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.
Love,
Lee

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?

Love,
Lee


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!
Lee

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!”

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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,
Lee


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,
Lee

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!
Lee


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,
Lee


Wildflowers, Black Damselfly, Fungi and Squirrels

Floral Trail ebony jewelwing damselfly

Carriage Road Asiatic Dayflower

My beloved fiance’ Rick and I are getting married on June 18th :o)

Ahhh the humidity and 70 degrees at 5 am and 80 by the time I was out the door at 7:30.  It appeared everyone had the same idea, get a hike in before it really heats up. For the first time since I began hiking in Hot Springs National Park my lens is fogging over from the heat.  I am beginning to understand why the fungi are doing so well in the park.

On the Tufa Terrace I see a little fungus that looks like a fortune cookie and another that is like an umbrella.  I head up to the Carriage Road and see a sweet Squirrel sitting in a Tree watch a Male Cardinal below gathering it’s breakfast.  As I near the  place where steam is normally venting, I look at the area to see why it is not visible.  What I find are beautiful Asiatic Dayflowers growing in the warm earth around the vent site.

I hike up the Peak Trail and enjoy the green wrapping around me and the songs of the many birds high in the canopy. Each step is deep mediation and I become one with the forest with every breath I take. I Love the quiet of the early morning. When I reach the top a sweet Squirrel is leaping from branch to branch. It was a beautiful acrobatic feat!

I headed over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and I am delighted to see so many beautiful wildflowers. Purple and White Carolina Wild Petunias, Scaly Blazing Star and Lance Leaved Coreopsis line the Trail edges. It’s a glorious feast of color against the layers of green against the trail.

“When you’re spinning round things come undone, welcome to earth 3rd rock from the sun…” It is now I pause to explain a series of events that occurred as I neared the end of the east side of the trail.  A Pileated Woodpecker landed on a dead log and I took a couple of photos.  As I was creepy forward I notice a chipmunk only 5 feet from the Woodpecker.  Cool I thought maybe I can get them both in the same frame.  The Pileated Woodpecker suddenly flew to a Tree near me, oh WOW I thought.  As I am focusing the Chipmunk screams thinking the Woodpecker is a bird of prey. The scream scares the Woodpecker it spreads it’s large wing and flies down the trail.  This in turn sends a Deer that was strolling down the trail toward me and it leaps into the Forest out of sight.  I in turn stood mesmerized unable to focus on anything.

I continued my hike on the west side of the trail trying to process the domino effect I have witnessed.  From there I hike to the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails to connect with the Floral Trail.  As I teach the bottom of the trail a black shadow zooms past my face.  I try to keep it in my sight until it lands.  It is an amazing black Dragonfly Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly with neon blue head and body (Thank You Kerri for the correct name). It’s sheer black wings look spectacular in the bright sunlight.  As I exit the park I feel blessed to have had this beautiful morning in the Forest.

Treat your soul to a day in Nature!
Love to You ALL!
Lee


Sun Returns to the Spring Rainforest

Goat Rock Trail Indian Paintbrush Bumble Bee

Central Avenue Squirrel In Magnolia Tree

My day is starting with a spectacular sunrise, the fog is blowing across Hot Springs Mountain creating a frosty looking wide rainbow.  I am practically tripping over my sweats trying to pull them on and get out the door to take photographs. I love the morning and sunrises like this make it even more amazing.

I begin my hike under a Magnolia Tree on Fountain Street wondering why stuff is falling on my head as I take out my camera.  When I look up a Squirrel is sitting on it’s perch eating breakfast.  It is the first time I have seen a Squirrel in a Magnolia Tree. It’s a perfect start to entering the park this morning.

As I head to the North Mountain side of the Floral Trail, nearing the trail I look down and see a Big Red Fungi nestled in the grass. When I reach the Floral Trail I hike up to the Lower Dogwood and then connect with the Upper Dogwood.  The north side of North Mountain is still in twilight as I reach the Trail head.  I am surrounded by hidden creatures who are moving in the leaves out of sight in the low light.  Well not all, a noise to my right reveals a lovely female Box Turtle slowly moving down the bank. She slides forward startling both of us, she pulls in her head in case I am not a friendly entity.

