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!

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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