Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for February, 2012

Spring Arrives Bringing Beautiful Tree Blossoms and Wildflowers

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This is my third Spring hiking in Hot Springs National Park and as in years past a glorious experience.  Nature is unfurling in a colorful display of blossoms from the tops of Trees to the Forest floor. During our hike my husband Rick and I are looking up into the Trees at one moment and then down to the trail edges.  Each branch has newly forming leaf buds or delicate blooms. Autumn Leaves on the Forest floor are splashed with color as Wildflowers push up into the sunlight.   I feel as if the Forest is in that beautiful time between a deep sleep and being fully awake.  A moment hovering between two worlds delicately balance on the edge of time.  A nursery filled with new life waiting patiently to spread their Leaves, Petals and Wings in celebration of spring.

We move through the Forest taking care not to disturb the grace of the spring renewal.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


A Hike Fraught with Twists, Turns and Beauty

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I am hiking up West Mountain and the unthinkable occurs, one of my cameras dies :(  I thought at first it was the battery but it soon became clear it was the camera.  I turned around and headed home at peace with the problem, thankful I took out the 4 yr extended warranty.    The little monster was eating batteries, so broad landscapes will be on hold for at least 10 days.  It is time to refocus my view of landscapes as I did once before during a couple of weeks in 2010. “Beautiful Birds of West and Music Mountains” “Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Who is the Rock Stacker?

This left me with one camera so after I arranged for repair service with Sony I headed back outside to console myself with photographing Wildflowers.  As readers of my blog may already know I love Wildflowers, so my mission was a wonderful way to spend the rest of my morning.  While I searched the grass for tiny blooms I heard a noise above me, I was not alone.  Slowly stepping back I turned to look up and find the source of the scraping sound.  Peering down at me was a sweet Squirrel whose lovely color was transitioning from winter silver to spring rust.

As I was moving through the park searching for spring flowers when a Cedar Waxwing landed on a Tree in front of me. Soon it was moving off with other birds and I decided to try and follow them.  The truth, I lost ground pretty fast so I ended up on Bath House Row in the park going to see if a favorite Tree had blossomed.

When I reached the Yellow Spanish Style Hot Springs National Park Administration Building  I could see a the large Saucer Magnolia Tree blossoms were beginning to open.  The freeze and snow last weak changed the outer petals from a pink to a pale beige gold.  At first I felt sad to have lost the chance to capture perfect pink blossoms.  When my mind adjusted to the different colors I realized Nature had presented me with a new version of beautiful.  Gold accented the pink making the shape and definition of each blossom a unique floral sculpture.  Spring has arrived in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Less than a block from my goal I glanced to my side and saw two lovely rows of blossoming Cherry Trees.  To see the spectacular Cherry Blossoms visit my last blog entry “Beautiful Cherry Blossoms Herald An Early Spring“.  You will also see the beautiful wings waiting for me in the blossoms.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Beautiful Cherry Blossoms Herald An Early Spring

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I had started hiking on West Mountain this morning and ended up on Hot Spring Mountain ( I will post that blog tomorrow).  After a series of strange events I then found myself standing in front of 2 rows of pink.  Spectacular pink Cherry Blossoms have burst forth in the Hot Springs Historic District.  As I began taking close ups of the blossoms a lovely Cedar Waxwing landed on a branch above me.   A quick glance my way and my winged morning companion was its way.  Another winged beauty arrived moments later, an Eastern Comma Butterfly.  It like many other insects was feeding on the tempting nectar of these glorious pink blossoms. A beautiful spring is unfolding in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Happy Spring, Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Beautiful Butterfly, Waxwings and Wildflowers

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A beautiful spring day awaited Rick and I when we stepped out for a late morning hike. As we headed into Hot Springs National Park I noticed reddish orange buds on several Trees.  The park lawn above the wall on Fountain Street was beautifully decorated in white and pink Spring Beauty. I thought about those little Ground Hogs and their accurate prediction of an early Spring.

Normally during the Audubon bird count I am constantly pulling out  paper to write down what I see.  From the Floral Trail to the Goat Rock my entire list only contained 1 Turkey Vulture.  I tried to console myself by reveling in the beauty of the variety of Birds Foot Violets.  A glorious sprinkling of violet to white wildflowers decorated the lower part of the Goat Rock Trail.  As we hiked higher up North Mountain a flicker of yellow crossed the trail ahead of us.  Moving slowly I got close enough to see that the sunny wings belonged to a Variegated Fritillary Butterfly. It is more yellow than the vibrant orange it sports in summer and early autumn.

