Winter is often regarded as barren and bleak in a mixed Tree Forest (deciduous, coniferous and evergreen). The light lost by the abundant leaves of spring and summer hides a world of beauty. Once the autumn leaves have fallen light spills over the hidden surfaces on the Forest floor. Nature paints with algae, lichen and fungus creating a spectacular display of color. Before the Wildflowers and flowering Trees burst forth in the next few weeks seek out the treasures of the winter Forest.
Love to ALL!
One of my favorite parts of the winter Forest is the details a lack of Leaves reveals. My Father was a collector of Rocks and I was always aware of those sprinkled about our home and garden. The Rocks that decorated our garden always being painted by Natures brush strokes. Crystals, Lichen, Moss, Minerals and Fungi are the perfect pallet of colors to define contours and contrast the color of each individual Rock.
Each winter hike reveals the delicate changes to the art of detail. Cherish the Leafless months and cast your eyes upon the Natures pebbles and monoliths as they are winters canvas.
Love to You ALL!
Another Morning draped in a dense gray fog, It is glorious that I cannot see across the street to Hot Springs Mountain as I look out my window. This is an incentive to drink my honey lemon combo and gear up for my hike. I am excited to travel on West Mountain, it will be my first trip up there in the fog. The sidewalks are empty as I head to the access point to enter the Canyon Trail. I love the dreamlike enchanted feeling of the Forest trails, the stillness is meditative. Each turn and rise on the trail is a mystery. The Autumn colors appear more vibrant against the gray, illuminating the edges of the path. I Love the solitude of the fog, to have each step transport me into a new world of wonder and discovery. Faint bird song fills the trail and the rapid movement of squirrels appear as shadows. A flock of White-Throated Sparrows join me as sweet Forest ambassadors leading the way through the fog. Each moment in the Autumn Forest is a blessing as I know how quickly it can vanish with a single wind storm. The Purple Aster sprinkled throughout the park are a striking contrast to the rust red and yellow leaves.
When I reach the top of West Mountain fog is stretching out across the valley below. Lakes and Mountains visible on my last climb to the top are barely visible ghosts or totally obscured by the gray. I Love watching the energy of Nature’s ever changing dynamics. Among the Rocks a tender gesture of beauty has blossomed since my last adventure up the mountain. Two lovely TINY blue wildflowers have blossomed near the trail head at the top of the Mountain, I am still trying to I identify this beauty.
A small bird I cannot identify appeared in a far off Tree, I think it might be a Warbler of some type but would appreciate ID help.
As I head down the mountain the fog is clearing, and I can hear the traffic as I near the bottom of the Canyon Trail. It has been a lovely hike and I Thank You all for joining me on West Mountain in Hot Springs National Park.
Much Love to ALL!
The Fog rolling in across the Mountains in the Park is a wonderful sight. I hurry to get ready for my hike thing the fog could lift at any time. Out the door by 8:15 a.m. the fog still has not lifted as I reach home at 11:45 a.m. Nature always surprises me!
Visibility is low and I am amazed by the number of birds I am able to see. On the Tufa Terrace as I enter the park a sweet Black-Capped Chickadee and a Dark-Eyed Junco sing sweet songs to me. So tiny I feel blessed I was able to see them in the low visibility. Later on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I can hear tapping on a near-by Tree. I try to find the source while changing my now dead camera battery. High in a Tree to my left I spot a small bird hopping up the side on the Tree, a male Downy Woodpecker is busy searching for a meal. Later on the Lower Dogwood a favorite cry rings out in the Forest. I slow down to scan the branches and I am rewarded with a beautiful site. A Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker is showing off a nut in it’s beak.
Throughout the park beautiful fog is floating along every trail. It makes the Autumn color stand out again the gray misty background. It is a magical mystical world as the Forest is transformed. The fog creates a strange silence along the normally song filled trail. Lichen, Autumn Leaves and Fungi appear to glow in the dim gray light. It is a peaceful meditative hike as I travel up and across Hot Springs Mountain over to North Mountain, then down the Floral Trail and home.
Thank You you for joining me in the beautiful foggy Forest.
