Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Posts tagged “male slate-colored dark-eyed junco

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring and Little Lizards Too!

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Pink Blossom Bush

I wanted to see the flowering bushes on the Tufa Terrace so I entered the park at the main entrance.  It’s amusing to me that I have walked past these bushes for several weeks never noticing one side was bursting forth with beautiful flowers.  Following a squirrel yesterday I discovered the secret, so I had to go back a look again.

I left the Tufa Terrace and headed down the promenade to Fountain Street, a sweet squirrel was sitting in a tree having a fine feast on a nut.  It’s a joy to watch the park wake up each morning.  The journey to the Floral Trail is peaceful, the sun slowly rising in the sky and  twinkles between the Trees on Hot Springs Mountain.  As I hike up the trail I Love watching the sunlight drawing closer as I climb  higher on North Mountain.

From the Floral Trail I head to the Lower Dogwood and decide to go to the west end on the trail to hike to the Upper Dogwood.  I stopped to photograph a rock, as I was focusing I could hear growling and barking.  I look to my side to see a big dog coming toward me, it’s owners are far behind.  I yell out “excuse me your dog needs to be on a leash”.  When they catch up and grab their dog “Lucky” they tell me they did not think it mattered as they are alone on the trail.  I ask them again to put their dog on a leash, I advise them “Lucky” is a predator and should not consider the park his territory.

My Hike from the Lower Dogwood to the Upper Dogwood was quiet, the forest was unusually silent where the big dog passed through.  Sunlight streamed in illuminating the trail highlighting the delicate new growth on bushes and trees.  Bird song was distant and the only bird I saw on the Upper Dogwood was a lovely Junco sitting on a branch surrounded by Birch seeds.

From the Upper Dogwood I hike to the Goat Rock Trail where I am greeted by a Black-Throated Green Warbler.  It is the perfect start to one of my favorite trails.  As I am hiking I can hear, but not see lizards scrambling under the leaves.  I have noticed the Chipmunks do not like the lizards.  It appears there is a surprise factor of not seeing them and suddenly finding them under their paws.  I had not heard a Chipmunk scream until I saw one moving across the leaves and landing on top of a well hidden lizard.  It is a horrible sound of surprise.

Further down the trail I begin to see wildflowers popping up on both sides of the path.  There is a wide variety of Bird’s-Foot Violets and Bluets covering the slopes between the lichen covered rocks.  Among the purples and pinks is a lone patch of bright sunny Yellow Star Grass.  As I am leaning in to see a  wildflower I notice a leaf looking back at  me.  It make me smile to see it is a Male Prairie Lizard flashing his blue throat and belly.

From Goat Rock I hike up the Gulpha Gorge Trail and notice on the last bend a bench has been pulled out of the ground.  I wonder if it has been removed by NPS or by vandals.  When I reach the top of the Trail I decide to look for Wildflowers around the Rest Hut and I discover two surprises.  Growing along the stone wall is a patch of pretty Chickweeds and on the far side of the hut is the park bench missing from the Gulpha Gorge.

I head home via the the Hot Springs  Mountain Trail, the Honeysuckle and out on to Fountain Street.  It’s been another wonderful day in the park.

Thank you for coming on my hike each day, it is a blessing to be able to share my journey in Nature each day.
Love,
Lee

PS: CONGRATULATIONS! My fiance’ Rick London’s “Londons Times Cartoons” turned 13 years old today… I Love You Baby!

Londons Times Cartoon "Flowers In Springtime"


Secret View, Wildflowers, Lizards and Vandals

Goat Rock Trail Male Prarie Lizard No.1

I am not starting from the beginning but from a side trip I took in the Hot Springs National Park.  I discovered an unmarked trail that leads to a viewing area that does not appear to be on any current  guides.  I surmise the lack of use as there was no litter or vandalism.  When I need a quite moment it will be  a place of sanctuary.  I tried to spot the area from all the nearby trails and it is totally hidden.

I begin today’s hike with 10 sneezes LOL it appears something bloomed over night that my body is trying to expel.  Fortunately after that the sneezing ceased so my hike continued as planned.  I headed up the Dead Chief where a sweet squirrel was breaking open a nut.  The pounding on a log was what drew me to it’s location.  Every squirrel is a strong survivor from our winter storms.

On the Short Cut I was nearly knocked over by an 85 lb. Boxer who was off leash.  Although there was nothing vicious in the actions of the dog it could have easily hurt a child or elderly individual.  The woman hiking behind me left the trail and headed up the Hot Springs Mountain Road clearly not wanting to have the same contact with the dog.  No one should have to leave the trail because of a dog.  This large playful dog was also freely digging and roaming in the protected (using this term loosely) habitat of many small mammals. This is another reason I am an advocate for banning dogs from the Hot Springs National Park. (see on going reports)

I had a feeling I would not see much life on the short cut trail as I hiked to the top and I was correct.  From there I connected to the Hot Springs Mountain trail.  This trail too was very quiet and I wondered if the big dog had traveled this trail to.  I bit later a couple passed me with a small dog on a leash and was relieved the bigger dog was no where near.

At the trail head I decided to hike up to the North Mountain Overlook and drop down to the Goat Rock Trail.  The lizard sightings from yesterday made me want to see more. The Goat Rock Trail has three of my favorite things to photograph Wildflowers, Rocks and Lizards.  There has been a lizard population explosion on the trail, the little beauties are everywhere.  There are more Bird-Foot Violets and glorious colorful rocks waiting for me as well. A large winged grasshopper landed near me and I noticed the Yin Yang symbol on it leg joints.

