Posts

Brief-Form Post #28: A Damp and Breezy Cheaha State Park Stopover!

I am pleased to add the 28th of my GBH Brief Form Posts (Less than three minutes to read!) to my website. I 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.

 

Brief-Form Post on my November 26, 2023, Excursion to Alabama’s Cheaha State Park!

 

Fellow retired forester Chris Stuhlinger and I stopped by Cheaha State Park on our Sunday morning (November 26, 2023) return to Huntsville following Saturday’s Iron Bowl football game at Auburn. The Park sits atop Mount Cheaha, the state’s highest point at 2,407 feet. Fog, strong breezes, and raw mid-forties temperatures greeted us.

Tree form curiosities and oddities intrigue me. Near the entrance gate, a Virginia pine had fought valiantly and persistently for decades to seek and secure sunshine from under the oak tree casting its shadow over the pine. Finding no sun under the oak’s canopy, the pine grew outward, in candy cane fashion and form.

Cheaha

 

The Civilian Conservation Corps era observation tower marks the high point. I wonder how many days this fine old structure has stood in the summit fog.

Cheaha

 

Chris and I parked at the old lodge and walked the ADA accessible boardwalk to Bald Rock, aptly named on this blustery day. We could see little beyond stunted Virginia pines, cloud curtains, and bald rocks. I’ve spent many hours on more pleasant days enjoying sunsets, sunrises, and vistas across the broad valley.

Cheaha

 

I recorded this 44-second video from the Bald Rock overlook at 10:18 AM:

 

The still photos suggest a more tranquil day, belying the actual mood of the mountain.

 

I stopped briefly at the veterans memorial flag halfway to the trailhead.

 

My 15-second video more accurately reflects conditions:

 

Suffocating stratus and light rain kept the midday dismal at what I would normally describe as lovely Lake Cheaha, nestled in the valley 800 vertical feet below the summit.

 

I recorded this 44-second video at Cheaha Lake:

 

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 Henry David Thoreau, who knew deeply of waters, solitude, and reflection on life and living:

  • I rise into a diviner atmosphere, in which simply to exist and breathe is a triumph, and my thoughts inevitably tend toward the grand and infinite.

 

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!

 

 

A First Visit to Alabama’s Wind Creek State Park!

Bound for the November 25, 2023, Iron Bowl, fellow retired forester Chris Stuhlinger and I visited Wind Creek State Park, a 1,444-acre gem on the shores of Lake Martin near Alexander City. The park’s 586 campsites rank it first among the state’s 21 State Parks. Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River retains the 44,000-acre Lake Martin, a scenic delight and fishing paradise.

We arrived at the park, a first visit for both of us, just after lunch, meeting Wind Creek Park Naturalist Dylan Ogle.

Wind Creek

 

I recorded this 44-second video, evidencing a perfect autumn afternoon. Nearly every stop within the park showcased the bright sky, surrounding lake, the tree-lined shore, and happy visitors. I elected to record the video without narration. The video itself tells the tale of place, context, whispering breezes, and lapping wavelets. Any narrative I might have offered would have added net negative value.

 

I am a forester, therefore it goes without saying that I love forests and trees. We’ve all heard the ancient caution of not seeing the forest for the trees. On most of our lake-based state parks, deep forest cover begins at the immediate shoreline. The Wind Creek shoreline is irregular, punctuated by gravelly peninsulas, populated by individual trees or a copse like the loblolly pines below left. Unlike trees in a closed forest, these pines stand in full sunlight, emphasizing their beauty against the full sun. The loner at right casts its shadow across the gravel, seeming to disappear at water’s edge.

Wind Creek

 

This peninsula hosted a picnic pavilion and an observation silo, with both lower and upper decks accessible to visitors.

Wind Creek

 

With left knee replacement surgery scheduled for January 23, I summited only the first level stairs (with handrail). I did not want to risk stumbling on the climb to the higher level with my bum knee.

Here’s my 52-second video from the tower.

 

The view from the observation deck was good. The next level would have been spectacular. I apologize for falling short (which is a lot better than falling). My surgeon has advised for years, “Opt for the surgery when knee degradation prohibits you from doing what you love.” Climbing to the top tier is among the routine activities I want to return to after surgery. I learned painfully at the next day’s Iron Bowl that navigating stadium stairs up and down without handrails is exceptionally difficult. I don’t like this old man feeling!

