Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for July, 2010

Chipmunks, Speckled Kingsnake, Mockingbird and Butterfly

Hot Springs National Park, AR Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

Hot Springs National Park, AR Short Trail Speckled Kingsnake

Carriage Road Northern Mockingbird

Hot Springs National Park, AR Tufa Terrace Chipmunk

I always feel blessed when I enter the park, to live across the street from a National Park is a gift.  This morning as I head up the Tufa Terrace a lovely Chipmunk is having breakfast sitting upon a Tufa Rock.  I am extremely still as I watch this little sweetie forage for seeds.  Suddenly it dives into a burrow hole and I am about to leave when I see a man with a dog has passed behind me.  As soon as they are out of site the sweet Chipmunk reappears.  I notice a head wound and can understand why it might be cautious of the dog.

I head up the Carriage Road then up the Dead Chief Trail and onto the Short Cut Trail.  I have barely begun my hike up the Short Cut Trail when I spot a lovely green surprise on the trail.  It is a young Speckled Kingsnake, the little beauty coils as I approach.  I approach with caution although this is a non-poisonous snake that feeds on mice and often venomous snakes.  Once it decides I am not a threat it gracefully slithers off the trail and into the undergrowth.

When I reach the top I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a cool breeze is ruffling all the leaves.  As the sunlight peeks through the moving leaves I see a lovely butterfly.  It flies over my head and I follow it back up the trail.  It lands on a sunny leaf and as I am taking a photo I hear the crunching of leaves, after the second photo the loud snap of a twig.    I Keep looking to my side expecting to see the lightning fast body of a Chipmunk, but still nothing in sight.  I hike further up the trail and on closer inspection I spot a box turtle that appears to have slid down the bank.  As I am trying to get a photo I get a first hand experience, ending up on my butt next to the Turtle.  Not sure which of us is more surprised.

I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail and head down the floral Trail to Fountain Street.  When I reach the Arlington Lawn I am so excited to see a Squirrel, since the series of heatwaves sightings have been rare.  As I am about to take a photograph a Chipmunk shows up and scares the Squirrel. LOL I have never seen a Squirrel being chased away by a Chipmunk, until now.  Everyday my knowledge is expand by lessons from Nature.

Dance, sing and play in the outdoors today!
Love,
Lee


Thank You Hot Springs Sentinel-Record

I would like to Thank Alison Harbour and the Sentinel-Record of Hot Springs Arkansas for featuring my photograph Spring Storm Beauty in your Newspaper today.  Also a special thank You to the Arkansas Gazette and the voters for selecting “Springs Storm Beauty” for the Peoples Choice Award.

Love,
Lee

PS: (Click on Image below enlarge)

Hot Springs, AR Sentinel-Record Newspaper Article

Tufa Terrace Wild Rose


Wonderful Cool Breezes In the Forest

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Brown Orange Blue Moth

Tufa Terrace Eastern Cottontail

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Pagoda Brown Moth

Honeysuckle Trail Baby Pines In Stump

The sky is awaiting the arrival of the sun as I enter the park this morning. Cool breezes are ruffling the leaves on Trees and Bushes and a golden glow is beginning to appear above the Trees as I reach the top of Tufa Terrace. A beautiful Eastern Cottontail is munching on a delicious grassy breakfast.  Further along a pair of Mourning Doves sit watching me high in a Tree above the trail.

When I reach the Carriage Road a tiny Sparrow lands on the wrought iron border fence.  It looks like a sweet little jail bird.  I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to the Mountain Top.  When I reach the pagoda the view although spectacular is overshadowed by a moth feeding on the ledge below me. Sometimes its the tiniest of creatures that overwhelm the panorama before us.

I continue my hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and revel in the cool breeze caressing my forehead. The leaves are twinkling in the sunlight as I look high into the Forest canopy. On this perfect summer morning I am surprised I have not yet passed anyone on the trail.  When I reach the west side of the trail loop a gorgeous Moth lands in the grass in front of me. It is brown with orange details and blue eye wing markings that glimmer in the sunlight.

Finally another hiker appears, it is Halcom and I we exchange salutations as we pass one and other. I decide to take the Honeysuckle Trail to the Floral Trail.  When I reach the trail junction I spot two tiny pines sprouting up from an old stump. New trees sprouting where a life ended seems a perfect example of the Forest cycle of life.  As I hike down the Floral Trail I feel as always blessed to have this precious time in the Park.  At least once in your life visit a National Park each one is an inheritance that belongs to every citizen of this nation.

Play today outside and let Nature embrace you.
Love,
Lee



The Details Create a Beautiful Forest

Tufa Terrace Rain Drop Pink Buds

Upper Dogwood Trail Colorful Fungi

Lower Dogwood Trail Stenciled Leaves

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Juvenile Tufted Titmouse

Hot Springs Mountain Tower

As I step out the door this morning the skies are gray and the clouds not only block the sun but obscure the view of the Tower.  I am hopeful the Sun will prevail, but carry my rain hat just in case I am incorrect.  As I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace ramp a lovely female Cardinal briefly lands in the Tree above me.  She is carrying a beak full of pine needles for rebuilding her nest perhaps.

