Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for March, 2010

The Brown Thrasher Serenade to the Sun

Hot Springs National Park Peak Trail Brown Thrasher

When I entered the park this morning I was greeted with an amazing serenade.  To be honest I believed I was hearing Northern Mockingbird with a phenomenal repertory of songs. It is a Brown Thrasher sitting in the Tree above me greeting the morning with a spectacular serenade to the sun.   According to Cornell Lab All About Birds “the Brown Thrasher has one of the largest song repertoires of any North American bird”.

The Brown Thrasher is also the size of the large Blue Jays that live in the park as you will note in the photo below.  It chases the Blue Jay off the Peak Trail, diving at it and striking until it succeeds.  I will assume it is a good idea to stay a safe distance from the Brown Thrasher.

As I reach the gates to the HRC Hospital on the Carriage Road I wonder if someone will unlock the gates and allow the patients to access the park.  Hiking up the Dead Chief Trail I notice the lack of Robins in the area since the arrival of the Brown Thrasher. Will this territory grab continue?  I will observe the the status of the Robins and other birds in the lower Peak Trail area during the next few weeks.  The recently ousted Blue Jay escorts me up to the Short Cut Trail and I am happy to have the company.

The Short Cut Trail is changing rapidly, beautiful green leaves add texture to the forest.  The Trees are wearing their new Spring attire, it is enchanting. Winter has truly given way to Spring.  Even the Valley view from the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is lush and green loosing the pale gray of Winter.

My journey along the trail is  gorgeous, Twinkling green Leaves and Wildflowers decorate the Forest.  A loan Hawk dips and soars riding the breeze above the Trees.  For the second day the Chipmunks are murmuring their warning, it echoes loudly all along the Trail.  I feel fortunate catch site of a sweet Chipmunk with full pouches gathering food during the high alert.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I head to the Honeysuckle and over to the Floral Trail.  I can see numerous bulbs sprouting broad leaves and I cannot wait to see what Flowers will be blooming.  It is a delight to see my first Chipmunk on the Floral Trail, it pops up from behind a leaf surprising me.  The trail edges are covered with lovely lavender Oxalis, as always a beautiful site.  It is a perfect way to end my hike in the forest.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Spring is in the Little Details of the Forest

Goat Rock Trail Busy Bee in the Wildflowers

When the Birds of prey are crisscrossing the sky above the forest only the brave appear.  Above the greening canopy I can see the flickering shape of a Hawk as I hike up North Mountain.  It’s cries are echoing throughout the forest silencing the song birds.  There is a soft murmuring underground as the chipmunks sound their alarm, it is an eerie mix as I head higher onto the mountain.

New wildflowers appear along the Floral Trail today and I spot a patch of lovely lavender Oxalis.  The yellow throat of the the Oxalis is spectacular in contrast to the lavender petals.  Each new Wildflower adds to the pallet of color possibilities along the Forest trails.

A  Hawk cries out in the distance and I am happy to catch one brave Robin on the Upper Dogwood Trail.  It is sitting in the shadows of a large tree silent, barely visible.  The Goat Rock trail is  transforming at an amazing rate. Wild Plum blossom glow in the bright sunlight and Wildflowers are painting the trail edges. Honey Bees are traveling from bloom to bloom, pollinating the various plants in their path.

Dog Violets, Birds-Foot Violets, Spiderwort and Yellow Star Grass are all spreading out from the path up and down the slopes. They surround the many Lichen covered rocks create an abstract canvas in the forest. It is a graceful spectacle of color and light.

From the Gulpha Gorge Trail I head over to the Upper Dogwood and down the Floral Trail.  The banks of the Creek along the Hot Springs Mountain Road are blanketed with Spring Beauty and Common Violets.  It’s a beautiful display of Pink and purple against the lush green of the grass and clover.  On Fountain Street I look down and see a Large Magnolia Pod from last years blooms.  It won’t be long before the air is filled with the sweet scent of Magnolias from the large Trees in the Historic District.

Why do we fight change? Nature shows us how elegant it can be.
Love to You All!
Lee

PS I have included photos of the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center built in 1933.  It sits on the edge of the park and once a upon a time those recovering from the wounds of war would be taken into to the park via the carriage road.   I think it was a sound practice to let Nature heal their souls.


Cardinals Among the New Spring Leaves

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Male Cardinal

Clouds cover the sun this morning, it is a gray day.  The gray skies make the greens seem greener and today makes a Male Cardinal an amazing Red.  As I step closer he looks right at me but does not move, I feel blessed to be so close and hear his song.  A little White-Throated Sparrow joins us as the sky darkens and rain seem eminent.  The trail sparkles with the new spring growth in lovely light green and red.  On the Short Cut Trail I find a wonderful Rock that is an orange red color  with black Mold and green Lichen.

