Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Archive for June, 2012

Heat and Drought Create Leaves of Change

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A morning song of Love resonates throughout the Forest reaching out to open Hearts. ~ Lee Hiller

Where there is water life is lush within Hot Springs National Park.  On the Tufa Terrace Trail near the Hot Water Cascade the Trees are a rich green and Wildflowers are blooming.  A Juvenile Cardinal sitting in a bush glances over its wing showing me the insect in its beak.  Lovely pink Crepe Myrtle blooms on the ends of cropped branches.

On the Carriage Road I stand before a Tree that has dropped its Leaves in a display reminiscent of Autumn.  The heat and drought conditions are sucking the life out of even the mightiest of Trees.  Near a steam vent a lovely patch of yellow Sneeze Weed stands alone in the dried straw color grass.  I stop to admire the beauty of the Quartz veins running through the dark Sandstone outcropping.  The contrasting bands of white glow in the early morning light.  Above the Rocks Heavenly Bamboo spills out of the Forest in a colorful rainbow of color.

As I hike up the Dead Chief Trail the sun begins to crest the ridge line piercing the gaps in the Forest Canopy.  The soft golden light gracefully illuminates the path ahead leading me to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.

Drying leaves are providing a colorful display as I hike down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. The deep rust color has spread across the Forest floor and up into the Trees above me. Heading home on the Honeysuckle Trail I wonder how much longer we will wait until rain feeds the park.

Note to fellow hikers… Please remember there have been an increasing number of confirmed cases of rabies in the Hot Springs area (including the central city).  If you see a nocturnal animal moving about or trying to approach you during daylight hours report it to park officials.

Love to ALL!

Lee


Some Sap Suckers Are Butterflies

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Some butterflies prefer sap and ripe fruit to nectar, these include the Hackberry Emperor and Question Mark.  Hot Springs National Park is suffering from a drought and the once abundant seasonal Wildflowers have not arrived.  The extreme weather conditions have left the sap eaters at an advantage. They do however compete with Ants as you can observe in the video below.  I suspect the Butterflies are feasting from the openings created by the hard working Ants.

Love to ALL!

Lee


Fire Alert, Sparrows, Thrashers and Vireos

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Love resonates lightly across the Forest as Nature reveals her Heart. ~ Lee Hiller

Pretty birds sent us off into the hot humid Forest and were there to greet us on our return.  I am so thankful for their strength and beauty…

During the extreme heat I have formed a new appreciation for the words “North Face”, on the park trails it translates into comforting coolness.  Bird song echoes softly in the high canopy of the shaded side of the mountains.  The last bastion of  relief the leaves flicker on the light breezes along the trail.  Even on the hottest days it is hard to stay away from the Forest.

It feels like late August in the Forest. The under growth is already receding and the usually abundant wildflowers are a rare sight.  Today the state is issuing a wildfire alert as we head into ten days of 100+ temperatures.  So I am implementing my personal don’t hike in when you don’t know an alternate way out rule.

Please do not smoke in Arkansas Forests the fire risk is VERY HIGH
because we are struggling through drought conditions.

Near the free flowing water fountain at the edge of the Forest I smell Deer musk. It appears they cannot resist the lure of fresh water.  Please consider leaving a fresh bucket of water each day in your yard or on a balcony to help the wildlife.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Cycle Of Life and a Squirrel Heat Dump on a Twilight Hike

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We brave the 90 degree temperatures for a twilight hike up then around Hot Springs Mountain.  As Rick and I head up the Peak Trail we encounter a juvenile Mourning Dove bobbing along in the the dimming light.  I decide it is best to back away when I realize it was not going to fly off.  The young ones are often much too trusting. It is always a blessing to see the beauty of new Life in the Forest.

From the mountain top we hike along the east side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  It is a peaceful journey listening to the rustling leaves and the sound of waking nocturnal residents.  Hidden from sight Hawks and Owls began to call to the impending night.

On the Fountain Trail a lovely baby Squirrel ventures out under the watchful eye of Mom.  It is a joy to watch its delicate leaping, digging and foraging success. So beautiful standing to scan the horizon of it’s new world, we are spellbound by the sight of innocence.

