Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for April, 2010

Spring Rain and Unexpected Acolades

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Short Cut Trail Fungi

April showers have hit Hot Springs, with a dash flash flood threats. My beloved Rick is still healing please pray for his recovery. A weather alert this evening indicates the flash flood warning will continue until Sunday morning.  I know the rain is greatly needed in the Forest!

While Rick was in the hospital this past week I would run up the Mountain and back down each morning before heading to the Hospital be by his side.   I hope you will enjoy the beauty in the Forest.

Love to You All,
Lee

PS: In February this year I joined a site called RedBubble an Art Gallery and Community site. It appeared to be the perfect location for me to receive peer feedback of my photography. This morning a group Wildflowers of North America made me a “Forever Feature Member” and put many of my photographs up on their wall. It was thanks this group a passion for Wildflowers was born, thank you Vickie and Blair.

 

February Goat Rock Trail Birds-Foot Violet


Returning to the Forest

Hot Springs National Park, AR Park Entrance Squirrel

My sweet friend above is a reminder that hiking in the forest can mean contact with ticks.

A perfect sunrise greet Rick and I on our patio, a beautiful way to celebrate his surviving his heart attack.

Hot Springs Sunrise From Our Patio

As I entered the park I am greeted by a sweet squirrel peering at me from a tree. After I am deemed a non-threat it hops down and forages for breakfast.  It is always a perfect way to start my morning hike.  Heading up the Floral Trail I am amazed at the amount of new growth throughout the forest. Each day the trail seems new as more plants appear, climbing higher they form a dense canopy above me.

I connect with the Lower Dogwood Trail and a spot chalice shaped fungus growing from an old log.  Below the larger growth are lovely smaller button shaped Fungi, I Love Nature’s beautiful artistry.  On the Upper Dogwood Trail I glance into the curve at the base of an old tree and another Fungi display.  They are fantastic in their texture color and design, I am joyous to find each new fungus.

From the Upper Dogwood Trail I connect to The Hot Springs Mountain Trail and hike up to the North Mountain Overlook.  From there down to the upper portion of the Goat Rock Trail to see the flowering Wild Plum Trees.  The white blossoms look glorious against the vibrant blue sky as I peer up into the Tree.  As I head toward the Upper Dogwood Trail I spot several Brown Moths flitting between the path and the Wildflowers along the edges. They appear to dance upon the wind as they circle around me.

My hike in the forest is a taste of serenity, in the glow of  green bathing the path before me. I stop to watch a lovely spider weaving a web between two plant stems.  It has a yellow, white and black body, it appears to sparkle as the sun shines on it’s web.

Along the Lower Dogwood Trail I can hear the rustling of leaves and cannot quite see the small creatures moving through the forest. It makes me smile to know I am never alone as I hike in the Mountain.  I reach the Floral Trail and begin my hike out of the park.  On a log I see a Robin’s Egg cracked and emptied of it’s life.  It reminds me Spring is also a fight for survival by many of the Park’s future inhabitants.

As I reach the bottom of the Trail a wonderful Brown Swallowtail Butterfly lands in front of me. It flies from leaf to leaf along the Trail edges. It is a beautiful sight as it catches the breeze and travels deeper into the Forest. A Lovely Bicknell’s Thrush sings me a sweet song as I begin my walk home.  It has been a wonderful morning hike in the park.

Let Nature fill your Heart!
Love to You All,
Lee

PS: My Rick is doing much better today! Thank You for the Love and Prayers you have sent our way.


Thank You!

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Promenade Iris

Thank You ALL dear readers/friends for the kind messages and prayers for Rick.  The two stent procedures were successful and he is home recovering.

Love,
Lee and Rick


Sunrise in the Park for my Beloved Rick

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Sunrise In The Park

My beloved Fiance’ Rick is having a heart stent procedure today… please pray for him.  Thank You for the beautiful messages and prayers it means the world to us both.

Love to You ALL,

Lee and Rick


Seeing Red before the Storm

Carriage Road Male Cardinal

The forecast is for Rain accented with Thunder and Lightning, the dark sky is an indication this is likely correct.  I decide a quick up and back hike on Hot Springs Mountain would be the safest idea.  The park mammals are not visible and appear to have taken cover for the impending storm.  The birds however are all singing their best rain songs from the Trees in the lower park trails.