Up top on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I discover several new patches of Spiderwort, their colors are always striking.  As I am setting up to photograph the Wildflowers a Mourning Dove lands next to me. I step closer and it looks over it’s wing at me and does not fly away.  The Mourning Doves are usually on high alert and I have never been able to get close enough for a clear shot.

Moving down the trail I see a lovely Female Cardinal in the distance. Her lovely red and olive coloring is always a spectacular site on the Trails. The Chipmunks are still on high alert, their chirping echoes throughout the forest.  I do not see the Falcon anywhere but do hear it’s call later when I am further along on the trail.

Each trail is being decorated with baby leaves and blossoms. The hike back toward home is a fantastic world among the twinkling leaves with wildflowers in purple, blue, white, pink and yellow. Nature has painted an exquisite forest for me to visit each day, I am humbled by her artistry.

Breathe Nature in!
Love to You All,
Lee

PS Rick and I had a lovely stroll along the Promenade this evening.  A squirrel greeted us from a tree as we headed up Fountain Street and a Northern Mockingbird exchanged musical notes with Rick. It was a perfect night out.


The Birth of Spring in the Forest

Dead Chief Red Leaves Green Insect

As I begin my hike there are signs and tents proclaiming it is “Discover Nature” Day. It is exciting to think many people who might not visit the park regularly are having an adventure here today.

It’s in the details that we witness the birth of spring in the forest.  Today the park has a light green glow of the baby leaves sprouting from once barren branches. I head up the Dead Chief and connect to the Short Cut Trail, stopping along my journey to view the delicate green and red emerging.  For the second day I see two young men plotting out different hiking routes to complete with friends.  I am happy to see another generation enjoying the park, most of the hikers I see are are my age or a bit older.

The Wildflowers are spectacular up top at the Pagoda, the jewel tones of the Spiderwort still draw me to them. Their beauty stands out against the new rich spring greenery.  There are still a few glorious Cherry blossom left on a tree near the Rocks along the trail.  The new leave frame the last of the blooms, they are so beautiful.

I am just starting to hike along the east side of Hot Spring Mountain Trail when a tour group of  thirty comes up from behind me.  A young scout is trailing behind, I suggest he look up just as a Turkey Vulture flys low over the Trail. Sometimes we have to follow a new path, so I head over to the west side of the trail and am greeted by a sweet Tufted Titmouse high in the Tree above me.

The trail is spectacular, large pods are opening on branches to reveal wondrous clusters of new leaves. Elusive squirrels are darting about like small rockets, nearly running each other over.  Several Trees along the trail have delicate white blooms that appear to flicker in the light breeze.  Sweet Pussy Toes Wildflowers are sprouting up all over the park, today I spot them on both the Short Cut and Hot Springs Mountain Trails.

Once I reach the Honeysuckle Trail I connect to the Peak Trail and head down to the Promenade.  I am fascinated by the unfurling of the Leaves on several of the Trees in the lower part of the park.  Each Tree has a unique way giving birth to baby leaves.  It has been a lovely Spring Day in the park, the rains are expected later to renew the forest.

Thank You for sharing my journey, with you along I am never alone.
Love to You All!
Lee


Peregrine Falcon, Wildflowers, Lovely Birds and Small Mammals

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Birds-Foot Violet and Hornet

The sun rise is spectacular as I head into the park, rays of light beaming between the forest giants. The lower reaches of the park are quiet so I head over to the Dead Chief Trail and connect with the Short Cut Trail.  As I near the top I see both a Male and Female Hairy Woodpecker flying from Tree to Tree.  They are a beautiful site high up in the Tree Tops.

When I reach the top of the mountain I hike over to the Pagoda.  As I head up the Trail a squirrel hangs off the side of a Tree showing me it’s lovely Nut treat.  When I finally reach the Pagoda a Male Cardinal is sitting in a bush in front of me.  I believe he can see me and I am surprised he does not fly away, instead he hops around on the bush. Much later he flys up into a Tree above me to sing a song to the sunrise. His coloring is glorious in the bright sunlight.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail it is very quiet and I begin my hike in the eerie silence.  I am surprised when a Chipmunk  pops up looks at me, ignores my presence, looks away and sounds an alarm.  This alarm is echoed by other Chipmunks all along the Trail.  Even as I move closer the Chipmunk continues to ignore me.  Suddenly up off the forest floor a bird rises up and lands in a Tree.  I cannot make it out in the distance what type of bird it is other than knowing it is larger than the birds I normally see flying in this area.  It is not until I see the images on my computer I discover it is a Peregrine Falcon.  It is an unexpected site.

I cross the Hot Springs Mountain Road and continue my hike on the West side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I am so happy to see a sweet White-Throated Sparrow flying among the lovely new green forming along the Trail.  I find another patch of Birds-Foot Violets, a bee is busy collecting pollen from each flower.