Nearing home Rick spots a squirrel stretched out on it’s belly in the shade near a fountain on the Promenade bricks.  We creep closer in the fading light and at first it appears the unmoving Squirrel is injured. We learn later this behavior is called “Heat Dumping”, a method for reducing body temperature.  A minute later the male Squirrel spots a dog and springs into action.  Once on his feet he begins chasing his mating chase of a female who has been watching him from behind the fountain. A delightful way to end our evening hike.

Love to ALL!
Lee


Second Wedding Anniversary Hike in Hot Springs National Park

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Love is the courage to join with another on a journey into the unknown. ~ Lee Hiller

Yesterday was my second wedding anniversary, we (My beloved husband and me) were married in a hiking hut in Hot Springs National Park.  Rick and I decided to hike around Hot Springs Mountain and down to our wedding chapel in the Forest to celebrate.  Nature provided a spectacular anniversary gift, the sighting of a Scarlet Tanager and a cool breeze.  It was a perfect day!

Love to ALL!
Lee

Our Mountain Wedding June 18 2010

HSNP Honeysuckle Trail Hiking Rest Hut aka Our Wedding Chapel


Within each Soul lives a yearning to bond with Nature

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Within each Soul lives a yearning to bond with Nature. ~ Lee Hiller-London

Have a spectacular Weekend…
Love to ALL!
Lee


Spring 2012 An Autumn Leaf in Hot Springs National Park

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Within the silence of the new morning we can hear the wisdom of the Universe. ~ Lee Hiller

Last Friday as I looked across from Hot Springs Mountain to West Mountain I noticed someone on the Oak Trail.  I was so happy as it has been closed for several months due to a slide.  So I asked Rick if he wanted to hike the trail with me.  It was already in the 80s at 8:30 when we headed up the canyon trail and connected with the Oak trail.  Unfortunately after hiking several hundred yards we discovered the orange plastic fence was still be in place.  The trail was still closed which had me wondering how the hiker I saw last Friday managed to gain access.

With the heat rising we headed down West Mountain, across the Historic District and up North Mountain.  The breeze on the Floral Trail was glorious and made the humidity seem bearable.  I was glad we drained our water bottles and refilled at the spring before the climb.   I sweat when I hike… no delicate girly perspiration.  My hairline flows like Niagara Falls it is the perfect sauna effect fueled by the humidity and the copious amounts of local spring water I am guzzling.   The perfect morning on the trails, a spa treatment and workout combo.

An hour  later we were on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and I noticed an autumn Leaf.  Not an old weathered crunchy rust colored one, a fresh soft beautiful newly fallen autumn Leaf.  It is a glorious red with yellow veins glowing on the trail in the hazy humid late spring morning.  No winter, a spring that has felt more like summer and now an autumn Leaf.    Maybe we will get snow in September…

Love to You ALL!
Lee


Sh*t Happens! Be Prepared When You Hit The Trails

LCSP Horseshoe Mt Trail Spring

What should be in a day pack? How much water is needed for a hike?  Is it safe to sneak off trail for a better view?  Are flip flops or sneakers good hiking footwear?  Even the shortest planned hike could result in injury or death if we are not prepared.

Here are some of the news stories from the past 2 days from parks and trails across the United States:
Hiker Found Dead in Nearby Nat’l Park, Police Issue Warning
Teenager falls to death on first day of Yellowstone National Park job
Two Hikers Rescued in Paria Canyon
Injured Hiker Rescued at Badlands
Portland hiker struck by lightning
Acadia hiker hurt after tumbling down slope
Fire crews aid injured hiker near Hana
Hiker Seriously Injured After 100 Foot Fall in Eaton Canyon

With each passing week the number of stories about hiking that include death and or injury have been on the rise in 2012.  Some tragic events will always be unforeseen with no fault being assigned to the hiker.   Many however could have been avoided by bringing water and food, wearing proper the footwear, knowing what to do when you see lightning or simply staying on the trails.

