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.
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.
This peninsula hosted a picnic pavilion and an observation silo, with both lower and upper decks accessible to visitors.
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!
I hadn’t realized the intensity of blue until I began writing the narrative — incredible!
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!
Special Features of Wind Creek State Park
Wind Creek invites equine campers, accommodating their needs with 20 dedicated camping sites.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The forest type quickly transitions to mixed pine and hardwood as the trail dipped into a draw and then back to an upland..
The Park employs prescribed fire to manage forest understory and influence future composition.
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.
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).
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.”
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And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- 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 Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship 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.