I continue on the path until I reach the Honeysuckle Trail then connect with the Peak Trail. Squirrels are busy foraging for nuts in the leaves and I watch as they find their burred treasure.  I can still hear rustling of leaves, looking up I see a squirrel pushing a pile of leaves up a Tree. It is the first time I have witnessed this.

From the Peak Trail I connect to the Promenade and it’s a beautiful explosion of wildflowers.  Henbit and Dead Nettle are blooming everywhere, a big Yellow and black Bumble Bee is pollinating the Wildflowers.  As I exit via the stairs a lovely little House Sparrow looks down at me from the Hospital Steps above.

Let your Love carry you to Nature.
Love,
Lee

PS I had a lovely hike with my Love Rick this evening.  I showed him all the glorious new wildflowers, a lovely Northern Mockingbird paid us a visit and we stopped a woman from abandoning her dog in the park.  It was wonderful night out!


Spring Rain, Warbler, Woodpecker and Wildflowers

 

Honeysuckle Pine Warbler

The Spring Rain was back again today, it left a glossy coating on everything.  I notice a cool rock as I enter the park, black with a vein of white.  The Spring blossoms and tree buds are glistening from the mist of the light rain.  The park is quiet as I hike up the Dead Chief to the Short Cut Trail.  The trail ahead harbors an unexpected sighting, a  small well fed cat/kitten is standing far up the path.  I try to get close enough to the take a clear photo, but as I take a step forward it is off like a rocket.

The rain begins to increase as I reach the top,  still no  small birds or indigenous mammals. At I cross the Hot Springs Mountain Road to connect with the west side of the Mountain I notice a lovely patch of Common Violets. Their  delicate purple petals stand strong against the spring rain.

As I head down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail the sky grows darker and I notice how the  rock colors and green Lichen stand out. The bark color has deepened making the new spring leaves appear to twinkle in the breeze.  Each day the forest has new beautiful changes.

On the Honeysuckle Trail I am greeted by a lovely Pine Warbler.  It is a surprise when it lands on the trail in front of me, staring then showing me it’s foraging find.  As it flys away a Red Bellied Woodpecker lands in the tree above me.  It has been a long time since I heard it’s cackling call.   I am smiling as I connect with the Peak Trail and head to the Promenade.

On the sides of the promenade Wildflowers are blooming and I see lovely purple Henbit and Dead Nettle patches.  It’s a gorgeous way to finish my hike.

Treat yourself to a dip in Nature :o)
Love to You All!
Lee


Spring Wildflowers, Little Birds and Small Creatures

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Spiderwort Fuchsia

I Love the Park, an overcast day is made sunny by Squirrels and more Squirrels.  I am taking photographs on the Tufa Terrace and Peak Trail of blossoms and small buds.  As I straighten up it becomes apparent I am surround by squirrels.  On the ground in Trees everywhere I look Squirrels, some are indifferent, others skittish and a few are curious.  Digging for nuts, eating breakfast, staring at me and hanging off of Trees. They are a beautiful early morning sight.

As I head up the the Dead Chief and short Cut Trails it is still Twilight and the only thing I see moving is a large gray rabbit in the Army Navy Hospital grounds on the edge of the park.  The very fast bunny is impossible to photograph, but now I know where it lives :o)

At the top of the mountain I discover a colorful assortment of Spiderwort in Blue, Purple and Fuchsia just below the Pagoda.  The colors have deepened since the rain a few days ago, it is a gorgeous display of Wildflowers.  As I am about to step onto the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a Male Cardinal and White-Throated Sparrow appear.  They happily forage for their breakfast and are undaunted by my presences.

As I near the end of the east  Hot Springs Mountain Trail Loop I am nearly run over my two squirrels as they chase each other across the Trail.  I am trying to follow their antics and see a lovely little chipmunk who was watching the squirrel chase in-between the Trees.  The dry leaves are flying around in the light breeze adding to the  scene.

Along the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails Birds-Foot Violets are popping up in small patches.  Fungus fans are forming on many of the logs laying near the trail edges.  Spring leaf pods are bursting open reaching  up to the sunlight.

As I walk along the  Hot Springs Mountain Road to exit the park I marvel at the glorious Spring Beauty that is beginning to blanket the creek edges.  A final treat awaits me as I near the park entrance, a lovely little Chipmunk  appears to my left.  It is busy searching, digging, climbing on and around the rocks.

Nature soothes your soul.
Love to You All,
Lee


Woodpeckers, Cardinal, Squirrel, Spring Leaves and Wildflowers

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Another lovely morning in the park, the air is a mix of Blossoms, Green and Earth.  I love taking in a deep breath of Nature’s Spring perfume as I begin my hike.  The sunlight on the tops of the Trees on North Mountain are enticing as I hike up the Floral Trail.  I am blessed to see both a Male and Female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  They fly in a swirling pattern among the Trees as I connect with the with the Lower Dogwood Trail.