When I reach the Peak Trail a Juvenile Cardinal is singing to the new day as the sun is highlighted by parting clouds. In the sunlight I notice a beautiful sandstone rock with beautiful veins of quartz.  I Love how new things are revealed everyday in the park.

From the Carriage Road I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  I cross the picnic area as a family begins grilling an outdoor breakfast. Some food just smells better when its being cooked over hot coals.  I feel a pang of hunger as I begin hiking on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I can  hear a flock of small birds traveling high above me through the Trees.  I love these sweet mixed flocks of birds I often encounter in the park.  This one is comprised of Black-Capped Chickadees, Juvenile Orange-Crowned Warblers, Juvenile Tufted Titmouse and Great Crested Flycatchers.  My favorite moment was looking up to see a Juvenile Titmouse hanging upside down staring at me.

From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I hike up the North Mountain Loop to connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail.  On the trail I can see debris from the storm last night.    When I reach the Lower Dogwood the erosion on the Lower Dogwood Trail makes the hike a bit slower as I navigate the newly exposed jagged rock surfaces.  On the Floral trail the skies begin to darken, a tiny delicate orange moth zooms past and grips a pine needle that is under a leaf.  The perfect umbrella as short rain shower passes over the Trail.

Delight is all Nature shows you.
Love,
Lee


Chipmunks, Cardinal, Dragonfly and Guest Hiker

Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis), male Dragonfly

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Summer Rain

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Juvenile Male Cardinal

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Chipmunk

Today’s hike is a bit different for two reasons; one I did not get out the door until 10:00 a.m. and two my beloved Husband Rick came with me on my hike.   As I was not alone my narrative is going to be in the past tense rather than in the moment.  I tend to immerse myself in the Forest when I am alone, it would not have been fair to meditate when I am hiking with someone else :)

We entered the park at the Arlington Lawn and I finally spotted a Southern Spreadwing Dragonfly landing on the hedge that surrounds the entrance.  It was an amazing sight with a black and white body and  rust with blue green rimmed eyes.  Having watched them only in turbo speed flight it is wonderful to see the beautiful detail.  We hiked up the Tufa Terrace and saw a beautiful Chipmunk on the Tufa Rocks near the top,  a brief encounter as it quickly vanishes into the bramble.

From the Tufa Terrace Rick and I headed down the Carriage Road and up the Dead Chief trail.  As we reached the top of the first incline a van on the park road went by and the Youth Conservation Corps members from my blog photo yesterday all waved at me.  From the Dead Chief we hiked up the Short Cut Trail to the Top of Hot Springs Mountain.

We took the Hot Springs Mountain Trail after a brief stop to enjoy some fresh spring water. When we passed the Pagoda I heard a Cardinal singing to the sun, I looked up and saw a Juvenile Male Cardinal in his new fully turned to red feathers.  He was a beautiful sight perched high upon a piece of dead wood.  We spent several moments enjoying his newly found voice.

Further along the trail we spotted a sweet Chipmunk on the Trail, it quickly dashed down the bank and along a log.  It had distinctive white markings around it’s eyes and a dark rust body.  Rick and I traveled further down the trail and he spotted a Chipmunk climbing on the side of a downed Tree. These fallen Trees are perfect Chipmunk condos.  Along the trail there were signs of last nights rain storm, beautiful rain covered leaves and puddles.  The ground foliage looked greener, less burnt and wilted.

After we crossed over to North mountain we connected with the Upper Dogwood then the lower Dogwood and finally the Floral Trail to Leave the Forest.  It’s been wonderful to see the the park feeling refreshed from the rain.  As I am typing my blog several large rain storms have passed through the park giving it even more of the much needed rain. Rain is life!

Dance in the Rain and feel refreshed by Nature’s liquid joy.

Love,
Lee

PS Not to My Husband Rick “Congratulations on your first morning hike since your heart attack!” I Love You Baby!


Creatures of the Park Reveal Themselves Before the Storm

Arlington Lawn Sparrows Mom Baby

Upper Dogwood Blue Butterfly on Leaves

Tufa Terrace Eastern Cottontail Breakfast Time

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Black-Capped Chickadee

Upper Dogwood Orange Brown Moth Feeding

I am typing my blog watching a large storm rage outside, thunder, lightning and flash floods.  It is rain that has been so desperately needed in the park, life giving liquid.  For two week we have been under a heat advisory and with each passing day wildlife was becoming less visible.  I was worried they could die from the lack of rain and the extreme heat, Hot Springs has been having “August temperatures” since mid June.  The ground cover foliage was turning yellow and leaves were drying and falling off the Trees as if it were Autumn.   Today a cool breeze came in ahead of the storm and the park came back to life.

