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.

 

A Suburban Trail within Sight of an Interstate Highway North of Pittsburgh, PA

Wildness is wherever you seek it, whether deep in the Appalachian forests… or hidden in plain sight within a suburban park.

Steve Jones

 

September 24, 2020, I hiked Brush Creek Trail in southern Butler County Pennsylvania, 20-miles north of Pittsburgh and within two miles of our son’s home in Cranberry Township. The linear Graham Park lies south and west of (and alongside) Interstate 76, paralleling Brush Creek. I walked the trail while our three grandkids were in school. Early fall had already arrived… a good month in advance of its onset here in northern Alabama. I wanted to chronicle the seasonal state of flowers, trees, and vegetation generally for this Blog Post… and expose the wildness that lies hidden within plain sight, even in the kind of suburban park found in most communities.

Brush Creek Trail in Butler County Pennsylvania

 

Graham is a classic suburban park, furnishing all manner of recreation fields, playgrounds, fitness stations, nature trails, and interpretive signage. The sound of semis on I-76 hummed without ebb. I attempted to tune it out so I could focus on the wildness we otherwise might not notice with the din of traffic, a distraction from Nature too often matched by our own digital devices. Far too many of us are awash in a sea of “other.”

I am nearly certain that few visitors realize that the greenway travels along a sewer line. The Brush Creek water treatment plant lies at the trail’s northern terminus. The plant treats 3.2 million gallons of wastewater daily. My favorite local greenways here in northern Alabama are likewise sewer line utility rights of way. What a great way to make silk out of a sow’s ear!

I will maintain a pretty good Post-pace reporting on key elements and core reflections with this photo-essay. I’ll begin by saying trail signage is excellent — I offer my compliments and appreciation to those responsible.

Graham Park

 

A gorgeous late-summer/early-fall day.  Comfy temps and crystal blue sky. Open fields flanked by the paved trail and riparian forest. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. I will stay true to that old maxim, limiting my words to what I feel are necessary.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Aesthetic wooden fencing at culvert crossings, the trail bordered by lush early fall wildflowers.

Graham Park

 

Urban park wildness comes in many forms, including this meadow under a power transmission line. The trick to full appreciation is to focus on the meadow…avoiding the view above. Remind yourself that without the power line, this 200-foot right-of-way might be populated with houses, streets, driveways, and mowed grass. Instead, we have a vibrant meadow habitat as home to diverse vegetation, small mammals, deer, countless songbirds, pollinators, and other insects essential to the meadow ecosystem. Don’t forget the birds of prey and foxes drawn by the small mammals!

Graham Park

 

I often make the point that wildness is so often hidden in plain sight. Such is the case along Brush Creek Greenway. Each section below reveals the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of Nature available within reach along a busy Interstate, under transmission line towers, and above a major sewer line.

Ponds, Creek, and Wetlands

 

Admittedly, I did not seek to understand the Brush Creek watershed. The area had not measured significant rains since earlier in the month. The ground seemed parched and the creek flow, I assumed, carried minimum flow, typical of late summer and early fall. Despite the low volume, I spotted small fish everywhere I encountered a pool. I flushed a great blue heron from bankside at a point close to the trail. At other locations I found beaver chews near the trail. Urban streams with riparian buffers attract all manner of wildlife.

Graham Park

Graham Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a one-tenth-acre marshy area between the trail and the athletic fields beyond. The cattails evidence that efforts to sustain natural habitat within acres of mowed grass are paying dividends.

Graham Park

 

The creek bed ranges from natural (below left) to channeled with a trailside boulder bulkhead, which based upon my observations was the exception rather than the rule.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Because aquatic features dominate the Nature of Graham Park, managers offer interpretive signage to assure that park users have an opportunity to understand the natural ecosystem.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Again, all of this wildness…this sprawling and inviting classroom…all within sight and earshot of a busy Interstate highway just 20 miles from a major American city.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Birds love this land of edges, marshes, meadows, streams, ponds, brushland, and riparian forest. Bluebird houses line the greenway.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Truth is, I could have developed several Posts from my stroll along Brush Creek. I chose instead to stay broad and shallow…an eclectic slice across Nature’s suburban park panoply…a cornucopia of early fall delights. John Muir’s infinite storm of beauty.

Trees

 

I love the diverse ecosystem patchwork; but I am in love with forests, and the trees that compose them. As with other ecosystem elements, even though I want to delve deeply, I will not show favor by deepening the text in this section.

Graham Park

 

That’s a black cherry (Prunus serotina) below left. My doctoral research field studies focused on the Allegheny Hardwood forests, with cherry as the dominant species, just 100 miles north of Brush Creek. Black cherry is present in our north Alabama forests, but does not reach the more impressive dimensions that it does here in west central Pennsylvania. It reigns supreme on northward into the northwestern Pennsylvania Allegheny Plateau. That’s honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) below right, replete with its complex, multiply-forked thorns.

Graham Park

 

Cottonwood (Populus deltoides; below left) and shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria; below right) stood between the creek and trail.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Likewise for black walnut (Juglans nigra; below left) and American basswood (Tilia americana; below right). Black walnut is a furniture standard, highly valued for centuries. Basswood offers neither the hardness (durability) or rich character pattern so cherished in walnut. The species often displays stump-cluster form.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

I catalogued two species of dogwood: grey dogwood (Cornus racemosa; below left) and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida; below right). Grey dogwood boasts white fruit; flowering dogwood berries are red.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Note the pubescent (fuzzy) stem of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina; below left) and hawthorn (Crataegus sp; below right).  Although I am including these woody plants under the tree heading, I likely just insulted the cherry, walnut, oak, and cottonwood main canopy residents and forest dominants by daring to class these understory species as “trees”!

