Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for February, 2010

Carolina Wren, Wedding Party and a Blond Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail Blonde Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail Blonde Chipmunk

When I entered the park today I was greeted by a screeching Squirrel, actually it’s a cat like sound.  I don’t remember ever hearing Squirrels in Oregon or Pennsylvania making this noise. They are definitely a vocal group in Hot Springs National Park.  On the Tufa Terrace I am treated to the site of a male Cardinal pecking for food.  The past couple of weeks  the Cardinals had been chasing each other out of Trees.  It seemed odd to see one relatively still.

The Carriage Road was a delight with blossoms in bushes and Wildflowers along the path.  I was surprised to see a Mourning Dove exit a bush, I had never seen one in the lower park areas. On the Dead Chief Trail a Carolina Wren waited patiently for the sun to crest the trees and then broke out in sweet song to greet the day. The song was spectacular and it was worth waiting to hear it.

On the Short Cut Trail I looked over at some leaves and noticed a little face peering out.  A  lovely little blond Chipmunk was staring at me.  After a couple of photos I moved on quickly as I had heard a crow earlier and  I did not want it to see the Chipmunk because I was standing there.  A bit further up the Trail Nature had hung out another Valentine for me to see.

Today the Pagoda had a lovely surprise, a wedding party.  Brittany and Jason were having pre wedding photos taken, later today they would be Mr. & Mrs. Anersen.  Best wishes for your new life together as husband and wife..  Thank You Jason for your service to our country.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail was so quiet, no birds, no small mammals and no fellow hikers.  My hike along the Trail had a meditative quality and before I knew it I was  at the Hot Springs Mountain Road.  I decided to hike up the Road to the North Mountain Overlook.  As I was passing a parking area an SUV pulled up a man got out followed by a large dog, the dog darted out into the road and was nearly hit by a car.  Then he bolted down the trail as the owner casually strolled across the street.

From the overlook I dropped down to the Upper Dogwood Trail, now that the weather was warm the trail was becoming more active. Small birds were darting about squirrels were chattering, the normally quiet Trail was so full of life.  It is so exciting watching the park change each day.

From the Upper Dogwood I connected to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, hiked back up the Mountain and traveled down the Peak Trail to the bottom.  On the way down I passed two groups with children and it made me happy to see families out enjoying the park. The next generation of fellow Nature lovers.

Thank you again for sharing my adventures.

Sweet Chipmunks, Lovely Birds and a note to the NPS

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk No. 2

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk No. 2

Weekends always show a decline in wildlife populations along the trails.  The two main culprits are increased numbers of dogs on the trails and a higher volume of vehicles on the road racing to the top of the mountain.  This combination often renders the forest near silent.  I will being trying to enter the park much earlier on weekends to avoid both types of traffic.

The lower park was quiet so I headed directly to the Carriage Road and was treated to a Robin serenading the first light from the sun. I Love starting my day with a song.  As I access the Dead Chief Trail I am told off by a Blue Jay trying to teach two younger birds.  The meaning of the stare and squawk are understood and I continued my hike up the trail.  At the top I encountered a beautiful little Black-Capped Chickadee flitting through the Trees.  They always make me feel happy with their sweet song and lovely little black and white  faces.

On the short cut trail a jogger whizzes past me head phones on, he is missing the best tunes and scenery on the planet.  When I reached the Pagoda a car is sitting doors wide open stereo blaring, a van arrives opened it’s doors providing competing audio blasts.  By the time another arrived with it’s own sound preferences I knew it was time for me to move on.  I dropped down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and photographed a lovely little wildflower and am on my way.

The trail is peaceful and I enjoy the sound of the Juncos as they moved from Tree to Tree.  At a small flow of water over the rocks I watched as a Dark-Eyed Junco took a sip from the trickling water.  Farther along I see a sweet Chipmunk darting through the leaves to reach the cover of a log.  So fast I often wonder how I even see them. Near the end of the eastern part of the trail loop I catch  movement out of the corner of my eye and it’s another Chipmunk.  This time they are on a log near the path and they have full cheek pouches.  I am very happy to see they are finding plenty of food today.

I hike down the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the Goat Rock Trail and part way along a sweet Labradoodle runs up to me, licks my hand and heads back to his owner.  The owner immediately attaches a leash not knowing I have already seen his dog off leash.  He says the best part of his week is letting his dog run through the park.  All I can think of is the fragile little Chipmunks that might not survive being chased by his Dog.  As sweet as he is, he is a danger to the small creatures who live in the park.

As I near the inclines I spot some lovely wildflowers blooming, a sure sign Spring is on the way.  Each little purple flower is like a cheerful face looking up towards the sun.  There can be only joy at the sight of Spring’s first flowers. I love the upper part of the Goat Rock Trail, it has not had gravel laid down for many years and my footfall is silent upon the earth and moss.  I smile as the forest spirits spin and lift individual leaves on swirling breezes as I move softly through the Trees.

Back on the crunchy gravel Hot Springs Mountain Trail then on to the Honeysuckle Trail where I hear a familiar and favorite voice in the forest.  The voice belongs to a tiny Black-Throated Green Warbler flying in and out of a Short Leaf Pine Tree.  So fast I am barely able to keep an eye on her. From the Honeysuckle I connect with the Peak Trail and I am blessed to see a gorgeous Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  Her movements on and over the branches is a ballet in the sky and reminds me of circ du solei.

