Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for May, 2010

Squirrels, Ice Cream Cone and Pink Poodles

Fountain Street Squirrel Ice Cream Cone

Where do Pink Poodles Shop? Central Ave Hot Springs

Somewhere on the edge of the city and the park wildlife tries to survive. When we leave our unhealthy food garbage on the ground it can end up in the hands of creatures who can become ill from its consumption.  This morning I saw a squirrel eating a discarded Ice Cream Cone.  I was not cute, it was sad. Please when you are in or near of our precious parks please dispose of your garbage in the receptacles provided throughout the park and on the city sidewalks.

It is already 78 degrees when I leave for my hike at 7:45 this morning.  As I head toward the Floral Trail I hear crunching above me on Fountain Street by the entrance to the park.  I Look up to see a Squirrel eating the cone of an ice cream cone, not a very good breakfast for this sweet creature.

Further up the Trail a Little Squirrel stands pensively as I approach, its sweet face is a perfect start to my morning. It brings joy to my heart on the way to North Mountain.   I hike up the Floral Trail to the Lower Dogwood Trail and hike toward the Upper Dogwood.  As I pass the second rest bench I hear a rustling above me and look up to see a sweet squirrel nibbling on a nut.  It is nestled above me in the green leaves of the Tree next to me.

I head up the Upper Dogwood to connect with the Lower Dogwood Loop and cannot wait to be engulfed in the bright green Trail.  As near the top of the Trail I see a squirrel munching on the leaves in the Tree above me. It is a lovely morning of Squirrels.  When I reach the Lower Dogwood Trail I am heart broken by what I see in the middle of the trail.  It is a now deceased baby Opossum, I can not figure out how it was hit in the middle of the path. My hike around the North side of trail is a silent somber experience.

On the south side of the  trail I photograph the lovely little Fungi growing along the trail edges. They are an ever changing colorful decoration in the Spring Forest.  I hike down the Floral Trail on North Mountain then hike up the Floral Trail on the Hot Springs Mountain side. At the top I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail, then the Peak Trail and continue on the Promenade.  Along the Promenade yellow Butterfly Weed is in full bloom and several Bumble Bees are feeding on the flowers. The brightly colored Wildflowers remind me of sunshine.  A beautiful Northern Mockingbird lands in front of me as I move toward the Park exit on Spring Street.

Thank You for hiking with me in Forest, I always appreciate your company.
Dance in the Forest and Let Nature fill your heart.

PS: the cute pink Poodle was watching the foot traffic on Central Avenue :o)

Memorial Day: A Tribute to my Father

Promenade Mimosa - For My Father on Memorial Day

Promenade Mimosa - For My Father on Memorial Day

I leave these flowers in memory of my Father who taught me to Love Nature.  He taught me to garden, hike, Love even the smallest creatures,  and care for the Forest.  I wish he could have lived long enough to see this blog and hike with me in the Park.  The memory below is only a small part of who he was.

My Dad Joseph Robert Smykal

How many people sit alone with no one to talk to? The world moves rapidly around them and all they seek is a friendly conversation and to know that another human being cares. I started to think about the people I saw when I was a child; each day carrying all their possessions from place to place, looking through garbage cans for scraps of food. Today, as an adult, when I have food in my van I always stop to offer it to them. This is why I don’t go for long drives without fresh fruit and loaves of French bread. My day never passes without reflecting upon my Dad and the lessons he taught me.

When I was a child during the 1960s he often took me for walks in the old town Burnside area of Portland, Oregon on Saturday afternoons. Dad seemed to know so many people, continuously stopping to greet them as we moved down the sidewalk. Many of his friends seemed old from something other than age and his kind words always had a profound effect, which brought smiles to their faces.

Dad always invited one of his friends to have lunch with us and while we ate they shared stories about family and their lives since the war. I sat quietly and listened to each conversation hoping to learn more about my Dad’s life before I was born. These lunches were more than food. They were always a time of discovery. After we finished he never failed to walk with his friend back to where they had met and shake their hand before we parted company. I was in awe of the number of friends my Dad had, as each week we took someone new to lunch. It wasn’t until I was in my teens I realized these men were WWII homeless veterans. Once I understood, I knew it was a legacy I needed to keep alive.

My Dad used the GI Bill to attend the University of Portland when he returned home from the war. This afforded him a well-paying job as a surveyor for the United States Government. In the years that followed he built a comfortable life in the suburbs with his wife and three daughters. We lived in a nice home, drove new cars and never worried about the bills getting paid. Given all that my Dad achieved, he never forgot those whose lives had not been as fortunate.

Dad was extending love, caring and friendship to his brothers from the war, men whose lives after the war were not as blessed as his. He wanted them to know they were not alone; that someone cared about them. My Dad never told me he was “doing anything special” by buying lunches for “his friends”. He was a humble man with a generous heart, never indicating his actions were extraordinary. Even when a café owner would protest his lunch guest’s appearance Dad would stand his ground, insisting we be served.