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Again I note that I am simply providing a cross-sectional sampling of Nature on a single day in late-summer/early-fall. By no means am I offering an exhaustive inventory.

Flowers

 

The sign says, “There are a variety of flowers that can be seen along this trail…” Wow, what an understatement! There I was at just a brief snapshot of time along a 365-day continuing cycle. What could an informed regional botanist catalog over an entire year of hikes, venturing from streambank to meadow interior to full forested shade? I’m confident in guessing several hundred. Start with wetland skunk cabbage flowering in snow or under thin ice and extend beyond to the scores of flowers I spotted as the season reached past the autumnal equinox.

Graham Park

 

I give you just seven of the showstoppers, beginning with swamp aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum; below left. And smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve; below right).

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

‘Tis the season for asters. I particularly liked the New England aster (Symphyotrichum novaeangliae) with its brilliant color, making a defiant statement as the first freeze lies just weeks (perhaps days) ahead.

Graham Park

 

Wild carrot (Daucus carota; below left) offered its delicate lacy bouquet to my steadying hand. Naturalized from California to the eastern US, this species is native to Europe and Asia. Meadow evening primrose (Oenothera pilosella; below right) greeted me with its bright yellow sunshine, another fitting fare-thee-well to summer.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

 

 

 

 

And what could make a stronger statement than New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis; below left)! Common from Florida into Canada, ironweed is yet another member of the aster family. Fall phlox (Phlox paniculata; below right) presented its closing argument, without the strength and volume of its ubiquitous April cousin, woodland phlox or sweet William.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

I have long been a champion of spring wildflowers, leaving summer bloomers to admirers who enjoy the summer heat more than I. However, retirement has opened my eyes and forced my ventures into Nature irrespective of seasonal bias. I admit to a long-held leaning toward the spring ephemerals, those hardy woodland flowers that brave the often cold shoulder season to capitalize on the brief period of full forest floor sunlight before forest canopy leaf-out. I am delighting now in all seasons, deepening and widening my field of appreciation. Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe know no limits.

Seasons

 

The best season, I’ve come to understand is whatever time I happen to venture forth. Any time I visit our son is an ideal time to discover what marvels Nature has to offer. The interpretive sign says it clearly, “There are many beautiful parts of each season to enjoy here.”

Graham Park

 

At the risk of stating the obvious, flowers are reproductive organs, ensuring species and ecosystem sustainability. From my earliest days, I’ve been a big fan of cattails (Typha latifolia; below left) with its corndog seed-head. Nearby I found the seed-head of Scirpus, a club-rush/bulrush, completing its annual cycle.

Graham ParkGraham Park

 

Right up there on my lifetime appreciation list are seedpods of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca; below left). To this day I cannot resist, with or without a grandchild present, releasing the fairies into the breeze, dispersing the brown seeds to the four corners.

Graham ParkSeptember 2020

 

American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) also ranks high. I admire its massive size — each year growing to 6-9 feet of red-stemmed elegance, with rich green leaves capturing sunlight and root-storing carbohydrates and energy to begin the cycle ground-up next spring. And there’s magic in those inky red berries hung with care for birds of many species for winter sustenance. If you are a mammalian species reading this, ignore the edible comment — pokeberries are quite toxic for humans and our fur-bearing kin.

Graham Park

 

However, we have edible alternatives to pokeberry. Black walnut (we saw the tree earlier) is a staple in our American diet. They come nicely packaged in grocery stores (the same species as this wild walnut) for those of us not inclined to collect the fruit, dry it, husk it, then crack the nut to pick the meat. Squirrels consider the harvesting, preparation, storing, and consumption well worth the effort!

Graham Park

 

I’ll close with a flowering dogwood leaf in early fall splendor, its chlorophyll exiting the summer leaf across all but the vein margins, symbolizing the continuing seasonal flow. The color pattern is a literal and metaphorical expression of this stage in an annual cycle that is persistent, reliable, and exquisitely effective.

Graham Park

 

As I’ve noted time and again, wildness is where we seek it, whether in an urban park along a Pittsburgh-area Interstate highway or or a hundred miles north in the Tionesta Research Natural Area, a preserved remnant virgin beech-hemlock climax forest. Nature tells compelling tales wherever you encounter it.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer three observations from my early fall exploration of a suburban park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

  • Nature’s seasonal patterns are persistent, predictable, and exquisitely effective
  • Any walk in wildness offers gifts across the seasons for those willing to look, see, understand, and appreciate
  • John Muir — “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”

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 BooksGraham Park

 

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.

 

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Spring Green-up

We’re now nearly 11 weeks beyond the call to distance safely from our circle of friends, family, and associates. Judy and I speak of being under Covid-19 house-arrest. We continue our daily neighborhood walks. In addition, I escape as often as I can to local trail-hiking and greenway-biking. I prepared this Post after a Spring Equinox trip to nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, biking on gravel roads.

Covid-19 Context

We were in the heart of spring green-up as I first drafted this Covid-19 Context section. A sad irony that Nature’s cycle goes forward unabated by a pandemic virus that found life (and wrought disease and death) half a world away. A primitive micro-organism that has turned modern global society and economy inside-out.

