Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for October, 2011

In Autumn the Forest Among Colorful Leaves and Wings

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I feel a sense of sadness as I bid farewell to the gorgeous Asters and Goldenrod that have decorated the trail with their beauty these past few months.  Beautiful butterflies catch a lift on the gentle breeze rustling the leaves and soar rapidly above us.  Their delicate wings carry them across the sky to feed on the fading wildflowers.  I show my beloved husband one of my favorite Forest camouflage artists, an Eastern Comma Butterfly.  Wings folded it mimics a dried autumn leaf, as it’s wings open a burst of orange is displayed.

The trails are radiating gold with a canopy of confetti leaves in red yellow bronze and green.  Small colorful leaves shimmer in the sunlight as the light breezes free them from the branches to sprinkle downward upon to the trail.  Tree sculptures begin to reappear as their once abundant foliage spills softly to the ground.  I love the graceful ballet of twisting branches amid the vanishing canopy.  The beautiful Autumn Forest is changing quickly.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Green fades to Gold in the Autumn Forest of West Mountain

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Autumn Leaves and the Autumn of my life, this is a season for deep reflection.  Do we believe in ourselves, do we find the strength to stand firm for what we believe in?  As I watch summer give way to autumn there is a realization that we can choose to fight, change or give into to it gracefully.  As the Forest changes from green to gold we can see that no matter how tightly the Trees might want to hold onto their Leaves they will eventually fall silently to the ground below.  There is no loud explosion in the transition, each leaf softy falls away from the branches. The branches stand bare in the winter months patiently waiting for the buds of spring to transform them again as delicate leaves unfurl.

Love to ALL!
Lee


A Foggy Autumn Morning on the Trails in Hot Springs National Park

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What gets you out the door to hike? For me it is the excitement of new adventures awaiting me on the trails.  It is why I Love fog,  fog so dense and thick I cannot see the park from my window.  Foggy trails filled with mystery and wonder, as if you are stepping into another world. Shadows of moving creatures and the cries of waking birds make the journey exciting.  In the autumn leaves glow like ghost lanterns gently swaying in the morning breeze.  Slowly the fog moves and drifts, as if it is following or running away from you.  I hiked across Hot Springs and North Mountains trying to capture the beauty of the fog before it lifted.  It always vanishes too quickly :)

Love to ALL!
Lee


Wings in the Autumn Forest

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I quick hike with my husband on Hot Springs Mountain between storms revealed lovely wings.  A weak and delicate Hackberry Emperor Butterfly was perched gracefully above the hot water cascade.  Several Mockingbirds were in a fight over two berry laden Trees.  They created a lively sight as they sang, flew, dove and chased each other among the branches.  A flowering bush attracted a migrating visitor to it’s sweet fragrance.  A beautiful Monarch Butterfly was feeding on the sweet nectar in each blossom.

No matter how short a Nature break is always soothing for the soul.

Love to ALL!
Lee


A Beautiful Morning In Lake Ouachita State Park

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Mist was rising off the lake as I entered the park.  It appeared to dance toward me as I stood on the beach as the sun rose higher.  As the air was still cold my lens iced up and created some interest effects in my photographs and video.  As the sun climbed higher behind me the water and sky transformed into a surreal blue.  Boats sit peacefully in the receding calm waters of the lake, with only the occasional splash of feeding fish.

During my adventure hiking around the lake shore I saw my first Indian Heliotrope Wildflower, pretty tiny elongated clusters of purple flowers.  There wast still drew on their petals and they glistened in the early light.  There was a wonderful family of Crows following me on much of my journey.  From the early morning mist on the water to the feeding family of Crows it was a perfect autumn morning in the park.

I headed out to Lake Ouachita State Park with the intent of hiking the Caddo Bend Trail. This was not to be, the spring storm damage was extensive and sadly they do not expect it will reopen for another year.   Something for 2012, an all new Caddo Bend Trail!

I did hike the 1/2 mile Dogwood Trail and it is the perfect kids trail (see photographs).  If you live in Arkansas or will be visiting this a great trail to let children be children and get excited about Nature without many of the dangers found on rougher trails in the state.  The trail is well groomed with rocks marking the edges, plus currently there are a couple of tiny trees to step over.  The Dogwood Trail climbs gently upward and winds through a mixed Forest.  There are educational signs along the trail for the older kids to read about Nature from the Forest floor up into the canopy.  Although there is a campsite across the street you will want a parent to walk them to the trail head due to traffic.  It is a loop trail and parents can wait on the park bench for children at the trail head.  I would not let children under 9 years old go on their own but it is perfect for early adventurers 9+ years.

