Each of the Wildflowers in this three part 2011 series are in order of discovery beginning in February 2011
to continue to Part 2 Click Here
The sun has yet to crest the Tree tops as I enter the park to hike. In the dim light of dawn a female Cardinal sings a soulful series of pips perched atop a bush with her crest held high. Light peeking through the Trees Illuminates sprouting leaves as I head up the Dead Chief Trail and connect with the Short Cut Trail. A winged shadow crosses the trail and I follow it to a distant Tree. Hopping lightly up the bark and occasionally stopping to peck is a glorious male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. In the early morning light his dark red head and throat are almost invisible against the black markings.
On the west side of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail Loop the early Spring decorates the Trees with a delicate green. In a beautiful contrast purple Bird-Foot Violets line the trail edges in bouquet like clusters. Soon I cross the Hot Springs Mountain Road to reach the North Mountain portion of the trail. As I follow the nearly dry creek a gleaming yellow Swallowtail Butterfly lands in the leaves next to me. The sunlight illuminates the new green and its large colorful wings. Further along the trail I nearly miss seeing a black Swallowtail Butterfly with its wings spread out against the trunk of a Tree. Wings shredded this beauty has weathered Nature’s brutal winter and spring storms.
The Upper Dogwood Trail has large colorful patches of Bird-Foot Violets sprouting and newly opening leaf clusters. Heavy winter rain has increased the volume of wildflowers in the Forest. Last year it I was lucky to find 1 or 2 blossoms where I now see multiple patches of Spring Beauty, Violets and Oxalis.
On my way home via Fountain street a sweet Momma Squirrel runs along a wall toward me. I feel blessed to see her, bet she is very busy setting up for the first nesting after surviving winter.
=> 2 1/2 hours of editing photos before heading back out to hike with my husband Rick on Hot Springs Mountain <=
Many of you will recognize a dear friend often featured in my blog images, a sweet Northern Mockingbird that appears to have had an encounter with some hot pink paint. We (Pink and I) have formed a relationship by which this wonderful creature allows me to walk up and take endless photographs. During this special photo shoot where my Husband Rick whistled a duet with my painted friend a third voice joined the musical interlude. It was only as I watched Pink look up that a small ball of feathers high above us was revealed. I took many photographs in hopes of later learning the identity of third singer with the amazing vocal range.
When I returned home my computers ability to magnify parts of images allows me to see that the small ball of feathers is a Carolina Wren Chick. Originally I had thought only a Brown Thrasher had the repertoire to compete with a Northern Mockingbird. It is wonderful to learn that a Carolina Wren vocal range was is varied or that it could mimic other birds.
Nature is waiting for you to come outdoors and play!
Love to You ALL!
I awoke to a beautiful sunny morning, something we have not seen in Hot Springs for approximately a week. Lately I get up to to sunshine and watch in dismay as the skies darken before I can get out the door to hike. Today the sun does not vanish behind clouds as I sip my lemon and honey. With a joy filled heart I prepare my cameras and head out the door to the Canyon Trail access point for my hike up West Mountain.
When I reach the trail head I can see a shimmer of color glowing from the tips of each branch. This is my first Spring hiking on West Mountain and I am transfixed by the delicate changes. Lovely Wildflowers line the trail in varying shades of purple and sunlight illuminates the Dogwood Blossoms delicately perched above me.
Moving along the Oak Trail I can see the the gentle greening of the Trees and Bushes. The Forest Birds are building nests, they stay high up in the canopy while preparing a safe place to lay their eggs. As if on a breeze there is a gentle song of tiny Warblers floating above me as hike further along the east side of West Mountain. I try to take a photograph of a Warbler but it flies away before the shot is complete and I discover instead an out-of-focus photo of two Squirrels peeking out of a hole in a Tree.
Nearing the West Mountain Trail I look up to see a bird land in the Tree above me. The sun glances off bright yellow feathers that are a vibrant contrast to the black and white markings, it’s joyful song lets me know it is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. This is the first one I have seen with darker markings, including a black mask across its eyes.
The weather soon begins to change. a cold breeze on the West Mountain Top Trail make me shiver. Clouds begin to darken the sky and I decide due to recent local lightning strikes it might be best if I head down and across the mountain to return home.