As I walk down the second to last incline I glance to my right and in the bushes I see another little Chipmunk. It is frozen watching a bird tossing leaves under the bush next to them.  It appears I am the least of their worries and I am glad they are well hidden form the crows above.

Another beautiful day living in paradise, and it ends with a spectacular Moonrise from behind Hot Springs Mountain. I had never seen a Moon Display so amazing.

Love to You ALL!

PS: Note to NPS of Hot Springs, Arkansas

Sparrow, Wren, Vulture, Ovenbird and more on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park, AR Entrance Carolina Wren

Hot Springs National Park, AR Entrance Carolina Wren

It was a sunny, cloudy and everything in-between kind of day, perfect for hiking. Stopped by the Turkey Vulture  Nesting area and received a friendly fly over.  Once the foliage reappears they will have much more privacy and unless a person knows the exact location they will likely go unnoticed.

The Tufa Terrace was a squirrel commuter zone, they all seemed to be on the same mission, food. Hiding in Trees, running up Rocks and leaping through the air it was a wonderful sight.  When I reached the Carriage Road the Robins were in full voice as a Cedar Waxwing made an appearance.  Every time I see this mixed flock of Robins and  Cedar Waxwings I wonder how the two groups became a single team.

As I hike up the Dead Chief Trail, it was lovely being surrounded by the ever growing greenery.  The leaves flickered in the wind allowing the sunshine to glimmer on the path ahead. There was a familiar bird call and I turned to see a sweet little Tufted Titmouse in the branch above me.  It is a sight that always makes me feel joyous.  Further up the trail and I can see the how different the bend of the Dead Chief looks in comparison to the Short Cut Trail.  The Dead Chief Trail is a preview of coming events for the rest of the park, it resides on the warm south side of the mountain

Up the Short Cut Trail to the Top of Hot Springs Mountain where I am greeted by a sweet White-Throated Sparrow.  It’s markings confused me at first as it has gray where I usually see white on the top of the head.  There is however no mistaking the definite white on the throat.

At the Pagoda a gang of three Blue Jays sat in the tallest tree and squawked a warning to every bird that landed.  The only one they could not scare off was my friend a Northern Mockingbird.  Even when one Blue Jay landed in the same bush they did not budge.  When the Blue Jays get together they can be slightly annoying.

Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I got a lovely shot of an Ovenbird. They have beautiful markings on the chest and a defining white ring around the eyes.  Continuing on the trail I see the sad sight of the ever present Rent-A-Center helium balloons blowing in the the breeze.  Who knows how long they will polluting the park.  As I photographed the balloons I heard a familiar bird call followed by a tapping sound. I looked up to see a wonderful Red-Bellied Woodpecker looking for a meal in the highest branches of a near-by Tree.

A bit further up the trail I can see lovely Dark-Eyed Juncos flying in and out of the now bare vines.  Their rapid maneuvers at high speed are always a delight to watch. On the West side of the mountain and I look up in time to catch another fly over by a Turkey Vulture.  They are so graceful soaring above the Trees riding a beautiful breeze.

The Honeysuckle Trail is quiet as I pick my way through the loose rock sections of the path.  Trying to find solid footing is often useless and it’s better to go with the flow and skate down the slopes.  Passing the Fountain street exit I head back up the mountain and pass my favorite rock in the Trails, it reminds me of a Sea Serpent rising out of the ocean.

I take the Honeysuckle to the Peak Trail, cut over to the Tufa and back out the Park entrance.  As I head down the ramp that lead out of the Park a beautiful Carolina Wren begins to sing about the suddenly changing weather in the Park.  It’s persistence to relay the message is exuberant and continuous for several minutes.  It is a wonderful moment to finish my visit to the park.

Open your heart to Nature and she will show you many wondrous secrets.
Love to You ALL!

New Feathered Friends Turkey Vultures on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park, AR Turkey Vulture #1 In Flight

Hot Springs National Park, AR Turkey Vulture #1 In Flight

Hot Springs National Park, AR Turkey Vulture #2 Perched

Hot Springs National Park, AR Turkey Vulture #2 Perched

Remember you can  click on any photo in this blog to see a larger view

I am starting today’s post not from the beginning as I would do normally.  Instead I am Introducing you to two new friends I met while hiking today, a pair of Turkey Vultures. It is the second time I have seen them in the same area perching and on the ground.  They nest on the ground and I might have stumbled upon their nesting site. They are settling into a new location in the park and I would prefer to let them do so without a crowd coming to look at them. Turkey Vultures DO NOT eat live prey, they are Nature’s sanitation department.  They clean up the park by eating deceased herbivores, this keeps diseases from being spread. Their presence is going to help provide a healthy eco-system for Hot Springs National Park.  I have added many images below so you can all see and admire these amazing birds.

Cold with sunny skies greeted me as I entered the park this morning.  At the Head of the Peak Trail a Lovely female Cardinal landed in a tree to my side, she was catching the first rays of the morning sun. On the Carriage Road a Robin sang perched in a Tree with tiny new pink blossoms forming. It was a perfect start to my hike in the park.