A lovely Robin hops from Tree to Tree following me up the Mountain, it’s wonderful to hike with a new friend.  All along the Lower and Upper Dogwood Trails delicate leaves are unfurling.  The delicate new green is accented by exotic pink  and red tipped leaves.  As I near the Goat Rock Trail a sweet squirrel sees me coming and darts off deeper into the forest. I am about to leave when he returns, hops up on a tree, looks at me and then jumps from Tree to Tree back into the forest.

On the Goat Rock Trail I almost step on a poor little lizard, I am not sure which of us is more surprised by the close encounter. A bit further along the trail I discover a Wild Plum Tree with delicate white blossoms, nearby a bee is testing a soon to open bud.  As I look to my right I see a Male Cardinal creeping along through the vines and bushes.  It makes me giggle as I feel as if I am being stalked.

On the lower part of the Trail the Birds-Foot and Dog Violets are blooming all along the edges.  The various shades of purple look spectacular against the green and I am excited to see each new bloom.  The Trail is spectacular Wildflowers, Blooming Trees and Lichen Rocks, I feel blessed as I continue my hike.

I hike up the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the Hot Springs Mountain, Dogwood and Floral Trails.  As I leave the park and head toward home I notice more wildflowers have bloomed today.  Beautiful Spring Beauty and Common Blue Violets are a beautiful visual feast for my memory to remember today’s hike.

Stop and smell the wildflowers :o)
Love You ALL!
Lee

PS: My Beloved Rick and I had another lovely evening hike, we climbed up North Mountain!  It is a beautiful part of our Love, sharing the beauty of Nature. Take a stroll or hike with the one you Love, it is Romantic.


Spring Blossoms, Woodpeckers, and Squirrels

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The rains cleared and it’s a beautiful sunny spring day in the park.  I head directly to the Carriage Road to connect with the Dead Chief Trail and Short Cut Trail.   I spot a blue rock with white veins that look like a Tic Tac Toe game has been set up. I Love Nature’s artistry, there is always something new to discover.   The trails are quiet, but the  sky is above is active with crow fly overs.

Up top on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail lovely Cherry Blossoms survived the heavy rains of the day before. Their delicate blossoms still have a glorious luminosity.  A Northern Mockingbird lands on a Rock near me as I pass the Pagoda along the Trail.  I wonder if it’s the same one I often see near the bushes below the Pagoda. The hike on the East side of the mountain is peaceful as I look to the trees to admire the beauty of their new leaves and flower buds.  Lovely little Birds-Foot Violets are still standing after the showers and a sweet White-Throated Sparrow is nestled in the new green.

From the Hot Spring Mountain Trail I hike up the Upper Dogwood Trail and over to the Lower Dogwood.  The spring rains have highlighted the the numerous fungus fans on the many logs along trail sides.  Spectacular Baby Leaves in Red and Green twinkle in the late morning sun.

As I head down the Floral Trail to return home I am blessed by sightings of two new birds, new for me.  The first is a Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker a lovely Woodpecker with a red head, throat and patches of yellow on it’s chest and belly.  As I near the the end of the North Mountain side of the Trail I see a Female Hairy Woodpecker. She has striking with black and white stripes on her face and neck. It has been a wonderful morning in the park.

Dance in the Sun and soar on the winds.
Love to You All!
Lee

PS: I had a love evening hike with my Fiance’ Rick, we saw a Squirrel on the Promenade and another on the Peak Trail.  At the top of the mountain a lovely little Downy Woodpecker appeared.  We stepped into our Wedding Chapel for a hug and a kiss, then headed down the Floral Trail to Fountain Street and home.

 

 


Life Giving Spring Rain in the Park

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Rain Blossoms

Rain came to the park today, life giving liquid.  A little rain never stopped me, I put on my oiled cloth hat and head into the park.  The blossoms on the Tufa Terrace are coated in glistening drops, so beautiful. I stop to admire the pink that is more pronounced against the gray damp air.

The rain is cold and blowing as I hike up the Peak Trail I am fighting to protect my camera as I climb higher.  I cannot stop looking at the beautiful little leaves that are busting out on each branch. The glistening bark on the trees is spectacular as the rain deepens the color of the forest.

On the Hot Spring Mountain Trail blossoms, leaves and buds are on every branch.  The damp leaves silences my footfall and I hike meditating to the rhythm of rain falling around me.  When I reach my Wedding Chapel on the Honeysuckle Trail I go inside.  I stand in the center, close my eyes and imagine the day Rick & I will be married underneath it’s roof.

The sky is darkening and I decide to take the Floral Trail out to the park.  On my way down the many inclines I can see the beauty of the rain upon the landscape.  Moss and Lichen appears to have grown overnight, Fungus is peeling from downed logs.  Rocks have taken on a high gloss, their color enhanced by their new reflective surface.