As I moved further along the trail I see what appears to be burning embers.  I raced up to the area and cannot smell smoke or feel any heat.  It makes me wonder if the strange fiery glow is from insects.  The sun is in fact slowly rising over North Mountain and the rays are lighting the now tissue thin Autumn Leaves.  The effect in the Twilight is an appearance for glowing embers. Nature is full of surprise, I Love it!!!!

The Goat Rock Trail is bursting with Wildflowers in yellow, orange and purplish pink.  At the top of the trail I see my first Woodland Sunflower,  a beautiful sunny yellow drifting over the trail.  As I reach the lower area of the trail I am greeted by and incredible orange Butterfly Weed, no Butterflies but the Bumble Bees love it.  Further along I spot an unusual purplish pink Scaly Brazing Star, I love the tendrils coming out of each bud.  Nature has painted an amazing garden in which I can hike.

From the Gulpha Gorge Trail I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  On the trail I spot little orange fungi next to a bigger creamy ruffle edged fungus.  It occurs to me I need to step carefully, not just to avoid the small creatures but the amazing fungi popping up everywhere.

At the Honeysuckle Trail I head toward the Wedding Chapel, a gentleman is inside praying.  I offer to pray with him, after praying I head down the Floral Trail.  The edges are all decorated in yellow wildflowers, it’s like beacons of sunlight.  At the bottom of the Trail a lovely yellow Moth is delicately perched on leaf.  It has been another perfect hike in the park thank you for coming with me.

Nature is the tuning fork for our souls.
Love to You All!
Lee


The Beauty of a Hike in the Park a Photo Essay

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Squirrel Juvenile

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Squirrel Mom

I had a busy day with my Love/Fiance’ Rick and so offer my hike in a photo format. Nature has so many beautiful faces.
Love to You All,
Lee


It’s Spring Nesting, Nurturing and a New Bird

Promenade Baby Northern Mockingbird

Promenade HSRC Fence Northern Mockingbird Berry

It is the first morning in a while that I could see the Mountain clearly, no rain and no fog. A perfect hiking day mild temperatures and patchy skies.  As I enter the park I notice the fragrant air does not feel as heavy, it makes breathing much easier.  Even though the humidity is lower the pollen count is high and the city is covered in it’s yellow dust.  I feel blessed, for the first time in my life I am not suffering from allergies including those related to pollen.

At the beginning of the The Tufa Terrace is a delightful cluster of Fungi.  Little gray and brown umbrellas nestled around an old stump. Spectacular new Wild Roses are appearing every day along the terrace, their beauty a perfect start to my morning.  I hear a noise above and look up to see a yellow and white Fixed Wing Single-Engine 1969 CESSNA flying over the park. The sky is a perfect Arkansas Blue, the view from above must be amazing.

As I connect with the Carriage Road I hear this odd bird call, it sounds like a screeching cat.  When I stop to listen more carefully it switches to a series of tones similar to a Northern Mocking Bird.  As I head up the Dead Chief Trail I see a male Cardinal and a dark unknown bird.  The male Cardinal is doing his best impression of a crooner singing to the rising morning sun.  Suddenly the dark bird (I learn later is a Gray Catbird) sings and I know now this is the bird I have been hearing the past week along the Carriage Road.

When I reach the Short Cut Trail I can hear another male Cardinal and spot him in a Tree up ahead.  Although not coming close he does stay visible, moving so I can clearly see him.  Movement below and his motives are revealed,  a female Cardinal is gathering leaves in her beak for nesting.  The male has been acting as a decoy until she can get safely back to their nest.