On the Dead Chief Trail the bird song was lively.  I was happy to see an old friend a Tufted Titmouse and meet a new one a Black-Capped Chickadee.  As I neared the Short Cut Trail I heard a familiar call, a tap tap tap and looked up to see a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  A few yards up the trail the forest went silent, then I heard a Kaw Kaw Kaw.  I looked up and spotted several crows crisscrossing the skies above.

When I reached the top of Hot Springs Mountain the only bird I could spot was a Carolina Chickadee.  I hoped they would take cover soon.  I arrived earlier than normal at the Pagoda, the land had a dark cast in contrast to the bright sky above.   I headed down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and a lovely friend flew up to greet me, a Northern Mockingbird.  A quick hello then a dive deep into the bushes. The trail was busy a young couple ran past giggling and a another couple walking their dog passed by deep in conversation.

Further along I saw a sweet group of Dark-Eyed Juncos al perched in tree as I passed. I rarely see a Junco sitting still so this was a wonderful treat.  All during my hike I began to notice a bit more green appearing in the forest.  I Love to see even the smallest changes.  The Honeysuckle Trail was as always a wonderful hike, up hill down hill and everything in-between. It was however very quiet, I missed the chirping of birds and chattering of squirrels.

When I reached the Peak Trail I could hear loud bird song.  The tiniest body a Black-Throated Warbler was filling the lower park, this little bird has a powerful voice.  Another little bird arrived, a Black-Capped Chickadee and flitted from branch to branch. These two tiny creatures were a beautiful sight. As I reached the bottom of the trail a Male Cardinal shot out of the bushes like a bright red missile. His precision flying through the bushes was thrilling to watch. It was a perfect end to my morning on the trails.

Nature nourishes our soul.

Birds, Wildflowers and Nature’s Van Gogh Heart

Hot Springs Mountain Trail  Natures Van Gogh Heart

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Natures Van Gogh Heart

The sun shone brightly with only a sheer coating of clouds and the Robins where singing their greeting to the new day.  The Dead Chief Trail was resplendent, green leaves had begun to appear along the path. A cool green tunnel to begin my hike, it was magical. Again I spotted a pair of Blue Jays preparing a nest in a tall tree near the top of the second incline. Preparations for new life in the park were abundant.

Color filled the Short Cut Trail in tiny details often missed when we hike.  Beautiful layers of Rock, Moss and Lichen, a tiny gray striped fly and fallen leaves in jewel like colors. Treasures all waiting to be noticed.

When I reach the top I could see two large Nests under construction, I wondered who would be laying eggs there soon.  At the Pagoda a familiar face was waiting for me, a sweet Northern Mockingbird.  A brief hello and then off into the bushes for cover.  The 6 Crows, 1 Hawk and a Turkey Vulture were all on the prowl.  After I took my view shot a small Yellow-Rumped Warbler appeared, I was relieved when she flew away.  The grass below the Pagoda was beginning to change color as little purple flowers began to sprout along the edges by the Trail.

Here too along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail it was little details in the vastness of the forest. Sweet leafy  Nests, Lichen painted Rocks and a Gnarled Root with a Heart that made me think of Van Gogh.  Half way along the trail I met up with Jay (half of  the Lovebirds) he too was enjoying the sunshine before the next round of storms arrived.  The weather channel was predicting rain or snow for both Friday and Monday.  I of course was leaning toward snow.

Hot Springs National Park, AR Peak Trail Tufted Titmouse

Hot Springs National Park, AR Peak Trail Tufted Titmouse

I continued to hike the entire Hot Springs Mountain Trail Loop then over to the Peak Trail.  A lovely little surprise awaited me there, a beautiful Tufted Titmouse.  Barely visible in the tangled wood I felt blessed to have seen him/her hopping and feeding.  Near the bottom of the trail a lovely White-Throated Sparrow was nestled into the shimmering green leaves. I felt joyous as I left the park as I  thought of the preparation for new life.

Nature was renewing, regrowing and rejuvenating the forest.
Love to You All,

Fungus, Spores, Lichen, Woodpeckers, Warblers, Jays and More

 Hot Springs National Park Gulpha Gorge Trail Blue Jay

Hot Springs National Park Gulpha Gorge Trail Blue Jay

“Everything is significant, if we move in delicate wonder the Universe reveals itself to us.” ~ Lee Hiller

Nature revealed herself at every turn today, on wings,  little paws, the strength of trees and beauty of rocks. Each Step, each breath, all appeared as I hiked.  On the Carriage Road a lovely squirrel peered out at me from a leafy tree branch. After a few minutes climbed down the tree and bounded across the path in front of me.

On the Dead Chief Trail a Blue Jay landed in the high branches of a tree with a twig in it’s mouth.  Another arrived and it appeared they were preparing to build a nest.  A little further ahead my frequent companion the Red-Bellied Woodpecker greeted me with his familiar call. It felt like the forest was celebrating and I was being included in the festivities.

As I made my way up the Short Cut Trail to the top of Hot Springs Mountain I could not helping smiling.  The forest had changed from the day before, life was busting from every corner of the park.  Up top in the picnic area White-Throated Sparrows welcomed my arrival.  In the tree above them I spotted a Male Downy Woodpecker and was surprised when a Red-Bellied Woodpecker arrived too.  It appeared I was being followed by a red head.

