Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for June, 2010

Life in the Park is always full of Surprises

Tufa Terrace Eastern Cottontail

Carriage Road Brown Orange Blue Moth

Peak Trail Juvenile Male Cardinal

Carriage Road Hawk

Promenade Mourning Dove Babies

The park is turmoil as they try to prepare for the fourth of July weekend and I am having a crazy busy week.  An honest disclosure this is a combination of two days of hiking.  The National Park Service is trying to groom the park  for the Fourth Of July Holiday and they are out in full force with mowers and chainsaws.  Trying to find a quiet place in the park has been nearly impossible.

I find one Eastern Cottontail this morning on the Tufa Terrace Trail.  Still no sign of the second one with the little nick in it’s ear.  There is a sadness in not seeing them together for nearly a week.  Further along on the Peak Trail I can see a juvenile male Cardinal in a Tree singing his song.  It is a delight to see his beautiful transition to red.

Suddenly the park goes silent and shadow drifts over the Carriage Road.  I Look up to see a Hawk flying overhead between Hot Springs and West Mountains.  Further along I see a spectacular Brown Moth in the grass.  It’s wing pattern includes orange, white and blue on brown.

I hike up the Dead Chief Trail and am greeting by a bright red Male Cardinal.  He sings a glorious song in the green of the Forest.  I continue my hike on the Short Cut Trail up to the top of the mountain and to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect with the Gulpha Gorge Trail.  On my descent I see a tiny Prairie Lizard, it pauses only briefly before darting under the leaves.

I decide to take the Goat Rock Trail up to the top of North Mountain.  As I near Goat Rock I hear a trademark whistling wing sound.  I look up and see a Mourning Dove on the branch above me.  At the top of the trail a lovely moth stares at me from a rock to my side.

I hike up to Hot Springs Mountain Road and head over to the Hot Spring Mountain Trail.  Looking at my watch I realize I have been out for many hours and need to get home quickly.  I get back on the Hot Springs Mountain Road to get home, part way down I find a sad sight.  Someone has recently run over a Copperhead Snake, I wanted so much to see it alive.

When I reach Fountain Street a sweet Squirrel is there to greet me as I near home.  Please leave Nature as you find it, drive with care through the parks that you visit.

Love,
Lee

PS: Rick and I took a lovely evening walk on the Promenade, we saw many lovely creatures.  A tiny Chipmunk popping in and out of the Ivy, a Northern Mockingbird (our friend Charlie) and some lovely baby Mourning Doves.  Near the end of our journey we met Harley the Wonder Puppy a gorgeous brindle Labrador.


Wings, Paws and Hooves in the Forest

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Deer Doe

Carriage Road Red Bellied Woodpecker

Peak Trail Squirrel

Carriage Road Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

Storms are expected today so I head into the park early this morning.  When I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace ramp I notice a horrible sight.  A branch has one end carved to a point and has been jammed into a Chipmunk burrow.  My heart ached for the fear this must have caused, I am thankful this burrow has several exits.

When I reach the Peak Trail I am surprised to see one of the Rabbits on the paved path and not over in the grassy glen.  Seeing one one of the two Eastern Cottontails has me wondering if there is nest tending or if the other was scared off. I hope the same people that was probing in the Chipmunk burrow did not find the Rabbits.

As I reach the Carriage Road I can hear the call of a Red Bellied Woodpecker.  I look up and see the lovely red head of a male in the Tree above me.  I notice it is a smaller juvenile bird and in the distance can see another one moving high in the Trees. On the ground a sweet baby/juvenile Brown Thrasher is searching for it’s breakfast.  I Love see all these amazing young birds.

A really cool insect I usually only see rapidly moving in the air is slowly crossing the path in front of me. It has a jet black body with orange wings, I would love to know what it is. [Thank You @Catawu for identifying this as a Spider Wasp] In a Tree above me a beautiful brown Moth is dancing in the branches.  I love watching it’s delicate maneuvers.