As I reach the creek on the Hot Springs Mountain Road at the bottom of the Floral Trail it is bubbling and running fast.  The rains are feeding the entire park, spring rains are a blessing to all life in the park.

Dance in the rain and feel it’s life on your skin.
Love to You All.
Lee


Wildflowers, Spring Leaves, Blossoms and Small Creatures

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Blue Spiderwort

The morning weather is turbulent, the clouds are building with intermittent breaks for sunlight to beam through.  I enter the park at the main entrance and head over to the Tufa Terrace and then the Carriage Road.  A loud rustling is coming from the leaves to my left and I see a Brown Thrasher looking for it’s breakfast.  It is the only bird I have seen since I entered the park this morning.  As I head to the next trail I can see everything is on the verge of bursting forth into Blossoms and Spring Leaves.  In a few weeks the trails will be transformed.

It is a quiet hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails.  The storm clouds are building and the song birds have gone silent.  The only birds visible in the air are crows, they seem to be in all areas of the park lately.  They are overhead or perched in the highest trees along every trail.

The mountain top is changing as blossoms come into view on trees and along the trails.  Beautiful Cherry Blossoms are appearing along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail in the picnic area. Above me I spot a little Male Downy Woodpecker hopping up a Tree looking for insects.  On the slope below the Pagoda Spiderwort in pink, blue and purple are appearing in the greenery.  A lovely Male Cardinal lands on the trail as I am photographing the wildflowers. It is the first one I have seen at the Pagoda for many weeks. The top of the mountain is amazing today, it is paradise.

I decide to continue my adventure on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Unfortunately the previously mentioned large 85 lb. boxer is not on a leash when he and his owner pass me on the trail.  The Boxer stops to dig next to me damaging the plants along the side of the path.  Why do people see this place as a Dog Park instead of a protected National Park?

Nearly half a mile along the trail I stop to watch a Chipmunk in what appears to be construction mode.  It is popping up like a jack-in-the-box tossing leaves and branches.  There is a momentary diversion to chase another Chipmunk out of it’s territory and then it returns to the building project. The little Chipmunk leaves me with a big smile as I continue my hike

When I reach the rest hut on the Hot Springs Mountain Road I see a family trying to figure out how to loop back to the Gulpha Gorge.  I show them on a map an alternative route via the Hot Springs Mountain and Dead Chief Trails.   I am about to continue my hike when a group of young woman arrive looking for another area to run.  I help them plot a course on trails they have yet to traverse.

I continue on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, connect to the Honeysuckle and then Floral  Trail.  It’s a lovely hike down the multiple inclines as many trees are now beginning to bloom.  Near the bottom I see my first Floral Trail squirrel, it is wonderful sighting.

As I leave the park a Northern Mockingbird lands on the bush next to me.  It poses as if it arrived for a professional photo shoot, before flying off.  It has been a wonderful day in the Park.

Get Out and Play!
Love,
Lee


The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring and Little Lizards Too!

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Pink Blossom Bush

I wanted to see the flowering bushes on the Tufa Terrace so I entered the park at the main entrance.  It’s amusing to me that I have walked past these bushes for several weeks never noticing one side was bursting forth with beautiful flowers.  Following a squirrel yesterday I discovered the secret, so I had to go back a look again.

I left the Tufa Terrace and headed down the promenade to Fountain Street, a sweet squirrel was sitting in a tree having a fine feast on a nut.  It’s a joy to watch the park wake up each morning.  The journey to the Floral Trail is peaceful, the sun slowly rising in the sky and  twinkles between the Trees on Hot Springs Mountain.  As I hike up the trail I Love watching the sunlight drawing closer as I climb  higher on North Mountain.

From the Floral Trail I head to the Lower Dogwood and decide to go to the west end on the trail to hike to the Upper Dogwood.  I stopped to photograph a rock, as I was focusing I could hear growling and barking.  I look to my side to see a big dog coming toward me, it’s owners are far behind.  I yell out “excuse me your dog needs to be on a leash”.  When they catch up and grab their dog “Lucky” they tell me they did not think it mattered as they are alone on the trail.  I ask them again to put their dog on a leash, I advise them “Lucky” is a predator and should not consider the park his territory.

My Hike from the Lower Dogwood to the Upper Dogwood was quiet, the forest was unusually silent where the big dog passed through.  Sunlight streamed in illuminating the trail highlighting the delicate new growth on bushes and trees.  Bird song was distant and the only bird I saw on the Upper Dogwood was a lovely Junco sitting on a branch surrounded by Birch seeds.