When I enter the park at the Arlington Lawn above me in a Magnolia Tree I hear a delicate conversation taking place between two Sparrows.  I look up to see a female House Sparrow teaching her chick how to fly from branch to branch.  It is a beautiful sight to see how loving the instruction is delivered. My heart is filled with joy as I head further into the park.

When I reach the promenade a tiny moth is fluttering on the brick walkway.  As I get closer it fans open it’s tattered wings as it feeds on the pollen that coats everything (everyone too) in the park.  I admire it’s courageous ability to fly off with the tips of it’s wings shredded.  Further along  a small squirrel is coming up from the first level of the hot water spring cascade and I wonder if it was trying to get a drink.

As I move over to the Tufa Terrace  the bird song is lovely and I enjoy the peaceful moment.  Nearing the large Tufa Rocks I see a lovely Wild Rabbit, an Eastern Cottontail having a breakfast of sweet long grass.  Although I am clearly spotted it continues eating and allows me to freely take photographs, I feel blessed.  Further along a juvenile Male Cardinal is searching for water at a site the NPS often vents the upper Hot Springs.  The Juvenile is half way between it’s baby green and it’s soon to be vibrant red.  It is a wild color transformation.

When I reach the Carriage Road I can see a female Cardinal searching for seeds.  Once she locates her treasure she moves into a Tree above me to enjoy her feast.  I love seeing her bright orange and olive green contrasted against the Juniper Tree.  When she flies away I follow her up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.

I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and begin hiking on the east side of the Mountain.  When I see what I thought was a leaf move on the Trail I stop.  When I zoom in with my camera I realize it is a tiny Chipmunk sitting in the middle of the trail.  Once I am spotted it dives swiftly in to the undergrowth.  I am however surprised it does give me away by sounding the classic and extremely loud Chipmunk clan alert.

Not more than 10 yards further down the trail I see another Chipmunk gracefully perched on a Rock to my side.  It sits for several minutes before diving into the leaves, again no warning sounded.  I am floating down the trail on the memories of all the beautiful creatures that have allowed me to see them today.  I hear a noise to my side and see another Chipmunk climbing up a fallen Tree, I love how their markings and colors vary.   As I reach the final bend in the trail I notice it is lighter than normal.  It takes me a moment to see the NPS has cut down a large Short Leaf Pine and based on the amount of woodpecker holes on it this might mean it is was dying.  As I scan an old downed Tree near it I see another lovely Chipmunk.  I am so happy so many are alive and survived the extreme heat. At the Trail head I look down as a bright green grasshopper, it is wonderful!

When I reach the west side of the Trail a lovely Black-Capped Chickadee lands in a Tree above me.  They are so tiny and I marvel at their loud and vibrant song.  To my side a tiny juvenile Squirrel peeks at me from a high limb.  As I connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail I look up to see a Juvenile Mourning Dove poised on a high branch in front of a perfect Arkansas Blue sky.  As I continue my hike a lovely blue butterfly lands on the sunlit green leaves next to me.  At one point the sunlight causes a beautiful halo effect around it’s wings.

Nearing the my connection with the Lower Dogwood Trail I notice a large moth feeding on a plant I first noticed on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a couple of weeks ago.  I Love watching it’s delicate dance as it moves from on blossom to another.  I make a mental note to pay more attention to these bushes.

From the Lower Dogwood I hike down the Floral Trail to finish my hike on North Mountain.  When I reach the trail head I see a group of young people in yellow T-Shirts climbing up the Floral Trail on Hot Springs Mountain.  They are with the Youth Conservation Corps and I extend my thanks to them for helping to take care of the park.

Make taking time to explore Nature a priority.
Love,
Lee


Lots of Winged Beauties and a Little Squirrel

Carriage Road Male Cardinal

Tufa Terrace Flight School Northern Mockingbird Baby

Tufa Terrace Flight School Northern Mockingbird Mom

Floral Trail Orange Brown Moth

Carriage Road Small Squirrel

Sunday and as I head out  a sidewalk regular calls out “You hike on Sundays too!”, I reply ” God is in the Mountains!”  I head up the Tufa Terrace Trail when I enter the park, always excited by the surprises Nature shares with me.  Today is flight school and I was blessed to see the baby Northern Mockingbird from Jul 11 flying from branch to branch and Tree to Tree with it’s mom. This baby has a beautiful voice I could not forget from out first encounter. It was a perfect start to my morning hike.

When I reach the Carriage Road I see a Male Cardinal, I set to take a photo, there is a flash of green and I have a brief glimpse of a juvenile female Summer Tanager. The amazing Male Cardinal is a glorious red nestled in the bright green. He spends several minutes shifting on the limbs in a steady breeze.