I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the Top of the Mountain.  As I start my hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I see another young Brown Thrasher.  It’s wonderful to see all the new life in the park.  Further along a brown Swallowtail Butterfly lands on a plant on the side of the trail. As I am watching it I hear a loud snap below me, I look to see what made this sound.  Each step on my hike I can hear something big moving through the Forest.  Several minutes later I hear a startled movement and I carefully back track.  Deep into the lower reaches of the Forest a beautiful Doe looks up at me.  She eats some leaves,  looks at me again then lets out a loud snort and leaps deeper into the woods. I Love these moments and am thankful Nature shows them to me.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail.  Along the trail a pretty female Robin appears on a Tree to my right.  She flies from Tree to Tree until she land in one with a Male Robin. I Love watching this beautiful pair of birds and wonder if they have a nest nearby.  Nearing the end of the Trail a small gray moth lands on a large green leaf.

I connect with the Peak Trail and onto the Tufa Terrace toward the park entrance.  As I finish my hike I reflect on the beauty I have seen in the Forest today.

Please pray for the people the wildlife of the Gulf Coast.
Love,
Lee


DreamHost review


Hazy Morning on the Summer Trails

North Mountain View of Hot Sprigs Mountain Tower

Tufa Terrace Hot Water Cascade

Upper Dogwood Trail

Note this was yesterdays hike… today I am having a newlywed day :) with my beloved Husband Rick.

It is a hazy humid morning in the park, hot the air is thick and my camera lens keeps fogging up.  The National Park service is grooming the trails so the wildlife is either high up in the Trees or has taken cover.  When I reach the Carriage Road I can see two juvenile Squirrels vocalizing their disapproval at one and other from the highest branches. Tails are rapidly moving back and forth in a sign of annoyance.

My hike on the Dead Chief Trail is difficult, crews are laying down a combination of earth, sand and rock to repair the trail. It is hard to get a foot hold in the soft mixture and every step up the incline is a struggle.  The Short Cut Trail is a bit better but last weeks grooming still is not totally packed down.  This is a wonderful sweaty cardio workout within the the beautiful Forest.

When I reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain I can hear weed whackers and chainsaws in the distance. I try to choose a trail that leads away from the noise, but it appears to be everywhere. I am resigned to the fact that the hike will be less than peaceful most everywhere in the park.  The haze is making it difficult to focus or get any clear images.  This is one of those days when life conspires against best laid plans.  I hike from the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Upper Dogwood and then onto the Lower Dogwood Trail.  From there I hiked to the Floral Trail and back home to my Husband Rick.

Take to time to get out for a walk/hike and listen to Nature’s music.
Love,
Lee


Bunnies, Baby Birds and a Sweet Chipmunk

Lower Dogwood Female Cardinal And Chick

Lower Dogwood Male Cardinal And Chick

Lower Dogwood Male Cardinal

Peak Trail Eastern Cottontail

Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

It’s been a busy two days so I have combined photos from yesterday and today.  I started my hike yesterday with lovely Bunnies (Eastern Cottontails) grazing in the grass on the Peak Trail.  As I crept into the glen slowly not wanting to startle them.  For half an hour I enjoyed the beauty of these graceful creatures.  As I slowly back up I glance to my side and saw I had attracted an audience. I imagine somewhere out in cyberspace are photos of me photographing the bunnies.

I ended yesterdays hike with a hilarious encounter with a sweet perhaps pregnant Chipmunk. I noticed it was climbing down the Tufa Rocks and coming toward me as I stood on the Tufa Terrace Trail.  It came closer, closer and shot between my feet then headed up the terrace.  After a moment she turned around and came back toward me and between my feet again.  She went up a stump and sat in from of me, I can see the 106 degree heat has her feeling itchy. I think she is either pregnant or recently so.

This morning I hiked up the Dead Chief  to the Short Cut Trail and up to the Mountain Top.  The thunder storms from the night before  and dark morning skies has the residence of the park hidden away. I decide to hike down the Mountain on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Honeysuckle Trail and onto the Floral Trail.

I cross over to North Mountain and hike up the Floral to the Lower Dogwood Trail.  I hike around the north side of the Trail, a surprise awaits me as I reach the west end.  A sweet Northern Mockingbird Juvenile is in the Tree above me.  It looks down at me then flies up to a top branch, picks a berry and holds it out for me to see.

