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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

Post-Surgery Return to Nature Wanderings: Afternoon and Sunset at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park

The Healing Power of Nature

 

I offer this Great Blue Heron photo essay to symbolize celebration, perseverance, and progress. This is my initial first-hand Nature wandering since my January 23, 2024 total left knee replacement surgery. I’m officially no longer on the injured reserve roster! Judy and I stayed overnight on March 12, 2024, in one of the Lakeside Cottages at Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park. Let me share reflections, observations, photographs, and one brief video from my Nature (and family) immersion that evening!

We checked in to the cottage by 3:00 PM. The deck stood 50 feet from the water’s edge. We quickly adjusted to the waterside tranquility. Long ago I realized that my taste in art preferred paintings that looked like photographs…and photographs that reminded me of paintings. The photograph at right met my criterion.

Joe WSP

 

The setting and mood brought John Muir’s wisdom to mind: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Accompanied by my soulmate and our two Alabama grandsons (Jack, 16, and Sam, almost 10), I felt the healing essence of The Nature of This Place coursing through all five portals: body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit. My mental, emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual well-being soared!

A small dock provided a shoreline perch for recording this 32-second video at 4:14 PM, serving my intention of capturing at least one supplement to my routine still photos.

 

Joe Wheeler State Park encompasses approximately 2,500 acres bordering Lake Wheeler. The entire forested shoreline in these photos (4:18 PM) and in the video lies within the park. These photos represent Earth, Life, and Time, in combination imploring our obligation to practice informed and responsible Nature-Stewardship. This renewal visit to the Park, less than an hour’s drive from my home, corroborated my retirement mission and vision:

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.

JOE WSPJoe WSP

 

I recall the days (was it just weeks ago?!) when Judy and I would visit the Alabama grandsons from afar (we lived in Alaska when Jack was born). He and I would explore Nature, Jack clinging to my index finger as we strolled, or with him perched on my shoulders. I was then the larger, stronger, and more sure-footed of the two. Now, who leans upon and draws strength and stability from whom? Like everything else in Nature, the cycle of life spins. To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Joe WSP

 

The cottages sit at the base of a forested hillside. Deer thrive throughout the Park, predictably emerging as the sun sinks (4:54 and 4:58 PM below) to feed on new spring greenery along the roads.

Joe WSP

 

The Park’s roads have a new surface, a macadam pavement composed of fifty percent traditional asphalt mixed with fifty percent shredded used tires. Funded by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the project exemplifies more responsible resource consumption and renewal, and cost reduction.

Joe WSP

 

Touring the Park, we counted 17 deer and spotted an immature bald eagle above the Day Use Area, we returned to our cottage to chronicle the waning day (6:23 PM) and witness the setting sun (6:43 PM).

Joe WSP

 

I’ve tapped the written wisdom of historic conservationists as I’ve progressed along my healing and recovery journey. Rachel Carson observed: 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.

Joe WSP

 

The photo below (7:05 PM), taken from the cottage’s gathering room, showcases the westward sunset-facing orientation. Weather permitting, occupants are assured a spectacular evening year-round, whether winter or summer solstice, irrespective of the 60-degree shift across the two extreme points of sunset (winter sinking 30 degrees south of due west: summer setting 30 degrees north of due west).

Joe WSP

 

I often turn to the extraordinary Nature wisdom that Leonardo da Vinci beautifully expressed more than 500 years ago: Vitality and beauty are gifts of Nature, for those who live according to its laws.

After sunset, we relocated to the grill, where we roasted marshmallows. I’ve learned that my iPhone camera harvests far more light than my naked eyes. Judy and the boys were quite difficult to see before snapping the image. The image translates nearly total darkness to evening’s gloaming.

Joe WSP

 

Friends visited us when we exited one final time to the deck. Two raccoons appeared, obviously demonstrating that they anticipated goodies from cottage occupants!

Joe WSP

 

As we settled into our comfortable beds, my mind roamed to an anonymous prayer I recently saw…a revised, Nature-oriented version of the “If I should die before I wake” recitation familiar to my youth.

If I should die before I wake
Is a certain prayer to make
But one should not make the mistake
To believe it is the only.


For if I should wake before I die
I would finally, truly, see the sky,
With stars, birds, leaves all wheeling by
And I would know completely:
All is holy

 

Its words and sentiment rang true during my re-emergence into the realm of recovery and renewed Nature wanderings.

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • For if I should wake before I die; I would finally, truly, see the sky; With stars, birds, leaves all wheeling by; And I would know completely: All is holy
  • Vitality and beauty are gifts of Nature, for those who live according to its laws. (da Vinci)
  • 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 #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!

 

 

Mid-July Afternoon, Evening, Sunset, and Sunrise from the Lodge at Lake Guntersville State Park!