The following four photos swing clockwise from SW to SE, each one including a slice of Lake Martin. I vow next time to ascend to the upper deck!

Wind Creek

 

I hadn’t realized the intensity of blue until I began writing the narrative — incredible!

Wind Creek

 

Back on the ground, I positioned myself using the loblolly below left to block the low-horizon late afternoon sun. Chris (center), Dylan (left), and Georgios Arseniou, Auburn Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist of Urban Forestry, who met us at the park, stand within a pine copse.

 

Here is my 46-second video of Dylan introducing himself.

 

Dylan joined the park staff as Naturalist this past summer. His enthusiasm for Nature, the outdoors, and Wind Creek State Park is contagious. I am a tireless proponent of the tripartite Alabama State Park System mission of recreation, conservation, and education. I take great satisfaction in watching the education and interpretation leg strengthen and expand. I look forward to returning to Wind Creek next summer.

I can’t resist the combination of glorious sky, tranquil water, and luxuriant trees and forests. I have a weakness for paintings that look like photographs…and photos that resemble paintings. There was an abundance of such scenes November 24!

Wind Creek

 

Special Features of Wind Creek State Park

 

Wind Creek invites equine campers, accommodating their needs with 20 dedicated camping sites.

Wind Creek

 

Glamping, where stunning nature meets modern luxury, is catching on across the outdoor enthusiast world. I’m intrigued, but my 72+ year old notion of roughing it extends only to accommodations with an indoor bathroom within a few steps of a queen size bed! Judy and I enjoyed our camping days and we are content to leave them in the past.

Wind Creek

 

Although the calendar said late November, the scene depicted late summer enthusiasm, excited and fully engaged families, and the enticing aromas from barbeque grills. Memories of camping with Mom, Dad, and siblings generated a set of moist eyes. I blamed it on the wood smoke!

Wind Creek

 

I recorded this 33-second video as the sun began dipping to the horizon. Note the full moon rising, listen for the unique call of a belted kingfisher, and enjoy the setting sun.

 

A Short Saunter into the Speckled Snake Trail

 

The daylight fades early this time of year. We reserved just enough time on this first visit to Wind Creek for a short stroll into the Park’s Alabama Reunion Trail, which begins alongside the Speckled Snake Trail.

Wind Creek

 

I don’t intend to add a rich narrative and interpretive monologue. I offer these photos just to give you a taste of the Park’s terrestrial gifts. The trail begins in a loblolly pine dominated upland.

Wind Creek

 

The forest type quickly transitions to mixed pine and hardwood as the trail dipped into a draw and then back to an upland..

Wind Creek

 

The Park employs prescribed fire to manage forest understory and influence future composition.

Wind Creek

 

In the fading light I photographed the unusual pump handle configuration of a sourwood tree (below left) and the bronze marcescent leaves of a mid-story American beech.

Wind Creek

 

Before turning back to the trailhead, we encountered a stand of switch cane, a native bamboo in the Poaceae (grass) family found in the coastal plain and piedmont regions of the eastern US from Virginia to Florida where it grows in the understory of moist forests and wetlands.  It typically grows upright 2 to 6 feet in height but can approach 12 feet when conditions are favorable (North Carolina Extension online source).

Wind Creek

 

I am eager to experience more of what Wind Creek State Park offers when I return.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • A dedicated Park Naturalist magnifies the experience, learning, and enjoyment for Park visitors…of all ages.
  • Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better (Albert Einstein).
  • I can’t resist the combination of glorious sky, tranquil water, and luxuriant trees and forests.

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.

 

 

 

Aerial Tour of Joe Wheeler State Park Man-Enhanced Amenities!

On August 20, 2023, a friend took me aloft in his Cessna 182. We departed Pryor Regional Air Field, Decatur, Alabama at 7:00 AM under cloud-free but hazy skies, the threat/promise (depending upon perspective) of expanding heat index…arriving long after our return to the airfield. Our flight plan encompassed exploring the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and cruising the Tennessee River from Guntersville Dam downstream to Wheeler Dam (and Joe Wheeler State Park). I focus this Post on our aerial exploration of Joe Wheeler State Park.

I’ve enjoyed many on-the-ground hours at the Park, publishing numerous prior Posts focused on this State Park. Go to the Blog page of my website (https://stevejonesgbh.com/blog/), enter Joe Wheeler State Park in the search window, and read/explore the Posts at your leisure.