Further along I see a flash of red moving through the Trees, a male Cardinal lands on the low branch.  It does not stay long and moves to were a female is nesting with a new chick. It is a blessing to see this beautiful family in the Forest today.  I cannot wait to get home and share my adventure with my Husband Rick.

Play in Nature everyday!
Love,
Lee


Lovely Doe, Buck, Rabbits and Squirrels

Hot Spring Mountain Trail Deer Doe

Peak Trail Eastern Cottontail

Upper Dogwood Trail Deer Young Buck

Tufa Terrace Squirrel Babies

Basically I have been hiking much of the day, 3 1/2 hours this morning and another 1 1/2 hours this evening.  When I wasn’t hiking I was editing photographs.  As such I will give you a few highlights and let the wonderful creatures I saw in the morning and with Rick in the evening tell the tale of my fantastic day in the Forest.

I began on the Tufa Terrace Trail this morning and was greeted by two Squirrel babies racing around a Tree.  While I am watching them I realize I am giggling out loud and have a big grim on my face.  Their antics are wonderful.  When I reach the Peak Trail I spot two sets of Rabbit ears glowing in the new morning light. For half an hour they let me hang out and capture their beauty to share with you.   Eastern Cottontails are so lovely and it is a blessing to be so close to them.

On the Carriage Road a pretty little yellow Moth lands in front of me, I love it’s delicate colors.  I hike up the Dead Chief and the the Short Cut Trail to the Mountain Top.  When I Arrive I meet Cindy and Todd from Texas, Celebrating 20 yrs of marriage by hiking in Hot Springs National Park.  They want to visit Goat Rock, I give them trail directions and they in turn tell me about amazing places in Arkansas I need to visit.

I hike around the mountain via the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and at the junction with the Honeysuckle a lovely surprise.  In the distance I spot a pretty Doe gracefully moving through the Forest.  After I have taken several photographs she lets out a snort and leaps deeper into the Woods. She is a beauty and I feel blessed to see her.

I take the Honeysuckle to the Peak Trail and then over to the Tufa Terrace.  A lovely Squirrel is sitting at the ramp out of the park eating a tasty treat. It a perfect way to end my morning hike.

Several hours later, my husband Rick and I head up North Mountain via the Floral Trail. As we begin the hike a beautiful Dark Blue Butterfly lands on the path before us.  We hike up to the Lower Dogwood Trail and just before we reach the Upper Dogwood Trail I hear a large animal moving in the Forest above us.  As we  hike along the Upper Dogwood my wonderful Tall Husband spots a movement above us. He points me in the direction of his sighting, a young buck is watching us.  After staring at us for 15 minutes he strolls down behind the bramble and sneaks a few more looks at us.  In the end he casually leaps off into the Forest.

As we head down the mountain in the fading light fireflies dance in the edges of the forest.  It has been a perfect date night with with my Husband on North Mountain.

Open your senses to the beauty of Nature.
Love,
Lee


Beautiful Butterflies, Moths and Birds

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Black-Capped Chickadee

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Brown Moth

When I entered the park maintenance was out with a large tractor mowing and flattening grass.  A Cardinal landed in a Tree near me but the noise from the tractor sends him off into the twilight Forest. Beautiful Asiatic Dayflowers are forming a wildflower bouquet at the base of the Dead Chief Trail.

The heat and humidity are rising so I decide to hike with purpose up the Dead Chief Trail and connect with the Short Cut Trail.  The heat has most of the mammals laying low and I only hear the occasional bird as I make my way to the top.  As I near the Mountain Top I spot a sweet Lizard hanging on a Rock behind a Tree.  It looks up at me but does not run off,  it has the perfect sun spot so why move.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail is peaceful, a beautiful hike as a light breeze dances along the trail.  I hear lovely bird song and stop under a leafy green Tree.  A small bird is high above me in the leaves and I do no recognize the markings  (Looking for help in identifying  it hint, hint). When I reach the trail head a beautiful dark blue Butterfly is flitting around the rest hut.  A moment later it flies off as a lovely Orange Moth appears.