As I move to the stairs that lead up the Dead Chief Trail I see a lovely squirrel  behind the fence in the hospital grounds.  It is the first squirrel I have seen up close since the heat wave began about a one and a half weeks ago.  I am so happy to see this small creature and enjoy watching it scale a tree and leap over my head to the other side of the trail.  A Male Cardinal appears above me on the trail landing on a limb and it makes an X as I look up.  A sweet Tufted Titmouse is looking down at me as I am photographing the Male Cardinal.  For so long the birds seemed invisible as they were nesting and raising their young.  I am so happy to hear their song and see them moving about the park.

As I near the top on the Short Cut Trail a tiny Black-Capped Chickadee is peering at me through a tangle of vines. My sighting is a wonderful morning surprise.   Once at the top of Hot Springs Mountain I head along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Just past the Pagoda I hear a lovely Cardinal song and while I am looking for birds above me a Male Cardinal lands on the ground next to me.    He pick up seed and flies up into a Tree behind me.

I continue my hike and taking Upper Dogwood Trail when I reach North Mountain.  It is unusual to be alone on the trail on a Sunday, I am enjoying the peaceful meditative Forest sounds. At the top of the Upper Dogwood I head down the Lower Dogwood Trail.  The birds are all high in the Tree tops serenading the Mountain as I make my way to the Floral Trail.

As I near the bottom of the Floral Trail I am escorted by a beautiful Orange and Brown Moth.  A final farewell as I leave the trail is a given by a sweet Tufted Titmouse.  When I reach the Arlington Lawn I see a swarm of dragonflies speeding back and forth.  In the bright sunlight they remind me of the golden snitch in the Harry Potter films.  It has been another wonderful morning in paradise.

Take a moment to heal in Nature.
Love,
Lee


The Best Of: Butterflies 2010

The Jewels of the Forest are the beautiful Butterflies and Moths, each one unique and dazzling. I hope will enjoy their diverse beauty.
Much Love,
Lee

Hot Springs National Park Arlington Lawn Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Hot Springs National Park Angel Wing Butterfly

Hot Springs National Park Eastern Comma Butterfly

Dead Chief Trail Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Goat Rock Trail Orange Sulphur Butterfly on Lance Leaved Coreopsis

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Floral Trail Summer Azure Butterfly

Promenade Dark Female Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

Floral Trail Bridge Red Spotted Purple Butterflies

Floral Trail Common Buckeye Butterfly

Short Cut Trail Pearl Crescent

HS Mountain Rd Fountain Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

HS Mountain Rd Fountain Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

 


Blue Wings in the Park

Lower Dogwood Trail Blue Turquoise Butterfly

Floral Trail Blue Winged Wasp

Goat Rock Trail

Goat Rock Trail Scaly Shooting Star

It keeps getting hotter and the locals keep telling me this is August weather.  So I am thinking what is August going to like, I will have to start my hikes at 6:30 a.m. if it gets any hotter.  When I leave at 7:20 a.m. it is already 89 degrees and I am sweating before the first  half mile. I hike up North Mountain via the Floral Trail and head directly to the Upper Dogwood Trail. As I begin my climb a lovely blue and turquoise Butterfly lands on the trail in front of me.  It does a ballet of turning and gently fanning it’s wings, it is a peaceful moment in the heat. A lovely living work of art.

I break my own general rule of not trying to out guess Nature, because I never win.  I hope to see another Deer so I hike like I have only a limited time to get to my destination.  Of course I arrive to my secret location to find nothing, I stand panting, sweating and guzzling water.  Laughing is my only option because the joke is on me. I decide to hike over to Goat Rock Trail and have an extended hike.

The Goat Rock Trail is beautiful, not over manicured and a smidgen overgrown. Perfect!  A light breeze is traveling through the park and it feels glorious on my damp skin. Within all the green I am happy to see a lone wildflower, a pretty purple Scaly Shooting Star.  Hiking down the Goat Rock Trail has proven to be a wonderful idea.

With the heat rising I decide to pick up my pace to reach the Gulpha Gorge.  When I look up I spot two larger Turkey Vultures circling above me, I quickly take my pulse.  Relieved that they are not here for me I head up the Gulpha Gorge Trail and then connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I connect with the Honeysuckle and then the Floral Trail to exit the park.  I am now out of water and it is time to  head  home.  I Love the park!

Nature has a wicked sense of humor when you try to out guess it :)
Love,
Lee


A Race Across the Park for Eight Points

Upper Dogwood Trail Deer 8 Point Buck

Upper Dogwood Trail Deer 8 Point Buck

Upper Dogwood Trail Deer 8 Point Buck

Tufa Terrace Trail Banded Net Wing Beetle

Short Cut Trail Orange Brown Moth

The temperature is already 86 when I get up at 6:20 a.m., so I am rushing to get out by 7:25 a.m. to hike before it gets much hotter.  My plan is for a quick hike up Hot Springs Mountain and back down.  A jogger passes me as I head up the stairs into the park.  When I reach the Promenade a small group of people is approaching and we take different paths up the Mountain.

