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Mid-April Lakeside Forest Panoply at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park

Lakeside Forest Panoply

 

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

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

I sauntered for nearly three hours (April 17) along the lakeside Awesome Trail, enjoying diverse attractions, many of them hidden in plain sight. Although the bird blind was in no way hidden, I felt compelled to look closely, which beckoned me to spend more time than I could devote, given the time-certain deadline to attend the late afternoon Foundation gathering at the Park Lodge. I often find in Nature that I want to linger longer than I’m able.

Joe WSP

 

I concur with those autumn forest enthusiasts who are smitten with fall’s color palette. However, I am equally attracted to the seeming infinite shades of green that enrich spring forest ventures. I’m reminded of the title of yet another banal Hollywood blockbuster that I missed (or refused to see) on the big screen: Fifty Shades of Grey. Give me spring’s fifty shades of green and I will see the reel time after time!

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

The blind’s portals frame whatever fine image you select…each one unique and worthy of photo-capture.

Joe WSP

 

The full Awesome Trail runs from the Park’s Boat Launch parking lot 4.1 miles to the Marina near the Lodge. I recorded this 37-second video to convey the mood, spirit, and nature of this soothing lakeside path, ideal for this woods-wanderer still recovering from the past ten months headlined by my June 19, 2013 triple bypass surgery, October bi-lateral inguinal hernia repair, and January 23, 2024 total left knee replacement!

I recorded the video at 1:37 PM:

 

The trail passes by this copse of yellow poplar trees, which features the most impressive timbers in this 80-90-year-old forest. When the TVA acquired this property in the early 1930s, the land was severely eroded, deeply-gullied, worn-out pasture, an affliction common across Alabama and the southeast in those Great Depression years. How much larger would this copse have presented had the original soil been protected from abusive agricultural practices?!

Joe WSP

Joe WSP

 

A patch of native rusty blackhaw enriched the trek with its profusion of large, showy flower heads!

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

Fungal Friends

 

Plants were not the sole features. This white-pored chicken of the woods cluster sprouted within twenty feet of the trail. I resisted the temptation to harvest this edible mushroom.

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

I spotted this five-inch pale oyster mushroom, another edible.

Joe WSP

 

 

This foot-wide deer-colored Trametes mushroom (non-edible), has a rather dull beige upper surface, yet compensates with its fascinating underside of distinct open pores.

Joe WSP

 

 

 

 

Two three-inch worms (I am note sure whether they are in fact “worms” — iNaturalist did not identify) found refuge and nourishment in the darkness beneath the bracket.

This ear-like mushroom covered a fallen decaying tree in a thicket too dense for me to capture a clear image. Instead, I gathered a small handful to show wood ear fungus, yet another edible.

Joe WSP

 

I am committed to learning more about the wonderful Fungi Kingdom, which when I was an undergraduate was still part of the Plant Kingdom — oh, how things change over a mere fifty years! Who says lifelong learning isn’t necessary for an old forester who insists upon better understanding the secrets of Nature hidden in plain sight?

 

Oh, the Gall of This Wasp!

 

The new leaves on this white oak seedling opened just a week or two before I discovered and photographed them (below left). Already, the seedling stem bears a fresh wool sower gall (below right).  During that short time, a wool sower gall wasp had oviposited its eggs into the stem. An NC State University Cooperative Extension bulletin tells the rest of the story:

The wool sower gall is a distinct and unusual plant growth induced by the secretions of the grubs of a tiny gall wasp, Callirhytis seminator. These wasps are about 1/8 inch long, dark brown, and their abdomens are noticeably flattened from side to side. The grubs are translucent to white, plump, and legless. Their heads are more or less shapeless blobs. The wool sower gall is specific to white oaks and only occurs in the spring. When the gall is pulled apart, inside are small seed-like structures inside of which the gall wasp grubs develop (the wool sower gall is also called the oak seed gall). 

 

 

Nature never disappoints the curious naturalist. I offer most every audience, whether classroom or field trip, my five verbs for truly enjoying Nature:

Five Essential Verbs: Believe, Look, See, Feel, and Act.

    • I find Nature’s mysteries and curiosities because I know they lie hidden within view — belief enables me to look and see
    • Really look, with eyes open to your surroundings, external to electronic devices and the distractions of meaningless noise and data
    • Be alert to see deeply, beyond the superficial
    • See clearly, with comprehension, to find meaning and evoke feelings
    • Feel emphatically enough to spur action — learning to seek understanding and awareness is an action

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one’s sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature. (Theodore Roosevelt)
  • Vitality and beauty are gifts of Nature, for those who live according to its laws. (da Vinci)
  • Nature never disappoints the curious naturalist.

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

 

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

Joe WSP

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Dockside Dawn

 

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

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

 

Going Gently Into That Good Night

 

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

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

Joe WSP

 

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

Mid-April Dawn

 

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

 

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

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

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

Joe WSP

 

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

Joe WSP

 

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

 

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

Joe WSP

 

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

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

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

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

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

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

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

 

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

 

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

Joe WSP

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

Brief-Form Post # 32: Evidence of Past Land History at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park!

10 photos and two videos

I am pleased to add the 32nd of my GBH Brief Form Posts (Less than five minutes to read!) to my website. I tend to get a bit wordy with my routine Posts. I don’t want my enthusiasm for thoroughness and detail to discourage readers. So I will publish these brief Posts regularly.

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

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

Scars from a Previous Century of Careless Land Stewardship

 

I arrived early enough on the 17th to spend time on the Awesome Trail. When the US Army Corps of Engineers acquired land scheduled for Wheeler Dam inundation and adjoining buffer acreage, severely eroded pastured and tilled acreage dominated. Such abused and devalued agricultural lands were typical in the 1930s across Alabama and elsewhere. It was a time of widespread farm foreclosures. My internet search for images of ruined agricultural lands in depression-era Alabama yielded hundreds of photographs like this one:

Boy with eroded farmland during the Dust Bowl by Arthur Rothstein on artnet

Online Image of Alabama Depression-Era

 

That image represents conditions that I am certain prevailed adjacent to the future Lake Wheeler. I stayed alert for confirming evidence as I sauntered along the trail. Forested land seldom erodes. Intact forest litter and organic layers, permeable soils, and a protective overstory ensures rainfall infiltration and discourages overland flow. Still-evident (yet not active) erosion gullies leading down to the lakeshore (below) are relics from past practice. The current forest cover discourages further degradation.