I cross over to the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the heat has me feeling a bit soggy. A brown Moth lands on the bark of a Short-Leaf Pine, it is dazzling in the sunlight.  The site of it mentally unmelts me. On the lower bends I see a cute little black beetle speedily crossing the trail ahead of me.  Further along a vocal Black-Capped Chickadee is peaking at me from the Tree above. It’s sweet face and song lightens my feet as I head to the Honeysuckle Trail.

I hike along the Honeysuckle Trail to the Peak Trail and down to the Promenade. As I reach the bottom where it meets Fountain Street a beautiful battered brown and turquoise Butterfly lands. Nature’s beauty is often fragile, the battered wings of the Butterfly make me wonder how it is still able to fly with such grace.  Heading home I check the Arlington Lawn and spot one of the cute baby Cardinals foraging in the green grass.  A lovely way to end my hike.

Dance in the sunlight and play in the grass.
Love,
Lee


Squirrels, Wildflowers, Fungi and Rabbits 1 + 1 = ?

Peak Trail Wild Rabbit Eastern Cottontail

Peak Trail Wild Rabbit Eastern Cottontail

Hot  in Hot Springs the heat index is already 95 degrees when I leave for my hike at 8 am.  On the Arlington Lawn a sweet Squirrel is searching for food in the dry earth.  The weather has been August hot not the normal June hot.  I am happy when I finally see it has found a breakfast morsel.

I head up to the the Tufa Terrace I see several lovely Squirrels foraging under bushes.  On sweetie is sitting on a platform by the stairs grooming and watching photographing other Squirrels.  Further up the trail I see a Brown Thrasher sheltering under a bush.  The heat is beginning to dry the foliage and I wish it would rain.

On the Peak Trail I spot a pair of long ears in the grass being lit by the sun.  I move very slowly so as not to scare this beautiful Eastern Cottontail Rabbit.  As I am moving with little baby steps I hear a noise to my left and a second Rabbit is crossing in front of me.   Two Rabbit in the same space might mean Baby Rabbits will soon emerge.  I have a lovely time watching and photographing these beautiful Bunnies.

More gorgeous Asiatic Dayflowers decorate the grass below the steps that head up to the Dead Chief Trail.  I head up the Trail and the heat is beginning to climb as I get deeper into the Forest, I stop again to drink some Spring Water and see a male Cardinal high above me fluffing his crest and carrying a seed.  The Forest foliage is beginning to wilt as the heat continues.   As I connect with the Short Cut Trail I can see more sunlight is able to penetrate the Forest canopy.

When I reach the top I am greeted by a lovely large Woodland Sunflower, it’s a beautiful yellow bloom.   Increasing heat helps me decide to drink from one of the drinking fountains in the picnic area letting a little spill over into a small pool on the stones.   In the increasing I  pick up my pace and head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  As it get hotter less creatures appear to be moving about.  Even though water has been scarce for weeks pretty Wildflowers in lavender and violet are appearing on the trail edges ( if you know what they are can you please let me know).

I continue on the Hot springs Mountain Trail to the Honeysuckle Trail, past the Wedding Chapel and down the Floral Trail heading home. Three hours in the heat has drained me, but it was still an amazing day in the park.

Nature is fragile and strong, we need each other to survive.

Love,
Lee

PS Rick and I were married in the Wedding Chapel on Friday June 18th at 8 am.

Our Mountain Wedding June 18 2010


The Best Of: Chipmunks

Wedding is getting closer (tomorrow morning at 8am) so I thought I would do a couple “Best Of” blogs.  I Love Chipmunks and I am sharing a few of my favorites.  I did not realize I had posted over 250 photos of Chipmunks… so you can search the site and find others that you might find enjoyable as well.

Love,
Lee

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Chipmunk In Tree

Promenade Chipmunk

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk

Promenade Chipmunk

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park Trails Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park Trails Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park Peak Trail Chipmunk


A Lovely Box Turtle on the Floral Trail

Hot Springs National Park, AR Floral Trail Box Turtle

Hot Springs National Park, AR Floral Trail Box Turtle

Hot Springs National Park, AR Floral Trail Box Turtle

Hot Springs National Park, AR Floral Trail Box Turtle

Tomorrow our first wedding guest arrives so I will be scarce on this blog for several days.  Please enjoy this sweet Box Turtle, it was on the Floral Trail during an evening Hike with my Love Rick :)

Nature is waiting for you, time to get out and play!

