Sweet Chipmunks, Lovely Birds and a note to the NPS
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!