Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for September, 2010

Field Notes: Ice Ribbons and Frost Flowers

Hot Springs National Park Mountain Trail Ice Ornament

Hot Springs National Park Mountain Trail Ice Flower

Hot Springs National Park Mountain Trail Ice Cocoon

Hot Springs National Park Mountain Trail Ice Cocoon

Dead Chief Trail - Nature's Ice Ribbon Sculptures (Gulpha Gorge)

In January of 2010 I first noticed these ice formations on the trails, I reached down to pick them up thinking they were plastic. My intention had been to clean up the mess left in the Forest.  Once in my hand I realized they were beautiful pieces of ice, I immediately felt guilty for disturbing Nature’s beautiful art.   In Hot Springs National Park I only saw these beautiful creations on the north face of  the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the South face on the Dead Chief Trail heading to the Gulpha Gorge.  Both of these areas had one trait in common, they always felt colder than other places in the park.  It often felt as if I was stepping into a curtain of cold air when I would reach these specific locations on the Trail. I learned later these are known as microclimates, a microclimate is a localized atmospheric zone where the differs climate conditions differ from the surrounding area. Learn More: Encyclopedia Britannica: Microclimates

My original thought had been that these formed by freezing on vegetation and then sliding perhaps twisting down to the ground.  The truth, they are caused by moisture extruding from cracks in the base of a dead plant stem. The ribbons of ice are pushed out the dead stems and form the beautiful shapes as found in my photographs above.  I hope to capture many more this coming winter. Learn More: Ice Ribbons and Frost Flowers

Nature is the best classroom, I am a very enthusiastic student.
Much Love,
Lee


Autumn Equinox and Predator Redux

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The Predator Redux:
A lovely little gray cat is on the move in the park and it appears not to be feral.  I followed it up the Dead Chief and watched it climb through a fence onto the ramp of the nurses apartments on the adjacent hospital grounds.   I meowed it meowed back and we had a lovely little conversation.  It did not run, it was a happy lovely kitty Cat.  Unfortunately it is both a danger to wildlife and is in danger from some of the wildlife.  If you read this and know whose cat this is please ask them to keep it indoors.

Autumn Equinox:
Please enjoy the lovely changes overtaking the  leaves of the Forest in Hot Springs National Park.  Red, yellow, coral and rust are touching the green foliage along all the trails.  This glorious event heralds the hibernation/dormancy of many Trees in the Forest.  Each season has it’s beauty and this is Nature’s version of fireworks, a brief but spectacular display. Let us celebrate the glorious transition to winter.

Get out and play in the newly fallen leaves it will return youth to your heart!
Much Love,
Lee


Winging My Way Through the Park and Twilight Snakes

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I want to begin by thanking Twitter friends @avocadocreation @melisheath for identifying the Spotted Cucumber Beetle on the pink Peony.  At the Arlington Lawn Peonies are still blossoming as are several bushes.  These bushes are attracting a beautiful array of insects this morning it is lovely moths drinking the nectar of the white bell shaped flowers.

Leaving this late this morning I am quickly aware I have missed the morning breakfast run of my Forest friends.  From the Tufa Terrace up to the top of the mountain via the Peak Trail it is so quiet.  A gorgeous orange Moth is sunning itself on a lichen covered Tree. Further up the trail a beautiful Red Spotted Purple Butterfly sits on a leaf bath in the glow of a ray of sunlight.

Once I reach the top I pass several hiking groups on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, the second wave of tourists mostly retirees.  People and Dogs equals  mammals in hiding along the Trail.  A lovely Tufted Titmouse sings a sweet song to me as I hike toward toward North Mountain. I glance up to see it peeking down from high in the Tree ahead of me.

When I reach the North Mountain I connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail.  It is a meditative hike, a chance to listen to my Soul as I move among the Trees.   When I reach the Upper and Lower Dogwood fork I see a spectacular sight on the last day of summer.  High in the canopy one Tree has changed into it’s Autumn splendor.  It’s a color is only the first of what will soon paint the Forest in Hot Springs National Park.

