Hot Springs is under a heat advisory until Friday so it is hot as I enter the park at 7:50 am. I am finally getting use to the constant haze caused by the humidity. As I am heading up to the top of the mountain via the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails I realize I have not seen many Squirrels, Chipmunks and Rabbits for several days. The heat appears to be affecting their normal feeding and movement patterns.
When I reach the top pf the mountain I head around the Mountain on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. Today I have the trails to myself, the heat is not for the weak. Hiking in the heat is not for everyone and it requires accepting you are going to SWEAT and have to drink a lot of water. It feels lonely today without the Squirrels and Chipmunks chattering at me.
When I reach the trail head a spectacular blue Butterfly appears, I am dazzled by it’s color. It stays only briefly and lands on my shoulder before it flies off into the Forest. It’s wing is soft against my face as it brushes past. When I reach the Upper Dogwood Trail a beautiful orange and brown Moth lands on a leaf next to me. Each time the sun breaks through the clouds in does a delicate ballet moving from leaf to leaf.
When I reach the south side of the Lower Dogwood Trail I have the feeling I am being watched. I look up and see a Male Cardinal staring at me from the bright green of a leafy Tree. Further along I see a sweet Juvenile Cardinal in a Short Leaf Pine. I notice my water is getting low so I head down the Floral Trail toward the Fountain. At the bottom of the Trail a gray blue Moth is balance on the top of a green stalk. As slight breeze caused the stalk to weave back and forth.
When I reach the fountain a brown and tan Moth lands on me and it is impossible to photograph it. It finally moves to the walkway and spreads it’s glorious wings. In case you think I am a magnet for Butterflies and Moths the truth is they are trying to lick the pollen that has accumulated on my clothing while hiking. As I am filling my water container and violet, brown and orange Butterfly lands on the wall next to me. While I am photographing it another lands and then takes off quickly. It has been a delightful hike filled with winged beauties.
Nature’s delicate creatures are always a feast for the eyes, open yours to their beauty.
Storms are expected today so I head into the park early this morning. When I reach the top of the Tufa Terrace ramp I notice a horrible sight. A branch has one end carved to a point and has been jammed into a Chipmunk burrow. My heart ached for the fear this must have caused, I am thankful this burrow has several exits.
When I reach the Peak Trail I am surprised to see one of the Rabbits on the paved path and not over in the grassy glen. Seeing one one of the two Eastern Cottontails has me wondering if there is nest tending or if the other was scared off. I hope the same people that was probing in the Chipmunk burrow did not find the Rabbits.
As I reach the Carriage Road I can hear the call of a Red Bellied Woodpecker. I look up and see the lovely red head of a male in the Tree above me. I notice it is a smaller juvenile bird and in the distance can see another one moving high in the Trees. On the ground a sweet baby/juvenile Brown Thrasher is searching for it’s breakfast. I Love see all these amazing young birds.
A really cool insect I usually only see rapidly moving in the air is slowly crossing the path in front of me. It has a jet black body with orange wings, I would love to know what it is. [Thank You @Catawu for identifying this as a Spider Wasp] In a Tree above me a beautiful brown Moth is dancing in the branches. I love watching it’s delicate maneuvers.
I hike up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the Top of the Mountain. As I start my hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I see another young Brown Thrasher. It’s wonderful to see all the new life in the park. Further along a brown Swallowtail Butterfly lands on a plant on the side of the trail. As I am watching it I hear a loud snap below me, I look to see what made this sound. Each step on my hike I can hear something big moving through the Forest. Several minutes later I hear a startled movement and I carefully back track. Deep into the lower reaches of the Forest a beautiful Doe looks up at me. She eats some leaves, looks at me again then lets out a loud snort and leaps deeper into the woods. I Love these moments and am thankful Nature shows them to me.
From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail. Along the trail a pretty female Robin appears on a Tree to my right. She flies from Tree to Tree until she land in one with a Male Robin. I Love watching this beautiful pair of birds and wonder if they have a nest nearby. Nearing the end of the Trail a small gray moth lands on a large green leaf.
I connect with the Peak Trail and onto the Tufa Terrace toward the park entrance. As I finish my hike I reflect on the beauty I have seen in the Forest today.
Please pray for the people the wildlife of the Gulf Coast.