On the Carriage Road two male Cardinals are fighting for position to sing in a sheltered Tree.  The loser moves to an evergreen and begins to broadcast his message concerning the changing weather. His red feathers look glorious against the green Tree and gray cloudy sky.  A large group arrives with portable music to take family photographs, so it’s onward and upward for me.

I begin my hike up the Dead Chief Trail but change my mind quickly.  As I reach the the top of the first incline I hear the music coming closer and look back to see ten people coming up the Mountain.  I head down the Hot Springs Mountain Road and cut over to the Peak Trail.

The hike up the Peak Trail is a song fest as the birds of the Forest all announce the impending storm.  The air is heavy with humidity and the insects are a bit pesky as I head to the top.  The melody in the air is sweet so I can forgive a few annoying insects.  The sky is getting darker and I am wondering if I will get back before the rain arrives.

As I reach the top of the trail I am greeted by another male Cardinal.  He sits in the Tree across from me, he looks down and then cocks his head to peer up through the leaves at the sky.  Does he know something I don’t?  I decide to start my decent on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. A sweet little Sparrow appears to see me on my way.

As the sky darkens I pick up my pace and decide as much as I Love Nature and Her beauty getting off the Mountain should be my first priority.  I connect with the Honeysuckle and then the Floral Trail to the Hot Springs Mountain Road.  It is now darker than when I began my hike over an hour ago and I am happy to see home n the distance.  Fifteen minutes after I arrive home the Rain begins, followed by Thunder and Lightning. Nature can be fierce, I respect Her power.

Love to you ALL!
Lee


Snakes, Lizards and a Turtle Happy Earth Day!

Upper Dogwood Trail Texas Rat Snake

As I walk up the  Fountain Street sidewalk inside Hot Springs National Park, suddenly nut shells begin to rain down around me.  I look up and see a Squirrel chewing on the sweet tender meat of a newly shelled nut.  It makes me smile to see them on this glorious Earth Day in the Park.  I head toward the Floral Trail and spot a sweet Chipmunk foraging on the hillside next to me. I am blessed to be here.

I hike up the Floral Trail to the Lower Dogwood Trail and I am surprised by a movement to the side of me. I look down and see a snake coiled up on the edge of the trail. The big North American Racer lifts it’s head as I step back to take a photo, flicks it’s tongue and heads up the embankment away from me. A perfect Earth Day gift from Nature.

I connect with the Upper Dogwood then take the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Gulpha Gorge. From the Gulpha Gorge Trail I head over to the Goat Rock trail.  Along the Trail I hear rustling in the leaves and wonder if its Snakes or Lizards moving about.  Another gift from Nature a Prairie Racer, the first I have spotted.  It’s brown racing stripes and changing color tail are so beautiful.  Further up the trail a plump, perhaps pregnant Prairie Lizard it sitting on a log flicking  it’s tongue at passing insects.

I am escorted along the upper part of the Goat Rock Trail by a Mourning Dove.  No matter how close I get the funny bird just keeps strolling along ahead of me.  It made me joyous to have this special guide through the Forest.  Continuing onto the Upper Dogwood Trail I can hear a light rustling sound and I look down to see a wonderful Male Box Turtle.  It is the first Turtle I have seen in the park.

As I near the top of the Trail I spot a lovely couple from New Jersey I had spoken with earlier.  They are staring at something and as I approach they point out a large (5 ft plus) Texas Rat Snake. The snake is stretched out on the Forest floor, several bulges in his body are an indication he is resting after a big feast.  Nature has blessed me again with the sight of this glorious snake.

I hike from the Upper Dogwood to the Lower Dogwood and off North Mountain via the Floral Trail. Special thanks to the engineer of the cute rock sculpture I discovered along the trail today.  It has been a perfect Earth Day in the Park, thank you for sharing it with me.

Love You All,
Lee


Butterflies, Chipmunks, Squirrels, Wildflowers and Magnolias

Hot Springs National Park Arlington Lawn Yellow Butterfly

I left a bit later this morning and the Lower Park at the Arlington Lawn was empty of people but is alive with Nature.  A beautiful Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly dances gracefully over the Fuchsia Azaleas.  Occasionally is dips into the bell of a bloom seeking out the sweet nectar in the center.  A lovely Squirrel is searching the lawn for a well deserved breakfast, I Love joy with which it relishes its prize.