I snapped this photo at 8:17 AM over the south end of Wheeler Dam looking to the northside lock, and the forested Park shoreline stretching northeast from the dam.

 

Out of sight, a portion of the Park (southside cabins and the Multiple Use Trail) lies directly beneath me, visible in this view to the south both east and west of where the bridge reaches the opposite shoreline.

 

There is absolute magic in an aerial view of the famed US waterway, dammed by the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority in the bleak Great Depression days of the 1930s for economic development, navigation, and power generation. From just 2,000 feet, the horizon expands exponentially. Since the first time my Dad arranged for a friend to take me airborne above our Central Appalachian home, I have been mesmerized by flying above a natural landscape. On such flights, the whole notion of my taglines…Nature-Inspired Life and Living; Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!…comes alive in crystal clarity.

 

As impressive as Wheeler Dam is from 2000 feet, it can’t surpass the October 19, 2022 pontoon boat view from the breast of the dam looking down into Wilson Lake, the next in the series of Tennessee River impoundments leading to the Ohio River.

Joe Wheeler

 

From this aerial vantage point a couple of miles east of the bridge crossing the dam, the Tennessee River (and Wheeler Lake) stretches eastward. First Creek empties into the Lake from the left. Nearly all of the forest surrounding the First Creek embayment is central to Joe Wheeler State Park. I have spent hours exploring trails and woodland within the field of vision from 2,000 feet altitude. I marvel that such an aerially-compressed view can account for at least half of the Joe Wheeler State Park Posts I have authored.

Joe WSP

 

And, a single photo can encompass an entire lifetime…my 72 years of life on Earth. Yet, in stating something so overwhelmingly significant in terms of my own meaningless life, I am overcome with humility. I don’t belong in the same paragraph with the compressed wisdom and perspective offered by famed astronomer Carl Sagan, who better than anyone else in history, encapsulated the meaning of this view of Earth, this our only home in the vast darkness of space:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Internet Image

 

John Muir, the indomitable conservationist, Nature-advocate, and philosopher, distilled the reality of the pale blue dot that is Earth into a single thought…a perfect harmonious, beautiful vision and concept:

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.

And Muir drew the dewdrop analogy a century before man first slipped the surly bonds of Earth! (John Gillespie Magee, Jr’s High Flight).

I recorded this 0:39 video at 8:19 AM, capturing the beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration of a very special place on the eastern edge of the First Creek embayment at Joe Wheeler State Park.

 

The view to the left includes the Lodge, part of the marina, a section of the golf course, the wastewater treatment facility, and the Day Use picnic, beach, and recreation area along the inlet east of the Lodge (closeup below right).

 

Aerial views complement our Earth-bound perspective, yet Earth-bound is where we reside. I snapped this sunrise photo in early June 2023, from the Lodge pier, where the boat is docked in the photo above left.

Joe WSP

 

Before departing the Park, we banked over that adjoining inlet, capturing a view of the Day Use area and campground.

Joe WSP

 

I took the photo below on the blustery evening before the sunrise photo, from the pier faintly visible in the upper left peninsula in the photo above. I am grateful for the opportunity to aerially explore familiar places August 23. However, I am a terrestrial explorer by experience and passion. I’ll accept and embrace the alternative perspective even as I will continue to relish my earthbound standard.

 

The campground reopened in the early summer of 2023 following two years of repair work necessary after a December 2019 tornado ravaged the Day Use area and campground.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations from my aerial flight and the breath-taking perspective from 2,000 feet above God’s northern Alabama wild and domesticated patchwork quilt:

  • 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.
  • On such flights, the whole notion of my taglines…Nature-Inspired Life and Living; Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!…come alive in crystal clarity.
  • I am mesmerized by flying above a natural landscape, where beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration reach into my soul.

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: “©2023 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

Steve's Books

 

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

 

 

 

Early September Potpourri at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park!

I returned to Joe Wheeler State Park on September 6, 2023, to meet with Renee Raney who had recently been appointed as the Alabama State Park System’s first Chief of Education and Interpretation. Appointed from within the System, Renee is a consummate nature devotee, experienced naturalist, and committed champion of the System’s three-part mission of conservation, recreation, and education.