Down the Floral Trail, off North Mountain to Fountain Street to fill my water bottle with wonderful mineral water. I decide to stop by the Arlington Lawn on my way home to see what is feeding on the nectar of the flowering bushes.  A sweet sparrow looks down at me from a Magnolia Tree as I head across the lawn.  Across the park I can see a family of House Sparrows is enjoying a feast in the grass near a hedge.  It is wonderful to see the young birds taking flight and moving around the park.  A lovely Bumble Bee is feeding on the nectar of a near-by flowering bush pushing the smaller Moths out of its way.  Nature is always busy with life, it never fears change.

Get out and play!
Much Love,
Lee

PS on my Twilight hike with my beloved Husband Rick we saw sweet Ring-Neck Snake and this amazing Copperhead Snake…


Field Notes: Damselfly Dragonfly its in the Wings and Eyes

In May I posted a photo on Twitter I figured it was just another Dragonfly, fortunately for me Nature photographer Kerri Far (@KerriFar) let me know it was it fact a Damselfly.  Thus began my fact finding journey into determining the difference between the two.

A quick glance at my photographs and it is the wings.  The Damselfly wings lay parallel their body when at rest, Dragonfly wings stay out stretched.  On closer inspections the hindwing of the Dragonfly broadens at the base and is stubbier, while the hindwing of the Damselfly is similar to the forewing.  It is however when you look into their eyes you see the Dragonfly eyes a set together, but the Dameselfly eyes are set apart.

Insect Group Odonata
The group is divided into two distinct sub-orders, Zygoptera/Damselflies and Anisoptera/Dragonflies.

Zygoptera/Damselflies – Means paired-wings’ i.e. All four wings are for the most part equal in size and shape. Damselflies are small, delicate flying insects that usually stay near to the water.
Anisoptera/Dragonflies – means ‘unequal-winged’i.e  Rear or hind wings are generally shorter and broader than forewings. Dragonflies are much larger than the damsels and can often be found flying far from water.

I Love learning new things, Nature has so much to teach us all.
Much Love,
Lee

Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis), male Dragonfly

HSNP Ricks Pond Blue Dragonfly

Tufa Terrace Rose Hips Blue Dragonfly

HSNP Ricks Pond Green Dragonfly

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Dragonfly

Dead Chief Trail Dragonfly

Floral Trail Common Blue Damselfly

Floral Trail ebony jewelwing damselfly

Gulpha Creek Black Winged Damselfly


Field Notes: Mixed-Species Foraging Flock Robins and Waxwings

I need to start by making it clear that I am not a scientist nor do I have a degree in any field of wildlife study.  What I am is an observer detailing what I see when I am hiking.  It is a blessing to have the Internet as a resource so I might learn more about Nature.

I have been reading about mixed-species foraging flocks, it appears they generally join together when one flock joins another at a feeding location.  However in this case the Robins and Cesar Waxwing have been flock together for at least eleven days possibly longer.  The Robins were only the dominant flock on the Tufa Terrace  January 22 2010 when they flew in and began frantically feeding on berries.  In fact the Cedar Waxwings pushed the Robins out of the Tree when their flock arrived.  Later on February 07 2010 I saw Robins and Cedar Waxwings on the Honeysuckle Trail.  I noted at the time it was the first time I had seen Robins on that trail.  Move ahead to February 18 2010 I note in my blog that I am surprised to see a flock of Robins up at the Hot Springs Mountain Pagoda.  Not long after I note a large group of Cedar Waxwings appear. The Waxwings are smaller in size  but appear to be the dominant group in this mixed flock.

Below are my field notes, photos from Winter 2010 regarding my sightings of American Robins (Thrush) and Cedar Waxwings (Flycatcher) flocking together.

January 22 2010: “The decision to hike back to the top and go down the Peak trail proved fortuitous.  As I walked the last few feet of the Peak trail a large flock of birds landed in a nearby Juniper tree and began feasting on the berries.  The frenzy was an amazing site and I later discovered they were Cedar Waxwings. A Robin moved to a higher tree  to watch the the show unfold below.