I head up to the promenade on my way to the Peak Trail and spot a sweet Chipmunk filling it’s cheeks with tender seeds.  A black and blue Butterfly brushes past me and lands near the Hot Spring Cascade.  As I lean over for a closer look I see a lovely Chipmunk sitting on a Rock above the steam. Nature is glorious and her beauty is flowing all around me in the park this morning.

From the Promenade I connect to the Tufa Terrace and then the Peak Trail. The Forest embraces all who enter now, its canopy spreading out over the many trails.  As I hike up the Peak Trail I spot a lovely Chipmunk staring at me from the top of an old stump. The morning sun is shining gentle illuminating it from behind. When I reach the top of the Peak Trail I notice the Shooting Star Wildflowers are now tiny fluffy seed balls. Their beauty was fleeting and I am so happy I was able to see their short lived blossoms.

I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail then hike over to the Upper Dogwood and Lower Dogwood Trails to reach the Floral Trail. Phlox appears in many beautiful colors all along the trails as I head to the park entrance.  A melodic Northern Mockingbird serenades me as I complete the last bend on the Floral Trail.

When I reach Arlington Lawn I look up and see the birth of a Magnolia Blossom in one of the large Trees that line both Fountain Street and Central Avenue with in the park.  It is a long awaited event as the Magnolia perfume will fill the Historic District.  The morning has been a blessing of life in the park.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Twilight in Park with Sweet Creatures

Hot Springs Fountain Street Squirrel

My Sweet Sis Martha (@Taz1263) arrived in Hot Springs late last night so I run out for a quick Twilight hike this morning.  As I reached the park entrance an adorable Chipmunk appears, I love watching it gathered it’s morning feast.  I have to stifle a giggle as the sweet creature began stuffing it’s mouth with tender seed strings.

The hike up the Floral, and Upper Dogwood Trails is beautiful in the half light.  I can hear the gentle rustling of leaves along the trail edges as the light begins to crest Hot Springs Mountain.  It is breakfast time in the Forest and everyone is on the move.

When I reach the top of the Upper Dogwood Trail a lovely Blue Jay teasingly peeks at me from the leaves of a tall tree.   As I hike along the Lower Dogwood Trail the sun begins to shine between the Trees above the trail.  I Love the peace of my early morning hike, serenity in the Forest.

I hike down off North Mountain via the Floral Trail and head toward home on Fountain Street.  The park borders the left hand side and I am often greeted by a Squirrel as I walk on the sidewalk.  Today two appear, one on the ground and another in a Tree above me.  While on forages for nuts another is perched on a limb feasting on a newly unearthed treasure.  It has been a wonderful early morning hike, thank You for joining me.

Love to You All,
Lee


Fungi, Cardinals and Wildflowers in the Forest

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Large White Mushroom

Light rain, dark clouds, it is a perfect morning for a hike in the forest. The Azalea bushes at the park entrance are spectacular in fuchsia and pale pink. I am happy to see the rain, it feeds the park and awakens Spring’s next growth spurt. A male Cardinal looks over the city from his perch above the Arlington Lawn as I crest the Tufa Terrace. A Northern Mockingbird is singing to the new day and a lovely Squirrel is eating breakfast as I cross over the Promenade.

As I reach the Carriage Road another male Cardinal is sitting high in a Tree above me.  His song rings out through the the entire lower park.  He looks spectacular tucked in the green with the gray sky as his backdrop.  I head up the Dead Chief Trail and then connect with the Short Cut Trail. While looking at the trail edge for Chipmunk on the run I spot fungi fans on an old log.  When I finish photographing the fungi fans I see a group tiny golden mushrooms sprouting on another log. These are the first mushrooms I have seen in the Forest.

As I hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I see beautiful cream blossoms on low bushes along the trail.  Their shape is unlike any blossoms I have seen in the park this Spring.   Wildflowers are blooming all along the trail, the mix of colors and multiple flower types are creating a spectacular display.  My hike is refreshing my soul within a paradise of Trees and Flowers.  I am free to meditate and be thankful for the glorious gift of hiking in this park.

As I reach the North Mountain portion of the Trail I spot very big white Mushrooms.  Each of the largest Mushrooms is over 6 inches wide and are a growing from under a downed Tree.  Their white and tan coloring glows within the green of the surrounding foliage. It is a wonderful discovery in the Forest, a joyous surprise to have seen these today.

