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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.

 

 

 

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.