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Cedar Waxwing Flock

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Cedar Waxwing Flock

February 07 2010: “The biggest surprise was to be revealed to me on one of my favorite trails.  As I crested the first incline of the Honeysuckle Trail I was greeted by a flock of Robins, it was the first time I had seen them on this part of the trail.  The bigger surprise was their traveling companion, a large Cedar Waxwing.  I kept thinking when I got home my photos would really show it was only a pale Robin,  a fine feathered illusion.”

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Cedar Waxwing

February 18 2010: “When I reached the top the picnic area was silent and there appeared to be very view birds.  However, as I moved toward the Pagoda I saw a large flock of Robins, they ignored me as I walk through them to the steps.

I had finished my view shot and from the corner of my eye saw a bright fluttering in the large tree next to me.  I could see these were not Robins and when I put my camera up the zoom revealed a flock of Cedar Waxwings.  Looking below I could see the two flocks were mixed together.  This was the second time I had witnessed Robins and Cedar Waxwings flocking together.  It was a spectacle of acrobatics and feeding, I hardly knew where to look next. I photographed a rare Cedar Waxwing that had Red tail tips instead of yellow.”

Mixed Species Foraging Flock Robins Cedar Waxwings

Mixed Species Foraging Flock Robins Cedar Waxwings


It’s deja vue in the Park

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A humid haze is hanging in the air and I always feel like I need to clean eyes for a clearer view. I am still adjusting to how southern humidity makes photographs appear to have been shot in a fog.   As I enter the park at the Arlington Lawn the moths are back at the flowering bushes early this morning.  Today there is a greater variety  diving into the Flower bells.  I have not witnessed this activity later in the morning they only appear to come to feed just after sunrise.

As I head up the Tufa Terrace a lovely female Cardinal is peeking at me from the leaves of a Tree.  As she takes off her rapid acceleration leaves me with an unusual photo.  Her body is nearly invisible with only her feet showing on the Tree, I giggle when I see it on my LCD screen. Be sure to click on it in the image set below, it will make you laugh.

In March 25th of 2010 I took a picture of a Feral Kitten I spotted on the Short Cut Trail.  As I reach the Short Cut Trail head I realize I am now stalking the same Kitten that has grown to a Cat.  I am surprised it does not detect my presences and I am able to take several photographs before it spots me and runs off into the Forest.  I am hoping I can get a Cat rescue group to come collect it as it is an unnatural predator that is likely killing the smaller park residence.

When I am hiking along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I run into an old friend near the rest hut.  We first met at Goat Rock after an Ice/Snow Storm on January 20 2010.  Baxter the Beagle was out with his friend Annie, today Baxter is on the Trail with Annie’s Mom.

I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail then head down the Floral Trail to leave Hot Springs Mountain.  At the bottom of the trail I spot a glorious blue cream and orange Moth in the grass.  It is so tiny I almost miss it’s beauty.  I head home on Fountain Street along the edge of the park, a sweet Squirrel peeks at me from a tree in the park.   It is a wonderful sight and the perfect end to my morning hike.  I miss the Squirrels!

Play outdoors and become a child again.
Much Love,
Lee


Brewing Summer Storm Wings and Embraces

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A storm is brewing within the park as I head out to hike this morning.  A flowering Bush on the Arlington Lawn is the focus of a swarm of Moths seeking an early breakfast and they move rapidly from blossom to blossom in a delicate dance.  It is not long before they fly off to find more sweet nectar elsewhere. The sky begins to change rapidly from dark to light and wildlife is for the most part vanishes.  Who can blame them with rumblings of Thunder far off on distant ridge tops.   As I hike up Hot Springs Mountain only a Male Cardinal pops it’s beak out for a quick song before flying deep into the Forest.  He is a spectacular sight, he rich red against the lush green is always a beautiful sight.