Love to You ALL,
PS: Congratulations to all those who ran the half and full marathon along Central Avenue this morning. It was a wonderful sight seeing you all emerging through the fog as I headed into the park.
Rain came to the park today, life giving liquid. A little rain never stopped me, I put on my oiled cloth hat and head into the park. The blossoms on the Tufa Terrace are coated in glistening drops, so beautiful. I stop to admire the pink that is more pronounced against the gray damp air.
The rain is cold and blowing as I hike up the Peak Trail I am fighting to protect my camera as I climb higher. I cannot stop looking at the beautiful little leaves that are busting out on each branch. The glistening bark on the trees is spectacular as the rain deepens the color of the forest.
On the Hot Spring Mountain Trail blossoms, leaves and buds are on every branch. The damp leaves silences my footfall and I hike meditating to the rhythm of rain falling around me. When I reach my Wedding Chapel on the Honeysuckle Trail I go inside. I stand in the center, close my eyes and imagine the day Rick & I will be married underneath it’s roof.
The sky is darkening and I decide to take the Floral Trail out to the park. On my way down the many inclines I can see the beauty of the rain upon the landscape. Moss and Lichen appears to have grown overnight, Fungus is peeling from downed logs. Rocks have taken on a high gloss, their color enhanced by their new reflective surface.
As I reach the creek on the Hot Springs Mountain Road at the bottom of the Floral Trail it is bubbling and running fast. The rains are feeding the entire park, spring rains are a blessing to all life in the park.
Dance in the rain and feel it’s life on your skin.
Love to You All.
When I woke up this morning I looked out the window and discovered the clouds were low on the mountain. I knew I would have to hustle drink my lemon with honey, get dress and get up there before they started to lift. Less than an hour later I was across the street and heading into the park. No birds were in the air, but I heard a Carolina Wren in a nearby bush and caught a glimpse of a male Cardinal in a tree before he slipped up under the leaves.
I hiked non stop up the Dead Chief to the Short Cut Trail trying to reach the top before the fog lifted completely. There is something magical when you are in the forest when it’s foggy. Sound is softer and the winter colors seem more intense in contrast the to gray. My hike on the Hots Springs Mountain Trail was serene in the fog and silence, hiking meditation.
As I neared the Gulpha Gorge the fog was lifting and I decided to hike up the Goat Rock Trail for a bit of cardio in the drizzle. The dark sky made taking detail photos near impossible, it was frustrating as thee were so many Wildflowers blooming. When I reached the top of the 1.1 mile trail the wind picked up and the clouds began to clear. Yes, I decided to hike back down the trail and photograph all the lovely Violets.
Today I saw my first Common Dog Violet, it was so small I nearly missed it’s delicate bloom. So few are out I was excited one had survived the battering wind and rain of the night before. Further down the trail were clusters of beautiful Bird-Foot Violets. Spectacular Purple blossoms that looked so Sstriking spreading out down the side of the Trail. Of course I had to stop and look at each new patch of them.
I hiked back up the Gulpha Gorge Trail and reconnected with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. I passed two birders as I headed toward the Upper Dogwood Trail, both never stopped looking up binoculars scanning the trees. I glanced at my Watch, realized I had been out nearly four hours and needed to pick up the pace. From the Upper Dogwood I took the Lower Dogwood then the Floral Trail down to Hot Springs Mountain Road. Along the road side I spotted more white Wildflowers, gorgeous Sleepy Beauty. The wildflowers are so wonderful, Nature creates a new garden of blossoms each day.
Thank You for taking time to come with me on my hike.
Love to You ALL!
It was one of those chaotic days in the park dark skies, big equipment and signs of fires being set. The big equipment included a dump truck, a tractor and a trail buggy. This silenced much of forest and sent it’s inhabitants deeper into the trees. Some of the peace I hoped for was lost, but I understand the important work involved in maintaining the trails.
It was a turbulent morning in the Park, many of the creatures were beautiful silhouettes as I strolled along the Tufa Terrace. A male Cardinal was just above me pecking at berries, while a female moved on to a bare limb as the sun tried to peek out. A sweet Squirrel lept onto a rock in front of me, paused and quickly ran up a tree. I watched as they jumped from Tree to Tree in the highest limbs available. As I head toward the Dead Chief Trail a Turkey Vulture does a fly by.