At the Pagoda I saw my favorite resident of the area a Northern Mockingbird.  It appeared to be pacing about int gravel the in front of the Pagoda stairs.  The view was lovely from the pagoda, scattered clouds framed the sun perfectly I picked my way down the slope to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the Northern Mockingbird landed on the same bush above my shoulder for the third day in a row.  He/She waited for me to take a photo and then headed into the bushes.

Hiking softly along the trail I saw a flicker of wings and turned to see a tiny Hutton’s Vireo in the vines to my right. One blink and I would have missed this little sweetie.  As I continued the call of a familiar friend echoed before me and I saw  a red head in a tall tree. It made me giggle, I had the best shadow in the forest.

Not far up the trail a movement on the left caught my eye, a sweet Chipmunk was on the move.  Ii was the first time I had witnessed a high dive off a rock into the leaves.  They popped up looked at me and began cleaning their little battle scared face. A few minutes of cleaning then another dive under the leaves.

As I reached the trail head I decided to travel down the Gulpha Gorge trail to the Goat Rock Trail. One first incline I could hear Blue Jays chattering all around me, I want so much to know what they were talking about.  On the third incline a beautiful Blue Jay kept flying from tree to tree escorting me to the Goat Rock Trail.  Along the way we were join by a red head.  Could it be the same one or was the park filled with them today?

The Rocks along the Goat Rock Trail were spectacular, each a work of art.  Lichen and mold painted each one, accenting the already natural beauty.   Again the red head appeared watching my every step, calling loudly to ensure I would look up to see them.  As I climbed higher I was treated to the site of several  tiny wildflowers hidden in the storm debris.  A tiny flash of black and white landed above me, it was a female Downy Woodpecker.  I hoped she would eventually meet up with the male I had seen earlier in the day.  Half way up the trail and again my shadow cried out see me, I am still with you.

Reaching the last part of the Goat Rock Trail I was delighted to hear/see a Black-Throated Green Warbler.  It was all alone on the path and not joined by the usually visible Carolina Chickadee that lived on this section of the Trail.  To say I was surprised would be an understatement, when I turned toward the path I could see a certain red head in the tree above me.  It was a blessing to have his companionship.

I connected with the Upper Dogwood trail and yes I still had my shadow. The sleeping forest was waiting for the spring blossoms to appear but winter had decorated in her own fashion.  Lichen on the bark of many tree gave the forest a ghostly glow and was accented by fungus in Large fan and tiny oyster shell shapes in a variety of colors.

The east section of the Hot springs Mountain Trail was very quite and only an occasional pip could be heard.  As I glanced skyward I could see why, three large crows were circling above.  The only movement near me was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet heading to a new tree.

On the Honeysuckle Trail the bird song returned as I headed toward the Fountain Trail to leave the park.  A loud call rang out and I looked up to see a red head.  This time I knew it could not be the same one, I was blessed to see my first female Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  It was the perfect end to a wonder-filled day in the park.

Thank You for joining me on my hike, remember to go out side and play.

Twilight Forest: Lichen, Moss, Rocks, Wood and Fungus

Hot Springs Mt. Trail Lichen Fungus Cream Rust Fan Log

Hot Springs Mt. Trail Lichen Fungus Cream Rust Fan Log

The partly cloudy day became totally overcast, it was as if it was Twilight during my hike.   The lightening storms yesterday had been very violent so many of the smaller birds and mammals were in hiding. The Promenade to the Carriage Road was very quiet, with only the occasional pip. I could not imagine how frightening the lightening must have been to those who live in the park.  I looked up to see a tiny bird flitting around in the evergreen above me, it was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, a joy to see it’s tiny beak.

As I headed up the Dead Chief Trail I realized that there was a bit more green on the trail. The dark skies has made the green standout, showing me what I had missed in the bright sun.  As I move up the trail my shadow, a Red Bellied Woodpecker taunted me from the top of a pine tree.  Moving up the trail a lovely Carolina Chickadee lands briefly and a sweet White Throated Sparrow pokes it’s head up from the leaves.

As I switch over to the Short Cut Trail I can see the silhouette of my traveling companion a Red Bellied Woodpecker high in a Tree to my right.  Further up the trail a White Throated Sparrow is hiding in vines that resemble a cage.  Everywhere I look lichen is painting the landscape with textures of green, white, gray and yellow. The Trees and Rocks all appear to be a viable canvas for it’s art.

Up top the small birds are still few in numbers and the sky is taking on a darker cast.  The view from the Pagoda reveals a stormy sky over the valley below. As I drop down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I notice tiny white Wildflowers are about to burst open.  The next few sunny days will be a spectacular show of the little blossoms.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail is a series of treasures being unwrapped before me.  A sweet little Orange-Crowned Warbler flew in and out within seconds.  The woods around me seemed to be changing with each step I take, an unveiling of new growth.  In forest below me a gray Squirrel sat quietly nibbling on a snack, and in a tree rising above him I see only it;s silhouette, then slowly the shape of a squirrel revealed itself to my eyes.

As I hike sadly in the highest trees I see a bunch of balloons tangled in the limbs.  The logo of RAC (Rent-A-Center) stamped on each one, these had travel to pollute the park all the way from Airport Way.  My heart sinks at the thought of the harm the dangling strings and rubber will likely cause to the gentle creatures of Hots Springs Mountain.  I wondered if RAC knew the damage their run-away balloons were bringing to the park.