When I reach the top the skies are darkening so I head straight to the Pagoda to seek a bit of shelter.   A sweet Black-Capped Chickadee is pipping loudly in a Tree nearby.  As I look over the valley I can see the edge of the Zig Zag Range in the Ouachita Mountains bathed in a light mist.  I am not sure why I look up, but I am so happy that I do.  Above me is a lovely pair of Walking Sticks embracing in a mating ritual. Gracefully they entwine in Nature’s divine dance, in a perfectly chosen place sheltered from the incoming storm.

Dark skies but no rain I decide I should continue my journey through the Forest.  My hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is peaceful and humorous.  I watch as two squirrels scare each other sending one running frantically down the trail at lightning speed. When they both shot around the same Tree I though I heard them scream out in surprise. Moths seem to be out in force today and a lovely brown one is flitting across the grass and clover.  Further ahead tiny little white flowers have burst open in clusters decorating the trail edges.

When I reach the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trail fork I can see beautiful Callicarpa bushes decorated with lovely purple berries.  They are prolific popping up from under logs and within the cracks of large Rock formations.   Along the Lower Dogwood Trail I am escorted by a Robin who is keeping a watchful eye on me. I must look suspicious earing my wide brim hat.  On the final bend of the Floral Trail a rapidly moving baby snake (black) winds it’s way through the dry leaves on the edge of the trail.  These baby snakes are everywhere and so fast.

As I head home I stop at the Hot Springs National Park Fountain and the area is an insect paradise.  A wonderful Walking Stick is  perched on the side of a garbage receptacle basking in the sun.  Brown moths are resting on my hair, arms and shoulders as I try to photograph one on the retaining wall.  Soon we are joined by beautiful Red Spotted Purple Butterflies, it appears everyone stops here for the mineral water.

Make friends with Nature :o)
Much Love,
Lee


Beautiful Creatures at Twilight and Sunrise

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Hike One:
Evening hikes are always with my beloved Husband Rick, it is a special time for us. As we head up Fountain Street to fill our water containers a large yellow and green moth lands in the Trees next to us.  It blends in beautifully and even has a glossy finish on it’s wings looking more leaf like.    After we fill up at the fountain I see a spectacular yellow and black Garden Spider wrapping up it’s dinner.  It is the biggest one I have seen this year.

Rick and I head up the Floral Trail as the light of day begins to fall.  When we reach the top of the trail we can see a sweet Squirrel hanging upside down chiseling away at a nut for it’s evening meal.  We climb up the Lower Dogwood and connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail.  As we crest the incline a rapidly moving baby Copperhead Snake crosses the path. Wow, they are fast and I am so happy I did not accidentally step on it’s tiny body. We hike down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and finish our hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Road stopping to get more water when we reach the bottom.

As we are heading down Fountain Street Rick says, “Look” and points to the berm.  A brown beaver is hunting for clover only a few feet to our side.  I look back and whisper “Thank You”.  As the light fades I move closer and try to get a photo in the Twilight.  It continues eating and is coming so close we back up to keep from being stepped on.  As a large vehicle passes by the Beaver decides it is time to move back up into the Forest.

We have had a wonderful evening hike and it ends with a Blue Crescent Moon.  It has been a perfect date night hike!

LOVE to You ALL
Lee

Hike Two:

The morning is a lovely 65 degrees as I head out the door, a cool breeze is moving through the park.  Park staff are watering Trees and Bushes so the lower part of the Park is noisy and wildlife appears to be hiding.  The Asiatic Dayflowers are blooming at the end of the Carriage Road, I never tire of their beauty.  I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  A California Wren sings a sweet song as I near the picnic area.

I stop to have a drink of water and can see activity further along the path.  A Male Cardinal is getting water at the stone drinking fountain and below a juvenile Robin is standing in a pool of water looking up at the Male Cardinal. This is the first juvenile Robin I have ever photographed, it is glorious.  It is a blessing to see the new life in the park.