I hike across the mountain top over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Lovely Wild Roses are appearing along the trail in two glorious shades of pink.  The green of the trail is lush, its color reflects on everything along the path.  There are times in the forest I feel as if I am being followed, this was one of those moments.  It has been so quiet and I cannot immediately locate my companion in the Trees.  A flicker in the leaves, a large Blue Jay is moving slowly along the path.  Usually the Blue Jays are noisy warning the Forest of my presence, today I am being quietly observed.  The dense green leaf cover has given it perfect camouflage.  I am thankful to have this guide moving through the Forest with me.

When I reach the Honeysuckle Trail I decide to head over to “The Wedding Chapel”, to sit and listen to the birds.  For the first time I decide to take photos from the inside. Looking at the rock pillar in the back corner I start to giggle, I never realized it looks like a Tiki totem.  This is the perfect place to sit for a moment, close my eyes and soak in the beautiful song of the Forest.  Later as I slowly open my eyes I see a lovely Black Swallowtail Butterfly gliding along on a delicate breeze.

I count my blessings as I head down the Floral Trail, it is glorious in the Forest this morning.  When I reach the Fountain Street Wall at the Fountain Trail I see a Squirrel foraging in the clover and another in a Tree. Two male  Robins are battling over territory as a female gathers nesting materials below.   I turn to see I have been noticed, a squirrel is walking along the wall right toward me, I have been made.

On the promenade the the birds are singing and in the Trees I can hear the chirping of babies waiting for food.  Above me a Northern Mockingbird land on the Light post above me.  It twists it’s head and looks at me with a single eye, then flies over to a nearby Berry Tree. From there it lands on the fence that boarders the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Hospital, below a baby waits for a feeding.  Two House Sparrows sit watching  between the spears of the fence.  A sweet female House Sparrow lands on the fence to my right with a blade of glass in her beak.

At the entrance I stop to take a deep breath filling my senses with the sweet perfume of Magnolias.  Thank You for following me through the Park today, I Love knowing you are there.

In Nature we are cradled in the infinite beauty of the Universe.
Love to You ALL!
Lee


Beautiful Creatures in the Park

At Home Foggy View Over Hot Springs Mountain

Promenade Northern Mockingbird

The weather changes in Hot Springs are rapid, I awoke to deep fog and into the park in an hour.   As I enter the park it is a ghost world.  On the Tufa Terrace ramp I hear a noise to my side and can see a squirrel nearly on my shoulder.  We both look a bit surprised at our proximity, 30 seconds pass before either of us moves.  As the sweet Squirrel heads up the Tree it nearly collides with another one on the way up. Visibility is very limited in some places.

In the grass new Fungi are mushrooming, brown glossy tops look as if they are floating in the fog.  Lovely pink Wild Roses are glowing along the terrace as streams of sunlight pierce the gray mist.  A beautiful little Chipmunk is leaping on the Tufa Rocks and I am surprised to see it in the half light. I love watching it’s graceful moves.

From the Tufa Terrace I connect with the Peak Trail and begin my hike to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  As I near the top the fog begins to lift as the sun crests the Mountain.  The explosion of light on the Trail is breathtaking, I wonder if  I could possibly have witnessed such a glorious event. At the top a tiny Downy Woodpecker it hopping up the side of a nearby Tree. I am always amazed at how tiny they are.

From the top I take the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails. I hike down the Floral Trail, and head back to the Promenade via Fountain Street. Along Fountain Street I spot a large crow in a Tree across the street near North Mountain.  It is soon chased off by a Blue Jay, an event which surprised me.

On the Promenade a Northern Mockingbird appears above me on a lamp post and looks directly at me.  From there it flies down to a tiny new Tree for a morning berry feast.  As I move toward the Tufa Terrace ramp I hear a noise above me and look up to see a Male Cardinal preening in the sunlight.  He looking spectacular in the bright early morning light.

When I reach the bottom of the Tufa Terrace I spot more newly opened Magnolias all along the edge of the park entrance.  Their sweet perfume follows me home, showing me Nature is never far away.

Take a break from the electronic age and play for a while in Nature.
Love to you ALL,
Lee


Beautiful Foggy Mountain Trails

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Clearing Fog

When I woke up I could see fog descending onto Hot Springs Mountain.  The race is on as I try to wake up, drink honey with lemon, get dressed and head up the Mountain.  My weather alert tells me storms are forming so I really need to hustle.