On the Dead Chief Trail the Blue Jays, four of them were making an odd murmuring noise. It’s the second day I have heard them display this unusual sound. The Crows are back on the South side of Hot Springs Mountain today and As I climb higher the forest is becoming so quiet. As I hike up the Trail I see bark and many rocks beautifully decked out in Lichen, it is Nature’s beautiful art work.
The sky from the Pagoda it’s a lovely mix of blue and pinkish yellow, it appears to be getting darker again. I wonder if it might rain and decide I had better move down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. I love this trail and always feel serene as I journey along it’s many bends and slopes. I often stop and shoot down into the forest hoping I will capture and unexpected treasure. Until today it had always been forest trees. My shot revealed a woman way off the trails with two black dogs off leash. Who knows how much habitat they were destroying.
At the trail head I ran into Tony Caver of the National Park Service, he was driving a tractor moving soil and gravel to repair the storm damaged trails. I want to tell him it’s a loosing battle, Nature always wins. After a quick visit and a promise more employees will be sending me photos I head off to the second section of the trail. From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connect to the Upper then the Lower Dogwood Trail. Slowly the sections of the park that had remain cold longer were seeing increasing numbers of birds and small mammals.
I made a disturbing discovery when I reached the junction of the Lover Dogwood and Arlington Trails. Someone had built a large fire in the middle of the path, chard branches were spread out on the forest floor. On the second section of the loop I discover a large log that was burnt all along the underside. I suspected people were hiking up the trail from the city below and connecting with the Lower Dogwood. When I reported the burns to the NPS, there seemed to be little concern about the fires being set and the bigger issue for them was why the maintenance crews had not cleaned up the mess. Personally I would want to find a way to get those starting the fires so they don’t burn down the forest.
Saddened by the NPS attitude I made my way over to the Floral Trail and hiked down off North Mountain. I hoped I would not see North Mountain on fire because no one thought it was important to investigate. I Love My Park.
Thank You for hiking with me today.
“Everything is significant, if we move in delicate wonder the Universe reveals itself to us.” ~ Lee Hiller
Nature revealed herself at every turn today, on wings, little paws, the strength of trees and beauty of rocks. Each Step, each breath, all appeared as I hiked. On the Carriage Road a lovely squirrel peered out at me from a leafy tree branch. After a few minutes climbed down the tree and bounded across the path in front of me.
On the Dead Chief Trail a Blue Jay landed in the high branches of a tree with a twig in it’s mouth. Another arrived and it appeared they were preparing to build a nest. A little further ahead my frequent companion the Red-Bellied Woodpecker greeted me with his familiar call. It felt like the forest was celebrating and I was being included in the festivities.
As I made my way up the Short Cut Trail to the top of Hot Springs Mountain I could not helping smiling. The forest had changed from the day before, life was busting from every corner of the park. Up top in the picnic area White-Throated Sparrows welcomed my arrival. In the tree above them I spotted a Male Downy Woodpecker and was surprised when a Red-Bellied Woodpecker arrived too. It appeared I was being followed by a red head.
At the Pagoda I saw my favorite resident of the area a Northern Mockingbird. It appeared to be pacing about int gravel the in front of the Pagoda stairs. The view was lovely from the pagoda, scattered clouds framed the sun perfectly I picked my way down the slope to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the Northern Mockingbird landed on the same bush above my shoulder for the third day in a row. He/She waited for me to take a photo and then headed into the bushes.
Hiking softly along the trail I saw a flicker of wings and turned to see a tiny Hutton’s Vireo in the vines to my right. One blink and I would have missed this little sweetie. As I continued the call of a familiar friend echoed before me and I saw a red head in a tall tree. It made me giggle, I had the best shadow in the forest.
Not far up the trail a movement on the left caught my eye, a sweet Chipmunk was on the move. Ii was the first time I had witnessed a high dive off a rock into the leaves. They popped up looked at me and began cleaning their little battle scared face. A few minutes of cleaning then another dive under the leaves.