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

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

A Wet Spring

 

By the equinox my backyard rain gauge had registered some 27″ year-to-date. That’s a tremendous amount of water — 49 percent of annual in just the first 22-percent of 2020. More water than the Tennessee River, America’s 12th largest by volume, could contain within its banks. I parked within the Refuge along a gravel road (Jolley B Road) near Blackwell Swamp along the Madison/Limestone County line. The parking area is about a half-mile beyond the Refuge sign below. The temperature rose to near-60 degrees on a sky-perfect early-spring day. Canopy greens signal that full-spring lies just ahead.

Spring 2020

 

High water blocked roads that I readily explored six weeks later. Herbaceous vegetation already greened road shoulders. Main canopy trees sprouted fresh new foliage and pollen-loaded flowers. The flooded roads offered promise of future ventures. The saturated spring would in time transition to summer when occasional rains, while normally reliable, come in rounds of thunderstorms with abundant sunshine, heat, and drying between.

Spring 2020Spring 2020

 

This trip amounted to a mileage teaser. I covered only ten miles, mostly repeating some stretches and turning around at each overflow.

Spring 2020

 

I am not deterred, knowing that adventure and full exploration lie ahead.

Trees Springing Forth

 

Powerful hydro-pumps are emerging from countless bursting buds… millions (no, billions) of them that will lift water from soil high into lofty tree crowns. These ironwood (Ostrya vinginiana) leaves need only pump 20-30 feet, the terminal height of this shade tolerant understory (and occasional mid-story) species. Yet, in turn, each tree, shrub, and forest floor species does its part to return what water doesn’t drain into the river to the atmosphere. The hydrologic cycle has many participants that in aggregate amount to an effective global symphony of water vapor, liquid, and ice. The cycle writes its language across the Earth.

County Line S

Earth Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rich riparian soils support some trees reaching 120-feet, a literal high demand on the capillary pumping fueled by plant transpiration. By the equinox, green-up is in full swing.

County Line S

County Line S

 

Just six weeks later (May 3), when I returned, the Refuge showed nearly full-leaf.

Blackwell Swamp

 

I can’t help but throw in a March 29, 2020 scene (pardon the quality; it’s a photo of a screen shot) from the webcam at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where I served as Chancellor (President) 2004-2008. Not much spring-greening apparent!

West Ridge Webcam

 

Spring is a season… not just a date on the calendar!

 

Tree Form Oddities

Pedaling slowly along the gravel roads (and their frequent muddy and puddled stretches), I was able to visually scour the adjacent deep forest, seeking tree form oddities, wildflowers, and even edible mushrooms. Both of these ironwood individuals below had seen physical damage (a large branch or tree falling on the growing stem), and then recovered with new shoots reaching once again vertically.

County Line SCounty Line S

 

This odd burl (below left) reminded me of a wolf or dragon — I see forehead, eye, nostril, and mouth clearly. No wonder that our forests spur stories of mythical creatures and beings. Below right, from an 180-degree different perspective, I saw nothing beyond a disfigured proboscis.

County Line SCounty Line S

 

The burl is growing on a very much alive main-canopy oak, yet death resides commonly within the living forest.

Life and Death in the Forest

A large dominant overstory oak still stands below left. Gravity and decay will soon (certainly within the decade) bring it to ground, where it will return to the soil. Two dead upper canopy loblolly pines likewise remain standing below right. I look for them to be horizontal within five years. Agents of decay are working feverishly and without pause.

County Line SCounty Line S

 

The fate of all life is death — such is the cycle of life and death in the living forest.

County Line S

 

Fungus Among Us

 

I graduated from forestry school when fungi appeared in botany books… they were viewed as non-flowering plants. Yet now fungi are classified as neither plant nor animal, belonging instead to the Fungi Kingdom. Ah, the things one learns observing Nature and publishing these Blog Posts! These organisms are ubiquitous across our northern Alabama forests. False turkey-tail (Stereum ostrea) are abundant saprophytes.

County Line S

 

Coral-pink Merulius (Phlebia incarnata) added a touch of fungal color.

County Line SCounty Line S

 

And to my absolute delight I found a remarkable lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), a culinary delight, just one-quarter mile from where I parked. I transported it in my bike helmet, which it filled.

County Line SCounty Line S

 

Egg-battered, lightly floured, and fried in butter and olive oil with a bit of seasoning salt, lion’s mane is simply delectable!

County Line SCOunty Line S

 

Who could ask for anything more — a treat for the ardent Nature-observer?! I gave thanks for the beauty and bounty. No wonder I feel a spiritual connection to wildness — it sustains me in mind, heart, body, soul, and spirit!

Non-Flowering Plants Edible

 

Wildflower Inspiration

 

Spring ephemerals were rushing into flower during this shoulder season prior to main canopy leaf-out. They thrive during the warming days when nearly full sun still blesses the forest floor. Bulbous Cress (Cardamine bulbosa) appeared in full flower at woods edge.

County Line S

 

Mountain azalea (Rhododendron canescens), one of my north Alabama favorites, presents beauty in pure form and full measure!

County Line S

County Line S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) appeared in profusion, although only a few had progressed to open flowers.

COunty Line S

 

I saw only a handful of eastern bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana), yet one would have been sufficient to reward my efforts and venture.

County Line S

 

Wild comfrey (Andersonglossum virginianum) offered only a few blossoms. Even this one, more advanced than most, did not yet show open petals.

County Line SCounty Line S

 

Blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) also graced the otherwise nearly barren forest floor.