Introducing Alabama State Park System’s Chief of Education and Interpretation

 

Here is the 58-second video I recorded on September 6, and posted on my YouTube channel to introduce Renee:

 

I’ve known Renee since retiring to Alabama in 2017. She and I will be co-teaching a winter term OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) course on Connecting Nature and Wellness at Alabama’s State Parks at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. We took advantage of our wanderings at JWSP to brainstorm ideas for the six-week course. Rather than focus on the course, allow me to present this 44-second video promoting the course, and then move on to the potpourri of Nature delights we encountered in our Park sleuthing:

 

Potpourri of Park Delights

 

I enjoy the signs across the state welcoming me to our state parks. Shortly after entering Joe Wheeler, Wheeler Lake reached out to greet me.

JWSP

 

 

I am an avowed soft touch for clouds, water, and forested shoreline. The view from the boat launch did not disappoint. If I had not entered forestry school, I may have pursued meteorology. I admit to a lifelong addiction to and fascination with all things weather. In fact, forestry is inseparable from weather: tree planting and soil moisture; prescribed fire and wind, humidity, and smoke dispersal; road maintenance and storm forecasts. The fair weather clouds in the photos below don’t portend an incoming storm, although a local isolated thunderstorm did drop 1.31 inches at my home (40 miles to the east) that evening. Since then, I have measured just 0.40 inches over the intervening 48 days!

JWSP

 

I recorded this 0:32 video from the dock at the First Creek inlet boat launch.

 

White morning glory hung tightly to the marina railing near the Joe Wheeler State Park Lodge. Finding Nature’s many gifts and delights does not require incursion deep into the park backcountry.

JWSP

 

We appreciated the late summer frost flower in full bloom.

JWSP

 

Renee and I found both kousa dogwood, an Asian ornamental dogwood resistant to anthracnose fungal infection, and Carolina buckthorn near the Lodge, both bearing ripe fruit..

JWSP

 

I’ve photographed this unique loblolly pine tree on prior visits to the park. I wanted Renee to see some of Nature’s hidden magic. The horizontal ridges result from sapsucker bird pecks introducing some type of organism (fungal, bacterial, or viral) that triggers swelling and ridging along the axes. I have never seen such raised ridges on hardwood trees,

JWSP

 

We also found several downed logs heavily infected with Trametes fungi. These wood decay agents are strictly dead wood consumers, one of the many organisms that return dead and down woody debris to the forest floor. Renee carries a tiger stuffee to serve as a frame of reference for forest critters, novelties, and all manner of delights.

JWSP

 

We photographed the tiger on the sweetgum roots below. A strong wind leaned the tree 20 degrees downwind, lifting the windward roots until the tree found sufficient support on a downwind neighbor. A future blow may uproot the tree…or the sweetgum may resist the pressure for many decades. Nothing in Nature is static.

 

JWSP

 

Much of the woodland extending from the Lodge to the Day Use area and campground shows clear evidence of having been pastured when the COE and TVA acquired the impoundment buffer lands 90 years ago. Evidence of such past land use includes black locust exiting the present forest and large muscadine vines fully enveloping the 90-year-old main canopy. I snapped the image below right during a March 2023 LearningQuest tour I led in the same stand in March 2023.

JWSP

Joe Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black locust is an aggressive pioneer species, rapidly colonizing abandoned pasture across north Alabama. The species commonly declines when the stand reaches age 70-plus years. I included these two images of dead black locust in this same stand from a January 2022 nature photography course I co-led at the park. Here’s the Great Blue Heron photo-essay I published about the declining black locust stand in March 2022: https://stevejonesgbh.com/2022/03/22/black-locust-decline-and-two-champion-trees-at-joe-wheeler-state-park/

Joe WheelerJoe Wheeler

 

The evidence of the former black locust stand occupying this area of Joe Wheeler State Park is slowly disappearing…with mortality and subsequent decay and organic matter recycling. I have championed the idea of systematically establishing permanent photo-points within all 22 Alabama State Parks to document and chronicle changes every 5-10 years. The demise of the black locust forest would be memorialized in the historic photo record.

Chimney Memorial within the Campground

 

Renee and I examined this old chimney on a hilltop within the campground. Like every tree within a forest stand, the chimney has a story to tell. Its tale will become part of the education and interpretation narrative at Joe Wheeler State Park.