As I exit the park on the Floral Trail and walk down Fountain street I feel refreshed and renewed.  The Forest and Mountains are a blessing, I am thankful Rick lived here and asked me to join him and share his Mountains.

When Nature touches us it heals our Souls.
Love to You ALL,
Lee


Day Off: Random Unseen Photos

Park Entrance Leopard Print Azalea Pink

Taking weekends off to spend more time with my Rick and prepping my book. Thought I would share a few photos I shot in the park during “Park Palooza” and on my morning hikes this weekend.

Love to You All,
Lee


Colorful Wildflowers in the Spring Forest

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Pink Phlox

The park entrance was receiving a bathtub when I arrive  for my hike this morning, yes an antique bathtub.  Tomorrow the park will celebrate the new series of US Mint Quarters celebrating National Parks.  Hot Springs National Park is the oldest of the Parks and will be honored with the first minted quarters in the series, they will be available on April 20th in Hot Springs.

On the Dead Chief Trail I glance up in a Tree and see an eye peeking out from the V of two branches.  It is a sweet Squirrel, it leaps onto the power lines and then to another Tree before vanishing into the forest. All along the Short Cut Trail I can hear Lizards darting under leaves and catch fleeting glimpses of their tail tips.  The forest fragrance is wonderful a blend of sweet green and earth, I love how it fills my senses.  Wrapped in the Forest I feel blessed to be hiking on Hot Springs Mountain.

My hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is a feast of color created by blooming Trees and Wildflowers.  Phlox is appearing in large clusters all along the trail.  The colors are spectacular in white, violet, pink and purple, the variations are glorious.  They are beautiful bouquets from Nature.

A male Prairie Lizard appears and briefly pauses on a log laying on the Forest floor.   When I turn away I see a lovely little Squirrel sitting in the middle of the tail ahead of me.  I slowly move along the tail so they can finish eating the nut in their paws.  As I connect to the Upper Dogwood  I met a lovely couple from Wisconsin who were hiking the North Mountain.   They were enjoying Hot Springs and are heading to the Quapaw baths after their hike.

I connected to the Lower Dogwood, then the Floral Trail, out onto Fountain Street and Home.  My journey through the park has been a joy for my heart and soul, but I miss Rick and cannot wait to tell him about my hike.  Thank you for hiking with me among the Wildflowers today.

Have a Nature filled weekend.
Love to You ALL,
Lee


The Spiders Have Awoken in the Forest

Hot Springs National Park Entrance Blue Tree Blossoms

The morning is beautiful, the sky is a dusty blue in the Twilight.  A Tree that has sustained the park residence through the winter with clusters of nuts is blossoming.  Large blue trumpet blooms are opening to greet the morning sunlight.  The unexpected has made the start to my hike a joy for my soul.

As I hike over to the North Mountain I can hear the distant chatter of Blue Jays.  Heading up the Floral Trail I can see the golden glow of the sun beginning to pierce the new forest foliage.  The new green leaves are moving gently in the breeze and the air has a wonderful earthy fragrance. When I reach the Lower Dogwood Chipmunks are sounding an alert that echos all along the trail.  I briefly catch sight of one the sweet creatures as it is running along a log.

The park Spiders have all awoken and hiking is sticky as I become coated with the hundreds of web lines crisscrossing the Trails.  I begin to notice numerous large webs appearing, they sparkle in the light of the rising sun.  On the Lower Dogwood I am fascinated by the work of a black and white spider.  It has created a web suspended between two  small bushes that has netted (pun intended) a large quantity of  insects. The plants along the Upper Dogwood and Hot Springs Mountain Trail have been coated with silvery threads.  Amazing webs have been suspended between large trees glowing as if spun from crystal threads.

High in the Trees I can see Blue Jays carrying nesting materials, babies will be coming to the forest soon.  Spring is a song for the soul as new life appears throughout the park.  As I reach the top of the Trail I decide to take the Peak Trail down Hot Springs Mountain.  I see lovely Shooting Star Wildflowers beginning to grow on the edges of the path.  When I reach the bottom of the Trail I can see Wild Columbine growing at the edge of the Tufa Terrace. I Love all the Wildflowers that are sprouting along each Mountain Trail.