Spring rebirth is Natures message to embrace change.
Love You ALL!
PS Sadly the photograph of the discarded aerosol can may indicate huffing is occurring on West Mountain.
Winter rains have fallen and spring has brought forth an abundance of life sprouting along the Forest Trails. The once barren Trees are a flowing canopy of green, pink, orange, red and silver shimmering against a bright blue sky. The Forest floor is a carpet of brown now embroidered with green, purple, pink, white, violet, yellow, lavender and red. The ever-changing artistry at Nature’s hand is a glorious rainbow that dips into my Soul. Standing in the Spring Forest I am reminded how easily we can be reborn if only our Hearts awaken to the realization that our past failures are merely signposts leading us toward opportunities not yet realized.
May Spring Fill You Life with Beauty!
Love to ALL,
It is fun to explore the least traveled parts of the park. To be honest I am not sure how far I hiked (at least 5 miles) as the last park marker was a metal post with no plaque. The trail continued and I assumed the section I entered was the “Fordyce Peaks” and after climbing up, up and more up I reached the tails end. The trails end is a relative term as it was marked by red neon nylon tape tied around two trees. It looked more like an arbitrary decision to call it the end and without a map I cannot say for sure. Yes I looked for a map but this is a side trip according to the NPS and judging by the trail is rarely used.
This is one of the best hikes in the park winding up, down and up again as you travel between ridges and peaks. It is a mixed Forest and will be beautiful in all four seasons. As I near the top of the first ridge on Sunset Trail I notice a spectacular display of Pink Oxalis lining the trail edges. Further along birdsong fills the air in the distance tiny Bluets begin to appear among the Oxalis. As in many places in Hot Springs National Park the ghost of a carriage road now sprinkled with Trees parallels the trail. Tiny yet to be identified white wildflowers and Pussy Toes now join the colorful display on the edges of the trail.
I pass a metal NPS post missing a plaque that likely once had valuable trail information, it saddens me that people often steal these important markers. The trail now steadily winds down from this first ridge and into a lovely valley, I love the silence of hiking on a trail of dirt, old pine needles and moss. Slowly the Trail begins to wind upward toward a once distant ridge I often photographed from the North Mountain Overlook. As I climb higher rocks appear and the Forest begins to change as Pines give way to a mix of deciduous Trees. This is a familiar landscape found on ridges throughout Hot Springs National Park and in nearby State Parks. The trail along the top of the Fordyce Peaks winds gently through the rocky Forest floor and now barren Trees waiting for Spring.
At trails end the first thing I notice is the silence, only myself, 20 or so moths and 4 Swallowtail Butterflies (3 yellow 1 black) are at the top. The Moths and Butterflies are engaging in a beautiful mating display flying in and around a glorious pink flowering Tree. For half an hour I stand within a perfect moment of serenity. A cool breeze begins to carry a sweet honey like scent as it circles the Flowers and blooming Trees. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and spread my arms as if to soar with the Vultures overhead. I will return often to see the the beautiful transition of this peaceful place.
On my return journey I spot a a sweet Tufted Titmouse moving and hoping on a branch, in it’s beak a lovely bunch of moss. It is nest building time in the park and I feel blessed to see this sweet bird. Further up the the trail to the next ridge a pair of Black and White Warblers are singing a joyful tune. The fly quickly together from Tree to Tree. Nature always reveals new sights along the trails once traversed earlier in the day.
Upon my arrival back at the Fordyce Ricks Pond Sunset Trail head a wonderful surprise from Nature awaited me. After I pack my cameras into the van I come around the back to the drivers side door. On a Tree next to my van door is a large green Moth. I slowly back up and get my camera. On my return the spectacular Luna Moth is still spread out across the trunk of the Short Leaf Pine. It is holding tight as winds tug at its delicate wings. This is my first chance to photograph one of these green beauties. Yesterday the Moon moved closer to the Earth than it has been in 20 years and I am a Moon Child, this Luna Moth is a wonderful sign… just not sure what it means, yet!
Thank You for traveling through the Forest with me.