When I reach the junction of the Tufa and Peak Trails I see and unusual insect.  Special thanks to @PineLilyFNPS on Twitter for identifying this as a Banded Net Wing Beetle.  As I reach the Carriage Road the Bird song is amazing, you can listen if you click here. Close your eyes and be transported into the Forest. Moving slowly along the path I watch as a Mourning Dove lands in the Tree above me, but does not stay long.

I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails at a record pace, the heat increasing with each segment of the inclines. When I reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain I stop to drink some water, the sweat is poring down my face.  I stand wondering which way I should travel to continue my journey.  I decide to take the Hot Springs Mountain Trail on the west side of the mountain.  As I head down the trail I meet Bobby (Husband of Liz) he tells me there are  many deer on the North side of North Mountain resting in the shade. The group includes both a  twelve and eight point Buck.

I of course speed hike the 2.5 miles over to the location Bobby specified on the Upper Dogwood Trail.   I arrive in time to view an eight point Buck strolling deeper into the forest. It is an amazing sight.  As I am hiking away I have a conversation with two older gentlemen and they indicate they have seen the deer resting near where I am.  Tomorrow I will have an early hike onto North Mountain hopefully for a glimpse of the deer herd.

I head home along the Lower Dogwood Trail and then down the Floral Trail to the leave the park.  A beautiful blue Butterfly lands causing a brown and tan Moth to move further away. I always love the sun on the wings of these glorious residents of the park.  It has been another wonderful way too hot morning in the park.

Please take a break and commune with Nature.
Love,
Lee


Beautiful Wings In The Park

HS Mountain Rd Fountain Violet Black Orange Butterfly

HS Mountain Rd Fountain Violet Black Orange Butterfly

Hot Springs Mountain Rd Fountain Brown Orange Moth

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Blue Butterfly

Lower Dogwood Trail Brown Orange Moth

Hot Springs is under a heat advisory until Friday so it is hot as I enter the park at 7:50 am.  I am finally getting use to the constant haze caused by the humidity.  As I am heading up to the top of the mountain via the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails I realize I have not seen many Squirrels, Chipmunks and Rabbits for several days.   The heat appears to be affecting their normal feeding and movement patterns.

When I reach the top pf the mountain I head around the Mountain on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  Today I have the trails to myself, the heat is not for the weak. Hiking in the heat is not for everyone and it requires accepting you are going to SWEAT and have to drink a lot of water.  It feels lonely today without the Squirrels and Chipmunks chattering at me.

When I reach the trail head a spectacular blue Butterfly appears, I am dazzled by it’s color.  It stays only briefly and lands on my shoulder before it flies off into the Forest.  It’s wing is soft against my face as it brushes past.  When I reach the Upper Dogwood Trail a beautiful orange and brown Moth lands on a leaf next to me.  Each time the sun breaks through the clouds in does a delicate ballet moving from leaf to leaf.

When I reach the south side of the Lower Dogwood Trail I have the feeling I am being watched.  I look up and see a Male Cardinal staring at me from the bright green of a leafy Tree.  Further along I see a sweet Juvenile Cardinal in a Short Leaf Pine.  I notice my water is getting low so I head down the Floral Trail toward the Fountain. At the bottom of the Trail a gray blue Moth is balance on the top of a green stalk. As slight breeze caused the stalk to weave back and forth.

When I reach the fountain a brown and tan Moth lands on me and it is impossible to photograph it.  It finally moves to the walkway and spreads it’s glorious wings.  In case you think I am a magnet for Butterflies and Moths the truth is they are trying to lick the pollen that has accumulated on my clothing while hiking.   As I am filling my water container and violet, brown and orange Butterfly lands on the wall next to me.  While I am photographing it another lands and then takes off quickly.  It has been a delightful hike filled with winged beauties.

Nature’s delicate creatures are always a feast for the eyes, open yours to their beauty.
Love,
Lee


Snoberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth and Green Trails

Hummingbird Moth - Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Goat Rock Trail Woodland Sunflower

Hot Springs Mountain Trail

Goat Rock Trail

I am into the park early as we are set to have another hot day.  It appears the grounds keepers, dog walkers and tourist all had the same idea.  A  large juvenile Cardinal in the tree above me on the Carriage Road calls out sending me on my way.  I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to the top of Hot Springs Mountain Trail where I am greeted by sound of blowers.

Seeking silence I headed straight over to the Hot Springs Mountain trail. I stop here to say to the male population using the park; could you please put your cloths on, your sweaty nakedness on the narrow trails is unpleasant.  The further I move along the trails the sound of Nature slowly begin to drown out the man-made noise devices. Wrapped in the peaceful green I move through the Forest to the song of the warblers hidden high in the Trees above me. A light breeze occasional passes through the leaves as I move through the Forest.