Love,
Lee


Baby Cardinals, Chipmunks, Rabbit, Squirrels and Tanager

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

Floral Trail Sign Butterfly

Arlington Lawn Baby Cardinals Foraging

I love a hike that begins with a sweet Chipmunk appearing on the Trail.  When I reached the upper level of the Tufa Terrace Trail a Chipmunk was standing on a Tufa Rock.  The little baby could not decide whether it should hide or see what I was doing. It decides to come see what I am doing. As it draws closer I see it is missing fur from the bridge of it’s nose and behind one ear. It not easy living in the wild.

When I reach the Peak Trail I spot a pair of ears poking up in the grass.  As I slowly move up the Trail I see a lovely rabbit.   As I move closer it slips into the bushes and peers at me with it’s big sweet brown eyes.  I am so happy to have seen another rabbit in the Forest.

I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  Connecting to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I head over to the Lower Dogwood and Floral Trails.  On the Floral Trail I see a lovely red bird moving through the bright green leaves.  As it draws closer I can see the it is a gorgeous Summer Tanager. A wonderful surprise.

When I reach the bottom on the Floral Trail I see a beautiful Butterfly perched on the Trail guide sign.  The sunlight glows through it’s beauty delicate wings.  I wonder where it’s companions from yesterday have gone. I head down Fountain Street along the edge of the park.  In the Tree above me a Male Cardinal sings a beautiful song.  Since I witnessed the  the males teaching their offspring how to find food I have great admiration for them.

At the base of a Tree along a park path a beautiful Squirrel forages for a morning meal.  It carefully digs around each exposed root stopping to nibble on each newly found treat.  In a Tree above the Arlington Lawn another Squirrel sneaks a peek at me as I prepare to get a closer look at the baby Cardinals hopping in the grass. A lovely trio of a baby birds are foraging for food, it is a beautiful sight. Further along by the hot water cascade I see a female Cardinal and molting male Cardinal.  Near them is a lovely mom and baby Sparrow. It’s been a beautiful morning in the park.

Let Nature show you her beauty!
Love,
Lee


Beautiful Trio of Butterflies, Tufted Titmouse and Fungi

Floral Trail Bridge Dark Blue Butterflies

Floral Trail Bridge Dark Blue Butterflies

Floral Trail Bridge Dark Blue Butterflies

This is wedding week, Friday I will be Mrs. Rick London, so this will be a very brief Blog Post :)

The Butterflies above put on an amazing display on the Floral Trail.  This dazzling trio of Butterflies danced and played on the rocks of the floral Trail for 20 minutes… this was the end of my hike :)  Along my hike I saw beautiful fungi, wild flowers and Forest foliage. On the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a Sweet Tufted Titmouse landed on a branch above me.

Find a way to get some Nature playtime!
Love,
Lee


A Beautiful Morning in the Forest

Goat Rock Trail Chipmunk

I’ve decided to begin  my writing about something other than the absolute details of my hike.  The photo above will be familiar to anyone who enters the Forest early in the morning and is first on the trail.  I know this look, the Ugh as you find your face covered in spider webs.  You get home and your clothes are covered in the silk of multiple webs that once crisscrossed the trails on which you were hiking. Webs you did not even notice as you were hiking.  This Chipmunk is a casualty of the unexpected web. As you will note in my first photos it is part way up the rock and  not until it turns it head that the snare coats it’s head.

I began my hike heading up Fountain Street to the Floral Trail.  On the lawn above the wall a sweet squirrel is foraging for a sweet breakfast treat.  It’s a blessing to see it has survived the storms of the past few days. A little further along I spot an odd pink flower, it turns out to be a pretty tangle of mohair yarn.

I hike up the Floral Trail to the Lower Dog wood Trail.  When I look at the Trail side I see a strange fungus growth, it looks like a white ear.  My first thought is that the Forest really has been listening to me LOL. I wonder if it hears me giggling as I head up the Upper Dogwood and hike over to the Goat Rock Trail.

