Within the quiet Rock and swaying blade of Grass is a message of Love from the Universe.
~ Lee Hiller
Winter has for the most part eluded Hot Springs National Park. The morning chill of December and January hovers around the mid 30s and warming into the low 60s by the afternoon. No snow, no freezing fog, I feel cheated as winters chill has barely brushed the winter landscape decorating with a scarce sprinkling of Frost Flowers.
As I hike up the Mountain I spot tiny spires of red among the winter greenery. Delicate flames lighting my journey along the trail leading higher into the Forest. On closer inspection they are not flower buds as I first imagined. The colorful display is an unfurling ballet of leaves, a sight most often seen as spring arrives in late March or early April.
Further up the Mountain I pause below a Tree that initially I believed held tiny yet to fall rust colored leaves. Above me glowing in the soft winter morning light are branches that have begun to blossom. These early to arrive orange buds are glorious against the vibrant blue sky. The sun is illuminating rocks, leaves and fungi along the trail edges as I near the top of the mountain.
At the top I head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. When I reach the trail head on the north face of Hot Springs Mountain a dimly lit winter landscape of Trees sculpted by past storms awaits me. Bright blue skies give way to pale aqua and colorful flora is replaced with subtle shades of brown. This near monochromatic trail is like stepping onto another planet, a reverse Wizard Of Oz moment. I pause to let my Heart show my eyes the beauty of the path ahead. As I near the bottom of the mountain a squirrrel comes down a Tree to take a look at me. A perfect end to a lovely morning in the Forest.
Love to ALL,
When I head out for my morning hike I am glad to have a layer of Northface fleece under my Patagonia jacket. An icy winter chill is blowing through the park lowering the temperature into the teens. The sun is radiant in a spectacular “Hot Springs Blue” sky, it is a perfect day for a long winter hike. As I reach North Mountain the first thing I notice is a patch of frost covered vines. Rising up from the vines is a lovely surprise beautiful tiny blooms, Purple Deadnettle.
Heading up the the Floral Trail I see Frost Flowers blooming on the Trail edges. 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 forming the beautiful shapes as found in my photographs. I hope to capture many more this coming winter. The straws (deceased plants) suck up the moisture and create spectacular ribbons of ice. To learn more please read my old blog entry Ice Ribbons and Frost Flowers.
All along the Lower and Upper Dogwood Trail colorful rocks sparkle in the Morning sun. Painted by Nature in rose, orange, grey, pink, white, yellow and black each rock is a work of art. Coated in morning frost the quartz and newly forming crystals are the jewels of the winter Forest.
When I reach the Goat Rock Trail the sun warms my face and I close my eyes for a brief morning meditation. As I turn to head up the trail the sound of a soft crunching in the leaves catches my attention. I look up to see one, two, three, four and then a fifth Whitetail Deer. Each moving gracefully up the hill above me and turning to see what I am doing on the trail below. Usually I see groupings of three Does moving through the park, this was the first herd of five.
Further up the trail splashes of purple appear among the leaves and twigs covering the Forest floor. Velvety Bird-Foot Violets have emerged from their sleep in subtle shares of purple and violet. Gracefully bowing among the Violets are sheer blossoms of False Garlic. Spring is unfurling in the icy cold of winters breath.
My wonderful hike concludes as it began with a Robin observing my presence from the Fountain Trail.
Have a wonderful time on the Trail…
Love to ALL!
“I am commissioned in my day of joy
To leave my woods and streams and sweet sloth
Of prayer and that were my dear delight,
To leave the rudeness of my woodland life,”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I recently bought a Kindle Fire from Amazon and discovered a world of FREE Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Muir Books. Yes, FREE! In the vastness of my new library I came across a 1926 poem by Emerson called The Summons (excerpt above). I often hear Emerson and Muir in the breezes along the trails, they tell me to look with my Heart and see with my Soul. Who could or would argue with their sage advise.