From the Tufa Terrace I  head to the Promenade, a group of young men ask if they can interview me for a video.  They ask me about my faith and I gladly impart my beliefs.  I wish Corey, Jesse and Josh all the best for their spiritual journey of discovery.  As I exit the park a Squirrel is sitting on a wall a head of me, it has the longest tail trailing down the stones.  It has been another wondrous morning in the park, thank you for coming with me.

Make sure you have time for a Nature break.
Love to You All,
Lee


Wildflowers and Small Creatures Under the Spring Canopy

Hot Springs National Park Fountain Street Squirrel In Ivy

It is a beautiful hike into the park today, a Squirrel is hanging off a Tree trying to decide if I am friend or foe.  The Sun is kissing the tops of the Trees and Birds sing a greeting to the new day.  Graceful Periwinkle is peeking out from the Ivy lining the sides along the Promenade.  My hike up the Dead Chief to the Short Cut Trail calms my heart and I feel renewed as I reach the top.

The Trails are alive with new green growth that changes the view each day.  Wildflowers are appearing all over the edges along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Glorious Phlox in white, pink, mauve and lavender are popping up between patches of Spiderwort, Bird’s-Foot Violets and Oxalis.

I am leaning over to photograph the Wildflowers when I spot a wonderful Prairie Lizard running up a Tree.  The male Lizard has a bright cobalt blue belly indicating he is ready for mating.  As he darts away I see a brown Moth caressing the new trumpets of a Wildflower.  The recent arrival of lizards has the Chipmunk population on high alert, they do not like sharing their secret world beneath the leaves.  I am delighted to see a Chipmunk sitting on a fallen Tree as I near the Trail head.

I head to the Upper Dogwood then to the Floral Trail to connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Road.  At the road I meet a lovely couple Beverly and Pete, bird watchers from Virginia.  I help them with Trail advice for reaching the Tower at the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  It is always wonderful to share information about the park.

On my way home on Fountain Street I am delighted at the sight of a sweet squirrel popping up in the Ivy.  It is munching on a nut for a late morning snack.  A squirrel welcomed me into and sees me out of the park today, I am blessed.

Nature is waiting for You!
Love to You All,
Lee


Dragon, Butterflys and Spring Trails

Floral Trail Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly

At the top of the entrance ramp a Robin is sitting atop a Tufa Rock after gathering nesting material. The many birds in the park are preparing for the nurturing of eggs.  As I reach the Tufa Terrace I see Wild Columbine they are a spectacular Wildflower, lantern shape in orange with a yellow center.  I hike up the Dead Chief, connect with the Short Cut Trail and see a lovely Squirrel having breakfast.  It is the only one I have seen that is not jumping from Tree to Tree.

The Trail is covered is glorious shades of green and the once prominent rocks are now mere accents. As I reach the top I discover a beautiful Tree with Trumpet Blossoms in red, yellow and orange.  Nature always has a lovely was of surprising me.  In the picnic area I find a rare park species, the miniature Sheep Dog (see photo).

The hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is green lines with purple and lavender.  As the Forest foliage unfurls forming a new canopy the shade is filled with large patches of Birds-Foot Violets dotted with Oxalis.  The barren landscapes of my winters hikes have vanished, repainted with leaves, vines and wildflowers.

I close my eyes when I reach the Upper Dogwood Trail, the sound of the songbirds makes my heart joyous.  Slowly opening my eyes I see a beautiful Black Swallowtail Butterfly on a leaf in front of me. As quickly as it arrived it soars away on the breeze trailing across North Mountain.  Further along the Trail I spot an odd puff ball, my first thought is that it is a plant. On closer inspection I wonder if might be a spider nest, a web appears to be coating it’s surface.

Reaching the Floral Trail I am surprised to see a Dragon looking across the path.  The new greenery has turned the winter logs into a mythical being.  The Floral Trail has a new guardian to protect the small creatures of the forest.  As I near the bottom of the Trail a lovely Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly casts a shadow as it flys high above me  in the Tree tops.  I turn back to see the beautiful Forest before I leave and the butterfly lands on a plant to the side of me.  It’s delicate wing has been torn and I am astounded by the way is is still able to fly.