On the Goat Rock Trail I can hear lizards diving into the leaves, but none stands still long enough for me to get a good look. A sweet Chipmunk appears on a rick to my side, our encounter is as described above. It’s sad little face stays with me through the rest of my hike.  The Orange Butterfly Weed  is still vibrant and today the insects are a wonderful orange and black.  It makes a spectacular visual display.

I continue my hike on the Gulpha Gorge Trail, beautiful little bright orange fungi dot the sides of the trail.  They look like tiny wildflowers sprinkled in every direction. Nearing the top of the trail the song of the Tufted Titmouse rings out and it looks sweet singing in the Tree above me.

I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, then on to the Honeysuckle and Floral Trails to exit the park.  It has been another glorious morning in the park.

Even in the largest cities Nature will find you, if you let it :o)
Love,
Lee


Wildflowers of Hot Springs National Park

In less than a week I am getting married so I took a “me” day to do some girlie things and to help my beloved Fiance’ Rick with a project. While I was relaxing I began thinking about the beautiful Wildflowers I have discovered this year in Hot Springs National Park.  Here are a few of my favorite Wildflower images including the one that started my love affair with these little beauties. My first Wildflower photo is a  Birds-Foot Violet which bloomed in February just before the second round of ice and snow storms in Hot Springs. No one bothered to tell it winter was still underway.

To be honest until I saw my first violet pushing it’s way up and out of the leaves and twigs I did not pay much attention to the details of the different Wildflowers.  When I can home with my first photo I had to find out was it was. From that point on I was hooked, on each subsequent hike I hoped for a new discovery.

I hope you enjoy the beauty of Nature’s colorful display in the photographs.
Love,
Lee

February Goat Rock Trail Birds-Foot Violet

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Birds-Foot Violet and Hornet

Goat Rock Trail Bird Foot Violet

Tufa Terrace Wild Rose

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Spiderwort Fuchsia

Carriage Road Asiatic Dayflower

Goat Rock Trail Woodland Sunflower

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Black-Eyed Susan

Gulpha Gorge Lance-Leaved Coreopsis


Ring-Necked Snake, Squirrels and Fungi

Ring-Necked Snake Diadophis Punctatus SSP

Upper Dogwood Trail

Before you begin reading please take a moment to say a prayer for the individuals and families that perished in the flash flood in Arkansas early this morning.

Another Storm last night and this morning, I decided to go back to the Carriage Road on the off chance the Fawn is still there.  Unfortunately an NPS truck pulls up as I arrived scaring off a Squirrel and a Male Cardinal.  I head up the first incline of of the Dead Chief Trail, arriving behind me is a women with an IPOD yelling into a cell phone and at the guy she is with.  I decide to cut across to the Peak Trail for some peace.

A light fog is descending on the trail as I climb higher onto Hot Springs Mountain.  The green is lush from the rains that have fallen the past 2 days and looks bright in the foggy twilight.  I enjoy the bird song on my journey to the top of the Peak Trail. A symphony for my sojourn.

I head across the picnic area and connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  A light fog is traveling along trail and sadly the NPS has cut back some of my favorite vines and limbs.  I miss the cradling effect of hiking through tunnels of growth, but I understand that average hiker might find it annoying. Lovely fungi are decorating the trail sides like pretty little flowers.

Nearing the trail head I look down at what looks like a snake shaped stick.  On closer examination I see it is a small snake about a foot long, sadly it appears to be dead.  I decide to  move it off the trail so it won’t get crushed by hikers and joggers.  As I begin to shift it, it  moves, I am so happy! This lovely creature is a Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus ssp.) It is a gentle creature which I can see would rather move away than fight.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I hike up the Hot Springs Mountain Road to the Upper Dogwood Trail.  I have a lovely hike in the peaceful green paradise.  In the distance I can hear huffing and grunting and wonder what is just out of sight in the Forest.

I connect with the Lower Dogwood Trail and then the Floral Trail. Lovely Yellow fungi dot the trail edges, I am always amazed at how strong they are pushing up through the rocks and leaves.  At the trail head the normally near dry creek is full, the water rushing over the rocks creating a lovely sound. A lovely song to end my hike.