As I make my way along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a tiny Black-Capped Chickadee sings a spirited song.  In between it’s solo berries are nibbled for a morning feast.  In the last of the summer green I head for the trail head listening to the Forest chorus.  I cross onto North Mountain and I suddenly have a great need to call my family in Oregon.  I end my dialog here as a health problem was being dealt with as my call was answered and I walked out of the Forest focused elsewhere.

Please note neither Rick nor myself were the ones with the health problem.
Much Love to You ALL,
Lee


Wings on West Mountain

West Mt. Oak Trail Female Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

West Mt. Oak Trail Tufted Titmouse Chick

West Mt. Loop Trail Yellow Moth

West Mt. Canyon Trail Heart Shape Fungi

HSNP West Mountain Map

The clouds lifted and the sun is shining brightly this morning.  I decided to hike up West Mountain and celebrate the rain fed Forest.  I head up the Canyon Trail and connect with the beautiful Oak Trail. A flash of yellow touches my cheek and I turn to track its flight.  In the distance a beautiful Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly lands on a pretty green leaf.

Hiking in the lovely Forest with Sunlight glimmering through the leaves I can hear sweet bird song.  It is a wonderful sight to see an adult Tufted Titmouse teaching it’s chick how to fly from branch to branch.   There is sweet joy to see the beautiful relationship between a parent and child.

When I reach the West Mountain Trail I spot a pretty Yellow Moth on a Yellow Leaf.  The color combination is striking,  Nature paints with amazing color and textures.  The warmth of the sun is warming the earth and plants creating a beautiful fragrance in the Forest.  As I hike all my blessing fill my heart, the Love I share with Rick, our friends and a home surrounded by a National Park filed with Nature’s wonders.

When I reach the top of West Mountain I can hear lovely bird song.  In a Tree ahead of me I can see a tiny bird singing and feeding.  It is either a vireo or warbler, I am still working on identifying the many birds I see.   It suddenly flies off as  a runner comes out of the Forest on the Sunset Trail.  I wonder how much he missed and crushed as he ran along the Mountain ridge.

I continue my hike along the West Mountain Top Trail and over to the West Mountain Loop. I love the new Fungi that appears after rain has fallen.  As I reach the Canyon Trail I spot a lovely heart shaped False Turkey Tail Fungi.   I move quietly along the trail and feel at peace with my life.  I cannot wait to show my husband Rick the photos I took today.

Make it a special day and get outdoors!
Much Love,
Lee


Remembering 9/11 Sacrifices

9/11 Memorial Badge

http://mia.leehiller.com/DearNYC.html

Stop, breathe and remember The Families, The Fallen,The First Responders and The Survivors of 9/11 they made sacrifices that should NEVER be forgotten. Much Love, Lee and Rick xx00

http://www.londonstimes.us/cat/cat.html

9/11 Memorial - Hoses


A Lovely Rainy Day in the Forest

North Mountain Floral Trail

Upper Dogwood Trail

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Fog

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Molting Male Cardinal In Fog

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Big Stick Insect

Two days of storms and I could not stay away from the Forest one more day.  I gear up and stick my big oiled cloth wide brim rain hat on my head.  The park is empty as I head up the trails and in the drizzle I stop only to photograph Wild Rose Hips and Asiatic Dayflowers.  I head up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  I am moving at a good pace as there is a chance of lightning and I do not want to caught out in the open if it arrives.

Once I reach the top I head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  The trail is draped in a light fog and a I can see a flash of red moving in the distance.  As I move further along the trail I spot a molting male Cardinal moving from Tree to Tree.  He looks a little miserable sitting in the fog and I miss the usually joyful song.  There is no bird song on the trail nor are there any other hikers either.

The rain has brought back the once sun burnt Forest to a lush glorious green.  My hike is peaceful and cool in the rain splashing and dripping all along the path.  I have missed hiking and it is with childlike wonder I move further on the trail. As I am making my way to the Trail head I see big Stick Insect slowly moving in front of me.  I stop to make sure it has a safe journey.