When we reached the top of the trail I looked up in time to see a tiny Bird landing in the Tree above us. We froze as I tried to get a shot so I could identify it later when I edited my photographs.  Suddenly it turned its head revealing a buff crest and black mask.  More Birds landed on the same Tree, so Rick and I quickly counted the plump visitors.  We agreed on 12 Cedar Waxwings for the Bird count.  It was a spectacular gift from Nature to have these beauties land in a Tree next to us.  We stood for 20 minutes enjoying the sight of these lovely Birds.

The joy of being in Nature carried across and down North Mountain.  When we reached the bottom a single male Robin stared at us then continued digging for worms.  After taking a photograph there was a commotion high in the Trees and I glanced up to see 2 Turkey Vultures circling above.   Another wonderful hike for the Birds :)

I hope you will all visit the All Hell Has Broken Loose blog to see their really nice interview along with a selection of my photography.

Much Love to ALL!
Lee


Places and Beings of Dreams seem Destined to Emerge from the Fog

HSNP Sunrise Valley Fog View From Hot Springs Mountain

From above the moving beauty of fog cannot compare to immersion in its world of shadow and mystery.  A trail known becomes a world of the unknown where the places and beings of our dreams seem destined to emerge from the gray.  On the trail often the fog feels as if it is a living entity as it follows, engulfs and retreats.  Step into the wonder filled world of fog with me along the mountain trails.

Love to ALL!
Lee

Hot Springs National Park - Short Cut Trail - Foggy Wonderland

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Clearing Fog

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail Fog

HSNP West Mountain Canyon Trail Fog Autumn 2010

West Mountain Canyon Trail Autumn Fog

HSNP Peak Trail Autumn Fog

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Autumn Fog

Hot Springs Mountain Trail Fog

West Mountain Trail Autumn Fog

Foggy Blog Postings

Fog, Ghosts and Silhouettes – Jan 2010

Fog, Rain, Wind and Sunshine on the Hot Springs Trails – March 2010

Foggy Paths, Birds, Wildflowers and Lizards Part 1 – April 2010

Fawn, Rabbit, Tanager, Chipmunk and Squirrel – June 2010

A Lovely Rainy Day in the Forest – September 2010

Hiking Into The Autumn Fog – November 2010

Beautiful Foggy Autumn Morning on West Mountain – November 2010

Rain Drops in the Fog – January 2011

A Foggy Morning in the Sacred Spaces of the Mountain – February 2011

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

A Foggy Autumn Morning on the Trails in Hot Springs National Park – October 2011

Beautiful Birds in the Autumn Fog – December 2011

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


Nature Paints Winter with a Dusting of Snow

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I have been complaining about winter never arriving in Hot Springs National Park, this morning it dropped by for a few hours.  To those of you digging out from under several feet of snow our dusting will not be impressive.  Just the lightest touch  of snow changes everything in the Forest as it redefines shapes and boundaries along the trails.  The rust Leaves of autumn are beautiful against the white mix of snow and ice. Winter Leaves of red and green become jewels in the winter landscape.  I felt blessed to hike through Nature’s new art work this morning, thank you for joining me via my blog.

Love to ALL!
Lee


A Winter Hike in the Urban Jungle

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Snow is set to fall on Monday morning and I need to collect data about an urban hike I will be writing about for a local magazine soon.  More on this later… much later like in a few weeks.

It is easy to take for granted the symbiotic relationship between Nature and Urban Architecture in Hot Springs National Park. There is a graceful flow to the Grand Promenade Loop that travels across the base of Hot Springs Mountain and down along Historic Bath House Row.  Please enjoy my hike through the urban jungle on a day when spring was blooming in the icy chill of winter. The Universe painted a joyous path for me to follow today.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Little Violets In The Winter Forest

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I am dedicating this blog posting to my Mom and Dad.
My Mom loved Violets above all other flowers, my Dad gave her pressed Violets in a love note a few days before he passed away.  She kept his note nearby until she passed away twenty years later.

