Each hike reveals an ever changing open space art gallery. The winter Forest of Hot Springs National Park is filled with beautiful Tree sculptures. You can see a struggle for life in each trunk curve and branch bend. Pushed by storms, twisted by high winds, battered by ice and snow each Tree has a story to share. Colorful Rocks are a canvas for the lichen, mold and fungi to paint their glorious abstracts. Awakening wildflowers push through the leaves, twigs and seeds reaching for sunlight. Their late winter petal pallet of purple and violet dot the landscape. Lovely Birds are beginning to build homes in the branches that will soon be sheltered by new leaves. They sing sweet songs to visitors about the promise of spring. A living art gallery near you is waiting for you to visit… get out and play!
Love to ALL!
PS A storm is on the way so I took a detour after my hike to see the Cherry Blossoms
I love hiking, I Love Nature, I Love photography and I Love a good workout…
Glorious winter illumination painted many of the trails with jewel hued light. A Turkey Vulture soared above on the morning breeze dipped a wing and glanced back my way. Broken and fallen Trees provided me with an ever changing obstacle course. A Mockingbird greeted me at the beginning of my hike and a lovely Downy Woodpecker revealed itself when I was heading out of the park. My morning journey through the Forest was perfect.
Love to ALL!
PS Yes Baby (Rick) I Love You too… <3
Come Dance with Me in Autumn Leaves and Feel the Wonder of Natures Beauty. Within each season is a secret to be revealed, open your Soul to see what is hidden.
Love to ALL!
A Special THANK YOU to the jogger who saw I was photographing a bird and stopped so I could get the shots. I am extremely grateful for your thoughtful and considerate gesture.
Field Notes January 21 2011:
I open my blog today with a story of an extended paw of friendship. Many of my regular readers will be aware that For nearly a year I have been documenting the activities of what appears to be a feral cat in the park. This beautiful cat seems to live on the neighboring hospital grounds and hunts in the park. This is not a good situation for the cat or the wildlife. Today something was different, instead of keeping the fence between us it came over to see what I was doing. After several minutes of exchanging meows and taking photographs this beautiful creature walked along a ledge and placed it’s nose on my camera hood. Using my lens as a mirror it could be the first time it has seen its reflection. It lead me part way up the path then passed through a gap in the fence and back to the hospital grounds. This sweet lonely creature needs a better home.
As I near the top of the Dead Chief Trail I hear a tapping sound in a Tree ahead of me. I look up and see a beautiful Male Downy Woodpecker hanging on to a small Branch. Usually I only see these industrious birds on the side of large Trees, this is a wonderful view. From this new perspective I can see how they use their feet to grasp and their tail feathers for balance. I am blessed to have a very patient teacher, Nature.
Along the top Hot Springs Mountain the air has a bite and it stings my face as I hike along the trail. The cold air seems to magnify the beauty of the Forest and you can hear even the distant Bird songs clearly. Hiking on the Hot Springs mountain Trail the sound of tapping and pipping is becoming louder. It is as if the source of sound and myself are each moving toward each other. As I pass the ravine I see a small brown flecked Bird hopping up a Tree and pecking. As first it’s size and color make me think it is a large Brown Creeper. As I get closer the truth is revealed, it is a small juvenile male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. It makes me wonder how I missed seeing all these amazing woodpeckers when I was hiking last year. I have clearly been changed by this year of hiking in the Mountains of Hot Springs National Park.
I am surprised to see so many dead and dying pines as I hike down the Gulpha Gorge Trail. It is a field of rust where once green stood, is this the damage from last winter or something new? On the Goat Rock Trail the spring Bird-Foot Violets are still blooming, but the last snow and freeze has battered the fragile blooms. The cold snow and freezing air transformed their once velvet petals to sheer translucent veils. The storms could only change not destroy their fragile beauty. The upper Goat Rock Trail on North Mountain has become a silvery Forest, and I find myself thinking it is a twin to sunset trail atop West Mountain. As always thank you dear friends for joining me as I travel into the Mountains.
Thank You for all the lovely prayers for my Husband Rick these past several weeks. His kidney stones are passing and he is on the mend, your lovely messages have kept us strong throughout his medical care and healing.
From the tiniest Downy to the largest Pileated the park has a beautiful variety of spectacular Woodpeckers. I found learning the call of each bird helpful as is listening for pecking sounds. Once you have heard their calls you will be scanning the Trees to spot these lovely creatures.