Love to ALL!
Lee


A Beautiful Windy Autumn Hike at Lake Catherine State Park

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Yesterday I had planned to take a quick hike in Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas.  I did hike but it was not quick, high winds and glittering autumn foliage had me mesmerized.  One trail lead to another, before I knew it I had hike them all and discovered I needed more camera batteries.  Long before I left the park images and video had drain all 5 batteries in my camera bag.  Note to self: “Buy more batteries.”

I was blessed to see autumn painted Trees dance in the wind sparkling with jewel like leaves in the morning sun.  Lovely Pine Warblers peaked at me from the branches of tall Short Leaf Pines.  On several occasions I had fleeting glimpses of majestic Whitetail Deer.  For what seemed only a brief moment a lovely Doe let me take photographs and shoot video of  her graceful grazing.  She paraded back and forth lingering in sight to distract me from what really mattered, her nearby fawn.

Aster and goldenrod waved in the breeze along the trails as a green caterpillar tried to hold firm on a log.  Colorful leaves floated on the wind and road the rippling Lake surface.  I climbed 100 year old rock stairs, scooted under a fallen Tree and crossed wooden Forest bridges.  The wind caressed my skin and tugged at my long hair as the sun tried to warm my face in the cold air.  It was a glorious day in park.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Mockingbirds, Baby Squirrels and Magnolia Seeds

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Today my Husband Rick and I took a break and had a lovely hike at the base of Hot Springs Mountain.  It is a morning of pure joy as beautiful baby and juvenile squirrels are out enjoying a perfect morning.  They put on a spectacular display of chasing, leaping and peeking from the Trees.  They even stop long enough for me to take a few lovely photographs.

The last of the glorious red leaves of my favorite Maple Tree flickered on the breeze below a spectacular blue sky.  Each leaf has pretty veins of yellow or green decorating the red and orange surfaces.  A delicate Hackberry Emperor Butterfly lands on a dried leaf as we are drawn to a melodic song.

High above us in a nearly bare Tree a Northern Mockingbird is singing a serenade to the morning.   I carried this song in my heart for the rest of out hike and brought it back to share with you. (see video below)

Love to ALL!
Lee


Natures Artistry is in the Brushstrokes of Leaves, Wings and Petals

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In our part of the South autumn gently transitions as a lovely slow motion display of color.  Each day I awaken to see a new Tree has transformed into a colorful crimson display.  Red, orange and yellow leaves flicker in the the morning and afternoon breezes (yes, this was a wonderful double hike day!) making a lovely rusting sound. (see video below)

Over the past week the temperature has increased bringing out a spectacular array of wildflowers and butterflies. Vibrant to pastels Nature has splashed color across the Forest along the trail and above in the Tree tops. As I stop to take in the beauty I feel as if I am standing in a painting by Monet.  It is a blessing to see this glorious moment of perfection as soon it will change with Natures next brush stroke.

It was a perfect morning and afternoon with brilliant blue skies accenting the glorious colors in the Forest.  Best of all my beloved husband has recovered enough from his surgery to get back into the Forest.  Please enjoy the photographs and video from my hike :)

Go Take A Hike!
Love to ALL,
Lee


Autumn Leaves with Wings of Orange and Red

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Autumn is gently caressing the Forest as green turn to gold.  Flashes of red and orange appear on several Trees putting on a spectacular display.  Occasional flashes of yellow and orange move among the wildflowers that are clustered on the banks above me.  A vibrant male Cardinal lands nearby on a barren branch, he glances at me several times before flying up into the canopy.

Glorious Aster decorate the trail edges in a variety of shades of purple and lavender.  Goldenrod glows on long tendrils of green and sways gently in an unseasonably warm morning breeze.  Ahead of me an elusive pair of wings dances upon the yellow wildflowers.  The elusive beauty stops long enough for me to see it is a Fritillary, Gulf Butterfly.  It’s vibrant wings of orange fan lightly over the Goldenrod as it sample the nectar in each blossom.  My hike home is filled with the memory of seeing so many Forest treasures bathed in the softness of the morning light.

October is one of my favorite months, I hope you can all get out and play in the Autumn Forest, it Natures Fireworks display!

Love to you ALL!
Lee


Autumn begins to Paint the Forest with Colorful Leaves

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The glorious autumn leaf change has begun in Hot Springs National Park. As I head into the park I spot a single red Tree among the greenery on the south side of North Mountain.  On my way up the Promenade to hike up Hot Springs Mountain I see a small creature darting back and forth. Running and hopping it dives in the ivy on my right side.  I follow the movement of the ivy leaves and am delighted to see a Chipmunk pop up, she stands and looks around before diving back into the leaves.  Moments later she is up again peeking at me from behind a leafy branch.  Back under and on the move the busy Chipmunk hops up onto a Y shaped branch to look over the terrain.  Soon she is again back under moving with lightening speed toward me, back up she stands upright showing off her full cheeks.  She is the first Chipmunk I have spotted in the past two weeks.