Thank You for hiking with me in the Forest today.
Love to You All,
Lee


Beautiful Trails, the Guitarist and Spring Blossoms

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Goat Rock Tral

I ask you forgive the short written segment of my blog today.  Rick and I went for a lovely early morning hike and at the end things did not go as I imagined I apologize.  My heart is not in the writing, please let my photographs speak for me today.

It is on a day like this I wish I could sit and chat with Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Love You All,
Lee

PS: We did encounter a really nice young man Tim Seveall at the old overlook tucked away off the trail.  He let Rick play his guitar and I fell in Love all over again with my beautiful man.  It turns out Rick is an amazing guitarist, it was a blessing to hear him play.  Glorious sounds at the touch of his fingers serenaded the forest.


Pollination, Wildflowers and Spring Forest Trails

Lower Dogwood Trail Brown Moth White Flower

I am out the door at 8 am and the lower reaches of the park are already busy with tourists.  Heading to the Dead Chief and up to the Short Cut Trail I realize the higher I climb up onto the Mountain loud conversation diminishes.  I Love the climb from a physical perspective, my body revels in the beating of my heart and the oxygen being pulled into my lungs.  The further I travel into the Forest the physical turns to meditation and appreciation for the Natural beauty in which I am immersed.

Up top the Blue Jays that have been following me since I began my hike up the Mountain briefly reveal their presence.  They have been teasing me staying  just out of view high in the Tree tops.  Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I spot a quickly moving black and white small bird I have never before seen.  Oxalis, Bird’s-Foot Violets and Spiderwort line the Trail in varying shades of purple, a lovely Honey Bee is flying from Flower to Flower.

The Spring greenery is getting thicker everyday, lush leaves and vines decorate the Trees along every Path.  My Forest is new everyday I hike, I Love watching the transformation and feeling the energy of the new life.  It is impossible not to be in awe of Nature’s artistry as the Seasons change.

As I hike up the lower Dogwood trail a Brown Moth brushes past my cheek as I am bent over photographing a berry flower. It lands on the white flower in front of me and it gracefully embraces the blossom to taste it’s nectar.  As the Butterfly leaves on the breeze a Honey Bee arrives diving into the flower.  It delicately brushes it’s body over it’s petals before flying away.

Higher up the Trail a Male Cardinal is singing, he moves from the lower branch to a high perch to bask and sing in the sunlight.  I complete the Lower Dogwood Trail loop and connect with the Floral Trail hiking down off North Mountain.  A brown Moth lands on the Trail in front of me and I can see an iridescent blue patch on it’s body. It is a very striking and unexpected color combination.  As I finish my hike and head down Fountain Street toward home a sweet Northern Mockingbird lands on a bush to my side.  It’s bold posing is perfect,  I have had an amazing morning in the park, thank you for coming with me.

Feel Nature it is all around you.
Love to You All,
Lee

PS the the Lovely House Sparrow was phototgraphed on my evening hike with Rick yesterday :o)


Small Creatures and a Sunrise in the Park

Hot Springs National Park, AR Tufa Terrace Squirrel

I start my hike this morning at 6:30 am and I am treated to an amazing deep blue sky with a sliver of a moon.  It begins as a  peaceful journey up North Mountain to watch the sunrise through the new Spring Forest. The sun is coming up faster than I expected so I have run up the Floral to the Lower Dogwood Trail.  The sun is a large orange ball and looks spectacular streaming through the Spring greenery.

When I reach the top of the Lower Dogwood the glow from the Sun is lighting the tops of the the Trees.  Each individual leaf is being lit up and the breeze moving through the forest is causing a beautiful twinkling effect.   The cool air today is keeping the morning hikers away, I feel blessed to have this moment in the park.   I can hear each bird sing it’s tribute to the morning light as I climb higher up the trail.

When I connect to the Upper Dogwood Trail a tiny Chipmunk pops up in the frame of a fallen branch.  It cannot decide if it should run or stay and watch me.  After several minutes and lovely poses I move on in hopes this amazing creature will take cover.

From the Upper Dogwood I connect to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and head toward the Park’s main entrance.  At the Tufa Terrace I stop to listen for bird calls and hear a noise to my side.  I turn to see a Squirrel hanging from a Tree staring at me, undaunted by my presence it climbs down,  forages, eats and climbs Trees.  When others walk past it heads up a Tree, then returns to ground when they have passed  This is a wonderful way to finish my early morning hike in the park.