As I enter the park it is very quiet and the air is heavy with humidity.  Nothing appears to be moving in the dark damp fog, the Forest is very quiet. In the grass on the Tufa Terrace fungi are shooting up, the weather has been a perfect growing environment. I love the little umbrella shapes along the path.

I want to reach the top before the fog lifts so I hike from the Tufa Terrace to the Dead Chief and connect with the Short Cut Trail. The air is so heavy and all sounds seem muffled and distant, even my own foot steps.  The air feel like a cocoon as I climb higher on the Mountain.  As I near the Hot Springs Mountain top the fog is drifting between the Trees in the Spring Forest.

Moving across the picnic area leading to Hot Springs Mountain Trail I notice a Tree with newly formed Fungi fans, these are the first I have seen with purple edges.  Further along I can see lovely pink wildflowers blooming on top of a rock.  It feels as if I have the entire park to myself, peace filled serenity in the fog.

From the east side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I circle around to the north and them the west side.  I can hear song birds along the Trail but the fog is still hampering my ability to see where they are.  I stop and can hear a very loud song approaching me.  When I look up I see a beautiful Brown Thrasher moving among the leaves.  It is wonderful to see an old friend in the Forest on this quiet morning.

I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail and love seeing my newly painted and cleaned Wedding Chapel.  The rest hut looks wonderful wrapped in the Spring morning. I Love the Honeysuckle Trail, it was the first place in the park I ventured without knowledge of where I was headed. Wrong trail became a hike full of new discoveries.  As I finish my hike and exit the park via the Fountain Trail I am thankful for each day I can be close to Nature.

Let Nature Love You!
Lee


A Walk in the Park

A wonderful day off with my Fiance’ Rick, we had a beautiful Stroll through the Park.  Please relax in Nature on the Promenade in Hot Springs National Park.

Love to you ALL!


Tanager, Cardinal, Chipmunk, Squirrel and Magnolias

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Summer Tanager

Turbulent skies and humidity as I head into the park this morning.  A Sweet Squirrel is forage for it’s breakfast on the Arlington Lawn at the park entrance as I head for the Floral Trail.  It appears we are often on the same morning schedule. I love watching it’s graceful leaping and hunting for the hidden treasures in the lawn.

When I reach the Trail on the North Mountain side a beautiful Moth lands on a fallen Tree. It’s wings are a grayish brown with light blue plus orange and yellow rings.  I cannot remember seeing so many beautiful Moths.   I connect with the Lower Dogwood Trail and spot a little shadow moving on the Trail in front of me.  Looking closely I see a wonderful spiky black with neon orange caterpillar.  I decide to stay and make sure it gets safely across the path.  I believe it letting Nature take it’s course, my purpose was not to save it from predators, it is to make sure a jogger does not mindlessly crush it under foot.

From the Lower Dogwood I hike up to the Upper Dogwood Trail, and catch a young couple making out :) Note to couple the morning is often a busy time on the trails and in the middle of the path not a good plan LOL.  After managing to stifle my laughter I continued along the trail.  Near the trail head I hear a rustling to my side, I turn to look and see a Male Box Turtle. His coloring is fantastic a rust head an black front legs with yellow spots.  In an effort to learn why I rarely see them I decide to stand and watch it’s progress up the side of the bank. To my surprise it climbs up to the leaves and burrows halfway into them, when finished at first glance it appears to be just another rock.