In the years that passed I wondered if there would be a time for me to quietly act with love as my Dad had done. In the late 70s and early 80s a time did arrive for me to honor my Dad’s legacy. When the Vietnam War ended I remembered my Dad’s humble actions and I continued his tradition of making new friends and sharing lunch with a veteran. Today, veterans are returning from overseas, many alone, without friends or family will become homeless. There is a greater need today for my Dad’s lunches to continue as the number of homeless veterans increase. Would you please help me continue my dad’s ‘lunch legacy’ as our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan return?


An Old Friend Returns and Baby Birds

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Spiderweb Disc

Promenade Northern Mockingbird Baby

I decided to get an earlier start this morning and I head directly up to the Dead Chief Trail and connect with the Short Cut Trail.  An old friend reappears as I begin the incline of the Short Cut Trail, with each step they call out to me.  I look and climb, excitement fills my heart when I look up at a long dead Tree.  Wings Spread embracing the Tree is my friend a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  I called out and they turn to looked my way and then hug the Tree again.  We had a lovely conversation and I feel so thankful to see them.

At the top of Hot Springs Mountain I carry the elation of see my dear friend who followed be through the Forest all winter. The Trail is lush and Green from the previous nights rain and with each breeze the Trees share the droplets coating their Leaves. Glistening up ahead is an amazing Spiderweb, it looks as if they are creating a vinyl LP.  Weaving a silver thread musical masterpiece.  Nature’s creatures are inspired to great artistry.  To my side I spot another beautiful red top Fungus pushing it’s way into view.  I am in awe of how the Forest Fungi fight through the to the surface.

When I cross over to the the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail signs of last nights rain is everywhere.  Soggy paths with standing water and Wildflowers drenched with rain.  I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail and then head down the Floral Trail.  As I near the bottom a I look up in the leaves and see a sweet Tufted Titmouse.

I head to Fountain Street and then the Promenade to cut across the park to the Post Office.  On the Promenade I can see a lovely Squirrel on the Tufa Terrace high is a Tree nibbling on leaves.  It leaps though the branches and down to where I am walking.  A female Cardinal is in the shade of a large Tree, a couple with a dog go past and she flies up into a nice green leafy Tree.

As I near the exit to the Park  I see a Northern Mockingbird sitting on the handrail ahead of me.  She appears to be waiting for me, I am about to see a wonderful sight.  What she shows me is her babies tucked safely under a bush.  They are so gorgeous, fluffy and curious.  What came next was flight school, Mom took her babies on to the hospital and one by one each flew across to a nearby Tree.  I am so excited, I can’t wait to bring Rick back later to see it for himself…

Later Rick and I did return to see “Flight School” and this time there was both Northern Mockingbird and Sparrow Babies.  Nature blesses us in so my ways!

Open your eyes to what Nature is trying to show us.
Love to You ALL!

PS the Big Beautiful Hibiscus was on Central Avenue outside the Antique Store.

The Colorful Beauty of the Forest Honored

A reader of this blog Mark Corder and fellow Hot Springs Hiker/Photographer emailed me on 5/22/2010 to let me know about the Capture Arkansas Photo site being sponsored by the Arkansas Gazette.  Thank You Mark!!!!

Spring Storm Beauty

Spring Storm Beauty by Lee Hiller

It’s a wrap on the Flowers in Arkansas Spotlight!

There were tons of great photos submitted to the Flowers in Arkansas Spotlight. There are so many beautiful flowers in our great state and everyone did a wonderful job capturing them! The people have spoken, and voted Lee Hiller’s photo, above, the top-rated Flowers in Arkansas photo. We agree with some of the comments for Lee’s photo: “Perfect!”


Today’s Contest Clue:  This Trail crosses the Hot Springs Mountain Road three times
Click here to enter

Tonight please let my photos speak for themselves, I am doing the happy dance right now :)  Nature is the true winner, I am blessed it was a moment I captured with my camera.  I Love Hot Springs National Park!!!!!  Please enjoy the wildflowers and numerous colorful fungi I found today :)  Special thanks to my Fiance’ Rick for believing in my dreams.

Stop and small the Wild Roses!
Love to You All,

It’s All in the Colorful and Amazing Details

Floral Trail Tawny Daylily

Lower Dogwood Trail Flat Top Yellow Mushroom

Today’s Contest Clue:  The Pavilion sits above this Trail Click here to enter

I am writing this as a thunder and lightning storm rages outside.   The pouring rain was desperately needed by the Forest and it’s creatures.

I am leaving earlier than normal for my hike so I can get up the Mountain and over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I want to be there for the soft Morning light.  My hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trail is more in line with Dertel’s exercise plan, a nonstop up hill climb.  A guy passes me heading down the trail and says, ” Man, this is steep”, I reply “Even steeper hiking up”, he smiles and nods his head. It’s the best quick cardio workout in the park, I am never passed by runner going up then only seem to like to go down this Trail combo.

When I reach the top I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, it is glorious dressed in Spring green. A brown Moth is on the side of a Tree with it’s wings spread soaking up the early rays of morning sun.  Beautiful Wildflowers are popping up everywhere. Pink Scaly Blazing Stars, White and Purple Wild Petunias, Yellow St Johns Wort and sunny Dandelions.  Vines are increasingly covering every inch of the Forest floor and traveling up into the Tree tops.  Sweet Warblers are filling the Forest with their glorious songs.

