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.
Hiking through the park each day I have forced my eyes to look for the anomalies in the landscape so I can see Nature’s hidden treasures. It has also meant I have seen the destructive side human behavior as well. I started with the picture of the bright red and pink helium balloons because normally we would see them as representing a happy event. They were brought into the park most likely in a car and when the doors were opened some escaped. Getting stuck in Trees and traveling deep in to the forest. When they pop a small creature might try to eat it or get tangled in the string and at the very least the non-degradable waste will be trapped forever in the park.
Vandalism prevails throughout the park as well, even in the more remote areas that require hiking and climbing effort. One of the saddest things I found was a cross carved into a Tree, so fresh it was still bleeding when I noticed it. It hurt twice as I felt the pain of the Tree, a living creature and the shame that someone would do such a thing using a symbol of Christ. I could not help but cry for the my friend who greeted me the first time I climbed up to see the view. My first trip to this location had been on Feb 21st and when I returned in Feb 25th I found the evidence of the assault on the tree. It breaks my heart every time I visit the site to find peace.
I have found tagging on Trees, burnt initials and carving. Gorgeous gray stones that were placed in 1914 covered in mindless graffiti that will likely mean nothing to those who left it in years to come. It troubles me to think this is what others are inspired to do in such a beautiful and peace filled place.
Litter reappears ever day, it does not matter the number of times I myself have picked it up and disposed of it properly. Styrofoam, plastic, cellophane, tin cans, cigarette packs and condoms litter every corner of the park. Somedays the materials are so disgusting you need rubber gloves and a double bag. Many times the litter is out of safe reach and I have to leave it behind.
One problem that is at least in part responsible for the litter is the always full National Park Service secure receptacles. I used to think it was the fault of the NPS for not emptying them often enough. I suspect this is not the case now as I have witnessed local residents driving up and dumping their personal waste in the NPS receptacles. I finally decided to photograph one of the perpetrators in action. Don’t blame the NSP for the garbage receptacles being full, blame guys like this. He dumped two bags and a series of boxes that once contained 24 cans of beer/pop each. He never flinched even when he knew I was taking photos.
Please respect our National Parks they are not garbage dumps, toilets, hookup venues or white boards. Parents in many cases it starts with you. Please teach your children to respect Nature and the beauty it brings to our lives.
Next time you hike in a park, walk on a beach, visit a playground bring gloves and a bag. If we all take the time to remove the litter it will be a gift, a clean Nature space.
Love to You ALL