The trail continued to be a colorful feast for the eyes. Lichen and Fungus decorated the forest in an exquisite array of hues, they were beautifully accented by delicate ferns and mosses.  When I reached the Honeysuckle Trail I was delighted to see magnificent rocks in all shapes and sizes adding to the colorful spectacle in the forest. I stopped every few feet to photograph a new one.

As I reach home I was cold but happy to have been a guest in Nature’s home for the entire morning.

In twilight the colors of the earth touched my heart.
Live with Love everyday… and learn to play.

Littering, Vandalism and Garbage Dumping on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Parl HSMT Helium Balloon 02/17/2010

Hot Springs National Park HSMT Helium Balloon 02/17/2010

Hot Springs National Park Pink Helium Balloon 02/16/2010

Hot Springs National Park Pink Helium Balloon 02/16/2010

Hiking through the park each day I have forced my eyes to look for the anomalies in the landscape so I can see Nature’s hidden treasures.  It has also meant I have seen the destructive side human behavior as well.  I started with the picture of the bright red and pink helium balloons because normally we would see them as representing a happy event.  They were brought into the park most likely in a car and when the doors were opened some escaped.  Getting stuck in Trees  and traveling deep in to the forest.  When they pop a small creature might try to eat it or get tangled in the string and at the very least the non-degradable waste will be trapped forever in the park.

Hot Springs National Park Vandaism Cross 01/25/2010

Hot Springs National Park Vandaism Cross 01/25/2010

Vandalism prevails throughout the park as well, even in the more remote areas that require hiking and climbing effort.  One of the saddest things I found was a cross carved into a Tree, so fresh it was still bleeding when I noticed it.  It hurt twice as I felt the pain of the Tree, a living creature and the shame that someone would do such a thing using a symbol of Christ.  I could not help but cry for the my friend who greeted me the first time I climbed up to see the view.  My first trip to this location had been on Feb 21st and when I returned in Feb 25th I found the evidence of the  assault on the tree.  It breaks my heart every time I visit the site to find peace.

I have found tagging on Trees, burnt initials and carving.  Gorgeous gray stones that were placed in 1914 covered in mindless graffiti that will likely mean nothing to those who left it in years to come.  It troubles me to think this is what others are inspired to do in such a beautiful and peace filled place.

Hot Springs National Park HSMT McDonalds Cup 02/20/2010

Hot Springs National Park HSMT McDonalds Cup 02/20/2010

Litter reappears ever day, it does not matter the number of times I myself  have picked it up and disposed of it properly.  Styrofoam, plastic, cellophane, tin cans, cigarette  packs and condoms litter every corner of the park.  Somedays the materials are so disgusting you need rubber gloves and a double bag.  Many times the litter is out of safe reach and I have to leave it behind.

Using NPS Receptacle for Personal Dumping 02/18/2010

Using NPS Receptacle for Personal Dumping 02/18/2010

One problem that is at least in part responsible for the litter is the always full National Park Service secure receptacles.  I used to think it was the fault of the NPS for not emptying them often enough.  I suspect this is not the case now as I have witnessed local residents driving up and dumping their personal waste in the NPS receptacles. I finally decided to photograph one of the perpetrators  in action.  Don’t blame the NSP for the garbage receptacles being full, blame guys like this.  He dumped two bags and a series of boxes that once contained 24 cans of beer/pop each.   He never flinched even when he knew I was taking photos.

Please respect our National Parks they are not garbage dumps, toilets, hookup venues or white boards.  Parents in many cases it starts with you.  Please teach your children to respect Nature and the beauty it brings to our lives.

Next time you hike in a park, walk on a beach, visit a playground bring gloves and a bag.  If we all take the time to remove the litter it will be a gift, a clean Nature space.

Love to You ALL

Birds, Squirrels and Valentines on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Trail Squirrel

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Trail Squirrel

It’s the morning before a storm day that will include lightening, most creatures are on the ground foraging for food. The rustling of leaves makes the park sound like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies just after the milk has been poured. A Blue Jay high in a tree with a big berry in his beak is the only bird I have spotted since entering the park.

The first half of the Dead Chief Trail incline yielded only a rustling sound and the occasional squawk over foraging space.  On the seconded incline a squirrel was sounding off with a series of screeches, then turned and ran down a tree. By the time I reached the Short Cut Trail the rustling was very loud and I would see squirrels dashing across the trail.  Their speed and agility was so amazing they were like gray blurs. Getting a photo was futile so I decided to just enjoy the show and try not to get run over.

When I reached the top I spotted a lovely little White-Throated Sparrow tossing leaves looking for a snack.  As I moved father ahead I could hear two distinctive bird calls, the Red Bellied Woodpecker and a Blue Jay.  Both were being loud and elusive , I laughed at the game of hide and seek they were playing.  My friendly shadows on the trail. As I headed to the Pagoda I noticed Nature had left me a Valentine.

At the Pagoda the skies were cloudy and the land had a blue tint, the birds were still hidden and the leaves still were being tossed.  I went down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and a Northern Mockingbird landed on a bush limb above me.  As I stood still to take it’s picture I could hear people up at the Pagoda talking about us and taking photos.  I had to hold back a laugh, suddenly I was a mammal in the Park to be photographed.