County Line S

 

I packed enough reward and satisfaction into my three-hour wanderings to draft 3-4 spring equinox Blog Posts. However, because I am finalizing these words two-months later, I tried hard to squeeze into this one offering. Nature is so rich with beauty, magic, wonder, and awe that each journey provides more than I can easily digest, translate, and communicate. My cup does indeed runneth over. ‘Tis the season of Nature’s plenty. I am unable to do more than scratch her surface.

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Spring is the season of Nature’s plenty
  2. Nature’s power to lift us and heal us, physically and of the soul, is unlimited
  3. Nature is so rich with beauty, magic, wonder, and awe that each venture into wildness provides more than I can easily digest, translate, and communicate

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksSpring 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.

 

 

 

Correcting My Blog Post Distribution Snag

Hello to all, including those of you who disappeared via an error in my automatic Blog Post distribution system. Welcome… and welcome back!

I publish these Posts weekly, offering reflections and lots of my photos on Nature-Inspired Life and Living. All 210 (or so) that I’ve posted since January 2017 are accessible at: http://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/

My trouble-shooting may have resurrected some on the list who had elected to unsubscribe. If so, I beg your forgiveness. Unsubscribing remains quite simple.

Re-Introduction to Steve Jones, Retired Forester and Lifelong Nature Enthusiast

 

Chances are that most of you who fell aside because of my technical bust have met me. In case you haven’t, here I am dealing with Covid-19 house arrest:

Covid-19 Sheltering

 

Struggling at my desk with too many tight deadlines:

Three Books

 

And enjoying Nature with six-year-old grandson Sam:

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

Annotated Review of My Ten Most Recent Posts

 

Accompany me on an annotated tour of my ten most recent Posts. I write about my own journeys of revelation and discovery in Nature. All photos these past three years (with a rare inclusion of someone else’s capture with full attribution) are my own. I write most of the Posts about ventures here in Alabama, but I occasionally will stray to other locations, including several Posts from a July 2019 tour of western National Parks and an August 2019 visit to three National Parks in Kazakhstan. Although this Great Blue Heron website offers plenty of insight into who I am, in brief explanation, I am a forester (BS 1973) and applied ecologist (PhD 1987) who practiced my trade in the forest products industry and then wandered into higher education research, teaching, and administration. Above all else, I am a lifelong Nature enthusiast.

My Mission with these Posts and other retirement endeavors is quite simple: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.

My ten most recent Posts:

April 7, 2020 — Cloud Verse

I’ve often observed that Nature is poetry in action. I’ve decided now that maybe I should attempt building some verse around my Nature observations and reflections. I offer a poem entitled Nature’s Cloud Inspiration, some reflections about clouds, and many of my own cloud photos: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/04/07/cloud-verse/

Distant Thunderstorm

 

April 1, 2020 Land Trust Mushroom Hike on Rainbow Mountain Preserve

I participated in yet another Land Trust of North Alabama hike, this one exploring mushrooms on Madison, Alabama’s Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve. Fungi are the generally hidden engines of life and death in our forests. Most of my recent Posts offer a Covid-19 statement of context. Here are my observations, reflections, and photos from Rainbow Mountain: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/04/01/land-trust-mushroom-hike-on-rainbow-mountain/

Mushroom Hike

 

 

March 28, 2020 Nature Pauses Not for a Human/Viral Pandemic

I offer a bit of verse about the paradox of a global viral pandemic changing every facet of our life and living… and Nature proceeding as though nothing is amiss: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/28/nature-pauses-not-for-a-human-viral-pandemic/

Verse

 

March 24, 2020 Resurrection Fern — A metaphor in Verse for Nature’s Simplicity

I visited nearby Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve the damp afternoon following 1.35″ of spring rain. Resurrection fern stood in full turgid splendor, reminding me that we, too, will emerge from Covid-19, forever changed, but stronger for the experience: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/24/resurrection-fern-a-metaphor-in-verse-for-natures-simplicity/

Resurrection Fern

 

March 19, 2020 Lyrical Expressions in Forest Pathogens… Under a Covid-19 Cloud

As Covid-19 is raging globally, I chose to offer some verse on historic tree disease pandemics. Writing one of my standard text and photo Blog Posts would have required a treatise far too long and scientific. Because Covid-19 is both a medicinal and emotional crisis, I wrapped my tree pathogen feelings loosely in science with a heavy seasoning of sentiment for the forests and trees of my profession… and my dreams: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/19/lyrical-expressions-in-forest-pathogens-under-a-covid-19-cloud/

Dead Oak

 

March 16, 2020 Bethel Spring North Alabama Land Trust: Yet Another Natural Gem

The Land Trust of North Alabama opened its Bethel Springs property with a February 29, 2020 ribbon-cutting and three interpretive hikes. I trekked with the History Hike leading to the old spring house, the waterfall, mill house foundation, and an old road bed or two led by local historian John Kvach. What a wonderful addition to our regional wonders of Nature! The Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/16/bethel-spring-north-alabama-land-trust-yet-another-natural-gem/

Opening Hike, Group at Falls

 

March 11, 2020 Nature Poetry: Sowing Seeds for Earth Stewardship

I’ve written my Nature-Inspired Life and Living Posts for nearly three years, relying upon prose and photos. I am now venturing into some verse, boldly going where this old forester has never gone before. As close as I’ve come to baring my soul! My Post: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/11/nature-poetry-sowing-seeds-for-earth-stewardship/

