Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for April, 2011

A Hike to North Mountain After The Storms

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This morning I had a guest along with me on my hike, my beloved husband Rick.  I would like to say seeing my husband in the early morning hours is in and of itself  a rare sighting.  As he has only recently begun hiking again I felt it was brave of him to head out with me on my morning hike as I am not use to having company.  Rick would say his greatest achievement today was completing the hike, I would say it was putting up with me and my cameras :)

We spent the morning hiking around the trails of North Mountain and saw new wildflowers, our first Fox Squirrel in the park and played hide-n-seek with a Blue Jay.  I hope you will enjoy my photographs of North Mountain in Hot Springs National Park.

Love yourself, get out and play in Nature!
Much Love to ALL!
Lee

PS: Please pray for the people of Tuscaloosa their city and lives have been devastated by a large Tornado… Pray for those who have perished in the South this past week during the devastating outbreak of Storms, Floods and Tornadoes. Counting our Blessing! Lee & Rick London


A Hiking Break Between Tornadoes, Storms and Flooding

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The past few weeks have been my first living with the threat of tornadoes.  Engulfed in thunder storms, hail and heavy rain we have not been able to get out into the Forests and Mountains that surround our home.  So when I discovered there was a 4 hour window in the morning of moderate weather I grabbed my boots and headed out for a hike.

Although my cell phone is suppose to ring me when there is an elevation in the weather alert system I tend to trust my eyes.   I have a plan for distance and time that will bring home safely before the storms reach us.  A Male Cardinal sits on a branch looking out toward West Mountain as I reach the Peak Trail via the Tufa Terrace.  On the Carriage Road the Squirrels are high in the Trees screeching out a warning.  They appear to be railing at the sky for the wind, rain and lightning that has bombarded the park for several weeks.

I reach the Dead Chief Trail as another Male Cardinal is singing a sweet song trying to beckon the sun to come out. He is unsuccessful.  The hike up the trail is much better than I expected as often heavy rain will carve a channel into the rock and dirt surface.  When I reach the Short Cut Trail I hear an unfamiliar bird call and turn to see a Juvenile Blue Grosbeak.  Another call rings out and a Male Cardinal appears, the third I have seen this morning.  The many vibrant red Cardinals are spectacular perched within the gorgeous spring greenery.

On the second rise of the Short Cut Trail clusters of leaves are strewn across the path.  The wind definitely came up this part of the Mountain, as I reach the top I see a tree that has been twisted and bent over (see Hot Springs National Park – Twisted Bent Tree – Microburst, Tornado or…?).

The skies are darkening as I step into the Hot Springs Mountain pagoda and look out over the valley.  I decide it is best to continue at a quicker pace as I am unsure how quickly any storm cells will form over the park.  A sweet Chipmunk stops briefly on a log as I move along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I am pleased to see many new steams have filled and cross the path, water is life!  A loud bird call reveals a lovely Gray Catbird in the mist ahead of me. As I finish taking a photograph a not so friendly reminder of spring smacks me in the forehead.  As I feel the burning it is already too late, I pull from my face a huge winged stinging insect.  Not the greeting I have expected or wanted to announce bug season has begun.

Near the trail head I can see a Tree laying across my path, it is sad to another lost life in the Forest. The saturated soil could not hold its roots against the storms of the past week and it was uprooted.  On the North Mountain leg of the trail there is little or no sign of the high winds of the previous evening.  Only the sound of running water in the distance reminds me of the volume of rain which has fallen in the park.  A lovely Tufted Titmouse, a Male and Female Cardinals are all foraging for food before the storms return.

I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail then the Floral to make my way back home.  Just over three hours have passed and I want to be home safe before the next storm warning.  A sweet Male House Sparrow and a baby Squirrel guide me out of park, it is a perfect end to my much need hike in the Forest.   I can see my beloved husband Rick is relieved and happy as I walk in the door… I am a very lucky woman.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Hot Springs National Park – Twisted Bent Tree – Microburst, Tornado or…?