I hiked down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail on the east side of the mountain and followed it around to the west side.  From there I took the Honeysuckle Trail  to the Floral Trail.  I left the mountain still within the park in search of two new residents.  A male and female beaver had recently built a dam and I wanted to see the exact location so I could come back at sunset or dawn.  These times are according to my Internet research, the best time to see them.  Special thanks to the NPS for letting me know of their existence.

From the Beaver dam I headed back up the mountain to the Honeysuckle Trail over to the Peak Trail and down to the park entrance.  As always I am honored that you would join me on my journey with in the park.

Love and Play Everyday!
Love to All,

P.S. Never discount the beauty of any photo you have taken. All photos are wonderful, they show a moment in time that will never exist again.

A Sad Day for our National Parks

Before my hike I read an article in the Washington Post “Federal government to lift restrictions on guns in national parks”. Both Rick and I have started a petition to ask the Obama administration to reverse their decision to lift the ban on loaded weapons in our National Parks. This is not a gun debate, as we respect of people to responsibly posses firearm as many of our friends and neighbors do.  This is first  and foremost a safety in the workplace issue.

National Park Service Ranger James Alexander Cary

National Park Service Ranger James Alexander Cary

A petition has created in memory of the first National Park Ranger killed. James Alexander Cary – 31, shot by bootleggers Hot Springs National Park. March 12, 1927. The Park Service told me “It will depend on individual state gun laws, visitors will be able to carry concealed and loaded guns into parks.”  Hot Springs National Park has posted a notice regarding guns on their site.

The National Park Service Mission is to “…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.

I hike and blog from Hot Springs National Park nearly every day and am saddened the sanctuary for nature will be broken by the lifting of the ban on guns in our National Parks. My fiance’ Rick and I hope that the Obama administration will reinstate the Ban on Guns in National Parks.

Lee Hiller and Rick London

Please Sign the Petition

Hot Springs National Park Angel Wing Butterfly

Hot Springs National Park Angel Wing Butterfly

It was with a heavy heart I headed into the park today. Only three days were left before the ban on loaded guns in National Parks would expire. It was especially not easy to imagine that it was President Obama who signed the bill that lifted the ban.  It’s hard to feel sad when the first thing you see is a lovely squirrel searching for breakfast.  Nature’s park greeter lifted my soul as I ventured further into the park.

Turkey Vultures from West Mountain were cruising  in the breezy blue sky, moving ever closer to Hot Springs Mountain.  This sent a ripple of  chaotic bird calls all trying to sound the warning.  The only one moving about was a squirrel up on the Dead Chief Trail heading home with breakfast.  He/She was leaping from branch to branch and tree to tree.

On the Short Cut Trail ‘Kaw, Kaw Kaw” rang out and I saw three large Crows in a far off tree.  Three small birds flew into to the tree next to me, a Black Throated Green Warbler, Carolina Chickadee and a Tufted Titmouse.  A sweet mini flock taking cover at the sound of the Crows now cruising in the sky above me.

Up top the park was quiet as I took the trail to the Pagoda, no bird song and no squirrel chatter.  Usually at least the squirrels come out to tell me off for not asking their permission to hike in their territory.  Just moment safter taking my first photo in the Pagoda I looked up to see a large bird heading my way.  The Turkey vulture came right up to the Pagoda and pulled up and over the top. I now understood why the the birds and squirrels were so quiet.

From the Pagoda I took the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Gulpha Gorge Trail where I met Kevin Carr and Tony Caver of the National Park Service.  They were working to clear the trails of fallen trees from the last round of storms.  This was wonderful news as I had been climbing over, ducking under and going around the many fallen trees.  Kevin and Tony care about the park and we can all appreciate their efforts to keep it a safe place to hike.

From the Gulpha Gorge Trail I connected with the Goat Rock Trail in search of wildflowers.  As I walked slowly scanning the edge of the trail a flash of orange caught my eye.  A glorious Angel Wing Butterfly appeared and kindly landed so I could take a photo.  The wildflower I found was a graceful winged beauty.

From the Goat Rock Trail I took the Upper Dogwood to head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I heard atapping sound and looked up to see a tiny little bird that at first thought to be a Tufted Titmouse. As it darted about the tree I frantically snapped photos try to get at least one.  As it darted off to far away tree I saw the sun glint off it’s black and white feathers.  The tiny bird was a Downy Woodpecker, I never knew they were so small.

When I reached the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I could hear new bird songs.  As I found the tree they were all flitting about I took many photographs trying to keep up with their speedy flight.  My lens captured one female Cardinal and three mystery birds I hope one day someone will help me identify (hint hint).

I took the Peak Trail down the mountain  and was thankful for another joyous day in the park.

Dance a little each day and play with your friends.
Much Love,

the tree

The Lovely Creatures of the Forest on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Spring has come to the park, at least for a few days. It was nice not to be bundled up in three layers of clothing, liberating movement. As I entered the park I could feel the change, and energy of life.   From the Tufa Terrace I heard the alert and  looked up to see a large bird fly across from West Mountain and circle over the city below.  As I reached the bottom of the Peak Trail I spotted a sweet squirrel having a breakfast.  A Robin swooped into the tree to take cover and knocked the poor squirrel off the branch to another below.