Wheeler NWR

 

March 7, 2020 Leafless Tree I.Di. Hike along Bradford Creek Greenway

February 22 I joined with a Leafless Tree I.D. hike sponsored by the Land Trust of North Alabama on the Bradford Creek Greenway. I remain convinced that learning more about Nature amplifies our commitment to Earth stewardship: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/07/leafless-tree-i-d-hike-along-bradford-creek-greenway/

North Alabama Land Trust

 

March 1, 2020 My Edu Alliance Journal Article on Academic Leadership

I offer global principles for academic leadership in the February 24, 2020 Edu Alliance Journal: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/03/01/my-edu-alliance-journal-article-on-academic-leadership/

Kazakhstan

 

February 26, 2020 A Morning Visit to a Nearby Section of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge with my Six-Year-Old Grandson

Just 15 months from turning 70, I am driven to plant seeds for Earth stewardship. What better way than making sure my own grandchildren carry the torch into tomorrow! Sam and I recently visited nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge: http://stevejonesgbh.com/2020/02/26/a-morning-visit-to-a-nearby-section-of-wheeler-national-wildlife-refuge-with-my-six-year-old-grandson/

Non-flowering Plants

 

Please keep in mind that there are another 200 Posts ranging widely, yet maintaining fidelity to the theme of Nature-Inspired Life and Living. During this time of Covid physical distancing, why not journey back into three years of Nature wandering?!

Watch for coming Posts on a more or less weekly basis.

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Photos of Steve

 

I like to imagine that representative samples of my books appreciate accompanying me into the woods. So far, none has complained nor groaned. Knowing that I am getting way out in front of remote possibility, perhaps there is a book of Steve’s Nature-Inspired Life and Living Poetry awaiting me around the corner of some forested trail!

 

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.

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

 

Nature Pauses Not for a Human/Viral Pandemic

 

As I write and publish this brief Post March 28, 2020, our air is thick with pollen — ’tis the season! Six-year-old grandson Sam spent an hour outdoors with us today — social-distancing and all that.

I couldn’t help but share a few photos and write a bit of verse about the paradox of a global viral pandemic changing every facet of our life and living… and Nature proceeding as though nothing is amiss.
 

Nature Pauses Not for a Human/Viral Pandemic

 
March 28, 2020 — Covid-19
Impacts human life and living,
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
Simply couldn’t care less
 
North Alabama catkins
(the pine’s male flowers)
Are ripe and shedding their load…
To grandson Sam’s delight
 
Warm sun, ready for gathering
Encourages new lateral growth,
Candles reach and lengthen
Ready for chloroplasts to power
 
Loblolly pine knows not of Covid-19.
Adding a little new wood each year,
The pine knows its future
Is not linked to human fate
 
Practice Covid-19 avoidance,
Like social distancing and self-isolation;
And dare to venture outside, but
Beware the air thick with spring pollen!

Fitting Photographs

 

North Alabama catkins
(the pine’s male flowers)
Are ripe and shedding their load…
Verse
To grandson Sam’s delight
Verse
Warm sun, ready for gathering
Encourages new lateral growth,
Candles reach and lengthen
Ready for chloroplasts to power
Verse
Stay safe — enjoy Nature-Inspired Life and Living!
 

Nature Poetry: Sowing Seeds for Earth Stewardship

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

I am committed to Earth Stewardship, a mission component driving my entire life in these years of semi-retirement. Spurred by being no longer fully employed, watching the first two of our five grandchildren nudge to within a few months of their teenage years, and feeling both knees (among other body elements) making woods hiking more difficult, I am focusing more and more on leaving some kind of legacy. Sam, the youngest of the five, enjoys hitting the local wildness with me. I am thrilled with his enthusiasm for exploring the woods! Here he is with a lichen-encrusted American beech.

Sam at Wet Beech

 

I’ve published these Great Blue Heron Posts for nearly four years, reaching a tally of 200+ Posts. The vast majority have integrated text and photos, explaining and reflecting on Nature’s magic, beauty, wonder, and awe. I’ve striven to present written messages with inspiring, grammatically correct verbiage. I took a course on Writing Poetry during the 2020 winter quarter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I love words… and their integration with my photos. Now I’m ready to try words in verse. I want you to know that it is not easy for this old forester to bare his soul in what for me is a brand new medium. Don’t look for the rhyming verse that most people consider poetry. Neither should you look for the mushy stanzas of love, epic challenges, and tragedy…rooted symbolically in odd twists and turns of phrase. My verses are low on deep hidden meanings and far-reaching interpretation requiring exhaustive study. I am far too literal with words to wear the reader out trying to interpret what I really meant.

Sam is my Nature buddy. My role as his trail guide is simple — passing the fever of Earth Stewardship to him in a manner purposeful, yet subtle, enough that he ultimately shares my addiction into the deep future. That he embraces and spreads the Earth Stewardship gospel. Here is my poem, Sowing Seeds.