Pileated Woodpecker: About the size of a Crow the largest of the North American Woodpeckers. Wonderful call songs like cackling chickens, one of my favorite sounds in the Forest. They are a glorious site and I hope to one day to capture a photo looking down as it glides past with it’s wings spread. You can search Trees for the pecking marks created by their heavy chiseled beaks. Males have red markings by their beaks and juveniles have amber brown eyes. Spectacular feature is their red crest found on both males and females.
Red-Bellied Woodpecker: One of my first Forest friends, I am often followed by these beauties. Like the Pileated Woodpecker they have a distinctive cackling call. The males have vibrant red heads. Their beaks have a long cone shape. To see why they are called red-bellied see picture below of an unflattering shot from behind .
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker: Each time I see one of these beauties I have hope for the park. The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker is a Keystone species its presence is important to the environmental balance of the Forest. The Male has distinct red coloring on its head and throat, females have white throats. Juveniles have a murky appearance as brown transitions to black and red forms on the head.
Hairy Woodpecker: Slightly larger than it’s look-a-like of the Downy Woodpecker, easily distinguished by heavier chisel shaped beak.
Downy Woodpecker: Small black and white Woodpecker, acrobatic often found flocking with Chickadees and Nuthatches. Acrobatic movement rapidly hopping up, down and around Trees. They make a lively pipping joyful sound.
I awoke up to falling temperatures 33 with wind chill of 22 fell to 29 with a wind chill of 19 by the time I headed out the door at 9:30 am. This is one of my favorites times of the year, being from Oregon the cold never stops me from hiking. See some my ice and snow blog entries from early 2010. The park wildlife senses there are less people and dogs in the park and they begin to reveal themselves more often as I move along the trails. I am finally able to see the lovely creatures whose songs I had heard all throughout the spring and summer. Hidden in the Forest now revealed sweet song birds and woodpeckers on bare branches. Sunny and cold I hike for the beauty, this morning I also hike to stay warm.
As I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace Trail ramp I am greeted by a Male Cardinal basking in the early morning sunlight. He peeks out from behind a small tree, a spectacular sight glowing as the sun rises behind him. Many of the male Cardinals in this area are vermilion rather than red and I wonder if this is the color of the juveniles or a genetic anomaly. Perhaps with maturity comes the deeper red we associate with male Cardinals in art and photographs. I have so much to learn.
On the Dead Chief trail I have discovered a lovely place where tiny birds regularly gather to search for food. Today I am blessed o final get a clear view of a yellow rumped warbler, it stays although i know it sees me. A White Throated Sparrow hops among the now bare vines to my right, ahead a green warbler pecks in the leaves along the trail. A familiar pipping sound leads my eyes to a Brown Creeper hopping up a Tree searching for breakfast.
On the Short Cut Trail an industrious male Downy Woodpecker is working a branch. Each peck of his beak creates a cloud of wood fibers flying int o the air. I Love the industrious nature of these tiny beauties.
When I reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain I spot a Tree in a glorious late autumn display. It is a rich display of red, coral and orange leaves dancing in the frigid Forest breezes. As I stand below this glorious Tree, it feels wonderful to be bathed in its radiant glow. I am rejuvenated by the healing spirit of Manataka.
Each moment in Nature is a precious gift.
PS To the young woman who called me a Bitch for commenting she did not have control of her dogs… If you are hiking up the mountain and your dogs are jumping on me plus following me down the mountain… you do not have control of your dogs. Just because you have them on a leash does not mean you are in control of their behavior. They are sweet but strong dogs that were all over the trail because you did not give them the most basic leash training. A child or elderly person could easily have been hurt by their boisterous uncontrolled activity.
The Autumn Leaves are falling revealing hidden friends, I have missed them through these many months. As the rust, gold and red drift lazily down to the Forest floor, Trees are delicate dark scultures rising to meet the sky. Dancing on the trunks and limbs are winged beauties showcasing their vibrant songs flashing spectacular plumage. I know their voices from my year of hiking in the Mountains and am blessed to know who has arrived along the trail as I hike.