A few things to consider before you head out on your next hike…

  • An interview with State and National Park employees noted that the injured people they rescued often had been wearing flip flops or sneakers.  Slips, falls and twisted ankles could have been avoided if hikers had been wearing proper hiking footwear i.e. boots.
  • Stay on the trails! This week a new employee of the National Park Service decided to go off trail in Yellowstone, the rock ledge gave way leading to a fatal fall.
  • When hiking for the day in the summer heat carry a minimum of 2 quarts of water per person and an additional quart for big dogs.
  • If you see lightning or hear thunder hike down below the Tree line.
  • Keep your dog on leash!  Many injured hikers fall trying to rescue an off leash pet. A large off leash dog can easily knock a child or small adult off the trail causing unintended injuries.

Any season day pack essentials include:
· Food and water
· Map(s)
· Emergency blanket (Sweetest Gift ever from my Beloved Husband Rick)
· First aid kit (including tea tree oil)
· Whistle
· Waterproof matches or lighter (cotton balls & Vaseline for ignition source in winter)
· Insect repellent

Add boot chains and spare gloves in the winter, yes even for a “Day Hike”.  Consider carrying a small weather radio as well.  If you are hiking with pets make sure you always have a water dish and food for them as well.

Packing for a Day Hike

Finally never underestimate the weather it can change so quickly. Anyone who hikes regularly likely has a story or two of  that moment that could have resulted in injury. Mine occurred within days of each other.  In February 2010 we had a string of storms that brought snow and Ice to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  For several days I had enjoyed the beauty of hiking in the near empty Hot Springs National Park.  Each day I came home with wonderful pictures of the park in all her winter glory.  On February 08 I was only 2 1/2 miles from home when a light snow became near white out conditions, a mini blizzard.  When I arrived at the nearest rest shelter I had 2 inches of heavy wet snow on my wide brimmed hat.  Sleet, Ice and Snow on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Trails Snow HS Mountain Trail

Hot Springs National Park Trails Snow HS Mountain Trail

Two days later what seemed to be a thaw in the cold suddenly became another weather challenge. Woodpeckers And Blue Jays Shadow Me on the Hot Springs Trails This is the only time I had to pack up my camera gear while hiking and put all my focus on getting home safely.  Having the proper boots, clothing plus emergency supplies kept me calm. I still keep the stick mentioned in my blog by my desk as a reminder of how quickly things can change even on the local mountain trails.

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Foot Prints

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Foot Prints

Being self-sufficient will go a long way to ensuring each hike is a wonderful adventure.
Love to ALL!
Lee


When Life Happens Make Challah

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Friday is always busy, it is my time to make vegan Challah before Shabbat.  First thing in the morning  I dashed out the door for a quick 1/2 mile  journey with two simple goals in mind:

  1. pick up a copy of Mature Arkansas June 2012 and read my latest column (see page 25)
  2. visit the Ouachita National Forest Headquarters for maps

I grabbed my cameras and headed across the base of Hot Springs Mountain to my destination.  The box that usually has Mature Arkansas was now filled with another publication and I was not allowed to enter the Ouachita National Forest Headquarters because I had cameras (Federal Building).

At home I found peace in editing photographs and pounding dough for several hours… when life happens make Challah, it is very therapeutic :)

Love to ALL!
Lee

Garlic Challah… Shabbat Shalom!


Hike Our Planet Nature Break Video

I am never lost in the mountains, it is where I found myself. ~ Lee Hiller


First Rays of the Sun are Food for My Soul

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The path we seek is often no further than beneath our feet. ~ Lee Hiller

I am a morning person, the first rays of the sun are food for my Soul.  Light touching the sky igniting a glow across the green leaves dancing on a cool breeze.  A beautiful chorus of bird song crossing the park in a wave as the earth awakens to the touch of a new day.  Everything that seems so overwhelming vanishes with each step forward to greet the dawn.

Love to ALL,
Lee

PS: I am happy to say my husband’s wounded wing is responding to therapy and he was able to hike with me this morning :)


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