Joe WSP

 

I recorded this 33-second video depicting an old gully scar:

 

The trail crosses several old gullies over newly installed wooden bridges. The views (left, up; right, down) show the depth and extent of the erosion scars.

Joe WSP

 

The wooden structures are sufficient to protect the trail and hikers from wet season crossings. The image at right shows the severity of now healing and healed washing. Large trees reach into the chasms of abusive land treatment.

Joe WSP

 

Another gully required a more substantial bridge spanning a gully reaching to water’s edge (right).

 

I wonder how may cubic miles of topsoil emptied into our rivers from 1850 to the 1930s. Too, too, too many!

Louis Bromfield, a 20th Century novelist and playwright, dedicated his life to rehabilitating the old worn-out Ohio farm he bought in the 1930s. He wrote:

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 any of us can do is to change some small corner of this Earth for the better, through wisdom, knowledge, and hard work.

Such is one facet of our Alabama State Parks.

 

Long Term Implications of Eroded Topsoil

 

The Awesome Trail passes through a stand of loblolly pine that recently suffered extensive windthrow. Even trees growing in undisturbed, deep natural soils yield to high winds, either uprooting or breaking. I saw no evidence of widespread breakage; the wind toppled the root mass. Although I cannot be certain, I conclude that these deeply-gullied hillsides also lost 1-3 feet of topsoil, a condition chronicled across much of the piedmont and foothills of the eastern US.

Joe WSP

 

I recorded this 55-second video within the blowdown area:

 

The evidence of uninformed and irresponsible land treatment is evident wherever my travels take me across Alabama. I believe wisdom, knowledge, and hard work constitute the answer to preserving future land and forest productivity. John Muir gave hope to Earth’s capacity to overcome such abuse:

Earth has no sorrow that earth can not heal.

 

I accept the challenge of distilling these Brief-Form Posts into a single distinct reflection, a task far more elusive than assembling a dozen pithy statements. Today, I borrow a relevant reflection from Franklin Roosevelt about soil:

  • The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.

 

NOTE: I place 3-5 short videos (15 seconds to three minutes) on my Steve Jones Great Blue Heron YouTube channel weekly. All relate to Nature-Inspired Life and Living. I encourage you to SUBSCRIBE! It’s FREE. Having more subscribers helps me spread my message of Informed and Responsible Earth Stewardship…locally and globally!

 

 

Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary Exploration with My Alabama Grandsons!

On November 22, 2023, my Alabama grandsons (Jack, age 16, and Sam, age nine) accompanied me to Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. We enjoyed an unusually mild late-November mid-morning through early afternoon, entering from the east side, exploring the riparian hardwood forest, walking along the Flint River shoreline, and visiting the adjacent tupelo swamp. I offer observations, reflections, 27 photos, and four videos.

You can access 26 previous Great Blue Heron Posts from prior trips I’ve made to the Sanctuary. Search Goldsmith under the Blog banner at my website: https://stevejonesgbh.com/

 

Forest Wonder Potpourri

 

We discovered a potpourri of forest wonders. I’m grateful any time that the boys come along with me. Their lives and interests will in time diverge from their aging Pap’s. I am pleased that they still appreciate and learn from our forest wanderings. The Sanctuary remains one of our favorite destinations.

I never tire of finding a forest trunk draped in tree moss. This hickory, just 100 feet from the Flint River, evidences our moist temperate climate and its proximity to the morning fogs and heightened humidity along the river.

 

A nearby sugarberry trunk teems with life. Dense tree moss and a Virginia creeper vine adorn the stem below left. At the lower center of the photo at left and up the entire trunk within the photo at right, horizontal rows of yellow bellied sapsucker birdpecks portray a history of woodpecker insect foraging.

 

Virginia creeper literally clings to life on this sugarberry tree, its air roots grasping the trunk, assuring lifetime anchorage on its tree trunk lift to the upper canopy rich with direct sun to fuel life-sustaining photosynthesis. It bears repeating that Virginia creeper, wild grapevines, and supplejack do not climb trees. Instead, they grow up with the supporting tree. Imagine this Virginia Creeper germinating beside the sugarberry geminate. The creeper grew vertically at the same rate as the seedling, its leaves with each season remaining in full sunlight.

 

As with many organisms coexisting in Nature, Virginia creeper and sugarberry seem to have achieved some balance. That is, evolutionarily, the creeper has learned not to overgrow and suffocate the tree, for doing so would kill the vine’s highway to the sky. The vine enjoys a direct, full sunlight benefit from the tree. I am unsure of the reciprocal benefit to the tree from providing a lift to the vine. Without exploring the ecological literature for verification, I can only muse that the vine provides cover and access for birds and small mammals that feed on insects that consume sugarberry leaves. The vines might also ensure a canopy microclimate that deters fungi, viral agents, mold, and bacteria potentially harmful to the tree.

I am smitten by the cylindrical sugarberry birdpeck scars. So much of Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe is hidden in plain sight.

 

Resurrection fern, no longer in its drought-induced desiccated state, overhhangs the Flint River.

 

I recorded this 32-second video along the Flint River, amplifying the mood of peace and tranquility:

 

How can a naturalist not be attracted to such a beauty as this farkleberry (AKA sparkleberry), the largest member of our native blueberries (genus Vaccinium (arboreum)). Even its common names evoke mystery.

 

 

 

Nearby another handsome shrub drew us closer, a rusty blackhaw. I borrowed this description from an NC State University Extension online reference:

Rusty blackhaw is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub or small single-stemmed tree in the Viburnaceae (haw) family.  It is native to eastern and central USA and is found in most areas of NC growing in rocky or dry woodlands and forests, along streams and valleys. The name comes from the rusty brown hairs on the undersides of leaves, buds and stems.

Rusty blackhaw grows in dry to moist loams in full sun to partial shade slowly reaching a height and width of 10 to 20 feet. Clusters of small, white flowers mature in early spring followed by a blue drupe that matures in fall. The leaves have excellent fall color. 

 

I love the dormant season with full understory visibility, no biting insects, and comfortable temperatures!