From the Upper Dogwood I hike to the Goat Rock Trail where I am greeted by a Black-Throated Green Warbler.  It is the perfect start to one of my favorite trails.  As I am hiking I can hear, but not see lizards scrambling under the leaves.  I have noticed the Chipmunks do not like the lizards.  It appears there is a surprise factor of not seeing them and suddenly finding them under their paws.  I had not heard a Chipmunk scream until I saw one moving across the leaves and landing on top of a well hidden lizard.  It is a horrible sound of surprise.

Further down the trail I begin to see wildflowers popping up on both sides of the path.  There is a wide variety of Bird’s-Foot Violets and Bluets covering the slopes between the lichen covered rocks.  Among the purples and pinks is a lone patch of bright sunny Yellow Star Grass.  As I am leaning in to see a  wildflower I notice a leaf looking back at  me.  It make me smile to see it is a Male Prairie Lizard flashing his blue throat and belly.

From Goat Rock I hike up the Gulpha Gorge Trail and notice on the last bend a bench has been pulled out of the ground.  I wonder if it has been removed by NPS or by vandals.  When I reach the top of the Trail I decide to look for Wildflowers around the Rest Hut and I discover two surprises.  Growing along the stone wall is a patch of pretty Chickweeds and on the far side of the hut is the park bench missing from the Gulpha Gorge.

I head home via the the Hot Springs  Mountain Trail, the Honeysuckle and out on to Fountain Street.  It’s been another wonderful day in the park.

Thank you for coming on my hike each day, it is a blessing to be able to share my journey in Nature each day.
Love,
Lee

PS: CONGRATULATIONS! My fiance’ Rick London’s “Londons Times Cartoons” turned 13 years old today… I Love You Baby!

Londons Times Cartoon "Flowers In Springtime"


Woodpecker,Wildflowers, a Squirrel and Little Birds Too!

Hot Springs Mountain Road Pileated Woodpecker

It is a glorious sunny morning, perfect for a hike in the park.  I traveled up fountain street to the Hot Springs Mountain Road,  as I passed the main entrance a lovely little squirrel was looking at me from a branch.  It climbed down as I was getting ready to head to the Floral Trail and sat looking at me.  I was surprised as it grabbed some grass and began eating it, I had never seen one eating anything other than nuts.  I stood still,  it crossed in front of me and dug up a nut continuing with breakfast.  Learning something new it the best part of adventures in the park.

I hiked up the Floral Trail to the Lower Dogwood and spotted a Pileated Woodpecker in the distance.  It was well out of my camera’s range so I continued on the trail.  The trails were quiet and I felt the serenity of the forest as I hiked from the Lower Dogwood to the Upper Dogwood Trail.

When I reached the Goat Rock Trail the sun was rising in the sky and I could smell the smoke from a nearby fire. The NPS was doing a controlled burn near the Sunset Trail.  The tiny birds were flying back and forth across the trail frantically as a light haze formed, two joggers blazed past adding to the chaos.

The violets were in bloom on the lower half of the Goat Rock Trail, patches were forming on both sides of the path.  The color variations are so beautiful and the petals have a velvet soft texture.  As I moved closer to take photographs I can hear lizards scooting away under the leaves.

As I reached the junction of the Goat Rock and Gulpha Gorge Trails I met Glen and Chris who hike hiked up from the Gorge. They had originally been planning to hike on the Sunset Trail, but were unable to as the NPS was performing a controlled burn. They were going to be visiting Hot Springs for several days and I showed them the many Trails on their map they would likely enjoy.  They headed over to Goat Rock and I continued on the Gulpha Gorge trail.

I connected to the Hot Springs Mountain trail for my journey home and was happy to see a White-Throated Sparrow in the Tree in front of me.  I had not seen a sparrow on North Mountain since the crows had been flying over in larger numbers.  It looked beautiful in the new spring leaves.

I hiked to the Upper Dogwood to the Lower Dogwood and down the Floral Trail.  As I traveled down the Hot Springs Mountain Road I heard the call of a Pileated Woodpecker.  I turned my head to see it in the tree above me.  It was exciting as this was the closest I have been to one.  I was mesmerized by it’s  fantastic markings and the positions it was maneuvering into on the tree.  Another perfect day in the park.

Love to You All,
Lee

PS: I had another lovely evening hike with my fiance Rick, we walked up Fountain Street to the Floral Trail then connected to the Lower Dogwood Loop Trail. It was a glorious hike , the sun illuminating the new leaves and buds on the branched of the trees.  A lovely Carolina Wren followed us along the trail making  it’s presence known at regular intervals.  I Love my evening hikes with Rick.


Crows, Blossoms and Squirrels on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Park Entrance Squirrel In Ivy

I was a bit late into the park this morning and thought all the tiny creatures of the forest would be hiding.  I headed up Fountain Street to the Park entrance via the Floral Trail, I stopped at the edge of a slope to get my camera out. I heard a rustling and turned to see a squirrel sitting next to me. I was sure it would run when I lifted my camera up to take a photo.  After I took a couple of pictures the squirrel walked up to me and then the Uh Oh look crossed it’s face. We both backed up and headed in opposite directions.