As I cross over to North Mountain and connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail the rain picks up.  I move quickly through the Forest wanting to reach home before the storm builds to Thunder and Lightning.  I have had a beautiful morning in the park, I Love being outdoors.

Thank You for Hiking with me.
Much Love,
Lee


Stone Dams, Bridges and Water Falls Along New Trails

DeSoto Park Gulpha Creek

HSNP Ricks Pond Blue Dragonfly

HSNP Ricks Pond Stone Bridge

HSNP Ricks Pond

DeSoto Park Gulpha Creek Waterfall

HSNP Ricks Pond Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

DeSoto Park Gulpha Creek Crayfish

DeSoto Park Gulpha Creek

HSNP Ricks Pond Dam Spill

Hot Springs National Park, AR Sunset Trail Section 1

It’s 56 degrees at 8:00 am and I feel an adventure is in order to celebrate this rare cool summer morning.  As I enter the park my destination is clear, the Sunset Trail on the historic Fordyce/Ricks Estate.  I think a side trip into DeSoto park would be fun as well.  It is a 4 mile trail hike to reach the beginning of the park area I want to explore.  I head over to the Dead Chief Trail for the first leg of my journey.  After cresting the incline and heading north east I am greeted with the beautiful song of a new day.  I look up to see a juvenile male Summer Tanager in transition from green to red. He was hard to find within the leaves waving in the cool breeze.

I am hiking at a good clip and reach the Gulpha Gorge Camp Ground at 9:30 am.  At the Gorge I take the Sunset Trail which parallels Highway 7 to Park Road.  Part of the Trail reveals the old Gorge road Novaculite walls and bluffs to my left and the old retaining wall to right.  The last time I exited the trail I had no clue how to find the head of the next section of the Sunset Trail.  There are NO markers, look right on Park Avenue and you will see two stone pillars this is Stonebridge Road.  It appears to be a private estate and in fact it was in the past the Fordyce/Ricks Estate.

As you enter hike along the grassy bank to your left and you will see the historic Fordyce Water Wheel and the Stone Bridge.  Further up the creek you will see a dam that is in summertime is a perfect crossing (for adults), spring and winter the rushing water will make it too dangerous.  It would be most likely fatal to be swept over the side (see Photo shot looking over as I crossed).  There is a trail on both sides of Ricks Pond, on the far side it is overgrown and you will want to proceed with caution at it a perfect place for snakes to hide along the pond edges. The clear path along the road side is a better choice especially for those not wearing appropriate footwear or with small children.  As you move round the pond you will see a bridge in the distance, it gives you a clear view of the wetlands at the far end of the pond.

Sadly the only beaver I saw was dead on the far side of the pond, it looked as if someone bashed in it’s head.  I hope it died of natural causes, not from the violence of man.  It was a large gray beauty and my heart was saddened to know I would never see it swimming in this lovely pond. Basking on the logs I spot several turtles, but even the smallest move to get a better view and they slip into the pond.  I can see their glistening heads as they surface to breathe.  Sadly I do not catch sight of any snakes, I laugh as I type this as in the past a snake would have sent me screaming all the way home.  Now I look carefully everywhere I hike in hopes of being able to photograph them.  Colorful green and blue Dragonflies are landing and taking off from the marsh grasses near the end of the bridge.

I am looking forward to photographing this area during each of the four seasons.  Rushing water, springs rain, snow and ice the changes will be so beautiful.  I wonder what spring wildflowers I will see on the banks and on the Sunset Trail.  I love the discovery of visiting someplace for the first time. I would love to know why there are no water birds ducks heron etc.  within view, what seasons might I find them at the pond. My only wish is that it was not a 4 mile hike to reach this spot, otherwise I would visit a couple of times a week.

To continue my journey on the Sunset Trail I locate the trail head across Stonebridge Road in line with the bridge near the wetlands.  The morning is nearly gone as I head up the trail and I still have a 4 mile trek back home so I try to keep track of my time on the trail.  I head up, up, up and up the trail into the Forest.  As I am trying to get my bearings I see a deer dashing away in the distance.    I decide I had best hike only a mile up the trail so I return home in time to rest up for my hike later with my husband Rick.  On my way back down the Trail I realize this will be my view as I complete the entire Sunset Trail beginning at the top of West Mountain.