 

Tupelo Swamp

 

I recorded this 57-second video in the water tupelo swamp on the Sanctuary’s northeast quadrant. Recent rains were just beginning to rewater the swamp.

 

Tree moss skirts, clinging vines, buttressed trunks, swamp stain lines, and a forest floor bereft of vegetation characterize the Sanctuary’s tupelo stands. I am tempted to refer to these stands as special places, yet I could just as logically term dozens of other elements of the Sanctuary as special places.

 

Note the swamp water stain lines (on the tree at left) suggesting normal winter water depth). I wear my calf-high rubber boots when I visit mid-winter.

 

I recorded this 17-second video within the swamp. I am intent on making these grandson forays meaningful, educational, and fun.

 

I seek to inspire mindful reflection, even as I remain alert to Nature’s reflections. Both of these photographs express the purpose and realization of that goal.

 

I can’t add anything to the power of this photo essays by adding to the verbal narrative.

 

Here’s a 36-second video from the same location.

 

These graceful swamp residents pose dutifully, seeming intent to reward our visit with their majestic form and rhythm.

 

Back to the riparian forest, Sam poses with a hefty supplejack vine. The stem it had once wrapped is long since dead and decayed, leaving only the vine corkscrew. Yellow-bellied sapsucker birdpeck scars encircle the supplejack at right.

 

A Few Living Critters!

 

A mild late fall day, a rough greensnake surprised us, accommodating our disturbance and gentle handling. We anticipated we might see deer or squirrels, but did not expect to see a coldblooded critter. We bid the snake adieu.

 

As we examined the snake, I noticed a few still-green pipevine leaves nearby. Knowing the plant’s exclusive hosting relationship to the pipevine swallowtail, I looked more closely, discovering a troop of the butterfly’s caterpillars. Online literature suggests that the larvae will soon form a chrysalis suspended several feet above the ground.

 

I’ll bring closure with this image of Sam feigning a bite from the fruit (some call it a hedge apple) of an osage orange.

 

We three boys enjoyed a great morning and early afternoon. I can only hope that they will remember these Nature outings as highlights of their young lives, and that the experiences yield a lasting relationship with Nature.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I am intent on making these grandson forays meaningful, educational, and fun.
  • I love the dormant season with full understory visibility, no biting insects, and comfortable temperatures!
  • The Sanctuary, as do most wild areas of my acquaintance, hosts many special places.

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

 

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

Post-Surgery Return to Nature Wanderings: Dawn and OLLI Birding Nature Walk at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park

It’s been 91 days (13 weeks — one-quarter of a year) since my left knee replacement surgery. My operative knee is much stronger and more stable than the one that awaits the same replacement surgery. I’m optimistic about the net result that will come with two new ones! No, I am far from a return to normal mobility, which I hope comes by 91 days after the right knee surgery. In the meantime, these photo essays will track my ventures across time. Without hesitation, I can state with conviction that Nature exposure and immersion are aiding my recovery and healing.

Daily Awakening

 

My total left knee replacement progress (January 23, 2024) permitted me to return to limited Nature wanderings on March 12 and 13 (50 days since surgery). I co-taught a Huntsville LearningQuest spring course with Renee Raney, Chief of Interpretation and Education, at the Alabama State Parks System. We appended an affiliated State Park bird-oriented half-day field interpretive walk at Joe Wheeler State Park, graciously led by Jennings Earnest, JWSP Naturalist. Jennings assisted the group in finding, identifying, and observing 43 bird species over the half-day venture.

Judy, our two Alabama grandsons, and I wandered within the Park the evening prior and enjoyed a night in one of the great Lakeside Cottages: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2024/03/20/post-surgery-return-to-nature-wanderings-afternoon-and-sunset-at-alabamas-joe-wheeler-state-park/

As is my routine, I arose early enough to welcome sunrise, this time from the Park Lodge docks along Lake Wheeler’s First Creek inlet. A great blue heron, my long-deceased Dad’s totem and avatar, seemed to have awaited me on the docks in the pre-dawn mist. We made brief eye contact before he arose to begin his day on the Lake.

Joe Wheeler

 

The encounter reminded me that in February of 1995, Dad’s spirit-bird visited me as I ran along a frost-steaming creek on a bitter cold sunrise the day of his memorial service. Since then, I have shared many special moments with great blue herons, each incident representing a cross-boundary contact from Dad. If nothing more, I know that he lives within me…and perhaps that is sufficient.

Ten minutes before sunrise, I relished the dawn sky-view from the docks, looking deeply into the First Creek inlet (left) and southeast to the Lodge. Except for an outbound bass boat or two, I enjoyed the solitude that often rewards the early riser. I cherish alone time. Early adult personality tests labeled me a hardcore introvert, an attribute that, along with my love for the outdoors, steered me to a bachelors degree in forestry. Only with career advancement into supervisory roles and eventually to 20 years of higher education senior administration did I learn how to act like an extrovert. Yes, “act” is the operative word. Truth is, I never escaped my natural tendency. Such a dawn as this one corroborated my permanent nature.

Joe WSP

 

Five minutes later (7:06 AM), the sun kissed the horizon beyond the shoreline edge.

Joe WSP

 

Another six minutes brought sharpening sunglow into the forest.

Joe WSP

 

 

By 7:46 AM, sunlight graced the forests along Wheeler Lake, and highlighted the forest of masts at the State Park Marina.

Joe WSP

 

I thought of Otis Redding’s The Dock of the Bay, wishing I could sit a spell longer:

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come

However, my purpose in visiting Joe Wheeler State Park called for co-leading a morning hike. I reluctantly returned to the cottage.

 

Venturing into the Forest: Progressing from Walker to Cane to Trekking Pole

 

I’m making final edits to this photo essay on April 8, 2024, ten weeks from surgery. I graduated from physical therapy on April 5. No more cajoling, guided pain, and oversight by therapists (sometimes I referred to them as physical terrorists!). Additional strengthening and persistent toning is up to me. As long-ago recreational athlete, I feel confident in training through full recovery. I set out March 13 determined to keep the group in sight for as long as I could. Over the seven weeks from surgery to the March 13 trek, I had progressed from roller-walker to cane to trekking pole.