Sowing Seeds

Steve Jones March 7, 2020

 

Inoculating youth

With the love of Nature,

       and joy in wildness

 

Encouraging him with Nature immersion

To embrace his responsibility

To know and understand,

To respect and enjoy

To steward the future

 

He’s not just a boy; he’s tomorrow

Nothing else counts so much

As devoting myself to the future,

Making sure Sam knows his joy,

And accepts his burden

 

I pass the torch to him

With passion and purpose

He accepts it without yet knowing

How blessed he is to light the way

 

Inoculating him

With the love of Nature

 

 

 

I pass the torch to him

With passion and purpose

Sam at Wheeler NWR

 

He accepts it without yet knowing

How blessed he is to light the way

Non-flowering Plants

 

He’s not just a boy; he’s tomorrow

 

Nothing else counts so much

As devoting myself to the future,

Making sure Sam knows his joy,

And accepts his burden

Wheeler NWR

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Photos of Steve

 

I like to imagine that representative samples of my books appreciate accompanying me into the woods. So far, none has complained nor groaned. Knowing that I am getting way out in front of remote possibility, perhaps there is a book of Steve’s Nature-Inspired Life and Living Poetry awaiting me around the corner of some forested trail!

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

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.

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

Winter is a Relative Term

A Nomad’s Perspective

Judy and I have lived in the US South for a total of nearly a quarter of a century (about half of my adult life), punctuated by shifts northward totaling 27 years:

  • Syracuse, New York — 2 years
  • Southeastern Virginia — 7 years
  • Savannah, Georgia — 2 years
  • Prattville, Alabama — 3 years
  • Syracuse, New York — 3 years
  • State College, Pennsylvania — 9 years
  • Auburn, Alabama — 5 years
  • Cary, North Carolina — 3 years
  • Fairbanks, AK — 4 years
  • Urbana, Ohio — 5 years
  • Keene, New Hampshire — 3 years
  • Fairmont, West Virginia — 1 year
  • Madison, Alabama — 3 years (and counting)

Winters in those northern climes can be (and often are) serious, arriving on schedule and holding on (with a few thaws) until spring. Southland winters to the contrary amount to fall beginning mid-November, then gradually transitioning to spring by early March. Toss in an occasional day or two of winter weather to excite (and panic) the locals. So, my conclusion, based upon near-nomadic wandering over some fifty years from Fairbanks’ latitude 65 degrees north to Savannah’s 32 degrees north, is that winter is a relative term.

Winter’s December 2019 Visit

I’ll begin with a recent example. December 10, a strong cold front muscled into the Tennessee River Valley before a steady rain ended, transitioning the rain to sleet then snow. The result: a half-inch coating… and thousands of absolutely distraught drivers convinced that this storm was apocalyptic! Not a flake stuck on the warm pavement or even on our flagstone landscape paths. Here in the South, this amounted to a brief interruption of the long autumn reaching for spring. The sleet and snow did not portend the arrival of winter, but merely an ever-so-short pause in autumn.

Legendwood Drive Legendwood Drive

 

 

 

The dusting persisted through the next morning, adding a little winter zest to our mailbox Christmas decorations. I recall far more snow mid-September in Fairbanks!

Legendwood Drive

 

Real Winter

Huntsville locals will remember the December 10, 2019 storm as that season’s early winter arrival. Our New Hampshire winters were a trifle less subtle. Snow cover there did not disappear with the next day’s noon sun. That’s Judy and me along our driveway below, probably in mid-February one of those three winters. A succession of storms piles it high. Spring is nowhere in sight. Fall departed long ago.

New hampshireNew Hampshire

 

 

 

 

And yet by Fairbanks standards, southern New Hampshire winters, while snowy, are relatively mild. That’s Willie Karidis (then Director of the Denali Education Center) and me mid-March snow-shoeing on the frozen Nenana River at negative 37 degrees Fahrenheit just outside Denali National Park. The bright sun belied the danger. Frostbite nipped my nose not long after the photo captured our image. Unlike our Alabama mid-winter sun, the winter solstice sun at Fairbanks rises only 1.7 degrees above the southern horizon at solar noon (below right). Thermal power? Nada! Noon sun melting yesterday’s accumulation? Not a chance — early October’s snow still resides under this solstice mantle of the white stuff! Fairbanks’ average daily high for March 31 is 32 degrees. Contrast that to the average high for the date in Huntsville, AL at 69 degrees. Our first year in Fairbanks saw April Fool’s Day reach a record low high temperature (for the date and month) at one below zero. Winter is relative.

UAF

 

UAF

 

As Chair of the University of the Arctic Governing Board during those Alaska years, I presided over an international session in Rovaniemi, Finland, University of Lapland, which sits at the Arctic Circle. Plenty of daylight during the March equinox period. Conditions not much different from the near-Denali photos above. Still deep winter. We are in full-blown spring by that date here in the South.

RovaniemiRovaniemi

 

 

 

Alabama Winter

The western US sandhill cranes left the high Arctic and passed south through Fairbanks before the end of August. Our own Tennessee Valley sandhill cranes (below left) arrive here mid-November to spend the winter with us (nearby Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge) before departing mid-February northward. Also at WNWR, the cypress swamp below right depicts another version of our deep winter.

National RefufeNational Refuge

 

I recall living twice in Syracuse, NY, which self-proclaims the title of cloudiest major US city. I could not confirm that honorific title on the internet, yet I can vouch for the deep darkness of dense cloud cover that seems to persist from October through April. One did not need to search long for clinics treating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in The Salt City (named for the nearby salt deposits, and not for the anti-icing road treatment that will rust your wheel wells in just a few seasons!). Not so cloudy and dark here in the South. A front slips through with abundant rain and the following few days bless us with deep blue, often complemented with wisps of horsetail cirrus (below in late November 2018 at McDowell Camp and Conference Center). Nature graciously rewards us with aerial magnificence.