I hike down North Mountain to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and head over to Hot Springs Mountain.  Along the trail I can hear beautiful bird call, as I am listening I spot a wonderful patch of pink Wild Roses blooming on the trail edge. As I am admiring the beauty of the Rose I hear a Male Cardinal in the Tree above me. I turn to see two bright red birds flitting around the leaves.  It is not until I return home I discover only one of the birds is a male Cardinal, the other is a Summer Tanager. This is my first sighting of a Tanager in the park.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail  I connect with the Honeysuckle and then the Floral Trails. Half way down the trail I spot a little Chipmunk peeking out from under a log.  I stand silently and watch as it comes out looks around, climbs up the log, stops to look at me for awhile then vanishes over the other side. It is the first time I have seen a Chipmunk using it’s tail for balance, it reminds me of a miniature fox.  Nature is a beautiful teacher. When I reach the bottom of the trail  I head to the park entrance.  At the entrance Magnolias are opening in greater numbers, the white blossom fill the air with a glorious sweet scent. It is the perfect way to finish my morning in the park.

Be prepared to see what Nature has to show you!
Love to You All!
Lee


Lovely Dragonflies, Butterflies, Moths, Bumble Bees and Wildflowers

Hot Springs National Park, Floral Trail Blue Butterfly

Dark skies await me as I enter the park, in the distance I can here the NPS Mower working in the lower levels of the park.  On the Tufa Terrace new Wild Roses are blooming and lovely Bumble Bees are moving from flower to flower.  I love watching their graceful ballet as collect the pollen from the center of the pink blossom.

I hike to the top of the mountain via the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails.  Lovely new purple wildflowers are appearing along the trail edges.  These are the first purple flowers for both the trails and a welcome sight.

At the top of the Mountain I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and hike around the east side of the Mountain and cross over on to North Mountain. The machines used to groom the park have kept the wildlife in the distance.  Today I have felt truly alone in the Forest, I miss the Birds, Chipmunks and Squirrels.  The dark skies and cooler temperatures have kept the reptiles away as well, yes I miss the snakes and lizards too.

When I reach the Upper Dogwood Trail the sun begins to sporadically appear.  I sit on a bench and look up at the sky in time to see a Hawk and the later a Turkey Vulture soar overhead.  While I change the batteries in my camera a regular on the trails Robert stops for a chat then continues down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail as I head up the Upper Dogwood Ttrail.

As the sun begins to stay out for longer periods the Insects in the park emerge and I can see activity on low bushes and high in the Trees.  Tiny gnats are in mini swarms high in the Trees and graceful Butterflies are riding the breeze dipping in and out of the Forest green.  The Lower Dogwood and Floral Trails are busy with a wonderful array of colorful Insects.  While I am photographing a Moth I look up momentarily to see a Hummingbird hovering in front of me. It  disappears before I can begin to lift my lens to get a photograph.

When I reach the bottom of the Floral Trail I am surround by a festival of color.  Beautiful tiny blue butterflies are dancing all around me.  A beautiful Orange Angel-wings Butterfly Land in the long grass at my feet. As it flies away I catch sight of a neon blue dragonfly delicately hovering among the wildflowers.

A sweet romantic couple Suella and Joshua from Ville Platte, Louisiana stop and ask if I will take their photograph.  As if on cue a  brown and orange Moth appears, it matches the colors in Suella sundress. It lands near us all and is a spectacular site with it’s wings open.

When I reach the park entrance I walk along the Arlington Lawn admiring the beautiful Magnolias that are bursting open.  I pack my camera away and am about to head home when the largest Dragonfly I have ever seen zooms past me.  Quickly I try to get my camera out as I head back into the park.  There are five perhaps six Dragonflies the size of Sparrows, they are flying in a chaotic manner and I keep spinning around trying to capture a single image. I doubt that there will be even a blur on any of the numerous shoot and hope photos I took.  A lovely gray and orange Butterfly, or is it a Moth lands at my feet as I am leaving for home.  It has been a wonderful day of Insects in the Park.

Thank You for you joining me on my hike today.
Love to You All!
Lee


The Chipmunk in a the Tree

Tufa Terrace Chipmunk In Tree

My beloved Rick had another emergency hospital visit. Thankfully it was resolved with medication and he is home safe and resting.  We did not get home until 1 am and as I am usually in bed between 10-11 pm, sleeping in was inevitable.  When I awoke the sky was dark and it was raining, waiting a few hours to hike seemed to be the best idea, I pulled the covers over my head.

