretive Nature Trail. He had roughed it out prior to our initial tree identification and tagging in September. I hope to return next May for the Dutton Farms Open House, and hike the completed trail. I’ll give you a preliminary tour now. Below left are two rows of the 60-year-old planted sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) rising parallel up the debris heap. I really do need a more pleasing moniker for the heap — allow me to work on that. Below right Chris is marking a red oak (Quercus rubra) along the trail.

September 2020September 2020

 

I think I have a better name for the debris heap. The Dutton’s built an off-the-grid hut on the summit. From this day forward I will refer to its location as the Summit Knoll. I think it’s fitting and respectful. The trail winds up the knoll and passes by the hut, where Chris is marking a red maple (Acer rubrum).

September 2020

 

And Chris tagging a white oak (Quercus alba) and below right a white pine (Pinus strobus) along the trail opposite the cabin, which will be accessible via a still-to-be-placed bridge across the head of the marsh feeding into the pond. We believe that the white pine, like the sweetgum, were also planted.

September 2020September 2020

 

And because I remain impressed with the planted sweetgum standing resolute, remaining tall and healthy, and evidencing excellent survival, I offer one additional photograph as testimony to the tremendous healing power (with dedicated and intentional help from reclamation crews) of Nature. As John Muir so eloquently stated: Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts. I am convinced that Nature can heal even the worst of her wounds, whether self-inflicted (e.g., flood, fire, volcano, or earthquake) or at the hand of man.

September 2020

 

Along the trail we also noted and flagged honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).

September 2020September 2020

 

The trail crosses some meadowland atop the knoll. We found abundant milkweed (Asclepias sp.), many of the individuals dispersing their fairy-seeds.

September 2020

 

One of the milkweed plants sported a monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar (below left) soon to form its chrysalis for overwintering. Nearby we found a group of large milkweed bug nymphs (Oncopeltus fasciitis) and one adult.

September 2020September 2020

 

White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) greeted us with late summer blossoms in the meadow.

September 2020

 

Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) likewise grew atop the knoll. An edible, this fungus had begun to dry and harden, dissuading us from harvesting. Nearby we spotted the largest puffballs I have ever seen. These, too, had matured beyond harvesting, the meat already dark brown. Sixty years allows Nature to progress rapidly along its well-tested healing curve. Again, I repeat the obvious — nothing in Nature is static. Life on our planet has evolved for 3.5 billion years, adapting to strain, change, and perturbation since time immemorial. Nature knows the drill.

September 2020September 2020

 

I marvel at Nature’s resilience. Early in my forestry career I would have concluded that strip mining kills the land… destroys Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. I know now that Nature is patient, persistent, and well-tooled to handle most disturbances, no matter how harsh and insulting. The Dutton recovery has marked an inflection point in my own growth as a nature enthusiast.

Cattle Operation on Former Wasteland

 

The Dutton Farms Land Legacy Tale reaches from magnificent natural wealth with the arrival of western settlers, to agricultural abuse and ruin, to abandonment, to decades of strip mining, and now to recovery and return to successful, responsible, commercial agriculture applied and practiced with a deep land ethic. I won’t go into the detail of the commercial cattle operation. I leave that to the final detailed Land Legacy Story. My purpose with these few cattle operation photographs is to provide a feel and flavor for the stewardship practiced to both care for the land and produce income. The Dutton’s are conservationists in the truest sense of the term — practicing wise use and management… sustainably, over many generations… deep into the future.  These momma cows are prat of the extensive cow-calf operation.

September 2020

 

Here are Akaushi purebred bulls. Lest you think I am not fearless and brave, the below right photo shows me photographing one of these ferocious beasts. I could have been charged and trampled had I evidenced any fear whatsoever! Well, perhaps I should mention that these are docile critters, well mannered and quite tolerant of city-cowboys like me.

September 2020September 2020

 

I mentioned in a prior Dutton Post that the cattle operation desperately needed a capable farm manager. Jeff Shepherd came on board in that capacity just weeks after my March 2019 visit. What a pleasure to meet Jeff. This photo speaks volumes: he loves the animals; he knows the art and science of cattle; he understands the technology and the business; he leads the way with absolute purpose, passion, and dedication; he is a consummate land steward; he is an extension of the Dutton’s.

September 2020

 

His arrival is a fitting capstone for the current final chapter of this Land Legacy Tale.

Finalizing the Land Legacy Story

 

I submitted a near-final version of my Land Legacy Tale to the Dutton’s in October. Once finalized and with permission, I will make the entire document available on my website. Theirs is an Earth Stewardship story meriting widespread dissemination. Deep lessons for living, learning, and practicing informed and responsible Earth-care are imbedded. Their commitment is a metaphor for how other individuals, businesses, and society at large can (and must) view and meet our obligation to steward this remote planet we call home. That’s Jeff and me below reviewing the cattle operation.

September 2020

 

Below left I’m with John Dutton. If only I could absorb osmotically his knowledge of the coal industry, its reach across time, and the specifics of its history on just these 1,100 acres! He has been patient; I have learned a great deal. That’s me below right standing in admiration and reverence for what a difference a land ethic can make in rehabilitating repeatedly abused land… and ensuring its value for all time to come.

September 2020September 2020

 

John and Rita Dutton take well-deserved satisfaction (and a moment of relaxation and reflection) in where the land, the family, and the operation now stand. I believe Bromfield’s statement applies to the entire Dutton family: The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it, to die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work. John and Rita have changed a small corner of this earth for the better, and their efforts will continue so long as they (and beyond them, their descendants) reside upon, tend, and love this land.

September 2020

 

I remain grateful to have engaged in their stewardship quest. I have come to cherish my time with the Dutton family and the land they have rescued from ruin. I hope to visit again, and regularly. Robert Service (Spell of the Yukon) captured the way I feel about the Dutton property:

There’s a land–oh, it beckons and beckons,

And I want to go back–and I will.

As much as the land intrigues and attracts me, more compelling is the story of abuse, stewardship, and recovery. The tale renews my hope that we humans can find the will and the way to more responsibly tend, nurture, and care for this only home we have…this mote of dust in the vast darkness of space. John and Rita exemplify the ethic and practice we must embrace globally.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer two observations from my September wanderings and ramblings on an amazing tract in Ohio:

  • Informed and responsible Earth stewardship actions can rehabilitate even harshly abused land
  • Each of us carries the burden to change a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work

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: “©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

 

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 BooksSeptember 2020

 

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.