Even though the heat is building I decide to hike down the Gulpha Gorge Trail.  I stop to visit with a large Short Leaf Pine Tree, the Grandmother of the Forest.  This wonderful broad based Tree has survived severe damage and I had not stopped by for several weeks, I give her a hugs and head down the trail.  When I reach the Goat Rock Trail I decide to take this route to the top of North Mountain.  It is getting very hot and I am so happy to have a large container of water.

The Goat Rock Trail is beautiful in layers of green draped over the large rock formations along the trail.  I can hear several people above me on the Rocks off trail.  I hope they don’t fall as it is a very long was down onto more rocks.  As I reach the top of the trail I am relieved to have not heard any loud screams or bone crushing sounds.

As I head down the Hot Springs Mountain Road to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail the temperature is climbing rapidly.  I decide to head out of the park via the Floral Trail so I can get cold spring water.  When I reach the bottom of the Floral Trail I see an insect on the other side of  the trail connection.  My first thought is that is is a Dragonfly but on closer inspection I see it is an interesting Black and yellow fuzzy insect. Special Thanks to my Twitter friends  @dcenterphoto, @InvasiveNotes and @PineLilyFNPS for taking the time to help me identify this beauty.  It is a Hummingbird Moth called a Snowberry Clearwing Moth.  I hope I will see many more of these wonderful Insects in the park.

I am happy to reach the mineral water filling station in the park. Oh yes beautiful pure clean cold mineral water and it is FREE.  I fill my bottle and have guzzle before heading home.  Another gift from Nature, greatly appreciated.

Sneak out and play in Nature today!
Love,
Lee


Hiking in the Rain and Thunderstorms

Arlington Lawn Pink Peonies Flowering Bush

Tufa Terrace Baby Squirrel

Short Cut Trail Sunrise

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Doe Deer

I start my morning hike at 7:45 am with only a skiff of clouds trailing across the blue sky. The sun is still behind Hot Springs Mountain as I enter the park.  A bush at the foot of the Tufa Terrace has beautiful pink blossoms, if anyone knows what it is I would love to know the name of the flower. (Special Thanks to @melisheath of Twitter for identifying this as Pink Peonies Flowering Bush).  As I cross over the Promenade I look up and see a sweet baby Squirrel in the tree above me.  It is still wanting to stay hidden form the crowds moving below.

I continue up the Tufa and am delighted to see the lovely bunnies together in the grass.   They do not stay long as the lower park is busy with joggers and dog walkers.  Saturdays are often busy in the lower reaches of the mountain.  The clouds are increasing as I make my way to the Dead Chief Trail via the Carriage Road.  A single blue Asiatic Dayflower is blooming in the green grass, I Love seeing their delicate shape and spectacular blue color.

Near the top of the Dead Chief Trail a lovely little yellow Moth is flitting from leaf to leaf.  It rests for a few seconds then is is on its frenetic journey again.  As I reach the Short Cut Trail the sun is beginning to rise above the Trees.  This is the last I will see of the sun on my morning hike. As the clouds move in the sunlight forms a rainbow ring, a glorious sight as the rain begins to fall.

When I reach the top of the mountain the rain continues to fall as I continue my hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  In a Tree I try to shelter under a lovely little Hutton’s Vireo is also trying to keep dry.  I am so happy to see it as the last time I saw a Hutton’s Vireo was this past winter on the Short Cut Trail.

I try to protect my camera from the rain as I am hiking the east side of the Hot Springs Mountain trail.  As the rain fall increases I cannot tell if the sounds I hear is the rain on the branches or a large creature moving through the Forest.  Thunder rumbles through the park and it startles a Deer, for a brief moment we look at each other.  Another clap of Thunder and we both head off to find shelter.  I reach the rest hut at the trail head as the skies open up with a heavy downpour.  So much for less than a 20% chance of rain.

half an hour later the rain lessens so I make a dash for home as Thunder echos in the distance.  I am so happy to finally arrive home before lightning reaches the Mountain.

Respect Nature :o)
Love,
Lee


The Best Of: Birds 2010

It’s Rick’s Birthday today and I have been busy publishing his book Londons Times Our Favorites 13th Anniversary Edition. So for today’s blog I offer Friday in Flight, my favorite Birds. I have a long way to go with bird photography they move, fly and hop, so it’s a learning process.