It’s never to too late to reconnect with Nature :o)
Love to you all,
Lee


Butterfly, Dogwood, Spring Leaves plus a Guest Hiker

Dead Chief Trail Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly

This evening as I am typing my beloved Fiance’ Rick is passed out in a deep sleep.  He asked to go hiking with me this morning and I took him out on my regular five plus miles journey.  My beloved did very well but his body finally gave way to exhaustion.  Please know my Sleeping Prince how proud I am that you made it home still standing.

We started our Morning hike at the entrance to the park, with the sighting of an amazing White Dogwood in full bloom. We head over to the Dead Chief Trail and begin our ascent up Hot Spring Mountain.  When we reach the junction of the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails a lovely Red Bellied Woodpecker calls out from a distant Tree.

The hike up to the Mountain Top is beautiful.  The early sunlight is twinkling through the new Spring Leave dancing in the morning breeze.  I Love watching Rick’s face as he  is bathed in the magic of the new Forest. It is a romantic setting for our first morning hike together.

As we reach the top a Blue Jay that has been following us briefly appears before flying deeper into the forest. At the Pagoda we stand in silent awe as a pair of Hawks soar and dive above the valley below.  When we reach the Hot Springs Mountain Trail below the Pagoda a shy Mourning Dove is strolling ahead of us on the path.  It stops and tucks it’s head down and appears to have brief snooze.

The hike to the Gulpha Gorge Trail is a travel log of my photographs, especially those from the day I was hit by the blizzard this past winter.  It is  fun to share my park adventures with Rick pointing out the many locations picture in my blog.  From the Gulpha Gorge Trail we connect with the Dead Chief Trail just above the NPS Campground.

My last hike on this Trail was just after the last snow storm.  The Forest at that time was a series of silvery Tree sculptures.  It was a winter world with open space all along the Trail; today we are immersed in world of green.  It is as if I have never walked this Trail, I recognize only a few areas as we hike toward Hot Springs. Lovely Violets are decorating the edges of  path and our hike finishes with the sight of a glorious Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly.  Another lovely morning in the Forest of Hot Springs Mountain.

It was a perfect morning in Nature.
Love to You All,
Lee


Nature is Full of Surprises

Park Entrance Sweet Squirrel with healed head injuries

My hike began with indecision, the sky was turning dark and I could not decide which route to take.  I head to North Mountain and on impulse turned around.  I re-enter the Park at the Hot Springs Mountain main entrance and a Lovely Male Cardinal was waiting for me.  As I reached the top of the stairs I turn to see a sweet Squirrel sitting atop the hand rail and staring at me.  It is missing part of it’s left hand, as I move closer it hops down vanishing into the ivy.  Suddenly another squirrel appears and stands up in front of me.  It comes closer and that is when I notice the now healed wound on it’s head and it too is missing part of it’s left hand.  My heart aches for these sweet creatures. I wonder if those injured have banded together at the park entrance.

I continue up into the main part of the park a noise above me causes me to look up.  Hanging upside down looking at me is another squirrel.  It’s as if a general announcement was sent out about my arrival.  The inquisitive Squirrel jumps from the Tree to a Rock, then out of site.  As I reach the top  the squirrel from the Tree is waiting for me, it is sitting on the rail eating breakfast. It jumps down and scampers ahead of me stopping in front of a Tree with another Male Cardinal.

As I hike up the Dead Chief to the Short Cut Trail I cannot help but think about all the Squirrels that came to greet me as I entered the park.  After not seeing many Male Cardinals in the past month why were so many in one place. I Love the meditation of Nature’s wonders as I hike higher on to Hot Springs Mountain. I feel so at peace with the beauty around me it’s as if I floated to the top.

When I reach the picnic area at the top I can see in the distance a Crow hopping from picnic table to picnic table. As I get closer I view the oddest thing it appears to be running.  My photo is the a visual of the same odd Crow imagery. My hike has been filled with many surprises from Nature this morning.

My hike down the Peak Trail is serene and I am surprised that I have not seen other hikers this morning. The beautiful Leaves are are growing larger and I feel cradled by the new green.  As I reach the bottom of the Trail a Chipmunk pops up from behind a rock.  We are near the Hot Springs Mountain Road and as each car goes by the little Chipmunk hides, then reappears again.  I have had a glorious morning in the park.