His love note began “The flowers that bloom in the spring tra la”  The early spring weather has brought forth lovely clusters of Bird Foot Violets.  Each delicate bloom is a reminder of my parents.

Spring warmth has awoken tender green plants along the edges of the trails.  Saucer Magnolias are now covered in fuzzy flower pods and Dogwood Trees have tiny pink ball shaped buds.  A few Tree branches in the park have already burst out in a spiny orange blossom covering.  The Forest has awakened early with a subtle ballet of new growth and color.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Missing the Birds as I Hike Along Winter Trails

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Nearly two months of extreme heat followed by several severe late summer storms has taken a toll on park wildlife populations.  Prior to the heat followed by high winds and rain Chipmunks and Squirrels could be seen in or below many Trees.  On some days I hardly knew which way to turn my lens as there was so much activity. I am thankful today to spot a Squirrel I call Bob because of the missing portion of her tail.  She lives near the Hot Springs National Park Entrance and has erratic road crossing skills.

The multiple families of Brown Thrashers have vanished from the lower portions of Hot Springs National Park.  The once abundant highly visible Northern Mockingbirds are now a rare sighting.  White Throated Sparrows that once flocked along the southern slope of Hot Springs Mountain appear only in small numbers at the top in the picnic area.

Although there are many American Robins the flocks are smaller than in years past. Cardinals that once flourished on both North and Hot Springs Mountains are a rare sighting beyond Dead Chief Trail.  Pine Warblers too have become a rare sight within the park as are many other warblers that would normally be seen in the winter months.

My constant winter companions of winters past the Red Bellied Woodpecker have also vanished from their regular nesting sites.  I have only seen two and heard one in the past three months.  I miss being verbally heckled by the numerous juvenile Blue Jays that would follow me across the park.

Perhaps the moderate winter of the north has kept the birds away.  However I think the weather extremes of the past summer have significantly reduced bird populations.  Those birds that flock in the park year round are scarce.  As I review old videos I remember the symphony of birdsong that used to echo through the Forest.  The silence in the park is heartbreaking.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Winter Wildflower, Rocks, Tiny Nest & a Morris Minor Traveller

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A beautiful icy winter breeze is blowing through the Forest as my beloved husband Rick and I head out for a morning hike.  Above us two flocks of birds are darting back and forth over Hot Springs and North Mountains.  As we enter Hot Springs National Park Nature displays a taste of spring with a glorious purple Myrtle (Periwinkle) bloom.

When we reach the Upper Dogwood Trail the faint beeping of a Downy Woodpecker lingers and slowly fades as we move deeper into the Forest.  Soon we are aware there are no voices of other hikers, no rustling in the Leaves and no bird song, it is as if the entire Forest has fallen into a deep sleep.  We become aware of muffled crunch of our boots on the damp autumn Leaves coating the trails as it becomes the only sound as we cross from North to Hot Springs Mountain.

Nearing the end of our hike I spot a tiny cluster in debris in a Tree to my side. On closer inspection we can see it is an intricately woven bird nest masquerading as a clump of leaves.  A beautiful discovery at the conclusion of a perfect morning in the Forest.

Love to ALL!
Lee

PS check out the wonderful Morris Minor Traveller that we spotted at the Fountain in the Park. Rick identified the make when we were still several hundred feet away :)


Winter Hiking Rocks Fungi and a Titmouse in the Forest

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The winter Forest sleeps and dreams of spring.
~ Lee Hiller

It was day of unforseen moments,  the kind of hike where peace could not be found.  Nearing the half way point on my hike I had to turn around as the NPS (National Park Service) was on the trail ahead using trail buggys and mini earth mover.  I noticed a tank on the back of a trail buggy, not sure what was being sprayed I retuned home on the trails I had already traversed. Distracted by life when I returned home I inadvertantly formatted the wrong camera card wiping out a morning of scenic trail views.

Perhaps a lesson, details hold a better view of Nature in her winter form.  Rocks painted yellow by Fungus, red Leaves glowing on the trail edges, dried floral bouquets and tiny songbirds.  Although the overall view of the winter Forest can be considered bleak there are hidden treasures in plain sight.

The loss of the images made me realize they present only one aspect of winter in the park.  Hot Springs National Park is a combination of subtle details to be savored as individual tiles in the mosaic of the sleeping Forest.

Love to ALL!
Lee


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