Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for December, 2011

Some Of My Favorite Memories of 2011

Continuing from Some Of My Favorite Moments from 2010… Where to begin, it would not be possible without YOU! Thank You to those who have kindly subscribed and clicked through to my blog this year. A blog is nothing without readers, those who hike with me via my words and photographs on Hike Our Planet this is dedicated to you!

A special Thank You to my beloved husband Rick who puts up with my
time away hiking and photographing the beauty of Arkansas.

2011 was filled with wonderful moments along the trails in Arkansas. I created more videos and became more adept at capturing creatures with my new camera and lens.  I visited two new parks (for me) and hiked many new trails.  Snow fell, leaves sprouted, wildflowers bloomed, heat sizzled and autumn painted the trails.  In November 2011 I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of my Hike Our Planet blog.  Added  40+ new videos to my new YouTube blog Channel Lee Hiller Designs Photography. Videos included a series for Photographers For Japan to aid Mercy Corps with Japan earthquake/tsunami relief.  Lake Ouachita State Park’s Caddo bend Trail was hit by a tornado so sadly the trail won’t reopen until late 2012 (hopefully).

If you have your own favorite post or photograph from my 2011 blog posts please share it in the comments below.  You can click on any of the blog titles below to re-read any of my favorites.

January 2011 – OH DEER! Horseshoe Mountain in Lake Catherine State Park

LCSP Horseshoe Mountain Whitetail Deer

January 2010 – Lake Ouachita State Park – Caddo Bend Trail Pt 1

Lake Ouachita State Park Caddo Trail Observation Deck

February 2011 – Robins Return to Hot Springs with the Winter Snow

Entrance Male Cardinal in Snow

Arlington Lawn American Robin Snow

March 2011 – Moths, Butterflies, Wildflowers and Fordyce Peaks Hiking Along the Sunset Trail

HSNP Fordyce Ricks Pond Luna Moth

April 2011 – Spring Paints North Mountain with Wildflowers and Butterflies

HSNP Goat Rock Trail Wild Hyacinth Orange Yellow Butterfly

May 2011 – West Mountain Spring Pink Fire and a Dung Beetle Video

HSNP West Mountain Top Trail Pink Fire

June 2011 – Beautiful Blue Jay, Foraging Squirrels and a big Fly?

Hot Springs National Park Arlington Lawn Blue Jay

June 2011 – Pileated Woodpecker Brothers in Hot Springs National Park

July 2011 – Natures Beauty: Eastern Cottontail, Scarlet Tanagers and Wildflowers

HSNP Tufa Terrace Trail Male Eastern Cottontail

August 2011 – Hiking in Hot Springs National Park and The City Pt 1

HSNP Sugarloaf Mountain Sunset Trail Summer

September 2011 – The City Cradled By Hot Springs National Park

City Cradled By Hot Springs National Park

October 2011 – Zen Rocks, Wildflowers and Colorful Wings on Sugarloaf Mountain

HSNP Sugarloaf Mountain Balanced Rock Trail View

November 2011 – Autumn Leaves, Sundogs, Butterflies and Mockingbirds

HSNP Sky Over Hot Springs Mt. Rainbow Clouds Sundogs

December 2011 – Heavenly Mountain View of a Foggy Sunrise in the Valley

HSNP Sunrise Valley Fog View From Hot Springs Mountain

December 2011 – Beautiful Birds in the Autumn Fog

HSNP Hot Spring Mountain Road Tufted Titmouse

Hit The Trails in Hot Springs National Park All Year Round

2011 Winter Spring Summer Wildflowers in Arkansas Pt 1
2011 Winter Spring Summer Wildflowers in Arkansas Pt 2
2011 Winter Spring Summer Wildflowers in Arkansas Pt 3

2011 Butterflies: Red Spotted Purple Butterfly
2011 Birds of Hot Springs National Park: Brown Thrasher

2010 Field Notes: Turkey Vultures
2010 Field Notes: Wild About Mockingbirds
2010 Field Notes: Ice Ribbons and Frost Flowers
2010 Field Notes: Damselfly Dragonfly its in the Wings and Eyes
2010 Field Notes: Mixed-Species Foraging Flock Robins and Waxwings
2010 Field Notes: Woodpeckers Of Hot Springs National Park

2010 The Best Of: Trails and Paths
2010 The Best Of: Butterflies
2010 The Best Of: Birds
2010 The Best Of: Squirrels
2010 The Best Of: Chipmunks


Crunchy Autumn Leaves on the Winter Trail

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My life has suddenly become busy with new adventures and even as I head out to hike my mind is buzzing.  The crunch of autumn leaves along the trail is the melody to the hum in my mind of the new language I am beginning to learn.  The Forest floor and trails are blanketed with the rust of fallen leaves from which  Tree sculptures rise up in a ballet of twisting bending limbs.  As I move up West Mountain I see a faint movement in the distance.  Poking out from between two leaf draped Rocks is a tiny nose and pair of eyes.  Soon an entire head appears, a sweet Chipmunk wiggles its nose then dives back into a hiding place below.