Joe WSP

 

I found the mild spring day exhilarating, escaping the doldrums of confinement to my home and its backyard. Open forest, partly cloudy sky, similarly attuned Nature enthusiasts, and the freedom of returning to the outdoors at one of my favorite state parks lifted me to post-surgery heights. My wife captured my return-to-Nature celebratory mood with this 18-second video. I felt a bit foolish, yet viewing it three weeks later, I could not have better expressed my sense of joy and escape:

 

I lagged far enough behind that I missed most of Jennings’ bird identification (43 species tallied!) and interpretation. Occasionally I would catch up to snap an image, like Bob Carroll examining the trailside maw of an eight-inch diameter black cherry tree.

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

A retired educator (Clemson forestry degree), Bob paused to capture the still-standing carcass of a very large sassafras tree. Like me, Bob admires what I term tree form oddities and curiosities.

Joe WSP

 

Our two Alabama grandsons (Jack left and Sam right) accompanied us, taking advantage of their spring break week. Jack couldn’t resist risking a black cherry mauling; Sam stood within a large looping wild grape vine.

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

My Personal Commitment to Perseverance

 

My tiring legs made it to the Day Use Area at 10:39 AM, some 90 minutes from departing the Lodge. Even now, I fall short of target strength and endurance. I remind readers that since June of 2023, I have endured triple bypass surgery, bilateral inguinal hernia surgery (October 2023), and the January knee replacement. The physical impact has been cumulative. Recovery will take time. Patience is not one of my virtues, yet I intend to persevere.

Joe WSP

 

I will not accept the series of health issues as crushing and debilitating. This two-foot diameter black cherry tree  along the Cottage access road fell victim to a winter wind storm. Its wrenching, twisting demise symbolizes an unanticipated fate…a coup de gras. I am fortunate to retain my structural integrity and mental strength sufficient to push through recovery.

Joe WSPJoe WSP

 

I shall treat my recovery with dogged determination, relying on the relentless support of my soul mate Judy and the power I draw from Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The sun shines not on us but in us! (John Muir)
  • A day without witnessing dawn and sunrise is hardly a day at all. (Steve Jones)
  • Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. (Rachel Carson)

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

 

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

Joe WSP

 

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

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

 

 

A Late March Return to Goldsmith-Schiffman after Flood Waters Recede!

I returned to Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary on March 23, 2014, just a week after the flooding Flint River prevented my Huntsville LearningQuest class from touring the Sanctuary: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2024/04/02/brief-form-post-29-mid-march-attempt-to-enter-the-flint-river-flooded-goldsmith-schiffman-wildlife-sanctuary/

During the intervening week of fair weather, the Flint receded, spring advanced, and the Sanctuary beckoned me to explore the breadth of its eastern side. A week prior, I would have been knee-deep taking the photo at left, which looks northwest to the Blevins Gap Ridge, 800 feet above the valley floor. The view at right to the trailhead would have traced water to the entrance sign, where the tour group posed a week ago.

 

I welcomed the dry surface of the greenway.

The Flint River Tamed

 

At 10:30 AM a quarter of a mile from the entrance, the Flint flowed tranquilly at bankful, upstream at left and downstream to the right.

 

A short video (39 seconds) tells the river’s tale this fine spring morning…far better than my feeble words and still photos:

 

The natural upland levee along the flint stood above the flood waters the week before. I pondered what mood standing isolated there surrounded by floodwaters would have evoked.

 

A lifelong fan of esteemed conservationist Aldo Leopold, I turned to his writings (A Sand County Almanac)  for an apt quotation:

There are degrees and kinds of solitude. An island in a lake has one kind; but lakes have boats, and there is always the chance that one might land to pay you a visit. A peak in the clouds has another kind; but most peaks have trails, and trails have tourists. I know of no solitude so secure as one guarded by a spring flood; nor do the geese, who have seen more kinds and degrees of aloneness than I have.

 

Spring Ephemerals

 

The woodland trail I transited parallels the river (to the right) and the deep riparian forest that stretches to the tupelo swamp several hundred yards to the left. The path, via debris deposited by the recent flood, evidences a foot of overflow a week prior.

 

These dwarf trilliums at full flower likely observed the flood through a watery lens if they had already emerged from the saturated forest soil.

 

Their cousin, a twisted trillium, is just opening. Spring ephemerals are my favorite forest botanical denizens. The term ephemeral implies the narrow temporal window they occupy. They flourish during the period beginning when the canopy-penetrating spring sun warms the soil and ending when overstory tree foliage prevents sunlight from reaching the forest floor. Spring floods this year punctuated the brief optimal period. Such are the vagaries of ephemeral gardening and spring field trips.

 

Among the plentiful trilliums, I spotted Virginia saxifrage (left) and rue anemone strutting their stuff.

 

Bristly buttercup (left) and blue phlox also welcomed me with a little strutting of their own.

 

Because I had not yet reached full woods-worthy rambling recovery from my January 23, 2024 knee surgery, I sauntered cautiously, wary of tripping vines and hidden depressions, taking care, too, not to exceed my still limited strength and endurance. I know that I could have catalogued dozens of wildflower species with a deeper exploration. Next spring!!

 

Panoply of Routine Spring Woodland Delights

 

I have never followed or even cared to know much about fashion of the human apparel kind. Instead, I wish you good luck prying me away from Nature’s seasonal garb. Every year she demonstrates mastery of the hues, tones, and incalculable shades of spring greenery. By mid-April she drapes fields, forests, meadows, and marshes with verdant wonder, color varieties in excess of known monikers. I’ve tried year after year to photographically capture the green varietal splendor, yet I fall short of target. Instead, I focus the camera on the sublime moss skirts, a routine woodland delight accented by spring rains, and common across our forests.

 

My Mom and her mother (Grandma Jacobs) fueled my youthful passion for plants, mainly flowering garden annuals. Little did I know that my enthusiasm would blossom into vocation, and lifelong avocation, oriented to trees and associated forest ecosystems. I never tire of musing on these vast three-dimensional living systems. The Sanctuary riparian trees reach 100 feet. The forest matrix and its life occupy 4,356,000 cubic feet per acre.  I gaze with wonder into the forest side-view (left) and vertically (right). A hint of green presages another routine spring woodland delight.

 

Woodland delights are hidden in plain sight for those who know where to seek them. Honey locust, a native hardwood tree, sports wicked looking compound thorns.