I hike along the Trail and cross over the Hot Springs Mountain Road to continue on the west side. When I look down I see a lovely little cream Fungi growing on the side of the trail. Further along the trail I spot a green and beige Fungi near one that has a prickly texture.  When I reach the Upper Dogwood I spot a beautiful yellow Fungi pushing  up through the rocks like a sweet Flower.  Every couple of steps I see another yellow shape blossoming in the trail.

When I reach the Floral Trail I keep hearing this light ticking sound on the dried leaves.  I see a slight movement, but I can’t see anything in the leaves.  I take a photo of the general area, a good decision as it reveals a cool camouflaged Grasshopper.  A few steps ahead and I hear the same sound, this time I see a tiny bright green grasshopper. I Love seeing new insects in the park.  At the bottom of the trail is an gorgeous surprise,  Tawny Daylilies.  I have seen the buds for several days but did not imagine the color that would burst forth.

As I am heading home on Fountain Street I hear a rustling to my side.  I turn to see a sassy female Cardinal pushing through the leaves looking for a late morning breakfast.  It is the perfect end to a wonderful morning in the Forest.

Let your heart be free in Nature.
Love to All,

PS My Beloved Fiance’ Rick is healing and we had a lovely walk on the Promenade.  I have included a few photos from our time in the park.

Wildflowers, Fungi, Squirrels, Chipmunk, Birds and Bee Hunters

Promenade Yellow Butterfly Weed

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Black-Eyed Susan

Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

Today’s Contest Clue:  This Trail connects the Short Cut Trail to the Gulpha Gorge Trail Click here to enter

My hike took place yesterday and normally I would have typed a beautiful tale of my hike through the park.  The forest was filled with runners yelling as they jogged with each other, yelling at me to step aside and yelling into their cell phones. I saw many beautiful places and details in the park, but I felt battered by the human noise. I want so much to stop them and say “Indoor Voices Please”.

The saving grace was a lovely walk in the evening with my beloved Rick and then another walk with him this morning.  Storms are moving in and I will be happy to hike in the rain tomorrow as it will be peaceful.  Please forgive my departure from the usual commentary, I ask you please enjoy the photos of all the lovely creatures I met along the way.  When the joggers would leave the area they still came out to see me and for that I feel blessed.

I saw a glorious orange insect on yellow Butterfly Weed, a lovely little squirrel walked over to me so I could take a photo,  beautiful wildflowers and fungi accented the forest.  When Rick and I were leaving the park this morning a sweet Chipmunk walked up, it was a sweet sight.  After a few minutes it peeked around the corner, saw people coming and nearly ran over Rick trying to take cover.  It was a wonderful way to end our morning.

Sometimes we forget how to slowdown and listen to Nature, it has so much to say to us.
I send Love to you ALL!

Beautiful Fungi and Squirrels in the Park

Lower Dogwood Trail Fungus

Fountain Trail Squirrel Mom

I decide to go up the North Mountain this morning.  As I head up Fountain Street I see a Sweet Squirrel in the clover on the Fountain Trail having a lovely breakfast. In the early morning even the smallest creatures are at peace.  As I look to my side I see some fungi in the clover really pretty disc shape on a pedestal.

As I near the Floral Trail I catch sight of a Squirrel that I have noticed for months.  It has come close to me only on a couple of occasions, it sometimes appears to have involuntary movements.  Now we are standing face to face, suddenly in runs up and down the Tree a couple times then returns to look at me.  I take my first photograph of this beautiful Squirrel.

The Floral Trail is sprinkled with a wonderful variety of fungi shapes. Two look like funnels and another pair is a large disc with a button below it.  I am keenly aware I need to be aware of each place I set my foot down.  Winter was barren on the Trails spring brings little treasures often in the middle of the trail.

When I reach the Lower Dogwood Trail I am engulfed in the green and cooled by a delicate breeze. The North side of the Trail is quiet, a peaceful isolation on the edge of an eclectic historical city.  I stand still on the Trail and breath in its beauty, say a little prayer and continue on my journey. On the South side of the trail I can see amazing Orange and red Fungi.  Every few steps a I spot a new shape, umbrellas, little dots, cup shapes and irregular formations.  Nestle in the green of moss, cradled by leaves and surrounded by rocks and sticks they are spectacular.

Connecting with the Floral Trail I make my way back down the mountain.  As I head toward home on Fountain Street I spot a lovely Mom and Baby Squirrel on the Fountain Trail.  The Sweet Baby is watching everything Mom is doing,  they are gorgeous in the clover and grass.  I approach slowly and the baby moves closer to a big Tree, but Mom moves to my side and comes closer.  She is graceful in her approach and I admire how hard it must have been to survive this past winter and bring new life to the Forest this Spring.  I Love my life with my amazing soon-to-be Husband Rick and Nature.

Wrap yourself in Nature and breath.
Love ALL,


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