Like beautiful jewels the rust leaves below my feet glow in the early morning light.  Adding to the color of the landscape are the last of the summer and autumn leaves. Glorious intermittent splashes of red, green, yellow and brown decorate the trail edges. Nature has thrown a beautiful pallet of color on the Mountain.  It was a perfect cool crisp winter morning below a vibrant blue sky.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


My Christmas Hike Was For The Birds

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Winter casts her blue light upon the Forest as first light caresses the canopy.  Delicate wings whisper among the Leaves as I become one with Nature. A sweet serenade to the morning echos softly as I move along each trail.

We are the unfolding mystery of the Universe. ~ Lee Hiller

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah
Much Love to all!
Lee


Heavenly Mountain View of a Foggy Sunrise in the Valley

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It was one of those nights where I did not fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning.  Of course my mind woke me early so I decided to get out early for a hike before lack of sleep overtook my body.  As I headed up Hot Springs Mountain I was getting an occasional glimpse of fog moving below in the valley.  I decided to hike a bit faster when I noticed the sun was creating a colorful display as it climbed above the horizon.

At the top I stepped into the Pagoda and witnessed fog rolling like ocean waves between multiple ridges.  As the graceful white plumes flowed across the valley below the sky and clouds began to change color.  A sight so glorious I wanted to see more so I decided to ride up the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.  Out on the observation deck I felt as if I was looking down from heaven.  Nature was painting a beautiful panorama of color below and around me as my Soul hovered above on the wings of the Universe.

May you have a glorious Holiday Season!
Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Beautiful Birds in the Autumn Fog

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Waking to fog is one the greatest out the door motivators.  I nearly trip over my self trying to get the camera gear ready as I race to get into the park.  A quick kiss for my beloved husband Rick and I was heading into the park in my wonderful new vegan boots.   Their maiden hike would include a water christening. The dense fog coated the Trees above and each breeze brought down moisture in heavy rain like drops.

As I entered the park a lovely Squirrel revealed itself in the heavy fog by coming closer traveling along a branch.  It gave me the Squirrel version of the hands on the hips stare to let me know it knew I was taking its photograph.  Soon it ran down the Tree and was on the Tufa Rocks foraging for a morning feast.  Further up the trail a Male Cardinal hopped among the branches of a Juniper Tree seeking breakfast.  It’s rich red feathers were barely visible in the gray light.

The dense fog created a wall that blocked the usual visibility of West Mountain. Along the trail flashes of wings revealed another vibrant Male Cardinal and a female Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.  Higher on the mountain cream and gold Fungi glowed in the thick gray moving gracefully through the Forest. Dark shapes were revealed as colorful rocks and stumps lead up and down from the trail edges.

As I was leaving the park I could hear a soft pipping sound in the Tree above me. Through the fog I saw a tiny shape perched on a limb, it was a tiny Tufted Titmouse pecking at a seed attached to a cluster of leaves. A perfect ending to a wonderful foggy hike.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Sun Clouds Moon Meteor Looking to the Beauty of the Sky

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Most of my days in the Forest are spent looking around the trail on which I hike or up to the Trees above me.  The past few days a glittering haze has filled the park giving the illusion of a light glittery fog. The sun has bathed the sky in a rosy golden glow that even the darkest clouds could not block. The moon has appeared to have rings of color color radiating from its glowing orb.  Streaks of light fell like streamers against the dark blue of the night sky. I am glad I looked up from the path to see the beauty in the sky.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


A Tiny Deer on the Path and Woodpeckers in the Trees Above

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My Husband Rick and I had a lovely hike yesterday that was brimming with wonderful surprises.   A sprinkling of glorious autumn leaves were dancing on the cool breeze traveling through the park.  Cackling high in a Short Leaf Pine was a male Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  Rapidly moving from Tree to Tree we could barely make out the striking red marking on the back of his head.

I stopped because a familiar odor filled the air, looking around I could not see the creator and we continued hiking.  A few minutes later three Whitetail Deer bound across the trail so quickly I was unable get a clear photograph as they vanished into the Forest.  In a park where they are protected it is strange that they always act as if it is hunting season.  We often see Deer in groups of 3 and I wonder if this is normal Doe herd size.