 

The species also offers a bark pattern I have yet to recognize reliably, sometimes smooth, ranging to rigid vertical plating. I can’t yet come upon a honey locust and immediately declare its identity with certainty unless, of course, I spot the compound thorns.

 

In contrast, persimmon bark reaches out to me even from a distance, its blocky nearly black stem shouting, “Hey you dim-witted old forester, it’s me…persimmon. You surely remember me, Diospyros virginiana!”

 

Some other common Sanctuary species suggest their identity by bark and form. American beech trees have smooth elephant hide bark and wide spreading crowns, even broader than an oak of similar trunk diameter. Each forest tree offers its unique personality, its individual woodland delight.

 

Spring delights come in many forms and appeal variably according to the interests and passions of the woods wanderer. Compound thorns, moss skirts, and elm fungus mushrooms represent points along the complex circle of life within the Sanctuary’s forest ecosystem. Any single riparian forest acre spreads its delight-bounty within a 4.356 million cubic foot magical kingdom. I wonder what I did not see. What did I miss?

 

How fortunate was I to stumble at eye level across this member of the fungi kingdom? It’s common name: deer vomit mushroom.

 

I found information worth sharing (itself a special delight) on an obscure website called Mushroom Monday:

Good afternoon, friends,

This week’s fungus looks like spray paint, and it’s not even just one fungus; it’s a plasmodial soup of several different fungi and microorganisms referred to by the vile (and bile) name “deer vomit” (Fusicola merismoides). I learned about this last Monday on the New York Mycological Society zoom ID session and then found it on Saturday during a chainsaw training class I took in the Catskills. Sometimes referred to as a “fungal volcano” or a “fungal potpourri”, this spring-time slime is often found on the cut limbs of trees and native grape vines (Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia).

Fun Facts

Every specimen of F. merismoides that has been DNA barcoded has come back with a different sequence which suggests that each slime is a unique complex of different organisms. Just like a snowflake, no two are the same. The orange color comes from the fungus Fusicolla merismoides (previously Fusarium merismoides), an ascomycete that consumes some of the other yeasts and microorganisms in the flux. The slime essentially has its own ecology where some species of fungi and microbes are growing symbiotically while some are parasitizing each other – but that’s not too different from what’s going on inside our own body.

 

I try to visit the Sanctuary every 2-3 months, monitoring change and discovering what Nature reveals. This trip proved especially rewarding. How else might I have encountered such a lovely example of a primordial soup; a fungal volcano!?

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nothing in Nature is static — the Sanctuary is in constant motion.
  • Open your eyes to the magic and wonder of such delights as a primordial soup or a fungal volcano!
  • Can you imagine a simple delight more magnificent than our prodigious spring ephemeral wildflowers!?

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

 

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

 

 

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

I now have a fourth book, published by Dutton Land and Cattle Company, Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story.

 

 

Brief Form Post #29: Mid-March Attempt to Enter the Flint River-Flooded Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

I am pleased to add the 29th of my GBH Brief Form Posts (Less than three minutes to read!) to my website. I tend to get a bit long-winded with my routine Posts. I don’t want my enthusiasm for thoroughness and detail to discourage readers. So I will publish these brief Posts regularly.

Brief-Form Post on a Flooded-Out Tour of the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Fellow Nature enthusiast Jim Chamberlain and I taught a spring term Huntsville, Alabama LearningQuest course on the Streams of Madison County. After the term ended, we hosted an unofficial field trip to the nearby Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary along the Flint River, on Saturday morning, March 16, 2024. The flooding Flint River secured the sanctity and solitude coveted by all Sanctuary wildlife residents, protecting them from our planned educational intrusion.

Southern Sanctuary

 

Among other topics we incorporated in our course, we spoke often of the tendency of our streams to flash with the heavy rains that treat our Cumberland Plateau region with 55-inches of rainfall annually. Wouldn’t you know it, a persistent front loaded with Gulf moisture dumped 2.34-inches the day before our outing. The flooding Flint River blocked our west-side entrance less that a quarter-mile from the Taylor Road parking lot.

 

The group posed in the photos above just in front of the red iron gate (see grandson Sam below during a far drier visit) where the trail takes visitors into the 400-acre floodplain Sanctuary.

Southern Sanctuary

 

Refusing to be deterred, we caravanned to the east entrance, where the Flint greeted us within sight of where we parked!

 

The still-rising River provided a clear signal that our Sanctuary sauntering would of necessity await a different stage in the life of the flashy Flint River.

 

 

 

 

 

I recorded this 31-second video before we departed for a substitute ramble along nearby Big Cove Creek Greenway:

 

I returned to the Sanctuary March 23, 2024, exploring a much more forgiving Sanctuary environment. I would have been at least knee deep looking northwest on the east entrance greenway 200 yards from where the group stood with the muddy floodwaters beyond, evidencing again the flashy nature of the Streams of Madison County.

 

I accept the challenge of distilling these Brief-Form Posts into a single distinct reflection, a task far more elusive than assembling a dozen pithy statements. Today, I borrow a relevant reflection from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, a book I rank as a premier collection of conservation and Nature-philosophy essays:

  • There are degrees and kinds of solitude. I know of no solitude so secure as one guarded by a spring flood; nor do the geese, who have seen more kinds and degrees of aloneness than I have.

 

NOTE: I place 3-5 short videos (15 seconds to three minutes) on my Steve Jones Great Blue Heron YouTube channel weekly. All relate to Nature-Inspired Life and Living. I encourage you to SUBSCRIBE! It’s FREE. Having more subscribers helps me spread my message of Informed and Responsible Earth Stewardship…locally and globally!

 

 

Iron Bowl Visit to Auburn’s Kreher Preserve and Nature Center!

A Knee Surgery Preface

As I publish this photo essay, I am six weeks and one day since my January 23, 2024 total left knee replacement surgery. I stockpiled observations, reflections, and photographs from my woodland wanderings (like this November Iron Bowl trek) during the period leading up to my extended surgery recovery. My goal is to re-enter gentle forest trails by mid-March. Since surgery, I have been a tireless devotee of physical therapy. Okay, allow me a little humble honesty. Scratch the tireless. I’ve ended many post-surgery days exhausted from PT! Bear with me as I return to some semblance of my younger woods-worthiness!