JWSP

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • I am so pleased that the Alabama State Park System has appointed Renee Raney as Chief of Education and Interpretation!
  • Every tree, every stand, and every forest within our State Parks has a compelling story to tell.
  • Albert Einstein understood the wisdom of Nature education and interpretation: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

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: “©2023 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Vision:

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

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

 

Steve’s Three Books

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

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

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

Steve's BooksJoe 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 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.

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.

 

 

Old CCC Camp Tranquility at Oak Mountain State Park

Fellow retired forester Chris Stuhlinger and I visited Oak Mountain State Park on June 8, 2023. I focus this Post on our exploration of Camp Tranquility, constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps artisans to house the work crews assigned to build infrastructure at the Park.

The 1930s photograph below left depicts a youthful group at the entrance sign. The sign indicates Oak Mountain State Park even as it references the National Park Service and the US Department of the Interior. The crew below right is clearing and grading Peavine Road in the 1930s. Note the cutover forest, which in time developed into the typical second-growth forest that covers most of the Park’s 11,600 acres.

OAK MSP

 

Camp Tranquility housed the CCC crews through the 30s. Once WWII absorbed the Corps workers, the Camp eventually transitioned to the Boy Scouts of America after the War.

Although this was my first visit to the site, I had previously spent nights at the Park’s Tranquility Lake cabins. The lake lies just 100 vertical feet below the Camp summit, on the hill at left in the image below right.

Oak MSPOak MSP

 

The CCC’s stonework is notoriously permanent, in this case appearing unweathered 90 years after being laid around the flag pole. This cabin stands at the hilltop peak, clearly the main building for the Boy Scout camp. I wonder what morning reveries sounded to greet the new day during CCC days…and subsequent to them.

Oak MSP

 

I recorded this 39-second video to capture the timeless hominess of the camp.

 

What incredible workmanship these stone masons exhibited! I puzzled with how many coats of forest green paint preserve the cabins. How many young scouts wandered home from camp with green paint accenting their camp uniforms? How many rich memories persisted into adulthood?

Oak MSP

 

Did those scouts appreciate that an entire generation of CCC stalwarts learned their life trades building the Camp and the park, then ventured into WWWII saving the world from absolute evil? Late at night atop Tranquility Camp Hill, do the echoes of thousands of hard working young men and adventuresome scouts brighten the darkness? Are memories alive in these woods?

Oak MSP

Oak MSP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe I felt their presence. We strolled through the Camp, musing about the past. Only the buildings reflect the 90-year-old Camp. The forest, while some trees date back to those long-ago days, does not resemble the forest surrounding the Camp in the 1930s. Individual trees and the forest they reside within change over the years and decades.

 

The photo below depicts a cluster of scouts reviewing a scouting Handbook. The photo is faded, yet I can only speculate when the shutter exposed the image. The haircuts and manner of dress place the image around the time of my youth, but I am far less than certain. Lets say 1960. Note the tree to the right and the stem in front.

Oak MSP

 

Here is the same cabin the day we visited. The tree in front is gone. The one to the right is now 18 inches in diameter. The forest around the cabin is much matured, a deep forest. Oh, to have CCC-era photos of Camp Tranquility! I am now ever-more committed to sleuthing the interconnected human and natural history of our state parks and the Civilian Conservation Corps. I want park naturalists and interpreters armed with historic facts and photographs charting the pace of forest development since the 1930. Then I wish to see each park establish permanent photo points now to systematically monitor development at those points from this day forward.

Oak MSP

 

These two images provide a human interest snapshot in mid-summer 2023, including an Eagle Scout footnote from 2012. What will remain in 2033? In 2043? What of the tree that I’m leaning on above? Let’s find a way to memorialize some of the stories that are yet to be told.

Oak MSPOak MSP

 

Oak Mountain State Park contains a rich on-the-ground library of tales and remains from the 1930s CCC era. Let’s capture that history with current photos, descriptions, GPS coordinates of features like this old CCC-constructed culvert.

Oak MSP

 

Just seven days after my Oak Mountain SP visit I failed my stress test, leading to my June 19, 2023 triple bypass surgery. I am writing these reflection August 24, a little more than nine weeks after surgery. I feel confident that I will regain strength, endurance, energy, and general wherewithal to continue pursuit of this mission. However, none of us can guarantee even a single tomorrow.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations, from a single Louis Bromfield quote (Pleasant Valley):

  • 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 it better by wisdom, knowledge, and hard work… 

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: “©2023 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

Steve's Books

 

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