When I exit Stonebridge Road I cross the street to DeSoto Park to see the Memorial.  The tank in the park gives little hint to  the message on the metal plaque in front of me.  This is in fact a Peace Memorial dedicated to all who have served by the Military Order of the Purple Heart of Hot Springs Chapter #436.  I stop to say a prayer for those lost in battle and those currently serving.

The Gulpha Creek moves through the park and it is home to a wide variety of creatures. Crayfish, tadpoles, Striped Bass, Sunfish and many others I have yet to identify.  Across the bridge I hike along the bank to a pool being fed by water spilling over the dam,  This is a lovely place to visit for a rest on a long road trip or a quick Nature break on the way home from work.

Back on the trail I head up the Sunset toward the Gulpha Gorge Trail and then onto the Hot Springs Mountain trail.  I decide to avoid several groups with scream children and cut over to the Hot Springs Mountain Road.  This turns out to be be a good move as the noise sends a Doe down the hill and I for a moment she pauses to look at me before turning and head back up the embankment.  As I fill my water container at the park fountain 2 Red Spotted Butterflies dance in the water along the wall. It has been a glorious day of exploration in the park.

Much Love,
Lee


The Impact of a Predator in the Park

Carriage Road Rogue Cat

Carriage Road Squirrel

Fountain Street Squirrel

Carriage Road Asiatic Dayflowers

Fountain Red Spotted Purple Butterfly

As I head up into the park I realize I have not seen the Tufa Terrace Rabbits since August 18th.  No Chipmunks on the Tufa, Lower Peak and Carriage Road either.  As I reach the Carriage Road I can hear several squirrels making a screeching warning sound. Turning to my right I see movement in the brush, a cat appears and freezes when it sees me. I have seen it before on the Dead Chief Trail, curled up on the porch of the nurses apartments and photographed it on the Short Cut Trail. It needs to be moved away from the park environment to protect the smaller mammals and birds. Unlike a feral cat this one appears to live at nurses apartments on the hospital grounds next to the park. It is however a predator and I would like to find a way for them to keep it indoors. Suggestions for a note I could leave for the owner would be greatly appreciated.

At the foot of the Dead Chief Trail I stop for a moment to admire a beautiful patch of Asiatic Dayflowers. I always feel joy at the sight of these beautiful blue wildflowers. As I near the top of the Dead Chief Trail a sweet Chipmunk dashes across the trail and onto a rock before diving into a hole.  I am always amazed at how fast they can move.  A cool breeze travels down the Mountain as I head to the top on the Short Cut Trail.  In the picnic area I spot two new receptacles for recycling cans and plastic, thank you NPS.

Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail the beautiful breeze continues.  My hike is peaceful and relaxing on this rare cool morning.  I am surprised that I do not pass any other hikers on the trail it is the perfect morning to be here.  I glance down and see a colorful leaf, it shows remnant drops of rain from the showers the day before.

At the trail head I decide to enjoy the breeze and head down the Gulpha Gorge Trail.  Soon I connect with the Goat Rock Trail and take the winding journey up North Mountain.  I Love the ever changing colorful lichen covered rocks, they are beautiful and decorate the trail edges along the lower parts of the trail.  Near the top leaves have fallen from the heat and the colorful carpet combined with the lovely breeze makes it feel like the first day of Autumn.

Along the Upper Dogwood still alone I am content moving to the sound of rustling leaves and distant bird song.  When I reach the Lower Dogwood Trail I head down to the Floral Trail to leave North Mountain.  At the Fountain a gorgeous Red Spotted Purple Butterfly lands to feed in the pollen along the wall. As I head home via Fountain Street a sweet Squirrel peeks at me from the side of a Tree.

Open your eyes to Natures many secrets.
Much Love,
Lee


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