During the time I was standing near this sweet little squirrel  a Crow across the road kept pacing back and forth.  It appeared to be waiting for me  to leave.  Climbing up the Floral Trail I saw more daffodils  trumpeting  in spring and little buds forming on the many branches along the trail. The Morning sun rose above the tree tops as I climbed higher, it was a perfect spring morning.

Along the edges of the Trail I notice beautiful wood and delicate fungus fans.  The forest is as always a magical place showing me little details of the fragile universe of the park. Far in the distance birds are singing it the tree tops, it carries me up the many inclines on the way to the Lower Dogwood Trail.

As I reach the beginning of the Lower Dogwood the skies begin to cloud over and a sheer golden veil lights the trail ahead.  The glow makes all the baby buds and leaves radiate in the forest  I cannot imagine a more beautiful place in the world than the backside of the Lower Dogwood. A small squirrel is on the trail ahead and I cannot help smile at it beauty. I wish Rick was here to see this too.

As I head back over the the Floral Trail to leave the park a flock of crows lands near me.  They have been all over the park the past month and I have noticed it is harder to find small birds in the lower bare branches.  Several days ago I saw a flock that had at least eight members.  They have become a powerful force in the skies above the park.

It has been a lovely morning in the park and a joy to have you with me.
Love,
Lee

PS I went on another three mile hike later this evening and I was not alone, my beloved fiance’ Rick was with me.  We climbed to the top of Hot Springs Mountain, the first time for Rick in five years.  I showed him my favorite squirrel spot and took him to see our wedding chapel in the forest.  As we finished the hike we viewed an area where a a male and female beaver have been building along a creek.  It was a wonder second hike with the man I Love.


The Awakening Spring Forest

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

The change of time means the sun is rising later and the small mammals are all moving about in the park when I arrive.  I miss the birds but know as the sunrise time changes I will begin to see their morning rituals again.

As I walked along the Tufa  Terrace I stopped to take photos of a very busy Squirrel digging up their buried stashes of nuts.  As always I was standing perfectly still and the dear Squirrel worked it’s way to where I was standing. It looked up at me, let out a little scream of surprise and ran up a tree.  As I turned to give the Squirrel some space I saw a rabbit dive into the bushes.  It was the first live rabbit I had seen in the park, a cream color, not the normal red and gray.

Four steps ahead and I was facing a little chipmunk.  I was surprised because I knew it saw me, but it came out climbed up on a Tufa Rock.  As a final gesture of trust the sweet creature stood up and looked at me.  It made me wonder how many times it had watched me creep up the terrace these past months.  The thought made me giggle as I made my way over to the peak trail.

I could not decide which way to go  when I reached the junction of the Peak and Honeysuckle Trails.  As I stood on the trail trying to decide a large group of talkative men headed up the Peak, I took the less traveled Honeysuckle.  The sun was beginning to stream through the lower branches of the trees illuminating North Mountain, it was a beautiful site from the trail.  Several yards from the rest hut on the Honeysuckle I glanced up to see a jogger bent over, he stood up and limped along the trail.  He had run up the floral trail, a rapid assent that took it’s toll.  I followed at a distance for half a mile to be sure he was going to be alright.

At the next trail junction I took the Upper Dogwood and connected to the Lower Dogwood Trail.  I was nearing the trail junction and an odd musky odor filled the air.  As I headed up the trail a large White Tail Deer darted up over the horizon.  I now know if that scent fills the air again I should freeze and carefully look up wind, I would love to get a photo.   It’s funny I never thought I would be trying to track a deer in the forest.

The hike along the backside of the Upper Dogwood Trail is a beautiful Nursery of Baby Buds and Leaf Shoots.  It is a joy and blessing to see the rebirth of a forest.  The  hike is a heavenly journey each day seeing the delicate greens and pinks.  It lifts my soul to inhale the scent of the leaves and blossoms.

Thank you for trusting me each day to lead you through the forests of Hot Springs National Park.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Chipminks, Lizards, Squirrel, Wildflowers and Magnolias

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Squirrel In Tree

The sky was bright as I headed into the park, waiting for the sun to crest the tops of the highest trees.  Although light was beginning to spread out on the ground as the sun shone between the trees, it was still twilight up in the highest branches. On the Tufa Terrace five different squirrels were foraging for nuts hidden in the leaves. On several occasions there were disagreements over area rights for nut hunting. While chaos ensued below a single Squirrel sat high in a tree enjoying a breakfast feast. It was perfect start to my morning in the park.

I hiked over to the carriage road in time to see a Northern Mockingbird sitting on a bush waiting for the sun to rise. It seemed intent on being the first to see, then announce the arrival of the new day. A golden glow fell over the Dead Chief Trail as I began my hike up to the top of Hot Springs Mountain. Bird song rang out from the highest trees and I could not see the sweet beaks of the the melody makers. As I reached the top of the mountain I could here the giggles of children and I was happy to see families hiking on the Trails for Spring Break.