Thirty days following triple bypass surgery, I ventured forth to my first professional meeting since the grand opening (of my chest cavity!). Judy drove us to Lake Guntersville State Park, a little more than an hour from my Madison home. The Alabama State Park Foundation Board gathered on July 19 for an evening social and dinner at the Park Lodge. The next morning we departed after breakfast for our July 20, Foundation Board meeting in the conference room within the actual entrance to Cathedral Caverns State Park, a naturally air-conditioned venue!

Because I was not yet trail-ready, I present with this Post a series of photographs from our Lodge balcony in the afternoon and at sunset on July 19, and from a morning Lodge-vicinity stroll and balcony dawn/sunrise on July 20, 2023. Sky appreciation seldom requires a deep-forest hike. In fact, our full-canopy summer forests are not conducive at all to cloud and sky observation or photography.

Late Afternoon

We checked in to our Lodge accommodation mid-afternoon on July 19. By 5:00 PM the balcony offered a late afternoon view of high clouds, a sweeping Lake Guntersville vista, and the accordant summits of the Cumberland Plateau geography, all draped in second-growth hardwood forests. The viewscape below transects from WSW (left) to ENE (right).

Lake GSP

 

The LGSP campground sits dead-center of that continuum, directly below (350 vertical feet) the Lodge and our balcony.Lake GSP

 

As I increasingly remember to do, I recorded this early evening 30-second video, multiplying the power of the still photographs.

 

Sunset

We enjoyed our Lodge social and dinner. I excused myself from our good company at sunset, drawn to the broad Lodge concrete overlook at 7:55 PM. What can I add to the beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration with my feeble words?! This view amplifies the power of one of my two taglines: Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing! I remain on a number of recovery prescription medications. However, no capsule or tablet can match the recovery benefits of such an evening perspective. I watched with fascination and deep appreciation for both my repaired heart, courtesy of modern medicine, reliably coursing blood through my body, and enabling me to relish Nature’s gift of yet another priceless evening.

Lake GSP

 

Once more, as I did earlier from our balcony, I captured still images to the WSW and ENE at 7:56 and 7:59 PM, respectively.

Lake GSP

 

The sky and its lake surface reflection, without paying heed to cardinal direction, served as my primary attraction at 8:02 PM!

Lake GSP

 

 

Again, I captured the moment with this 42-second video at 8:03 PM!

 

If quizzed, how would I respond to the question, “Which do you prefer? Sunrise or sunset?” My answer depends on whether at the moment I am welcoming a new day…or bidding adieu to one just ending. Similar to a query asking which of the many places we have lived did we like best. Our answer, in full and honest disclosure, is where we happened to be living at that time. We’ve bloomed wherever we were planted. The same holds true for morning’s dawn and evening’s gloaming. I’ll accept whatever joyous day-transition is presented, embracing the moment!

Dawn

 

Dawn came soon enough, this photo from a roadside observation overlook just a quarter-mile from the Lodge at 5:41 AM, well before sunrise. The campground lies immediately below.

Lake GSP

 

Just five minutes later, a doe and her yearling greeted us across the road adjacent to the golf course parking lot.

Lake GSP

 

True to my commitment, I recorded this 22-second video at 5:47 AM.

 

The golf course, a far-from-wild element of the Park landscape, offered a big dawn sky backdropping a lone loblolly pine and a grove of Virginia pine at 5:50 and 5:53 AM, respectively. Pinked-topped dawn cumulus would not have been visible were it not for the golf course.

Lake GSPLake GSP

 

 

 

 

 

With age, I am no longer a wildland purist. Give me an occasional State Park golf course with its open skies, edge habitat, meadow rough, and even its manicured greens. Sure, I remain a woodland enthusiast, yet I embrace a varied landscape.

 

Sunrise

 

The rising sun, even before it breaks the horizon, brightens the overhead sky, flooding our Lodge balcony firmament with intensifying blue at 6:17 AM, looking once more to the WSW.

Lake GSP

 

As with yesterday’s afternoon and sunset photographs, here’s the 6:17 AM view center-transit to the campground (below left) and to the ENE (below right).

Lake GSP

 

I recorded this 30-second video from our Lodge room balcony at 6:22 AM.

 

Slowly, inexorably, dawn shifts to sunrise from 6:18 to 6:33 AM. At the risk of repeating the obvious, Nature enriches those of us willing to avail ourselves of her everyday gifts, with abundant beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration…with unlimited Nature-Inspired Life and Living; and Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!

Lake GSP

 

I shall always remember my post-surgery return to an Alabama State Park, rich with aging and healing relevance!

 

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections

 

I offer these observations:

  • Nature enriches those of us willing to avail ourselves of her everyday gifts, with abundant beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration.
  • With age, I am no longer a wildland purist. Sure, I remain a woodland enthusiast, yet I embrace a varied landscape.
  • Neither sunrise nor sunset is superior — each is a work of creative spiritual genius! 

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 BooksLake GSP

 

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.