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This is a blog about a single Short Leaf Pine Tree located at the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  Last night as I was sitting on the bathroom floor waiting for the all clear siren hiking and blogging was the farthest thing from my thoughts.  We were in the middle of a Tornado Warning, my first but one of many my Husband Rick has experienced.  Tonight as I type this we are waiting for another line of severe storms to reach Hot Springs. Watches and Warnings for a combination of weather events.

This morning there was a gap in what seems to be endless line of spring storms so I dashed out for a hike which I will blog about tomorrow.  When I reached the top of the Short Cut Trail I see a Short Leaf Pine that has been bent over.  This is unusual, after storms in Hot Springs National Park I usually find Trees that are uprooted or completely snapped off.  This is the first one I have found that looked as if a giant hand grabbed the Tree, twisted and then bent the trunk.

Did a Tornado touch this Tree on the way to touch down approximately 8 miles away? Did a Tornado try to form above this Tree?  Was this a Microburst? Was this a weather event I have not mentioned?  I want to understand what happened to this Tree, I have passing it for over a year as I hike in the park.  I need your help to find answers to how this beautiful Tree was twisted and bent.  Thank You in advance for your help…

If you have answers… or more questions I would appreciate hearing from you.

Much Love,
Lee


Beautiful Autumn Forests of Hot Springs National Park 2010

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Spring 2011 is producing a series of spring storms that have made it dangerous to enter the park and hike.  Currently we have a warning for Tornadoes, Thunder Storms and Flooding that is set to last another 36 hours.  The last time this past week it was safe to hike was Earth Day as it was only Raining with wind and Fog.  The lush greenery beckons me but with each boom of Thunder and flash of Lightning I am content to stay in and watch the show from the safety of my window.  We are listening for the sirens

Until these storms pass I hope you will enjoy a second look at Autumn of 2010 in Hot Springs National Park…

Much Love,

Lee

PS Please visit http://Photos4Japan.org


Happy Earth Day 2011 – Fog, Rain and Wind in Rainforests of Hot Springs National Park

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Happy Earth Day! Please enjoy these photographs taken in the Rainforest on Hot Springs and North Mountains in Hot Springs National Park. The morning was foggy, rainy and windy perfect weather for a hike on Earth Day. I hope you will enjoy the photographs of my hike through the Rainforest. The Universe has been feeding the Forest for several days and now the creeks are full so they will provide a much needed resource for the park residents.  What others see as bad weather I see as life, these storms have been a blessing.

Love the Earth!
Lee

PS:Note to Hot Spring national Park management… having staff mow down the fields of Wildflowers on Earth Day seemed an odd way to celebrate.  Tourists and hikers actually enjoy seeing and photographing the beautiful blooms and you feature them on several pages within your website (Plants, Natural Features & Ecosystems, Outdoor Activities, Sunset Trail). The many insects that pollinate the park feed from their spectacular flowers; including but not limited to Butterflies, Moths, Bees and Wasps.  Not sure if your conservation team is communicating with the park maintenance staff, but it might be a good topic to discuss.  Wildflowers are as your website states an important part of the Ecosystem.


Spring Hike Filled with Colorful Wildflowers and Insects

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There is a string of thunder storms heading for your area, what would you do??? a) prepare for the storm or b) head out for a hike before they arrive.  I head quickly into the park and up the Dead Chief and Short Cuts Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  I am surprised how green the Forest has become in the past few days.  The transformation is magical and I feel as if I am hiking on new trails.

The Hot Springs Mountain Trail edges are a colorful display.  Perched above the trail on long stalks are purple, fuchsia and pink Spiderwort.  Spectacular bouquets from Nature. Further up the trail a Black Swallowtail Butterfly sails over the last of the Spring beauty Wildflowers. The flash of aqua at the bottom of it’s wings is striking in contrast to black dominating the rest of the wings and body.