McDowell

 

Snow seldom falls and almost never persists. Also at McDowell, the frosty grass at sunrise must satisfy my winter snow nostalgia.

McDowell

 

Camp McDowell

 

 

Over our many interstate moves I’ve learned to temper my seasonal weather expectations. Does me no good to pine for a deep snow, high-wind Nor’easter here in northern Alabama, nor in New Hampshire could I wish for sitting on the patio at sunset January 1 as I did this evening with no wind and the temperature at 52 degrees! I’ve become adept at flourishing wherever we find ourselves.

Again, the Real Thing!

Yet I do love the extremes, including the raw and brutal power that turned our team back at 5,300-feet one February day when we attempted to summit Mount Washington. That’s my back second from the rear, enjoying the pleasurable terror.  When we tucked tail (the photo depicts our furthest progress) the wind was gusting above 100 MPH with the ambient temperature below zero Fahrenheit at the summit. That’s deadly. That’s real…nearly unbelievable…winter.

New HampshireSteve Jones at Mount Washington

 

That wasn’t daily existence across New Hampshire. That was at a location known for The World’s Most Extreme Weather. As I write these words New Years Day, the summit temperature is 10 degrees, wind chill is -19, and the wind is gusting to 85 MPH!

 

Summer as Winter

Sitka, Alaska sits along the state’s southeast coast. The city welcomes cruise ships into its protected harbor during its brief summer. Snow-capped mountains ring the bay (below left). The trailhead for the Mt Verstovia trail is just east of town. Mid-June 2012 I made a valiant attempt to reach Verstovia’s nearly 3,000-foot summit. My ascent ended when I encountered decaying snow 3-5-feet deep still 500 feet below the summit (below right).  The higher peaks still carried fresh snow. Summer? Like winter, summer is a relative term! My forehead perspiration (my entire body was soaked) had nothing to do with summer’s heat. I had just climbed 2,500 feet vertical (a steep trail) and struggled with the coarse granular snow until I accepted defeat.

UAF

Steve Jones near Sitka, Alaska 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dormant volcano, Mt Edgecumbe, stands across the bay from Sitka’s airport. Mark Twain once said, we are told, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” No, the statement just would not have worked for the humorist had he substituted Sitka for San Francisco!

Alaska

 

Again, a Southern Winter — It’s All Relative!

No deep decaying snow to deal with at Beaverdam Creek Boardwalk at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge just a few miles from where we live in Alabama.

Wheeler NWR

 

Just once during our four winters in northern Alabama has our Big Blue Lake frozen soundly enough to support the weight of our over-wintering Canada geese. The Nenana River annual Ice Classic at Nenana, AK (midway between the entrance to Denali National Park and Fairbanks) awards a significant cash prize to the to the person who comes closest to guessing the exact date, hour, minute, and second of break-up. Average April 1, ice thickness over the years is 42 inches. Strong enough to support a goose? Even a moose — perhaps a caboose!

Legendwood

 

January 7, 2020 I snapped this shot of emerging daffodils in my neighborhood. Who can dispute my statement that our fall gradually transitions to spring? I need not provide further evidence than these daffodil blades beginning to break through the mulch.

213 Legendwood Drive

 

Yet there is more. Planted pansies provide winter color at our latitude. When temperatures drop below freezing, the plants wilt (their way of protecting cells from the cold) while awaiting warmer days. I took this photo January 9, 2020 on a mild afternoon in the upper 50s.

LegendwoodLegendwood

 

January 12, I biked once again on Bradford Creek and Mill Creek Greenways. Spring presented a little more evidence of its headway, further tracing the seasonal transition. I spotted my first henbit (Lamium amplxicaule) flower of the year. Henbit is a naturalized non-native, common across the eastern US.

Local Greenways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also saw chickweed and a small cress in flower, but did not attempt to photograph their tiny white flowers.

January 2018 I visited Gulf State Park, Alabama. The season was clearly fall/spring… and Sam the resident pelican offered no counter argument. Some 400 miles south of where I reside, the climate is much warmer along the coast.

Steve at Gulf Shores

 

No winter pelican acquaintances when we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. Moose-friends frequently visited our yard, especially in winter. Make that WINTER! I’m placing the finishing touches on the Post January 8. I just checked the Fairbanks temperature: negative 33 Fahrenheit! This is the warmest part of the day.

Again, as is nearly everything in Nature… Winter is relative.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Everything in Nature is relative
  2. Nature cares little about the weather we hope to experience; it is what it is
  3. Knowing local norms and averages helps us adjust our expectations and adapt to place

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2020 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksHarvest Square

 

Every place in Nature tells a story, as do all stories within my books.

 

Three Books

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Mid-September Nature at the C&O Canal National Historical Park

Cumberland, Maryland and My Central Appalachian Roots

I attended my 50th high school reunion this September. Who could possibly have imagined how many old people would be there! So great to see some 100 fellow class-of-69 time travelers. Our Earth has revolved on its axis more than 18,000 times since we graduated. Every hour of each day the Earth sped Cumberland Maryland’s 39.6 degrees North latitude spot on the planet 801 miles eastward. We spun some 19,224 miles per day…totaling a mind-numbing 351 million miles across those 50 orbits of our sun. Our Earth covered 584 million miles every time we orbited the sun, or 29 billion miles over that half-century. Not to mention the solar system’s movement within the Milky Way, and our galaxy’s motion within the universe. All that, and the Potomac River still passes by town relatively unchanged (below). A river pays no heed to years or even centuries or millennia. It’s been here since the ancient Appalachian orogeny (325-260 million years ago) began creating the Himalayan-scale high peaks that have since eroded to these soft ridges that nestle western Maryland’s Queen City and Fort Hill High School today.