When I enter the park the sky is dark and the wind is pushing the multiple layers of clouds, but the rain has abated.  I stop on the Tufa Terrace to remove my lens cap and a twig hits my shoulder, I look up to see not a Squirrel, but a lovely little Chipmunk.  Most of the Chipmunks in the park are ground dwellers so I am surprised to see this one perched above my head.  In it’s little hands is a nut, it’s morning feast.  I Love Nature!

Further along the Terrace a Squirrel stares at me as I move toward the Peak Trail.  It stands up and I feel blessed to be in it’s company. Lovely Daisies are blooming where the Tufa Terrace and Peak Trail cross over each other. Along the Carriage Road sweet yellow Wildflowers are battered though still standing after the last storm.

When I reach the  Short Cut Trail I notice the light has an unusual pink glow.  A late morning twilight fills the Forest and I reach the Mountain top feeling rejuvenated.  Light is a powerful force even when it is filtered by clouds and leaves.

I decide to take the Peak Trail down to the bottom of the Mountain, according to the trail markers this will be a shorter trip than expected.  If the NPS signs are to be believed from the Honeysuckle Trail to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail it is a shorter distance down than it is up the Trail.  Hiking up is .2 miles hiking down is only .1 mile, an anomaly not unlike a wormhole must be in play.  I only hope I don’t miss any of my favorite places along the trail. :o)

When I reach the bottom of the trail where it meets the promenade I enjoy watching a Male Cardinal stalking insects in the grass.  On the ground they always remind me of colorful Velociraptors moving through a prehistoric landscape.  I continue to the park entrance, look up at newly blossomed Magnolia and inhale the beautiful fragrance before heading home to my beloved Rick.

Thank You for coming along with me, Nature is always waiting to show us a new path!
Love to You ALL!
Lee


Cardinal, Fungi and Chipmunk in the Stormy Forest

Hot Springs National Park, Fountain Street Male Cardinal

Another night of storms and I wait until late morning before I leave for my hike.  Although the skies are dark and cool winds are blowing I cannot wait to reach North Mountain.  As I near the Floral Trail I hear a familiar voice and turn to see a spectacular male Cardinal in the Tree to my side.  His glorious red color seems all the more fantastic in contrast to the gray Skies and green Leaves.

As I reach the Floral Trail I notice the bird song is flowing through the Tree tops.  Every time something above me moves large drops of water splash onto the Leaves on the edges of the path.   The restless breeze is tugging at my hat as the last of the rain is shaken free from the Trees above me.  When I reach the Lower Dogwood Trail I stop, place my hand against a large Tree, close my eyes and take a deep breath.  I give thanks to for the blessings of being here at this moment.

I head up the trail and spot some wonderful False Turkey Tail Fungi on an old log.  The colors are beautiful, bands of glowing gold, olive green, rust and tan.  The entire log is covered with this spectacular fungi display, Nature’s artistry make me pause to enjoy the pallet of algae upon the fan shapes.

As I hike to the top of the Trail reaching the backside of the Lower Dogwood Loop I am mesmerized by the foliage.  Nestled in the green I feel a million miles from the city I know looms below me. I understand the words of Emerson in a way that sitting in a University classroom never afforded.  To hike in the peaceful green, hear myself breath and my heart beat to the rhythm of the insects buzz and birds song.

I hike over to the Park entrance and head down the stairs and ramps, I move to the side to allow a group of tourist pass.  Movement on the Tufa Rocks at my side catches my eye, a sweet Chipmunk has been watching the progression of people entering the park.  I raise my camera to take a couple of photos, as I focus each shot I realize the little Chipmunk is moving closer, much closer to me.  I half expect to feel it touching my hand.  Another running passer by and poof my companion vanishes into one the many Tufa Rock openings.

To live in a city surrounded by a National Park is rare and there is no place on the planet I would rather call home. I am thankful that my Beloved Rick shared his Mountains.

Thank You for coming into the Forest with me,
Play in Nature…
Love to you ALL,
Lee