Further up the Promenade glorious red leaves are moving gracefully against the perfect blue sky on the morning bre eze.  On the Tufa Terrace a sweet Carolina Chickadee sings a song to the morning sun lighting the tips of the tallest Trees.  The Peak Trail is peaceful in the half light as the sun slowly crests Hot Springs Mountain as I hike to the top.  Goldenrod, Yellow False Foxglove and Asters dot the edges of the trail among the receding green ground cover. Along the Hot Spring Mountain Trail the gold and purple Wildflowers continue and there is a peaceful silence broken only by the occasional Squirrel racing through the dried leaves.

On the North Mountain a spectacular orange Eastern Comma Butterfly lands on the trail ahead of me.  They are often hard to spot as they look like a dried leaf when their wings are closed.  When I reach the bottom of the North Mountain lovely pale blue Ivy Leaf Morning Glory are growing along the Hot Springs Mountain Road.  Several Trees have changing leaves of bright yellow and reddish pink. Among the gold leaves a tiny Carolina Chickadee is inspecting a rounded cluster of berries.   Nearing home a wonderful Hackberry Emperor Butterfly lands on the trunk on a Magnolia Tree.

as always Thank You for hiking with me.
Love to You ALL!
Lee


Zen Rocks, Wildflowers and Colorful Wings on Sugarloaf Mountain

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You never know where the path will lead…. I went in search of Wild Turkeys and instead found Zen Rocks.

When I decided to hike on Sugarloaf Mountain (finally) there was no plan other than waking up, seeing the sun and deciding to go. On a few occasions I had brushed its edges, but always when I did not have the time to complete this leg of the Sunset Trail. I generally like to hike up the steepest parts of the trail at the beginning of my hike so I head up the Sunset Trail from the Cedar Glades entrance. My advice is wear good boots, have strong ankles and flexible knees as the trail is on an uneven loose Rock surface. I climb up into Forest that is a wonderful mix of Short Leaf Pines and a variety of deciduous Trees. Hearing a twig snap I glance to my right just in time to see fleeing Whitetail Deer.  Soon the early morning sun crests the mountain top it bathing the Forest in ribbons of pale gold.   Approximately 3/4 of a mile up I smell a Bear and although I stand silently for several minutes no sighting is made.  The Bears in our area are very small and about the size of a miniature horse.

Just over a mile up is the trail leading to Balanced Rock, it is a lovely .2 mile mile hike along a rocky trail.  I have wanted to see Balanced Rock since another hiker recommended I see it 6 months ago, so I am a bit disappointed that most of the view is obscured by leaves.  This is definitely on my list for a bare Trees of winter hike.  On the plus side is the scenic vistas of the the valley and other mountains in the park.   The sky is a perfect deep blue and the light accents the Forest on both close and far mountains.

When I headed down the Balanced Rock Trail there were no Zen Rocks on the sign post, on my return from the Black Snake Road Sunset Trail head a stack was present. I added one of my own to top off the two that magically appeared. I should not be surprised as I have seen these wonderful Zen Rock stacks throughout the park. I notice several large stacks along the Sunset Trail on Sugarloaf Mountain, I even create one of my own perched on a hillside. One day I hope to see the Zen Rock Master Stacker of Hot Springs National Park, perhaps there is more than one

The trail is decked out in the purple of Asters and the vibrant yellow of Goldenrod. Tiny Gray Hairstreak Butterflies are feeding on wildflowers warmed by the sun where it slips between Trees illuminating the trail. Baby Prairie Lizards can heard if not always seen darting across and under the dried leaves blanketing the Forest floor. A beautiful Red Spotted Butterfly is perched on leaves above me like a glorious stained glass window set alight by the sun.

I never imagined my journey would end in sliding with intermittent hiking down a loose rock trail while I was humming the Beach Boys hit Little Surfer Girl. It worked, I made it the whole way down the mountain on my feet. It felt as if a strong pair of arms kept me upright a couple of times on this hike, the Universe is a wonderful traveling companion.

When I reach the bottom of the trail I cross over  Cedar Glades to another trail head and noticed large patches of glorious yellow Sneezeweed. A gentle breeze is causing it to sway as beautiful Insects are feeding on the nectar warmed by sun. See video below.

Love to ALL!
Lee