Please get out and play in Nature this weekend!
Love,
Lee


Fawn, Rabbit, Tanager, Chipmunk and Squirrel

Carriage Road Rabbit

Carriage Road Fawn

It was a stormy night and this morning is the calm before the next weather front. Misty, dark and cool (for summer) I entered the park in search of rainy decoration.  As I reach the Carriage Road I look ahead and see a what I believe is a large Squirrel.  With my next step a Chipmunk I did not notice dives in a hole and the large Squirrel turns out to be a rabbit that bolts into the Forest.

I decide to stand still by the Chipmunk burrow, five minutes pass and out of the corner of my eye I see the Rabbit has returned.  Using a line of Trees as cover I slowly make my way toward the wild Bunny.  I am taking a first photo before I  move  forward, but a jogger storms past and the sweet Rabbit bolts.  Moving toward the Dead Chief Trail I stop to see if the Rabbit will come back out of the Forest. As a light foggy mist is forming I watch a Male Cardinal fly to the Tree over my shoulder.  Turning I catch sight of a Fawn crossing the path and heading into the thick Honeysuckle.  It is the first deer I have seen this close within the park.

As I hike to the top of the Dead Chief and then the Short Cut Trail I cannot stop thinking about the event on the Carriage Road.  To the song of a Tufted Titmouse I reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  A light fog is forming on the trail as a beautiful bird song fills the air.  I look up into the Tree above me and see a lovely green bird with orange head, neck and chest.  It is later identified on Twitter by@ikakN13 Kendra as a juvenile Summer Tanager. Thank You Kendra and the other the wonderful Tweeps who helped in the hunt!

The trail is spectacular in the mist and light fog, a green peaceful space.  I love mediating as I hike and this is a favorite trail to refresh my heart and mind.  From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect with the Upper Dogwood, then to the Lower Dogwood and Floral Trails.  As I head to the Promenade I check to see if wounded Mom Squirrel is in her usual turf.  My heart aches as again there is no sign of her or her three beautiful babies.  When I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace Trail stairs I spot a lovely little Chipmunk gathering a meal in it’s pouches.  This is a perfect end to an already spectacular morning hike.  Thank You for hiking with me today!

Seek Nature to free you heart!
Love,
Lee


Ahead Of The Storm

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Upper Dogwood Trail

I am writing this with hind sight, as the skies darken and a storm is blowing in.  I can understand now why wildlife was scarce as I hiked this morning. Rain, wind, thunder and lightening with a dash of hail all incentives to stay under cover.

Overcast skies as I head into the park today, sunlight has been evasive in the early morning as of late.  As I head up the Floral my head is filled with my upcoming wedding.  Unfortunately it means I am not paying attention to a particular detail.  A deer is in the upper levels of the forest along the Floral Trail.  I hear it run and catch only a glimpse as it disappears into the deep forest above me.

I head up to the North side of the Lower Dogwood Trail and sadly I spot another dead baby Opossum.  It seems strange that last time and now on this trail I see a dead Opossum.  It is puzzling to think a predator would leave behind the body in the middle of the trail each time. As I hike in the glorious green of this trail I wonder, what animal would kill for killing sake?

From the Lower Dogwood I hike down to the Upper Dogwood, I always like looking down this trail from the top it seems to go on forever. Looking up from the bottom I imagine what might be be up over the rise. This one of my favorite places on North Mountain.

I hike over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and connect with the Honeysuckle Trail.  When I reach the Peak Trail I realize I have not seen any Squirrels or Chipmunks today.  As I reach the promenade and head toward home I am treat to a quick peek from behind a tree by a juvenile Squirrel.  I am so happy to see this sweet face.

Nature can heal a wounded heart!
Love,
Lee

PS I still have not seen the wounded Mom Squirrel and I hold her in my heart with hopes she will reappear.


80 Degrees at 8 am Oh the Humidity

Tufa Terrace Trail Chipmunk

Promenade USA Flag

It’s 80 degrees at 8am as I head out into the park, ahhhh the humidity. When I step outside my camera lens keeps foggy up, I am up the Tufa Terrace Trail and on the Peak Trail and still I have to keep wiping my lens.  I am out for a quick hike as Rick and I are meeting with the minister Patti who will be officiating or marriage later this month.  My goal was to get up the mountain and quickly back down so I could prepare for our important day.  It was like a sauna the whole way.