 

I captured all these images as I hiked three miles out (and then back) along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) the morning of our reunion picnic.

 

Reading Landscape History through Vegetation

The C&O Canal operated from 1831 to 1924. I hiked along the Canal’s towpath often until I left Cumberland in 1971, and then nearly every time since that I’ve returned to visit family. The C&O Canal, designated as a National Historical Park in 1971 (https://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm), extends 184.5 miles from Georgetown in Washington D.C. to Cumberland. Construction started on its eastern terminus in 1828, reaching Cumberland in 1850. The canal backers had planned to reach Pittsburgh and the Ohio River, engaging in a ferocious competitive engineering and construction contest with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), which made it to Cumberland eight years before the C&O, and then summited the Allegheny Mountains en route to Pittsburgh. I’ve biked the entire C&O Canal towpath length, enjoying the rich history and natural environment along the way. Once the old Western Maryland Railroad abandoned its tracks, The Allegheny Trail Alliance began creating the Great Allegheny Passage rails to trail. I’ve biked the 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. What wonderful fodder for Blog Posts if I ever repeat those journeys!

Just south of Cumberland, the view below (looking upriver) captures a railroad trestle crossing the towpath, the old canal bed to the right. Oh, to have a photograph of a canal boat passing under, mule pulling dutifully, as a steam locomotive crossed above! The 24-inch diameter sycamore seeded, sprouted, and grew to its 80-foot height subsequent to the 1924 floods that sent the operating Canal into antiquity, yielding commerce transportation exclusively to the iron horses and steel rails, and subsequently to the knights of our highways.

 

For good reason I do not recall the canal-side 3-4-foot diameter trees from my 1950s and 60s explorations along the towpath. Those individuals would have been no older than a quarter century during my early years, and much smaller then, little more than saplings.

 

Late Summer Flowers and Plants

Although summer was drawing rapidly to an end, I saw plenty of color along the towpath. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus; below left) and wingstem (Verbisina alternifolia; right) stood tall and commonly.

 

Not nearly so common, chickory (Cichorium intybus) provided a splash of blue now and then. Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) appeared only in more open areas. I’ve seen it in flower on prior visits much earlier in the season. I spotted these blooms on vigorous new growth on plants that I believe were mowed during the summer along drainage-ways in grassy areas.

 

Common White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima; below left) and Smooth Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) bordered the towpath in areas absent overhanging trees and deeper shade.

 

Hairy White Oldfield Aster (Symphotrichum pilosum; below left) and morning glory (Convolvulaceae family) offered still-sharp whites also along the more open edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No longer flowering, Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) added its own color with its purple berries and red stems.

 

Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), according the the Invasive Plant Atlas, is a dense growing shrub reaching heights of 10 ft. (3 m). The semi-woody stem is hollow with enlarged nodes. Leaves are alternate, 6 in. (15.2 cm) long, 3-4 in. (7.6-10 cm) wide and broadly-ovate. Flowering occurs in late summer, when small, greenish-white flowers develop in long panicles in the axils of the leaves. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers occur on separate plants). Japanese knotweed commonly invades disturbed areas with high light, such as roadsides and stream banks. Reproduction occurs both vegetatively (rhizomes) and seeds, making this plant extremely hard to eradicate. The dense patches shade and displace other plant life and reduce wildlife habitat. Japanese knotweed resembles giant knotweed (Polygonum sachalinense), but giant knotweed is larger and has heart-shaped leaves. Japanese knotweed is native to eastern Asia and was first introduced into North America in the late 1800s.

 

I found a few patches of impenetrable knotweed thickets, void of light reaching the ground (above right), and easy to see why nothing can withstand its advance and site-capture.

Long since flowering, Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum; below left) and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) provided their own touch of seasonal beauty along the towpath. On the unseasonably warm morning I hiked, senesced individuals promised cooler fall days ahead.

 

I’m entering a region of botanical uncertainty with this plant. I left my reference books back in Alabama. I failed to make notes supplementing the photographs. The photos alone did not furnish the diagnostic details I needed. A naturalist colleague here in Alabama assisted via photo-sharing (encumbered by the same diagnostic limits). The best we could do was agree upon a cautious identification as possumhaw (Ilex decidua). I am only about 75 percent certain… and could be persuaded out of it… so long as you are convincing!

Privet Fruit

 

The trees, shrubs, and forbs are inexorably reclaiming what had for nearly a century been a state-of-the art artery of commerce… a battleground for competing modes of transport. The battle long since settled, some 95 years since the Canal’s commercial demise, Nature is proving to be the ultimate victor. The National Park Service, with the over-arching protection by the C&O Canal’s designation as a National Historical Park, manages the 184.5-mile corridor with a soft touch.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

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

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

  1. Nature, with the help of a National Historical Park designation, inexorably reclaims what humanity once cleared and domesticated.
  2. Human-scale time has no meaning to a river, nor to the mountains within which it courses.
  3. The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” The C&O National Historical Park is no less a part of our heritage than Yellowstone or Yosemite.

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

 

Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits:

Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer and Steve: “We’re so proud to promote the publication and release of our co-authored book, Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature. This book is a collection of nature stories seeking to inspire deeper relationship with and care for this beautiful Earth.” Order your copy from your local indie bookstore, or find it on IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781489723529