PS I never know what I will see in the Urban Jungle heading out to go for a hike…
Today marks the first day of a New Year and I am mindful there is so much for me to learn. Last winter the Trees and Bushes were dormant this year things are blossoming and sprouting new leaves. As this is only my second winter I am unsure which is the normal winter plant behavior within the park. I need to look through my photographs and begin to compare what I saw last year on my trail hikes. Is this part of global warming or only a random anomalous winter?
My visit to the Goat Rock Trail reveals that more Bird-Foot Violets are blooming. Even though the past week has included sub-freezing temperatures, heavy rain and high winds the wildflowers continue to grow. Single flowers have become clusters with a variety of variations in color and velvety petal textures. The violets are all confined to approximately 500 feet north of Goat Rock up to the next bend in the trail. I had thought until today these early spring flowers appeared due to a microclimate along the trail. Since seeing the new growth on the Tufa Terrace and the Dead Chief Trails I am beginning to see a pattern of Spring plant growth that is not isolated to only one area in the park.
The sun is finally becoming visible, clouds parting to reveal a glorious Hot Springs Blue sky. I wonder how all these years I missed the glorious miracle of a blue sky. With the sun birds have reappeared, in the distance I can hear the familiar tapping of a Woodpecker. Several minutes later I spot a juvenile female Pileated Woodpecker far across the forest in a short Leaf Pine. She hops up and down the Tree pecking and searching for insects. I stand silently secretly wishing she would fly to a closer Tree.
As I reach the Lower Dogwood Trail I can hear the familiar sound of lovely Black-Capped Chickadees. They are agile and graceful as they hunt for their lunch, it is a blessing to see them. They make my heart sing with their joyful pipping song, as I head down the trail to leave the park.
As always Thank You for reading my blog, please find time to step out your door and play in Nature.
Much Love to ALL!
PS: A small message to my fellow hikers… if I can hear you a 1/4 mile away you are talking too loud. Please remember in the Forest it is okay to use your indoor voices. I prefer not to hear business deals, gossip and marital discourse/lectures. For me hiking is bird song, leaves rustling etc. :)
Lovely Birds of Winter, new favorites are the sweet Yellow Rumped Warbler and the Pine Warbler. Last Spring I caught brief sightings, now my new lens allows me to get higher into the Trees to capture lovely warblers. The beauty of these strong little birds that spend the Winter in with us in Hot Springs National Park is now revealed to me. To look in the highest Trees and marvel at the gorgeous winged friends that stay with me through the ice and snow is a welcome treat. I am blessed to hear their joyous songs and graceful antics.
In a distant high Tree a Juvenile Blue Jay watched me, slowly limb by limb it came a bit closer. Juvenile Blue Jays often follow me at a safe distance, sometimes in silence and other times loudly giving away my presence to the entire Forest. Even though I could barely see my blue shadow I snapped off a couple of shots. Imagine my surprise when I began to edit my photographs and discovered this Forest “Blues Singer” wearing vintage Ray-Ban Wayfarers. I hike in the hippest Forest in the South :)
A storm is nearly upon Hot Springs National Park so I decide to revisit the Goat Rock Trail to see all the lovely violets before they get hammered by rain, sleet and wind. These beautiful Springs flowers are a gift I do not want to waste. Their colors vary in each patch or single flower, even the shapes are different from most I saw last Spring. As my regular readers know I adore Wildflowers and these, Bird-Foot Violets are my favorites. Global warming or a semi regular occurrence, I do not have the answer.
I hope to learn more about what has caused Spring to arrive early in the park. I spotted Spring Violets on the Dead Chief Trail on December 11th this year. Two lone blossoms pushing up through the autumn leaves. I went back the next day to see if I had miss others along the trail. On December 22nd I hiked over to the Goat Rock Trail and discover 11 different patches of Bird-Foot Violets. There was snow on Hot Springs Mountain Christmas last year, I do not believe this will occur in 2010. The intense Summer heat that usually arrives in late July or August began early in June this year and did not let up until mid September. Now it appears the park is attempting to skip from Autumn into Spring.
Have a Lovely Holiday Weekend! Merry Christmas :)
PS School holidays means trail runners, I wish they would run the park road instead. Runners leave a wake of smashed Insects, trampled Wildflowers, frightened Wildlife and I hate being pushed off the trail. Runner you have miles of road within the park please consider some of seek peace within the Forest, stopping and listening to witness nature’s mircles.