We decided to hike around to the far size of North Mountain to try and catch up with the 3 Deer.  Normally this strategy would be a wasted effort, but not yesterday.  After hiking half an hour we reached the trail head of the Upper Dogwood Trail below the North Mountain overlook.  Lovely bird song echoed from distant Trees as we moved along the trail.  Suddenly both Rick and I stopped, staring at us in the distance was a tiny creature standing in the middle of the trail.  I wasn’t sure who was looking back at us until I looked through my zoom lens.  The tiniest Whitetail Doe either of us had ever seen stood still with its head cocked in curiosity.  Hiding on bank to our left were the two other does that made up the trio we had seen earlier.  As soon as we took a few steps closer they all gracefully bounded up and over the ridge out of our view.  It was a beautiful moment in the cool autumn Forest.

Further along the trail another wonderful surprise, high above us a Woodpecker was foraging for a meal.  A spectacular male Northern Flicker was performing acrobatic feats on a large gnarled limb.  The first Flicker I would document in Hot Springs National Park. Now that I know where he is nesting I will drop by again in hopes of another viewing.

As we left the park a soft beeping sound in the distance leads us to a small male Downy Woodpecker hopping up a Tree.  The cool weather and leafless Trees revealed a gorgeous array of Woodpeckers in the Forest.  It was a perfect hike with my beloved husband Rick.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Lovely Squirrels And A First Dusting Of Snow

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Although a few flakes of snow floated from the sky as darkness fell last night I was surprised and happy a little still remained in the park this morning.   The 28 degree temperature seems to have brought out all the Squirrels at the base of Hot Springs Mountain.  They are on large Tufa Rocks and hanging off the side of Trees. You cannot help but smile at their industrious curiosity.

As I climb higher on the mountain beautiful autumn Leaves are dusted with snow.  Two seasons colliding in a spectacular display of frosted orange, gold and red. Nature’s artistry is glorious collage of textures painting the trail edges.

Further up the trail I spot a Red-Bellied Woodpecker high up in a Tree digging out a winter nest.  He is frantically throwing materials into the air then dives into a hole in the trunk. Although I wished I could get closer, it was a relief not to be under the falling debris.

On the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I reach a patch of snow as the sun gently crests the top of the ridge.  The angle of the light cause the snow crystals to appear to float as translucent rainbow orbs.  The display reminds me of the color and fire of a bolder opal, or what my heart called a aurora snowialis.

It was a wonderful icy cold hike in the Forest…
Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Skyscapes, Sunrises, Clouds, Rainbows and Sundogs

HSNP Sky Over Hot Springs Mt. Rainbow Clouds Sundogs

It has been raining for three days and nights topped off with a flash flood warning.  The flat gray sky is dark and void of the multiple layers of color.  As I gaze longingly into Hot Springs National Park waiting for a pause in the storms I decided to look back at some of my favorite sky views.  As a child I always imagined our wishes and dreams were carried on the clouds to heaven.  I often see them floating by as I hike along the beautiful trails near my home in Hot Springs National Park.

Dedicated to everyone who has ever daydreamed while watching clouds as they drift across the sky.
Much Love to ALL!
Lee

Hot Springs Mountain Parting Clouds Sunrise

Hot Springs Arkansas Sunrise

HSNP Sky Over Hot Springs Mt. Rainbow Clouds

Hot Springs National Park Promenade Sunset

Hot Spring Mountain Trail Stormy Skies

Hot Springs Mountain Parting Clouds Sunrise

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Glimmer of a Rainbow

Central Avenue Rainbow Cloud


A Lovely Little Warbler in the Autumn Leaves

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Yesterday I took a quick hike in the afternoon with my husband Rick.  The sun was low in the sky and the afternoon held a chill, it felt as if winter was only days away.  The light had a golden blue cast which made the last individual autumn leaves glow against the blue sky. The sun ignited the orange and pink found on many of the leaves dancing on the light breeze.

Now that most of the leaves have fallen the beautiful rocks of Hot Springs National Park are flashing their spectacular shapes and colors.  Within each season the changes reveal something new to bring joy to our Hearts.  The mountains always harbor new beauty and I am always excite to see what Nature will show me.

A very tiny Female Orange-Crowned Warbler watched us from her perch in a nearby Tree.  Almost always invisible in the green Forest her olive green feathers stand out against the brown bare Branches of autumn.

It was a wonderful hike among the Tree sculptures hidden during the Spring and Summer months.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


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