Love to You All,

Lee

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

Hot Springs Mountain Road Pileated Woodpecker

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Trails Red Bellied Woodpecker

Hot Springs National Park Trails Red Bellied Woodpecker

Hot Springs National Park Gulpha Gorge Trail Blue Jay

Hot Springs National Park Gulpha Gorge Trail Blue Jay

Hot Springs National Park Tufted Titmouse In Snowy Tree

Hot Springs National Park Tufted Titmouse In Snowy Tree

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Cedar Waxwing

Promenade – Cardinal in the Sun II

Hot Springs National Park Trails Green Warbler and Sparrow

Hot Springs National Park Trails Green Warbler and Sparrow

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Cardinal Female

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Cardinal Female

Arlington Lawn Baby Cardinals Foraging

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Summer Tanager

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Cedar Waxwing

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A Morning So Hot Only Moths and Fungi Appeared

Hot Springs National Park, AR Peak Trail Tree Moth

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Peak Trail Tree Fungi

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas Promende Moth

Hot Springs Mountain Trail

I thought yesterday was hot, I was wrong.  It is a scorcher this morning, it feels more like noon when I left at 7:45 am.  When I step outside my sunglasses totally fog over leaving me blind.  This is my first summer in the South and I am on a learning curve.  The park entrance area at the Arlington Lawn is empty, this is very unusual.

As I head up into the park I am glad to have a large contain of Hot Springs water.  The heat and air feel heavy and add to my workout as I climb up onto Hot Springs Mountain.  Nothing appears to be moving accept for me.  I hike up the Dead Chief Trail and when I begin the short Cut Trail I spot a group of Ladies nearing the top of the first incline. The YaYa Sisterhood could not be stopped by an overheated Arkansas morning.

At the top of the mountain I head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail as a light delicious breeze delicately drift over the path.  I stop to have a drink to savor both the cool water and gentle breath of wind. It is a beautiful hike down the the Honeysuckle Trail.  I continue my hike to the Peak Trail, I look down at the base of a large Tree and see wonderful Fungi.  They are sprout up everywhere in singles and pretty clusters.  The subtle color, shapes and textures are wonderful.

Further down the Trail I notice the Moths are still doing battle with insects on the same Tree as they were the week before.  The Yellow Jackets have been replaced by Vespid Wasps.  The Moths congregate and the wasps dive bomb them.  I would love to know more about the relationship between the Moths and Wasps, if you know please leave a message in the comments box.

From the Peak Trail I head down the Tufa Terrace to the Promenade. When I reach the Promenade I am greeted by another Moth when it lands on the brick work it appears to be brown and orange.  As I move away it follows me and lands on on a surface of Stone and concrete and its coloring takes on a blue cast.  I love how Nature can repaint her beauty based on environment.  It has been a wonderful morning in the park.

Let you soul out to play by visiting Nature everyday!
Love,
Lee


Ahh the Humidity, Even the Rocks Are Sweating

Carriage Road Chipmunk

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Brown Turquoise Butterfly

Tufa Terrace Droplets

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Pagoda View

A morning so humid the Rocks are sweating, I had no idea it was possible. I start my hike on the the Tufa Terrace lovely droplets are glistening on the bright green grass.  They sparkle like tiny gems in the new light of the morning.  On the Carriage Road a little Chipmunk pops put from underneath a Tufa Rock.  In it’s sweet little hands a big nut as it tentatively comes out into the open to eat.  After 6 months of never seeing a Chipmunk on the Carriage Road now I have seen two within a week.

I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I stop at the Pagoda to see the humidity hanging over the valley below.  I begin to sweat more at the sight of the heavy humid air.  Although the Forest is beautiful hiking in humidity is beginning to melt me.  I am thankful for my very big water container filled with hydrating spring water.  I look down and see a rock sweating, yes it is that hot.

On the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a gorgeous Butterfly has bravely come out into the heat.  It is a spectacular mix of brown, turquoise and white. It flutters from leaf to leaf stopping to open it’s wings in a fanning motion.  I am mesmerized by this glorious site.

When I reach the Honeysuckle Trail I stop at my wedding chapel for a moment of joyous remembrance of the day I married my Rick.  As the heat builds my water is diminishing, I decide for safety to head down the Floral Trail and onto Fountain Street to head home.  I Love the park and its always changing beauty.

Remember to take water during your adventures in Nature!

Love,
Lee


Baby Birds on Soul Day

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Baby

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Baby

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

Superior Bathhouse Northern Mockingbird Chick

My Husband and I are both July babies so on days in between our two birthdays we celebrate our “Soul Days”.  Today we decided to go to the Ansel Adams Adams exhibit at the MOCA in the Historic Ozark Bathhouse in Hot Springs National Park on Central Avenue.  As we began our walk we came across a Northern Mockingbird Chick in the entrance of the unoccupied Superior Bathhouse.  It was calling out to a Pair of young parents and a nearby older baby.  We were able to encourage the Baby to seek shelter under the shade of a bush and Rick poured water nearby. It’s slightly older sibling flew down and landed on top of the bushes practicing it’s flight techniques.

As much as we wanted to pick it up and help the little chick it was important to allow its family to assist its newly discovered flight skills.  It was a blessing to be in the company of these babies and we took great care never to touch them.  We did not want cause its parent to reject it because we left out scent on it’s tiny body.