On the Carriage Road another squirrel was darting up a tree to have snack while a Northern Mockingbird looked on.  The activity in the park was boisterous and every creature was enjoying the warmth of the sunny morning.  The bird song and squirrel chatter was lively.

I made my way up the Dead Chief  and Short Cut Trails to the top of the Mountain.  It was peaceful without the chainsaws of the day before.  I could hear bird song and feel the life around me as I hiked up the trails.  When I reached the top the picnic area was silent and there appeared to be very view birds.  However, as I moved toward the Pagoda I saw a large flock of Robins, they ignored me as I walk through them to the steps.

I had finished my view shot and from the corner of my eye saw a bright fluttering in the large tree next to me.  I could see these were not Robins and when I put my camera up the zoom revealed a flock of Cedar Waxwings.  Looking below I could see the two flocks were mixed together.  This was the second time I had witnessed Robins and Cedar Waxwings flocking together.  It was a spectacle of acrobatics and feeding, I hardly knew where to look next. I photographed a rare Cedar Waxwing that had Red tail tips instead of yellow.

While I was photographing the birds Bud and Donna from Bonne Terre, Missouri arrived.   They asked about things to see and  were keen to visit Bathhouse Row.  I suggested while they were on the mountain they should go up in the tower for an amazing view of the park and city below.  On the drive out they could take the North Mountain Overlook Loop in hopes of watching eagles soar.  They headed to the tower and I to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.

The eastern part of the trail loop was quiet and I could only hear bird calls in the distance.  There was light rustling in the leaves, but I could not tell if it was small creatures or the occasional burst of wind shooting along the trail.  It is always a lovely hike and the lingering snow on the bend near the trail head was a gentle reminder winter was not quite over.

The North side of the Trail loop was a musical delight,  pips. beeps and chirps all blended into a sweet serenade.  As I was passing a stream I could see tiny birds darting back and forth across the path ahead.  Near a log crossing the water a squirrel was busy digging up a tasty lunch.  As as Slate-Colored Junco landed in the bramble  to my side it was followed by a Blue-Headed Vireo.  In the leaves ahead a perfectly camouflaged White-Throated Sparrow was foraging for food.

At the fork of the trail I decide to take the Honeysuckle Trail back to the West Side of Hot Springs Mountain.  I was rewarded with the a sighting of a sweet little brown creeper hopping up and around a tree in search of insects.   Further down the path another large flock of Robins were flipping leaves in search of a meal.  From the Honeysuckle Trail I connected with the Peak Trail, then the Tufa Terrace to the entrance.

As I was preparing to put my camera away I heard a noise and looked at the tree next to me.  A squirrel was looking down at me, he/she then moved down to eye level to show me the glorious prize they had in their mouth.  After show and not much tell they turned and headed back up the tree to eat.

Back on the main lawn I Saw Bud and Donna at the pool of hot spring water that is filled by the cascade above.  They were trying to use the timer on their camera so I offered to take one for them.  After a lovely conversation about some of the local history we parted company.

Be joyful in the sight of all Nature’s creatures.
Much Love to You ALL,

Sunshine, Snow, A Cardinal and Squirrels on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Trail Male Cardinalal

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Trail Male Cardinal

Any day that starts with a squirrel is always a treat.  I love watching them out and about gathering acorns, scampering up trees and leaping from place to place. Cool sunny and clear a perfect day to be a squirrel.  I left the Tufa Terrace smiling. As I crept down the Carriage Road I could hear the sweet serenade of a Male Cardinal.  He was perched in a high branch facing the morning sun on the Dead Chief Trail. The bright light on the red of his feathers reminded me of a phoenix about to burst into flames.

As I reached the top of the second incline I spotted a White-Throated Sparrow, I had never notice how long their tail feathers are.  When I looked at the photo I wondered if the tail is from a bird hidden from view.  Either way he has a great face.  I think the beauty of sparrows is under rated.

On to the Short Cut Trail a sweet little olive green bird land on branch to my right.  So tiny I wasn’t sure at first if the movement was bird or a fluttering leaf.  I have list this little beauty as a Hutton’s Vireo even though this is not it’s usual territory.  It was the only bird I could find that had the same coloring, wing bands and eye detail.

Nearing the top I could hear chainsaws,  the National Park Service was clearing the trail ahead.  A large tree had fallen during the storm, so large it took with it another big tree and several smaller ones. A crew of two were up top clearing the fallen, lives lost to the harsh winter.

The sound of the chainsaw had emptied the top of the mountain and I was alone as I shot the view from the Pagoda.  The Hot Springs Mountain Trail was a mixed hike, sunny and warm, then cold covered with snow.  My jacket was tied around my hips when I left the Pagoda, half way along it was back on and so were my gloves.  In one of the warm spots I photographed a first sign of spring, a large green fly.

In the warmer areas of the mountain trees were beginning to form buds on their delicate branches.  Spring would be bursting forth in the park soon.  Lovely flowers and green leaves to shelter the birds and welcome the creatures that had slept through the winter. As I hiked down the Peak Trail I thought of all the sleeping creatures waiting for the sun to warm the earth so they could wake.