On the Short Cut Trail a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker kept a pecking rhythm as a Yellow-Rumped Warbler sang a lovely melody harmonizing with a Tufted Titmouse. On the Hot Springs Mountain Top Trail a lively light pipping sound is filling the air, I look up to see a sweet Brown Creeper moving from Tree Branches to Pine Cone clusters. As I move further along the path I see a lovely Chipmunk sunning on a rock to my side, its golden fur glistens in the light. Pecking grows louder as I head further up the trail, to my side I see a Male Downy Woodpecker pecking and digging to create a new home in a Tree.
As I am preparing to leave the park and head over to photograph a wonderful rainbow Tree near the visitors center I am happy to see a family of Northern Mockingbirds. Please note I did nothing to deserve “Sometimes Even Nature Flips Me The Bird )“ it is why I adore these winged friends.
Thank You for coming into the Forest with me.
My late start proves to be fortuitous and I am blessed with the sightings of a bevy of beautiful birds. When I reach the Tufa Terrace the Autumn Leaves are glorious shades of orange, red and rust. I love the transition between the summer green and the bold colors of Autumn. As I head toward the Peak Trail I see one of the “Brats” foraging for breakfast. I call the juvenile Blue Jays the “Brats as often they will follow me through the forest. Some days they just watch other days they announce my position to all the creatures so I am unable to take any photographs of birds or small mammals. I rarely see one out in the open and this is a wonderful treat.
Further along a Tufted Titmouse lands on a branch while below a male Cardinal vocalizes his discontent. In a Tree ahead of me a female Cardinal lands and watches the interaction between the Blue Jay, Titmouse and male Cardinal. It appears to be a game of “King of the Bush” with the Blue Jay having a definite size advantage.
I head up the mountain on the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails. There is great joy in watching a Squirrel leaping about in the changing canopy. Looking up is a feast for the eyes, so many beautiful colors decorate the Trees. My journey to the top of Hot Springs Mountain is a soul inspiring journey through the golden Forest.
When I reach the top I notice one of drinking fountains has it’s drain blocked providing the birds with a watering hole. The first to arrive is for a sip is a sweet little Black-Capped Chickadee. It land takes a quick drink they flies away. A few moments later a lovely Red-Breasted Nuthatch lands and pokes it’s beak in the fountain. It is the first one of these striking birds I have seen in the park, it’s breast is the color of the Autumn Leaves.
Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail it is a divine symphony of sounds, crunching leaves and bird song combine into Forest fusion. The sunlight through the leaves creates a light show of colorful rays that transform all they touch. A Robin lands near me as a flock of adult and juvenile Downy Woodpeckers appear in the surrounding Trees. Their delicate pecking sound add to the chorus of the Forest.
I am bathed in a golden glow from the Trees along the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails as I head across North Mountain. As I am leaving the park all goes silent and I look up just in time to see a large bird glide over Hot springs Mountain and out of sight.
Step outside and breath in the green, it will heal your soul.
All Images in this slide show are clickable below
as always we welcome your comments
When I head out the door for my hike a large X appears in the sky above Hot Springs Mountain as the sun crests the Trees. I figured it was a sign that I should hike up to the top of of HSM this morning. I giggle thinking about it being like the “Bat Signal”. I look down to see a sweet male House Sparrow watching me take my photographs. It is always wonderful to see friends.
In the half light of morning I spot a Chipmunk climbing on the Tufa Rock as I climb up into the park. The cooler weather is likely making their world a more comfortable place. I have missed seeing the Chipmunks of Hot Springs National Park. Even the mushrooms are multiplying in celebration of the change in climate.
I reach the Carriage Road and am greeted by a glorious Moonrise against a perfect “Arkansas Blue” Sky. A Juvenile Blue Jay is perched high above me singing to the first light of morning. I lovingly call the Blue Jays “The Brats” as often they follow me through the park giving up my location to the other creatures in the Forest. This makes taking photographs of the wildlife difficult. Other days they follow silently, they are not sure if I can be trusted.
The Dead Chief Trail is glowing with the morning sun against the Autumn leaves. Fungus is forming on an old rotting stump at the top of the main incline. My hike up the Short Cut Trail is bathed in the golden light filtering through the changing leaves. It feels as if the sun is kissing the Forest.
All along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail Nature has taken out her paint brush to transform the Trees. There is a glorious array of colors and I adore the childhood feeling of shuffling and crunching the leaves that are sprinkled all along the path. You cannot feel old in an Autumn Forest.