Kreher Preserve and Nature Center

 

Chris Stuhlinger, a fellow retired forester and Auburn graduate, secured tickets for the 2023 Iron Bowl (11/25; Alabama vs. Auburn) and invited me to attend. I leaped at the chance. I had not attended a game at Jordan-Hare since the fall of 2000. Because the game did not start until 2:30, we visited Auburn’s Kreher Nature Center and Forest Ecology Preserve that morning. I offer observations, reflections, and photographs from our abbreviated one-hour visit.

KreherKreher

 

Just eight years from its inception when I departed Auburn University in 2001, the venerable Center and Preserve is now celebrating 30 years of immeasurable impacts on countless lives! I had no trouble visualizing eager learners of all ages across three decades. I did not expect many visitors on an Auburn Iron Bowl Saturday.

Kreher

 

The primary education building sits comfortably within a loblolly and mixed hardwood forest that appears to be of old field origin. I hope to return to Kreher some day when not rushed by Iron Bowl engagements on campus. I’d like a full tour, complete with Center and Preserve chronology and land use history of the 120 acres. I had visited Kreher a time or two during my five years (1996-2001) at Auburn. If only my memories were more vivid. The forest was nearly a quarter of a century younger then. Here in the deep south, forests develop and grow rapidly. I would like to see photos from the Center’s establishment.

Kreher

 

I am a tireless advocate for facilities such as this immediately launching a program to establish permanent photo plots throughout the property. The steps are simple:

  • Identify 10-20 points in the vicinity of special landmarks, ecotypes, streams, etc.
  • Sink a four-by-four treated wood post, with the four sides oriented to the cardinal directions
  • Cap it with a numbered metal plate
  • Decide the date to take the periodic photos. For example January 15 and July 15 every ten years.

During the fall 2023 Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville semester, I took a course on Taking Better Nature Photographs. The instructor opened my eyes to a few tricks of the trade. Toying with one suggestion, I experimented with my iPhone, exploring my perspective preference with these two images. The photo at left derives straight from the camera, the lens peering into the forest horizontally. The view draws the more distant features (down the path and up into the canopy) toward the vanishing point; the trees appear to lean together. The image at right employs a finishing application that physically adjusts the image to eliminate the lean. The vanishing point, with the manipulation, in fact vanishes. I will continue to review my personal preference. For the moment, I am a lifelong resident of a world that operates with a vanishing point. I prefer the image below left. I’ll continue to experiment and share the results in these Great Blue Heron Posts.

KreherKreher

 

Education Amenities

 

The Center includes a wooden amphitheater, open to air and partial sunshine, ideally allowing participants to feel and see the pulse of woodland Nature. Effective Nature education is a contact sport. I’ve learned as much through outdoor osmosis as sterile indoor lecture. My most vivid learning endeavor involved muddy boots, chill breezes, and miles in a SUNY van slipping into New Hampshire’s White Mountains to study and experience watershed management at the US Forest Service’s Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest during spring break of my junior year. Young people visiting Kreher will not suffer Nature Deficit Disorder while on-site.

Kreher

 

Some participants experience 24/7 immersion via overnight tent accommodations.

Kreher

 

Again, I see a future Kreher visit, complete with a knowledgeable tour host and extended time for fully experiencing features like the KPNC Sensory Forest. The Kreher sign narrative strikes a chord with me:

Child development, school success, relational health, mental health, well-being, and resilience are all profoundly impacted by our body’s ability to process and integrate sensation.

Nature creates a natural, interactive sensory experience that can provide an equally therapeutic and stimulating engagement. The KPNC Sensory Forest provides stations along an accessible trail that harness these experiences and engage all seven senses. Take your time, explore the Sensory Forest, and engage YOUR senses!

Cheaha State Park also has a Sensory Trail (below right).

Kreher

Cheaha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like the seven senses images. I wonder, as I visit local trails and greenways, how many visitors are lost in their earbuds…sensory-deprived, experiencing only digitally what their device is pouring into their heads. For them, I fear, their senses image portfolio may include only a single symbol (below right).

 

 

 

 

 

Soil: The Essence of Terrestrial  Life

 

Soil is the fundamental substrate for nearly all terrestrial life. I loved my undergraduate courses in forest soils. I spent four of my dozen years with Union Camp Corporation leading the company’s tree nutrition and forest fertilization research program, an exceedingly soil-centered endeavor. I left the company to pursue my PhD, which evaluated soil-site relationships in the Allegheny Hardwood forests of NW Pennsylvania and SW New York. To this day, I consider myself an aging soil scientist. All that to explain why I like this 2015 Eagle Scout project at KPNC, the Soil Education Site.

Kreher

 

My compliments to William Hickok! He envisioned and created a soil profile display for the KPNC site, one open (left) and the other glass-encased (right).

Kreher

 

Young Mr. Hickok explained:

A soil profile is a vertical slice of soil showing the different layers, or soil horizons. Each horizon may be distinguished by its color, soil Texture (sand, silt, and clay content), mineral content, organic matter, and structure.

All soils in the Forestry Ecology Preserve are mapped as Pacolet sandy loam…

The soil profile that you see is a Pacolet sandy loam that was buried when a terrace was made here more than 60 years ago when cotton was grown on this site.

Kreher

 

Eagle Scout Hickok thus confirmed y earlier observation: The primary education building sits comfortably within a loblolly and mixed hardwood forest that appears to be of old field origin.

Several older hardwood residuals stand along a natural drain dating back into the agricultural production period. Picture a cultivated field with young hardwoods sprouting along the drainage feature.

Kreher

 

The trail signage professes a fairyland lilt, a youth-oriented theme, for the young and young at heart.

Kreher

 

I embrace the notion of young at heart. My knees somehow have aged and declined far beyond the pace of the young man residing contentedly within the 72-year-old body! The young man who today achieves a case of misty eyes celebrating a grand woodland morning accented by the slanted rays of a late November dawn. Oh, how different would the scene have been 70 years ago with terraced fields and cotton stubble?