As I reached the bottom of the Peak Trail a squirrel bounded out of the shadows with an acorn.  He ran to the grass and dug a hole and buried his new found treasure.  A perfect day in the park begins with a Squirrel and ends one too.

Go Out and Play!
Much Love,

Microclimates, Fungus and Bird Song on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail Green Warbler

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail Green Warbler

Cold clear beautiful day complete with an amazing blue sky.   So perfect, I was amazed there were no visible birds or small mammals on the lower sections of Hot Springs Mountain.  The series of winter storms had left the population of the both wary and weary.  As I headed to the top of Hot Springs Mountain  a single Blue Jay flew over imitating a Hawk.  I had heard this sound before and when researching Blue Jays I learned of their ability to imitate the screech of a Hawk.

Blue Jays will imitate the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. It has been suggested that these calls provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or that they are used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present. (Cornell)

When I reached the Short Cut Trail I heard then saw my shadow a Red Bellied Woodpecker flying between trees.  A lovely Black-Throated Green Warbler appeared followed by another.  They flew across the path foraged in the leaves, then flew deep into the woods.  I was glad to see the snow was nearly gone and they were able to gather a quick breakfast.

At the top of the mountain the song of a Cardinal rang out and I scanned the trees to find him.  Perched in the bright sunlight with a beautiful blue sky behind him he sang a song glorious enough to lure a female to his side.  For half an hour his calls rang out at the top of the park. As I headed to the pagoda I secretly wished his love match would find him.  A Saucy little female Cardinal in olive with a red crest.

When I was hiking on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail unlike the the short cut trail there were still large areas of snow.  Small birds were darting about looking for bare patches of ground to scratch in for food.  In fact as I hiked the Upper Dogwood and Lower Dogwood I noticed several microclimates.  The north side of the Lower Dogwood Trail was a winter wonderland, but on the south side the snow was gone and I had to remove my gloves and coat.  The same pattern occurred on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail as well.  These changes explained the movement of birds, as micro climate c as small as a few square feet. (Wikipedia)  As I left the Dogwood Trail Nature showed me her artistry, a lovely white fungus flower.

I Hiked along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Honeysuckle Trail to the Fountain Trail.  When I exited the park the city was windy and cold, I had to put on my gloves during the walk home on Fountain Street.

Go outside and play each day!
Much Love,

PS: I was a bird butt day… the little darling all wanted to show off their tail feathers.

Squirrel Acrobatics and Brave Birds in the Snow on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Hot Springs Mountain Trail

Hot Springs National Park Hot Springs Mountain Trail

The park was void of bird song and nothing appeared to be moving.  As walked along the Tufa Terrace to the carriage Road I could hear faint rustling in the bushes.  The first movement I noticed was on the Dead Chief Trail, a small squirrel was preparing to preform an amazing feat.  In a rapid succession he/she jumped from the tree to a wire, ran down the wall, swung over to a pipe and into a hole on the side of a currently abandoned building. The event was so mesmerizing I was lucky to capture the pre jump and the tail in the hole.

Further up the trail I could hear a Red-Bellied Woodpecker but could not see him.  His voice rang out as I hiked up the hill through a beautiful winter wonderland.  So cold I could not imagine anyone would want to be out in it, except for me.  As I crested the top pf the hill the sky was an amazing blue against the dark trees.  Heading over the Pagoda I met John a retired Methodist Minister hiking to remember or forget a little his wife who had also love to take photos.

At the the Pagoda the view was a deep cold blue cast, framed in snow branches. The cries of my elusive friend the Red-Bellied Woodpecker resonated through the cold air.  Hippy Mike appeared with  the lovely Sarah, who ran up to say hello, greeting me as an old friend.   They were touring all their favorite view spots in the park.  The thought of Sarah left a still lingering smile on my face.   The frosty trail before me glistened lighting the way for a Northern Mockingbird to land on a rock to my left,  looking back, shaking a tail feather he/she headed into the bushes.

The hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail was glorious decked out in snow. My enchanted forest, a place to feel free.  I paused to take in the beauty, my eye caught sight of a sweet Brown Creeper happily hopping up and around a tree. As he flew off I caught site of a Black-Throated Green Warbler, Fox Sparrow and a Female Slate-Colored Junco.  Delicate little birds traveling in a mixed flock.  Near the trail head I could hear the faint call of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

I hiked up the Hot Springs Mountain Road to the North Mountain Overlook.  The view was as always therapy for the eyes, lifting the soul.  The wind changed from a breeze to a roaring freight train and I knew it was time to start heading home.  Back down the road to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail the wind was causing the trees to sway, moaning against the force of the Nature.

I hiked quickly to the trail head then over to the Peak Trail.  The wind against my face was brutal and nothing was moving on the trail but me.  No birds, no small mammals, only the sound of the wind  and the trees creaking.  When I reached the bottom the only birds in site were Robins and they had gathered on the carriage road trying to find  food and shelter. I wondered how the other small creatures were faring.

I exited the park wishing I could have stayed longer, but knowing it was getting too cold for me to delay returning home.

Love Life, Love Nature and find your Inner Child.
Much Love,

PS I was really being followed by a Red Head LOL and only discovered this truth when I edited my photos.