When I reach the Floral Trail I can see another wonderful Downy Woodpecker. This little beauty is busy pecking and I Love it when it rests it’s head on the branch to listen. My heart feels lighter as I watch his work. I head down Fountain Street and see a splash of red all along the sidewalk. These are the seeds of the Magnolia bursting from the many pods that have been falling the past month. The red seeds have a fragrant fruity aroma a perfect memory for the end of my hike.
Play Outdoors today!
It is a glorious morning, a little cooler and a light breeze tugs at the edges of my hair. The Sun is kissing the top of the cloud sending rays across the blue sky. I head up the Tufa Terrace and am greeted by a lovely male Eastern Cottontail. He begins to dig in the dirt, rolls around and then lays flat against the earth. I have never witnessed a Rabbit rolling in the dirt and wonder if this is a normal activity.
I head up the Mountain via the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails reaching the top in record time. A quick drink then I head over to the Hot Spring Mountain Trail, a juvenile Cardinal awaits me as I step onto the path. I love how its new voice joins the forest choir. Further along the trail I hear a lovely tapping sound far off in the green. I follow the sound and spot a sweet male Downy Woodpecker. I love how it beeps and hops then stops and taps on the wood. It is tiny and delicate with a mighty beak.
When I reach the trail head I decide to enjoy the cool breeze and hike down the Gulpha Gorge Trail. Next I head over to the Goat Rock Trail for an extra workout while it is a relatively lower in temperature. I enjoy the quiet beauty as I hike along the trail. The Goat Rock Trail is empty and I wonder if the joggers and hikers are still waiting for a colder day. Hidden in the heated rocks I find Wildflowers still struggling to survive. Beautiful Oxeye Daisies look glorious, they are some of the last flowers still blooming in the park.
From the Goat Rock Trail I connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail. My hike is quiet and peaceful, a wondrous breeze is delicately moving through the leaves. The Forest appears to be sparkling as the sun twinkles between the leaves. I see a lovely little Vireo staring down at me. When I reach the Lower Dogwood Trail I literally skid to a halt. In the middle of the trail is a male Box Turtle. He has a glorious red head and large yellow spots on his front legs. This it the first time I have clearly seen the sharp nails on the front feet and the large claws on the back feet. I move down the trail and watch to make sure he safely makes it to the side. I want to make sure he does not get run over by a jogger.
I hike down the Floral Trail and over to the park fountain to fill my water container. A lovely brown moth keeps landing on me and I am trying not to bump it as I get some water. I put a little water on the wall in hopes anything needing a drink can get a little water. It as been a glorious morning in the park.
Find a moment of peace in Nature.
The weather changes in Hot Springs are rapid, I awoke to deep fog and into the park in an hour. As I enter the park it is a ghost world. On the Tufa Terrace ramp I hear a noise to my side and can see a squirrel nearly on my shoulder. We both look a bit surprised at our proximity, 30 seconds pass before either of us moves. As the sweet Squirrel heads up the Tree it nearly collides with another one on the way up. Visibility is very limited in some places.
In the grass new Fungi are mushrooming, brown glossy tops look as if they are floating in the fog. Lovely pink Wild Roses are glowing along the terrace as streams of sunlight pierce the gray mist. A beautiful little Chipmunk is leaping on the Tufa Rocks and I am surprised to see it in the half light. I love watching it’s graceful moves.
From the Tufa Terrace I connect with the Peak Trail and begin my hike to the top of Hot Springs Mountain. As I near the top the fog begins to lift as the sun crests the Mountain. The explosion of light on the Trail is breathtaking, I wonder if I could possibly have witnessed such a glorious event. At the top a tiny Downy Woodpecker it hopping up the side of a nearby Tree. I am always amazed at how tiny they are.
From the top I take the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Upper and Lower Dogwood Trails. I hike down the Floral Trail, and head back to the Promenade via Fountain Street. Along Fountain Street I spot a large crow in a Tree across the street near North Mountain. It is soon chased off by a Blue Jay, an event which surprised me.
On the Promenade a Northern Mockingbird appears above me on a lamp post and looks directly at me. From there it flies down to a tiny new Tree for a morning berry feast. As I move toward the Tufa Terrace ramp I hear a noise above me and look up to see a Male Cardinal preening in the sunlight. He looking spectacular in the bright early morning light.
When I reach the bottom of the Tufa Terrace I spot more newly opened Magnolias all along the edge of the park entrance. Their sweet perfume follows me home, showing me Nature is never far away.