It is this feeling expressed above all that fills my heart as my foot fall moves from earthen trail to paved street. The wandering of my Soul through Nature’s home brings joy not known by my words alone. I will hold this memory until her beckoning call returns me once more to Mountain, Meadow, Forest and Valley Trails to roam. ~ Lee Hiller-London
In winter the obvious beauty of spring Wildflowers and summer Leaves give way to details hidden for many months. I often find myself having to retrain my eyes to look upon the new landscape and see the richness withing my view. I step into the winter Forest and stand for a moment eyes closed, taking a deep breath to forget her past so I can revel in her present. As I slowly reopen my eyes the once stark and barren leafless Forest is repainted with the spectacular beauty of rough texture muted pallet.
Love To ALL!
A cold winter wind set upon Hot Springs National Park this morning, 31 F feels like 21 F with every blast of the north wind. Entering the park a runner dressed in only shorts and a shirt shouts good morning my way. A large rock with protruding chunks of quartz glows in the slowly rising sunlight as I climb higher into the park. Beautiful Heavenly Bamboo is putting on a spectacular display of transitioning leaves of green and red. As I reach the top I am thankful for the hike up the Mountain as it has warmed my entire body.
The view from the pagoda is peaceful and the valley below is visible through a frosty haze. I turn my face to the sun and enjoy its warmth upon my chilled face. The warmth of the east side of the mountain gives way to a piercing cold as I step into the full blast of a fierce northerly. The heavy gusts of icy winds are not only keeping people at home but also the wildlife. As I head home I am encouraged to move faster along the trails with each gust of icy wind.
Love to ALL!
I need to be clear at the beginning of this blog post I only know the names of a few of the Fungi in the photographs. In the autumn, winter and early spring they are my Wildflowers and Forest sculptures within the beauty of a sleeping landscape. Although I know they live here all year round along the trails it is in late autumn through to early spring that they are the most visible. Growing from fallen and standing Trees, pushing up from the Forest floor, as singles and in clusters they are a welcome sight.
My first year of hiking and posting my blog began in the late autumn after nearly every leaf had fallen. I had yet to photograph my first Wildflower along cool green trails. On a winter hike the day after a light dusting of snow I noticed little splashes of orange along the Dead Chief Trail in Hot Springs National Park (see pic below). On closer inspection I thought they looked like orange blossoms, winter wildflowers. I now know they are called Turkey Tail Fungi and I have found a glorious array of color combinations of these fan like sculptures. Once aware of the beauty of Fungi I began to notice the wonderful variations in color, shape and texture.
If you recognize any of the Fungi below please let me know as I would love to learn what they are. I am still trying to differentiate between ridges, teeth and gills on Fungi, I have much to learn.
Please remember Fungi are a food source for many of our woodland friends and when we take them from protected places like National Parks it is not only a crime but could mean the starvation of those who depend on them for winter survival. In unprotected places please take only your fair share, but don’t strip bare. I have seen several wounded squirrels eating them so it might be medicinal for them as well.
Much Love to ALL!
PS Special Thanks to Fluff Berger for identifying the Phlebia incarnata and leaving a not in the comments section.
One of my favorite parts of the winter Forest is the details a lack of Leaves reveals. My Father was a collector of Rocks and I was always aware of those sprinkled about our home and garden. The Rocks that decorated our garden always being painted by Natures brush strokes. Crystals, Lichen, Moss, Minerals and Fungi are the perfect pallet of colors to define contours and contrast the color of each individual Rock.
Each winter hike reveals the delicate changes to the art of detail. Cherish the Leafless months and cast your eyes upon the Natures pebbles and monoliths as they are winters canvas.
Love to You ALL!
The Forest is no longer draped in its shawl of green, now it holds sleeping secrets waiting to emerge in the warmth of spring. Leaves randomly sprinkled along the trails remind us of the colorful past foliage that cradled us in 2011. Wildflowers are replaced by the colorful feathers of now revealed birds joined by the delicate beauty of fungi on rocks and logs. The Short Leaf Pines tower high above the sleeping Oak, Birch and Gum Trees creating a new canopy above us as we hike.
Open your Heart and eyes to the beauty in the winter Forest, revel in the simplicity of the sleeping sentinels. While some Trees sleep you will see glorious details once hidden beneath the green of spring and summer.
Love to ALL!