As the weather begins to change I decided to head directly down the Mountain.  As I am leaving the park I noticed a field of Wildflowers is alive with beautiful spring insects. Both yellow and black Swallowtail Butterflies are flitting frantically from bloom to bloom.  A Clearwing Hummingbird Moth is hovering within the stalks of fluted blossoms in competition with a Carpenter Bee. As I near the park gates an Eastern Comma Butterfly flashes its glorious orange wings against the bright green foliage.

Home safe I type this as the Thunder of Lightning is echoing through the Mountains of Hot Springs National Park.

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Spring Paints North Mountain with Wildflowers and Butterflies

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Morning Hike:
I had not hiked to the Goat Trail for many weeks, with spring bursting open throughout the Forest it was time to visit a favorite place in the park. A perfect start to my morning, I spot a sweet Squirrel eating breakfast on my way to the base of North Mountain. The sun cannot compare to the light in my Heart as I begin my morning hike.

As I reach the Floral Trail a male Robin stands as lookout for a female collecting nesting material. She does not stop until she has a beak full of building materials. They fly off to work on repairs after the recent storms that buffeted the park A light breeze causes the leaves to flicker creating a sparkling green glow. In the distance a warbler is singing to the morning light and it softy travels along the trail. It is a great day at the office. :)

The Goat Rock Trail is glowing with the golden buds of Potato Dandelions. As I near the overlook pink, fuchsia and purple Spiderwort are blooming on tall stalks in glorious bunches. Sunlight illuminates the colorful wildflower display below the newly green Trees. I stop to listen as a variety of bird songs combine into a glorious Mountain symphony. The wind lightly moves through the bright green spring Leaves carrying the beautiful fragrance of the many blooms along the Trail.

A Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly leads me further up the Trail, lands on a vine before vanishing into the Trees. The upper section of the goat Rock Trail is a peaceful hike. The silver of bare winter Trees and exposed Rocks has been replace by a radiant green. Spring growth creates a beautiful canopy above me, below the Earth and Rocks are vanishing in the undergrowth. An orange and yellow Butterfly feeds on the nectar of blooming Wild Hyacinth. A heavy breeze does not budge a Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly clinging to a leaf.

When I reach the Upper Dogwood Trail the once open spaces are giving way to rapid growth. The leaves make a lovely rustling sound as I hike along the trail. A flash of orange crosses the path, it is a spectacular Angelwing Butterfly. Highly adept at camouflage when its wings are closed they often go unnoticed in the dried autumn leaves that cover the Forest floor.

On the Lower Dogwood Trail I have to hop over a tiny park resident as I head down the Mountain. A shining metallic green Six Spotted Tiger Beetle is slowly crossing the path. As I reach the bottom on the Floral Trail a field of Wildflowers is alive with colorful Insects. Brown and yellow Dragonflies hover silently above the green as a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth seeks Nectar in the pale lavender blossoms. A brown and orange moth lands on a leaf spreading its wings to capture the warmth of the sun. A tiny green and yellow Moth moves in and out of the undergrowth below the Wildflowers.

Afternoon Hike:
A perfect day can only get better when experienced with someone you Love. My afternoon hike is with my beloved husband Rick and I cannot wait to show him the rapidly changing spring beauty in the park. We are greeted at the base of North Mountain by a spectacular Purple Spotted Butterfly. Wild Strawberries decorate the trail edges as we head up to the Upper Dogwood Trail. The red is a spectacular contrast to the bright green vegetation of Spring.

Our Journey down the Mountain is filled with a duet provided by a male and female Cardinal that are nestled in the Leaves above us. Long after we have passed them a wonderful breeze carries their song as we head toward Fountain Street.

Nearing home on the Fountain Street Lawn an energetic Blue-Merle Border Collie comes over to visit. After several kisses I am able to take several photographs of this lovely blue-eyed dog and its sweet Golden Retriever friend. It has been another wonderful afternoon hike with my wonderful husband.

Lets get out and Play
Much Love,
Lee

HSNP Goat Rock Trail Ea


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