On the slope in front of the Pagoda there were lovely Wildflowers, Spiderwort in both pink and purple were blooming. What was once green was sprinkled with Spiderwort, Birds-Foot Speedwell, Hensbit and Bluets. The colorful burst tucked into the green was glorious in the morning light. I could see many buds all waiting their turn to explode into blossoms.

As I hiked along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I encountered my first of 3 dogs off leash in the park. It was the large Boxer and I let his owner know there were children on the trail for spring break and most weighed less than his dog and that it should be on a leash.

I did not see any birds on the trail and only as I was 3/4 of the way along did I see a Chipmunk. A large tree that had fallen over a year ago provided a perfect chipmunk condo in it’s now exposed roots. I enjoyed watching it pop in and out of the many hiding spots the tree provided. I imagined a sweet little family of Chipmunks living in the elaborate root structure.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connected with the Gulpha Gorge Trail. Here I encountered a big Lab off leash and I reminded the couple walking him was a park rule to have your dog on a leash at all times. It was especially important with all the small children in the park. They looked a bit guilty and fastened the leash.

Goat Rock Trail was warm and sunny, perfect weather for wildflowers and lizards. The trail had both and I did not know where to point my camera. Blue bellied male Prairie Lizards were bobbing their heads and displaying their best form. I suspected somewhere out of site the female lizards were all looking on. Gorgeous Bird-Footed Violets in all hues, shapes and sizes dotted the Trail edges. far below me I could see large patches of violets and hope I would see more a bit closer to the trail edges. I was loving all the color and spectacle of a spring morning on North Mountain.

As I leaned over to photograph a wildflower I was charged by an on the loose Pomeranian, making an off leash dash up the trail. The owners were frantically calling and clapping, but the little dog kept running and was not captured until they were all at the top of the trail. Although it was a funny sight the little dog could have have been hurt if had darted off the edge of the path and down onto the rocks below.

I decided it was time to head home as I wanted to have hike with Rick in the early afternoon. I reconnected with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, then over to the Upper Dogwood, Lower Dogwood and Floral Trails. I was treated to a patch of Spring Beauty Wildflowers as I reached the bottom of the Floral Trail. I walked down Fountain Street to the park entrance and stood below a gorgeous Saucer Magnolia full of large pink buds. The fragrance in the air was divine as the park began to bloom

Love to You all… missed our hike together yesterday.
Love,
Lee

PS: The Saucer Magnolia Blossoms were on a Tree outside the NPS Administration Building. Rick and I had a lovely hike on the Promenade in the early afternoon and were lucky to see the Magnolias in full bloom.


Windy, Brisk and Overcast on the Hot Springs Trails

Park Entrance Saucer Magnolia Bud

I feel as if I spoke to soon when I said Springs had arrived. I had to go back to gloves and a coat today, the wind had a real bite to it and sky was a dull gray. It seemed the cold strong gusts of wind had the small forest creatures hunkering down for a second day.  It was odd not hearing the bird song filling the park as I enter.

At the park entrance I noticed a beautiful saucer Magnolia has huge buds forming, the pink is glorious.  I can’t wait to see how the tree looks at each stage of the buds opening.  It looks so lovely barely lit in a soft shade of pink.  The glow of new color in the park each day is enchanting.  Soft pinks and greens coating the once bare winter limbs of the trees is a feast for the eyes.

I decided to hike up the Peak Trail to the top  and then connect with the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  The park is so quiet, I miss the bird song and rustling of leaves.  I hear a familiar Kaw Kaw Kaw and look up to see eight Crows flying overhead, followed by two less speedy crows.  It had not been the wind after all, it was the hunting party in the sky keeping the wildlife under cover.

Each tree I pass on the trail has the beginnings of spring growth.  Tiny green leaf sprouts delicately unfurling and shooting forth from once bare branches.  Flower buds appearing in pink, red, peach and white.  I try to imagine what the trails will look like in a few weeks bursting forth with new color.

The last rain storm has revealed new rocks and old rocks have been painted with more lichen.  The damp wood appears to have more texture and new moss and lichen growth are abundant.  All Nature’s vibrant details are popping out and I hardly know where to look on each trail.

I hike the Upper Dogwood and Lower Dogwood Trails then connected to the Floral Trail to exit the Park. As I walk down fountain street I can see white buds forming in the Magnolia Trees that line the street and continue on to Central Avenue.  It was going to be a spectacular first spring in Hot Springs Arkansas.

Rick and I would like to invite you to join us on Twitter @HikeOurPlanet to celebrate the launch on March 14th of the International Hike Our Planet Day!

Love,
Lee