Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for February 1, 2010

Changing Landscape, USGS Probes and more Falling Ice

Hot Springs National Park Facts: Hot Springs National Park Ranger James Cary was the first National Park Service ranger to be killed in the line of duty. He was shot by bootleggers while patrolling West Mountain on March 12, 1927. (NPS)

I have been wanting to write a poem about my experience in the park, but how could words ever compare to the beauty I see each day.  It is a blessing to be able to share with you my experiences in the here,  thank you for traveling with me.

Side Trip: Last night a comment appeared in my blog from Ralf Montanus (USGS).  He was letting me know the USGS would be uncapping the the springs and installing probes Monday 10:00 am.   Once operational the probes will send information to both a Kiosk in the Fordyce Bath House (NPS tourism headquarters) and the USGS online.  So of course my first stop was photograph one of the team climbing down in to the spring.  It will be amazing to link to the probe data when it’s online and of course take a picture of the new Kiosk.  Thank You Ralf for the head up! Those pictured are USPS Ralf Montanus, The guy in the spring box was Dr. Phil Hays, USGS, on loan to UofA, Fayetteville as a professor, Tim Kresse, Ar Water Science Center Water Quality Specialist, Jonathan Gillip, Hydrologist, and part time Geo-Physical specialist. Ralf notes, “I’ll let you know when they put it on line. I hope to have the 1st one up and recording today then our IT Specialists will have to hook it up to the internet. There are 2 planned. Both will be on line and we’ll have a display in the Fordyce Bath house where the public will see the spring as well as the others, on some kind of display. ”

I hiked in at the old entrance steps as the tree that fell two night ago had not been removed from the main entrance.  It was a blessing, I never would have seen Nature’s artistry on the concrete steps if the tree had been cleared form the path.  A delicate filigree pattern that appeared almost as if only a shadow was on each step as climbed up into the park.

Once in the lower level of the park I could hear the ice fall near and distant.  Although many of the lower bushes and trees had begun to shed their icy coatings the larger trees where only just beginning.  There were no small mammals moving about and the birds were less than happy to be on open ground.  I had only seen two squirrels in 3 days as jumping from limb to limb had become risky,ed being on the ground riskier.

The ever adaptable Robins were having breakfast in a frozen tree grabbing ice coated berries. Most of the other birds were flying low under bushes  and pecking the ground for food.  Getting a photo of any of the birds was problematic as the shifting ice kept sending then deeper into the bushes.  If I did not like being pelt with leaf size pieces of ice, it must be brutal for them.  As I watch a Blue Jay darting about looking for cover I caught sight of a female Cardinal in a tree above the rising steam from a hot spring release. She looks contented in her tree top sauna.

As climbed up the Dead Chief  Trail I can see lovely patches of green re-emerging, the melting ice is rejuvenating the forest.  I notice the only sound is the pelting of the ice on the ground and me as I head up the Short Cut Trail. It’s another hail storm and I pick up my pace to get past the larger tree.

As I reach the top I am greeted by a female black throated warbler searching for food and a white throated Sparrow in a near-by tree.  I am grateful to be in the company of these lovely creatures.  Blessed to have them as my neighbors.

I stroll through the now empty picnic area and over to the Pagoda to embrace the view.  As always it was spectacular. I headed down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail as Robert (see earlier posts) was exiting, he indicates it’s raining ice on the the trail.  Like that would ever stop me :o)

Part way along the Trail I decide to hike down the Gulpha Gorge trail and back round to the Dead chief.  It had been several weeks since I had gone this route, I was curious to see if the impact  of the ice on the south side of Hot Springs Mountain.  The Gulpha Gorge Trail is steep, rugged and rocky with lots of older trees, a feeling of being in a more remote location.  The Dead Chief Trail in comparison has a wide open, new forest feel with vast clearings.

When I reach the Dead Chief at the Gulpha Gorge incline I do not see the same abundance of damage I have witnessed on the other trails.  Yet, I feel great sadness at each broken tree which lays stretched out across the trail, it’s life ended so quickly.  As the winter holds dormant the greenery the forest fungus creates it’s own beautiful flowers in yellow and orange along the trail.  Nature itis a lovely artist weaving color and texture throughout each season.

Once I reach the carriage road I hear bird song and can catch only glimpses of my feathered friends as I make my way out of the park.

Make everyday an Adventure
Much Love,


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