As I reached the trail head I decided to travel down the Gulpha Gorge trail to the Goat Rock Trail. One first incline I could hear Blue Jays chattering all around me, I want so much to know what they were talking about. On the third incline a beautiful Blue Jay kept flying from tree to tree escorting me to the Goat Rock Trail. Along the way we were join by a red head. Could it be the same one or was the park filled with them today?
The Rocks along the Goat Rock Trail were spectacular, each a work of art. Lichen and mold painted each one, accenting the already natural beauty. Again the red head appeared watching my every step, calling loudly to ensure I would look up to see them. As I climbed higher I was treated to the site of several tiny wildflowers hidden in the storm debris. A tiny flash of black and white landed above me, it was a female Downy Woodpecker. I hoped she would eventually meet up with the male I had seen earlier in the day. Half way up the trail and again my shadow cried out see me, I am still with you.
Reaching the last part of the Goat Rock Trail I was delighted to hear/see a Black-Throated Green Warbler. It was all alone on the path and not joined by the usually visible Carolina Chickadee that lived on this section of the Trail. To say I was surprised would be an understatement, when I turned toward the path I could see a certain red head in the tree above me. It was a blessing to have his companionship.
I connected with the Upper Dogwood trail and yes I still had my shadow. The sleeping forest was waiting for the spring blossoms to appear but winter had decorated in her own fashion. Lichen on the bark of many tree gave the forest a ghostly glow and was accented by fungus in Large fan and tiny oyster shell shapes in a variety of colors.
The east section of the Hot springs Mountain Trail was very quite and only an occasional pip could be heard. As I glanced skyward I could see why, three large crows were circling above. The only movement near me was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet heading to a new tree.
On the Honeysuckle Trail the bird song returned as I headed toward the Fountain Trail to leave the park. A loud call rang out and I looked up to see a red head. This time I knew it could not be the same one, I was blessed to see my first female Red-Bellied Woodpecker. It was the perfect end to a wonder-filled day in the park.
Thank You for joining me on my hike, remember to go out side and play.
Any day that starts with a squirrel is always a treat. I love watching them out and about gathering acorns, scampering up trees and leaping from place to place. Cool sunny and clear a perfect day to be a squirrel. I left the Tufa Terrace smiling. As I crept down the Carriage Road I could hear the sweet serenade of a Male Cardinal. He was perched in a high branch facing the morning sun on the Dead Chief Trail. The bright light on the red of his feathers reminded me of a phoenix about to burst into flames.
As I reached the top of the second incline I spotted a White-Throated Sparrow, I had never notice how long their tail feathers are. When I looked at the photo I wondered if the tail is from a bird hidden from view. Either way he has a great face. I think the beauty of sparrows is under rated.
On to the Short Cut Trail a sweet little olive green bird land on branch to my right. So tiny I wasn’t sure at first if the movement was bird or a fluttering leaf. I have list this little beauty as a Hutton’s Vireo even though this is not it’s usual territory. It was the only bird I could find that had the same coloring, wing bands and eye detail.
Nearing the top I could hear chainsaws, the National Park Service was clearing the trail ahead. A large tree had fallen during the storm, so large it took with it another big tree and several smaller ones. A crew of two were up top clearing the fallen, lives lost to the harsh winter.
The sound of the chainsaw had emptied the top of the mountain and I was alone as I shot the view from the Pagoda. The Hot Springs Mountain Trail was a mixed hike, sunny and warm, then cold covered with snow. My jacket was tied around my hips when I left the Pagoda, half way along it was back on and so were my gloves. In one of the warm spots I photographed a first sign of spring, a large green fly.
In the warmer areas of the mountain trees were beginning to form buds on their delicate branches. Spring would be bursting forth in the park soon. Lovely flowers and green leaves to shelter the birds and welcome the creatures that had slept through the winter. As I hiked down the Peak Trail I thought of all the sleeping creatures waiting for the sun to warm the earth so they could wake.
As I reached the bottom of the Peak Trail a squirrel bounded out of the shadows with an acorn. He ran to the grass and dug a hole and buried his new found treasure. A perfect day in the park begins with a Squirrel and ends one too.
Go Out and Play!