Kreher

 

Southern Pine Beetles

 

Forestry studies require that we understand the insects and diseases acting within the forests we manage. Because I studied forestry in Upstate New York, I learned first hand of more northern insects and diseases. I didn’t encounter southern pine beetles until I hired on with Union Camp in 1973 in southeastern Virginia, where SPB infestations occurred periodically, necessitating monitoring, sanitation, and salvaging. I hope that KPNC staff have noticed the SPB infestation progressing on site. Pitch tubes offer the first evidence of infestation. When female adults enter a tree to lay eggs under the bark in the cambium, the tree reacts by exuding pitch to overwhelm the invading insects. However, when the beetles attack en masse, tree death proceeds rapidly. When large numbers of pitch tubes appear, the tree is likely already dead, its crown a reddish brown. So, usually, it is the dead crown that evidences infestation. Although when we stumbled upon the Kreher pitch tubes (left), the crowns were already dead (right).

Kreher

 

Another telltale sign is sawdust around the tree base, generated from larvae feeding under the bark.

Kreher

 

 

Fusiform rust (Cronartium) is a common southern pine disease. Tree improvement programs selected mother trees for seed orchards based upon fusiform resistance. Rust is not necessarily fatal, yet it reduces commercial value and can lead to breakage.

Kreher

 

We found this severely contorted black cherry infected with black knot. This individual looks grotesque, a gruesome personality by appearance alone.

Kreher

 

Insects and diseases are part of Nature’s great life and death continuum. As with many things in Nature, where we stand depends on where we sit. In the case of KPNC, each of these ecosystem features opens yet another educational moment.

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • The Kreher Nature Center and Forest Ecology Preserve is celebrating 30 years of immeasurable impacts on countless lives!
  • Child development, school success, relational health, mental health, well-being, and resilience are all profoundly impacted by our body’s ability to process and integrate sensation.
  • Environmental education is a contact sport!
  • Insects and diseases are part of Nature’s great life and death continuum.

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

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

Kreher

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

Autumn Fungi, Dead Snags, and Trophy Oak Burl at Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary!

Left Knee Replacement Recovery Update

 

I’m adding this single-paragraph prolog on Leap-Day, February 29, 2024. I’m reaching back to content I gathered four months ago. You might ask, why the long lag period? During the autumn months, I was dealing with deteriorating knees, with total left knee replacement anticipated in mid-January, a date not yet confirmed. I was scheduled initially for June of 2023, but my unanticipated June 19, 2023, triple bypass delayed knee surgery. Knowing bad knees and then recovery would limit my woods-wandering for an extended period, I banked photographs, reflections, and observations for several months. Thus, now 37 days since knee surgery, I am writing this prolog, still uncertain when I can resume my woodland forays.

 

Mid-November Sanctuary Wandering

 

I visited Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary on November 14, 2023, with Dr. Marian Moore Lewis, author of Southern Sanctuary. We trekked through the western side of the Sanctuary, observing and reflecting upon all manner of seasonal life we encountered from Hidden Spring to Jobala Pond to the wetland mitigation project underway in the mid-property meadows and fields. I focus this Post on the autumn fungi, dead snags, and a trophy oak burl we encountered.

This Ganoderma lobatum is a hardwood decay fungus, one of 80 Ganaderma species. Its genus name means shiny or lustrous skin, apparent below left. Note the grass growing through the specimen below right.

 

The mushroom (same species) below right is a prolific spore producer, coating surfaces near it with a thick beige dusting.

 

The oak below harbors oak bracket decay fungi. More than a foot across, the two fresh mushrooms have sprouted from one of the tree’s fluted trunk toes. The tree is living despite evidence of heavy infection. Like so much in Nature the decay infection and living tree are in a tenuous balance. The fungus consumes wood; the tree adds new wood. Eventually, gravity and other physical forces will prevail. That the tree will topple is inevitable. Decay is a crucial variable in the equation of life, death, and renewal.

 

I recall plant (tree) pathology courses in undergraduate forestry studies. Educated from a timber management orientation, I viewed forest pathology and specific fungal agents as elements of the dark side, negatively affecting tree vigor and wood quality and value. Retired and long removed from that timber value orientation, I view fungi through an entirely different lens…an ecosystem perspective. I often find relevant wisdom in John Muir’s words:

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.

The oak bracket fungus is oblivious to the relative timber value of oaks. It knows only that its sole function is to achieve life-vigor sufficient to produce viable reproductive spores to ensure successive generations, its contribution to the health and viability of life within that one great dewdrop. Responsibility for managing the forest for timber production, income generation, wildlife habitat, water yield, or sundry other objectives rests with the forester. The disease agent (the fungus) is one of the factors in the forester’s zone of influence and control.

Another nearby large oak bracket mushroom is exuding resinous beads.

 

Marian has located yet another oak bracket, exposing its polyporus underside (below right)

 

A nearby elm snag has seen its final summer. Decay fungi and marauding birds, squirrels, and other critters have weakened the snag. I can’t imagine the remnants resisting the pull of gravity through routine winter weather sure to bring soaking rains, strong winds, and maybe even snow and freezing rain.

 

 

This willow snag stands within the upstream end of Jobala Pond, where the Hidden Spring wetland emerges into the pond.

 

Fungi and snags go hand in hand, the snag is the final standing relic of decay fungi that likely began its decomposition decades earlier.

 

Trophy Water Oak Burl

 

Burls are not caused by decay organisms. I describe burls as benign tumors, triggered by some unknown biological agent (virus, bacterium, or fungus. Burls are often beautifully textured solid wood, treasured by wood-turning enthusiasts.

 

Because the oak grows at the Jobala Pond outlet, I visit it every time I enter the Sanctuary from the Taylor Road entrance.

 

Its growth is quite evident. I snapped this image June 20, 2020. That’s then 12-year-old grandson Jack’s hand.

 

I try to visit the Sanctuary every 2-3 months, monitoring change and discovering what Nature reveals,

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nothing in Nature is static.
  • 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. (John Muir)
  • Fungi and snags go hand in hand, the snag is the final standing relic of decay fungi that likely began its decomposition decades earlier.

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

 

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

My Knee-Hobbled Superficial Exploration of Alabama’s Sipsey Wilderness!

Fellow retired forester Chris Stuhlinger and I visited the Sipsey Wilderness within Bankhead National Forest on December 5, 2023. Scheduled for total left knee replacement surgery on January 23, 2024, I agreed to the trip with no small level of anxiety. I told Chris I would be content to wander near the parking lot, exploring Nature intensely close by if the trail terrain exceeded my knee-hobbled ability to explore extensively. He could hike the River Trail to his heart’s content; I would be fine until he returned.