The Ansel Adams exhibit was wonderful, oh to have him here; I have so many questions.  He spent a decade living in and photographing Yosemite National Park, his total immersion in the park is something I understand.  Living across the street from Hot Springs National Park I know how a near daily trek in the park changes how you see it.  From the smallest Pebble to the largest Rock, Trees as leafless sculptures and decked out in full Spring greenery it all brings great passion to my heart.  Thank You my beloved Husband for this beautiful “Soul Day” Gift!

I believe whether it is your back yard or a nearby park regular visits will change how you see Nature, each day brings new surprises.

Love,
Lee


Feathered Friends and Wildflowers in the Rain

Floral Trail Clitoria Mariana Butterfly Pea

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Carolina Wren Juvenile

Dead Chief Trail Carolina Wren Baby

Carriage Road Helenium Autumnale SneezeWeed

It is misty and rain is hovering in the sky as I enter the park this morning.  On the carriage road I spot a tiny yellow sneezeweed nestled in the grass as I head toward the Dead Chief Trail.  It reminds me of the sun that is hidden behind the purple clouds. New Asiatic Dayflowers are blooming at the foot of stairs that lead up to the mountain trail.  As always the blue is gorgeous against the lush greenery.

As I head up the Dead Chief Trail I hear loud frantic chirping. I look in all the Trees around me and spot a fluffy Carolina Wren chick.  It is making mini flights from limb to limb, I feel blessed to see this little beauty.  Up the next incline a juvenile male Cardinal is flying in and out of the leaves.  He is gradually getting his full red plumage which will make him easier to spot each time I hike. I wonder if he knows :)

When I reach the Short Cut Trail high in a Tree in the distance I see a Summer Tanager.  I wish it was a bit closer but in the mist that continues to fall it flies deeper into the Forest.  The rain begins to lightly fall as I climb to the top of the Mountain.  Next I hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail as the rain picks up. I Love how the rain refreshes everything in the Forest.  A sweet juvenile Carolina Wren is perched on a limb singing so the world will know it is growing up.  I Love listening to it’s beautiful song.   Further along the trail I see a small juvenile Bird it bobs when it walks (if you know what it is please let me know).

On the Honeysuckle Trail the rain increases so I seek shelter in my Wedding Chapel, Rick and I were married here.  As I stand watching the rain I see I am not alone.  A spider is shoring up a web as the rain begins to blow.  We both wait at the entrance watching the wind move the rain down the trail.  When the rain stops I head down the Floral Trail and I discover a single beautiful Butterfly Pea, a Lovely lavender Wildflower.  I has been another glorious morning in the park.

Dance with abandonment in Nature’s Fields and Forests.
Love,
Lee


Beautiful Fungi, Friends and Trails In The Summer Showers

Tufa Terrace Trail Chipmunk Breakfast

Lower Dogwood Trail

Promenade Blue Butterfly

Lower Dogwood Trail Fungi Log

Dim with patches of sun and pouring rain, it is a perfect day for a hike.  As I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace entrance I am greeted by a lovely Chipmunk having it’s breakfast. It is a heart warming sight and a happy start to my hike. As a brief moment of sun appears I can see  the Moths on the Peak Trail Tree are sill battling the Yellow Jackets.  A pretty Sycamore Tussock Moth is inching it’s way up the the Tree past the activity.

The Rain is back as I reach the Carriage Road and I spot a tiny Chipmunk.  It is making a dash to get out of the sudden downpour.  The sweetie dives into a burrow hole and them pops it’s head out to see if the rain has stopped. As the rain continues I hike up the Dead Chief  and Short Cut Trails to reach the Mountain top.  The skies are darkening  as rain increases and a flock of Tufted Titmouse fly into the pines above me.   As I move through the picnic area a Blue Jay lands in a Tree nearby.

When I reach the Pagoda the clouds above the valley are darkening as rain continues.  I decide to continue my hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail in the lush new green.  It is a peaceful hike listening to the drops of rain hitting the leaves.  The occasional large drop bouncing up off the path like tiny missiles striking the earth and gravel. I am surprised to find a Fungus the size of a “ladies” bicycle seat growing between the ferns.  It is a spectacular apricot color.

I connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail as the Rain lets up a little.  Further up the trail I spot a log covered in False Turkey Tail Fungi. I love how weather conditions change the colors with the help of algae.  The trail is quiet as I hike in the Forest, a squirrel moves in the Tree above me cause a cascade of water for the leaves above. I connect with the Lower Dogwood Trail and hike down the Floral Trail to the Hot Springs Mountain Road to Fountain Street.

I head up the Promenade and encounter a beautiful dark blue and turquoise Butterfly.  It is spectacular as it turns and gently opens and closes it wings.  A light rain begins to fall and the Butterfly gracefully flies away.  As I make my way out of the park a Male Cardinal lands in a Tree ahead of me.  He is a glorious red and I feel blessed to end my hike with this beautiful sighting.

Get out and play, dance in the wind and roll in the grass.
Love,
Lee