Please enjoy these photos of the beauty I encountered in the Forest today… when I could get my lens to clear.

Dance with abandon in Nature!
Love,
Lee


Sweet Chipmunk, Colorful Fungi and Wildflowers

Promenade Chipmunk

Carriage Road Asiatic Dayflower

I headed up Fountain Street to check on wounded Mom Squirrel but she is now where to be seen. I feel sad and say a small prayer for her well being as I change directions to the Promenade.  I have to hop over a millipede as I pivot on the sidewalk. When I reach the Tufa Terrace I hear a small sound but see nothing.  I am about to move when a Chipmunk pops up from a hole in the ground. At first I see only a head, the sweet chipmunk looks around. Suddenly it is up and out looking around.  I feel blessed when I am allowed this close contact, especially when I know they have seen me.

From the Tufa Terrace I take the Carriage Road and see a Male Cardinal with his chick, he teaching it to forage for food.  The baby Cardinal appears to test the patience of their dad.  At the trail head to the Dead Chief Trail I look down and see a beautiful patch of Blue Asiatic Dayflowers.  They are all huddled around on of the Hot spring vents, their own tropical paradise.

I climb up the Dead Chief, I Love being on the trail in twilight, it is peaceful. When I reach the top I turn to see a lovely Tufted Titmouse sitting in the tree next to me.  Since the Trees have become lush with leaves spotting the tiny birds has become rare.  The memory of this sweet bird carries me up the Shot Cut Trail to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.

I hike over to the Hot Spring Mountain Trail and head toward North Mountain.  When I reach the gap between Hot Springs and North Mountains I spot a patch of lovely Black-Eyed Susans.  As I cross over on to North Mountain more Color fungi appear. On the Upper Dogwood the Fungi are mostly yellow or a golden color, turning to cream and beige along the Lower Dogwood Trail. As I leave the Mountain on the Floral Trail I can see beautiful Daylilies as I exit trail.

Heading home on Fountain Street I stop to check on wounded Mom Squirrel, still no sign of her.

Hold a place in your heart for Nature…
Love,
Lee


Beautiful Wildflowers and Fungi Under Overcast Skies

Goat Rock Trail Black-Eyed Susan

Fountain Street Wounded Squirrel Eating Mushrooms

Today my hike began with a sad surprise, a lovely Squirrel I photograph regularly has been injured.  This sweetie harms no one, looks after her babies and eats the little fungi that grow in her territory.  Today my photos reveal a puncture wound to her abdomen.  Please keep a a thought in your heart for her, she is a lovely Mom raising 2 babies.

From the Floral Trail I connect with the Lower Dogwood Trail then hike up to the North side of the Upper Dogwood Trail.  It is a peaceful morning in the park, soft bird calls fill the Forest.  The trail has changed since my last adventure here, the green is exploding everywhere. Beautiful Fungi are popping up all along the edges of the path in a variety of shapes and colors. It is lovely hike to the Goat Rock Trail.

The Goat Rock Trail is an artistic wonderland painted by Nature.  The Green is wrapping around the the Trails creating a living tunnel of delicate green leaves.  Glorious Wildflowers accent the edges in purple, orange, white  and yellow.  I can see Black-Eyed Susans, Butterfly Weed, Cone flowers, Woodland Sunflowers and others I have yet to identify. Striking rocks in amazing dark shades of black, blue, coral and gold.

I head up the Gulpha Gorge Trail and connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  The trail is sprinkled with a colorful display of Fungi in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The colors include yellow, orange, red, brown and beige.   I Love the Fungi not only for their beauty, but because they provide a wonderful food source for the small mammals in the Forest.

I decide to hike down the Hot Springs Mountain Road to see what is on the edge of the Forest.  I am excited to find a new Wildflower,  delicate blue blossoms of Indian Tobacco.  As I near the end of the Park road I see a  large red fungus, gnarled and twisted by the obstructions it encountered.  A perfect end to my many miles with in the park.

Nature is waiting… time to get outside and play!
Love,
Lee