Find peace in Nature.
Love to You All,
Lee


Butterflies and Playful Creatures in the Spring Forest

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Pale Yellow Butterfly

The park is active this morning, squirrels are running and digging on the Tufa Terrace and Peak Trail. A Male Cardinal is looking out over the promenade and singing his morning song. As I head up to the Carriage Road I spot a wounded insect, this poor creature has a section of it’s protective shell chipped away.

The spring green along the Dead Chief Trail is accented with vibrant Red Bud Trees and Dogwood Blooms. When I reach the Short Cut Trail a Squirrel is peeking at me from the “V” in a Tree above me.  It vanishes then appears in the hole of an old dead Tree, undecided over the potential danger I might pose.

When I reach the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I am surprised how quiet the Park is at the top.  No birds are in close vicinity and I can only here their faint calls in the distance.  Along the Trail glorious Wildflowers are blanketing the edges, Spiderwort and Violets accent the new green.   As I stop to photograph a Spiderwort I hear a rustling near my boots, looking down I see a see Chipmunk pulling at a tender string of seeds.  It sits, eats and forages for other food, I am surprised when it walks up near my boots. A few minutes later the beautiful Chipmunk disappears into the leaves.

Each day I hike the Trails Spring is changing the forest.  New leaves gracefully wave in the breeze, White Dogwood and Red Bud Trees provide spectacular contrast.  The Hike along the Trail is peaceful and I feel the tranquility of the new Forest.

As I reach the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I am treated to the site of a Male Prairie Lizard.  It is the first one I have seen on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Unlike his counterparts on the Goat Rock Trail the coloring on his belly is a greenish turquoise rather than a cobalt blue.

The Honeysuckle Trail is a new journey with Leaves sparkling above the Violets and Oxalis now appearing all along the path.  Squirrels are dashing back and forth across the Trail and is in one a full on sprint up the Path ahead of me.  When I reach the peak Trail another Squirrel jumps onto the path in front of me. It looks up and suddenly decides that up a Tree is a much better place to be located.  As I reach the bottom of the Trail I see a stalk of lovely Foxglove Beardtongue it is the perfect way to end my day in the park.

Don’t let a day go by without stepping outside and breathing in Nature.
Love to You All,
Lee

PS: My walk with my fiance’ Rick on the Promenade was a visual feast of Butterflies.  Pastel Yellow, Yellow with Black and Orange with Black Butterflies were everywhere.  Two sweet Northern Mockingbirds took turns imitating Rick whistling. It was a glorious evening out together.


Foggy Paths, Birds, Wildflowers and Lizards Part 2

Hot Springs National Park Lower Dogwood Tree Bloom

(Continued from April 03 2010) Heading down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I am in awe of the beauty of the Red Bud Trees. They are glorious splashes of bright pink in the new spring green along the road side. It is the first time the hike down to the road is relaxing, the air is sweet with blossoms and the glow of green touches everything. I look down to see a lovely patch of Spring Beauty and a large shadow passed over.  I look up just in time to see a large Turkey Vulture flying over.

When I reached the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I spot a patch of lovely Wood Spurge. The delicate green and yellow blossoms are a lovely addition to the Forest Path.  On the Upper Dogwood Trail I can see beautiful Birds-Foot Violets, drops of last nights rain glisten on it’s petal.

I connected with the Lower Dogwood and I am mesmerized by the exquisite path laid out before me. A single Dogwood Tree is blossoming amongst the texture of the glossy green leaves.  I hear a screech in the distance but cannot make out what bird is making the sound. A few minutes later I hear the same sound getting closer followed by the cry of a Hawk.  I Look up and see a Hawk chasing a Crow across the sky, this is something I had never before witnessed.

As I reach the  junction with the Arlington Trail I can see someone has returned to set another bonfire in the middle of the Lower Dogwood.  The NPS needs to investigate before someone sets the park on fire and perhaps sends the fire down the Trail to the Arlington Hotel.

I hike over to the Floral Trail and I keep hearing the light rustling of leaves.  A quick glance to my side and I finally see a Ground Skink racing in and out of the leaves.  The next time I hear the sound I am able to better track the Skink to get a photo.  I love their glossy tan coloring with a brown stripe down each side. After I reach the bottom of the Trail I begin my hike home along Fountain Street. It’s been another wonderful morning in the park.

Get out and play, Nature is waiting for you.
Love to You All,
Lee