Sipsey River Picnic Area

 

We parked along the State highway at the Sipsey River Picnic Area, from which we crossed under the bridge to enter the Wilderness upstream.

 

The signage is fitting with the scenery. I appreciate the aesthetic form of the bridge curving south across the Sipsey River. The image emphasizes the signature of the canyon, the river that can rage with runoff fury, and the special sanctity of a Federal Wilderness.

 

Entering the Wilderness

 

The stone monument lies just 100 feet upstream of the bridge and memorializes the Sipsey’s 1975 Wilderness designation.

 

The trail passes gently 20-40 feet above the river on its north bank (view downstream). Although not apparent in this image, the streambank trail occasionally challenged my knees, dropping steeply.

 

 

I recorded this 33-second video from the point where I had no choice but to turn back to the parking area, a decision that I made with great frustration.

 

A lifelong woodsman, former marathon competitor, and committed gym rat, I accepted the inevitable when I turned around. This was the coup de grace! An online dictionary confirmed my choice of the noun:

A coup de grâce is a death blow to end the suffering of a severely wounded person or animal. It may be a mercy killing of mortally wounded civilians or soldiers

A coup de grâce can also be used more broadly to refer to any conclusive or decisive moment, such as the final straw that breaks a camel’s back, or the last nail in a coffin.

Granted, I may be exaggerating the life and death severity, yet the blow to my psyche is real. Over a 27 month period, I will have experienced the following physical difficulties:

  • Total left shoulder replacement
  • Minor stroke
  • Triple bypass surgery
  • Transient ischemic attack
  • Bilateral inguinal hernia surgical repair
  • Total left knee replacement — January 23, 2024

I am determined to recover my ability to wander the forests and trails of north Alabama. I want full license and legitimacy to write, speak, and reflect on Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!

Just ahead in each of the photographs below, the steep drop-off without footholds or saplings for gripping prevented my passage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An empty ache from conceding defeat did not dampen my enthusiasm for gathering fresh observations, reflections, and photographs as I retreated. I even experimented with my iPhone, exploring my perspective preference with these two images. The photo at left derives straight from the camera, the lens peering uphill at about 35 degrees. The angle draws the more distant features toward the vanishing point; the trees appear to lean together. The image at right employs a finishing application that physically adjusts the image to eliminate the lean. The vanishing point, with the manipulation, in fact vanishes. I will continue to review my personal preference. For the moment, I am a lifelong resident of a world that operates with a vanishing point. I prefer the image below left.

 

I recorded this 49-second video as I headed back to the trailhead.

 

The Sipsey River ranges from placid to full fury. Along the short stretch I traversed, log jams evidenced the drastic flushes that transform the wild canyon.

 

Bigleaf magnolia leaves, recently dropped, are North America’s largest simple leaves, carpeting the forest floor in places. The intricate and pronounced venation is yet another feature of Nature’s exquisite artwork.

 

Nature study raises countless questions. Why does this species bear such a large leaf? Why does sweetgum produce star-shaped leaves? Why needles for pine and delicate needle fronds on cypress? I certainly can’t offer specific answers. However, I can turn to Leonardo da Vinci who 500 years ago thought deeply about such things:

Nature is full of infinite causes that have never occurred in experience.

Nature alone is the master of true genius.

There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment.

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

Nature varies the seed according to the variety of the things she desires to produce in the world.

 

Facing the Reality of My Knee-Hobbled Hiking Limitations

 

Chris continued his trail wanderings. I explored the picnic area and environs. The late morning could be considered beguiling, a perfect blue sky and soft breeze. Yet the sign at right suggested that the peace and serenity were not guaranteed. Seeming safely above the current water level, the parking lot must occasionally flood.

 

 

The old bridge, weakened by time and flooding, has recently suffered a near fatal blow from a falling streamside giant. I timed the photograph at left to capture a truckload of chip’n’saw logs on the new bridge above, bound for processing. Wood dominated the day: log jams on the river; trucks transporting logs; a tree smashing into an old bridge; trees defining a Federal Wilderness.

 

 

 

I wanted to cross the old bridge. Instead, heeding the candy-striped flagging tape, I stayed off the damaged span. I refused to tempt fate.

 

A Late Fall Botanical Survey

 

Allow me a quick review of the plants I photographed while awaiting Chris’ return. A North Carolina Extension online resource described sweetleaf (or horse sugar) as a hardy deciduous shrub or small tree that may grow 20 feet tall. In nature, it can be found in moist bottomland forests, pocosin edges, mesic forests, ridgetop forests, and sandhills. The leaves are alternate with a smooth margin and yellow underside. The leaves are edible and sweet to the taste. In early spring, small, white flowers mature. The small tree produces a 1/2-inch, orange-brown drupe that matures in late summer.

 

I have known both American holly (left) and eastern hemlock since my adolescent days in western Maryland.

 

 

 

Oakleaf hydrangea did not grace the forests of my youth. I have since fallen in love with its oaky leaves, exfoliating bark, white flowers, drying seed heads, colorful autumn leaves, and dense interwoven branches.

 

I’ve said often that we really don’t experience a winter season here in north Alabama. Instead, our extended autumn slowly transitions to spring, with a few winter days scattered about to remind people that this is truly the dormant season. Partridge berry (left) is a vibrant green winter groundcover. My more northern orientation has a hard time reconciling deep winter with lush green foliage. Lyreleaf sage (right) is another plant that grows happily during the winter, then produces some of the earliest white flowers of the spring (winter).

 

Christmas fern (left) is aptly named, adding a rich verdant signature during the darkest day of the season. Anise root foliage is strikingly spring-green. It’s red stems likewise suggest spring growth.

 

These are not the bitter days of a relentless dormant season, where days stretch to weeks, and to months of frozen ground, disabling freezing precipitation, and crippling cold. Compared to some place where I’ve lived, these are the halcyon days of winter.

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature alone is the master of true genius. (Leonardo da Vinci)
  • There is no result in nature without a cause. (da Vinci)
  • Although physically limited by bad knees, a surgical fix is within reach!

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

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

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

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

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 understand their Earth home more clearly.

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

 

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

 

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

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