Take a break from the electronic age and play for a while in Nature.
Love to you ALL,
The rains cleared and it’s a beautiful sunny spring day in the park. I head directly to the Carriage Road to connect with the Dead Chief Trail and Short Cut Trail. I spot a blue rock with white veins that look like a Tic Tac Toe game has been set up. I Love Nature’s artistry, there is always something new to discover. The trails are quiet, but the sky is above is active with crow fly overs.
Up top on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail lovely Cherry Blossoms survived the heavy rains of the day before. Their delicate blossoms still have a glorious luminosity. A Northern Mockingbird lands on a Rock near me as I pass the Pagoda along the Trail. I wonder if it’s the same one I often see near the bushes below the Pagoda. The hike on the East side of the mountain is peaceful as I look to the trees to admire the beauty of their new leaves and flower buds. Lovely little Birds-Foot Violets are still standing after the showers and a sweet White-Throated Sparrow is nestled in the new green.
From the Hot Spring Mountain Trail I hike up the Upper Dogwood Trail and over to the Lower Dogwood. The spring rains have highlighted the the numerous fungus fans on the many logs along trail sides. Spectacular Baby Leaves in Red and Green twinkle in the late morning sun.
As I head down the Floral Trail to return home I am blessed by sightings of two new birds, new for me. The first is a Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker a lovely Woodpecker with a red head, throat and patches of yellow on it’s chest and belly. As I near the the end of the North Mountain side of the Trail I see a Female Hairy Woodpecker. She has striking with black and white stripes on her face and neck. It has been a wonderful morning in the park.
Dance in the Sun and soar on the winds.
Love to You All!
PS: I had a love evening hike with my Fiance’ Rick, we saw a Squirrel on the Promenade and another on the Peak Trail. At the top of the mountain a lovely little Downy Woodpecker appeared. We stepped into our Wedding Chapel for a hug and a kiss, then headed down the Floral Trail to Fountain Street and home.
The morning weather is turbulent, the clouds are building with intermittent breaks for sunlight to beam through. I enter the park at the main entrance and head over to the Tufa Terrace and then the Carriage Road. A loud rustling is coming from the leaves to my left and I see a Brown Thrasher looking for it’s breakfast. It is the only bird I have seen since I entered the park this morning. As I head to the next trail I can see everything is on the verge of bursting forth into Blossoms and Spring Leaves. In a few weeks the trails will be transformed.
It is a quiet hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails. The storm clouds are building and the song birds have gone silent. The only birds visible in the air are crows, they seem to be in all areas of the park lately. They are overhead or perched in the highest trees along every trail.
The mountain top is changing as blossoms come into view on trees and along the trails. Beautiful Cherry Blossoms are appearing along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail in the picnic area. Above me I spot a little Male Downy Woodpecker hopping up a Tree looking for insects. On the slope below the Pagoda Spiderwort in pink, blue and purple are appearing in the greenery. A lovely Male Cardinal lands on the trail as I am photographing the wildflowers. It is the first one I have seen at the Pagoda for many weeks. The top of the mountain is amazing today, it is paradise.
I decide to continue my adventure on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. Unfortunately the previously mentioned large 85 lb. boxer is not on a leash when he and his owner pass me on the trail. The Boxer stops to dig next to me damaging the plants along the side of the path. Why do people see this place as a Dog Park instead of a protected National Park?
Nearly half a mile along the trail I stop to watch a Chipmunk in what appears to be construction mode. It is popping up like a jack-in-the-box tossing leaves and branches. There is a momentary diversion to chase another Chipmunk out of it’s territory and then it returns to the building project. The little Chipmunk leaves me with a big smile as I continue my hike
When I reach the rest hut on the Hot Springs Mountain Road I see a family trying to figure out how to loop back to the Gulpha Gorge. I show them on a map an alternative route via the Hot Springs Mountain and Dead Chief Trails. I am about to continue my hike when a group of young woman arrive looking for another area to run. I help them plot a course on trails they have yet to traverse.
I continue on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, connect to the Honeysuckle and then Floral Trail. It’s a lovely hike down the multiple inclines as many trees are now beginning to bloom. Near the bottom I see my first Floral Trail squirrel, it is wonderful sighting.
As I leave the park a Northern Mockingbird lands on the bush next to me. It poses as if it arrived for a professional photo shoot, before flying off. It has been a wonderful day in the Park.
Get Out and Play!