I look at my watch and realize I have been out three hours and need  to head back as it will take about an hour to return home.  Up the Gulpha Gorge to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, then connected to the Honeysuckle Trail.  I looked up the slope and saw a couple off trail digging in a location between the Hot Springs Mountain and Honeysuckle Trails. When they were finished they hiked up to HSMT and danced around.  I can’t begin to imagine what they were stealing from the park.  If you recognize them please contact the Hot Springs National Park Service. The Parks belong to all of us.

I hiked down the  Floral Trail and out onto Fountain Road for my walk home.  Sometimes  a hike in the park can have both wonderful and sad experiences.  It is a part of caring for the park and it’s inhabitants.

Live, Love, Laugh and Play!
Love,
Lee


Sparrow, Wren, Vulture, Ovenbird and more on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park, AR Entrance Carolina Wren

Hot Springs National Park, AR Entrance Carolina Wren

It was a sunny, cloudy and everything in-between kind of day, perfect for hiking. Stopped by the Turkey Vulture  Nesting area and received a friendly fly over.  Once the foliage reappears they will have much more privacy and unless a person knows the exact location they will likely go unnoticed.

The Tufa Terrace was a squirrel commuter zone, they all seemed to be on the same mission, food. Hiding in Trees, running up Rocks and leaping through the air it was a wonderful sight.  When I reached the Carriage Road the Robins were in full voice as a Cedar Waxwing made an appearance.  Every time I see this mixed flock of Robins and  Cedar Waxwings I wonder how the two groups became a single team.

As I hike up the Dead Chief Trail, it was lovely being surrounded by the ever growing greenery.  The leaves flickered in the wind allowing the sunshine to glimmer on the path ahead. There was a familiar bird call and I turned to see a sweet little Tufted Titmouse in the branch above me.  It is a sight that always makes me feel joyous.  Further up the trail and I can see the how different the bend of the Dead Chief looks in comparison to the Short Cut Trail.  The Dead Chief Trail is a preview of coming events for the rest of the park, it resides on the warm south side of the mountain

Up the Short Cut Trail to the Top of Hot Springs Mountain where I am greeted by a sweet White-Throated Sparrow.  It’s markings confused me at first as it has gray where I usually see white on the top of the head.  There is however no mistaking the definite white on the throat.

At the Pagoda a gang of three Blue Jays sat in the tallest tree and squawked a warning to every bird that landed.  The only one they could not scare off was my friend a Northern Mockingbird.  Even when one Blue Jay landed in the same bush they did not budge.  When the Blue Jays get together they can be slightly annoying.

Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I got a lovely shot of an Ovenbird. They have beautiful markings on the chest and a defining white ring around the eyes.  Continuing on the trail I see the sad sight of the ever present Rent-A-Center helium balloons blowing in the the breeze.  Who knows how long they will polluting the park.  As I photographed the balloons I heard a familiar bird call followed by a tapping sound. I looked up to see a wonderful Red-Bellied Woodpecker looking for a meal in the highest branches of a near-by Tree.

A bit further up the trail I can see lovely Dark-Eyed Juncos flying in and out of the now bare vines.  Their rapid maneuvers at high speed are always a delight to watch. On the West side of the mountain and I look up in time to catch another fly over by a Turkey Vulture.  They are so graceful soaring above the Trees riding a beautiful breeze.

The Honeysuckle Trail is quiet as I pick my way through the loose rock sections of the path.  Trying to find solid footing is often useless and it’s better to go with the flow and skate down the slopes.  Passing the Fountain street exit I head back up the mountain and pass my favorite rock in the Trails, it reminds me of a Sea Serpent rising out of the ocean.

I take the Honeysuckle to the Peak Trail, cut over to the Tufa and back out the Park entrance.  As I head down the ramp that lead out of the Park a beautiful Carolina Wren begins to sing about the suddenly changing weather in the Park.  It’s persistence to relay the message is exuberant and continuous for several minutes.  It is a wonderful moment to finish my visit to the park.

Open your heart to Nature and she will show you many wondrous secrets.
Love to You ALL!
Lee


Sunshine, Snow, A Cardinal and Squirrels on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Trail Male Cardinalal

Hot Springs National Park Dead Chief Trail Male Cardinal

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!
Much Love,
Lee


Birds of Many Feathers Flock Together on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Squirrel

Hot Springs National Park Tufa Terrace Squirrel

You can click on any image in my blog to see a full size enlarged Image.

It was a lovely frosty morning and the sun was not quite able to pierce the clouds.  In the open it was light but under the trees in resembled twilight. There were no birds at the entrance or on the promenade, only as I walked up the Tufa Terrace did I begin to see small feathery shapes in the trees.   As I neared beginning of the Peak Trail I spotted a lovely squirrel, I was so happy as I had not seen any in the Park since the the winter storms hit.

I headed up the Dead Chief Trail and saw birds I had never seen before, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler and a Brown Creeper.  Such tiny beautiful creatures who share their songs with me each day.  When I reached the Short Cut Trail a squirrel shot a across the path with an acorn in it’s mouth and I discovered a rock that resembled a dinosaur egg. The snow at the edges of the path made me feel as if I was still in Erie, PA hiking at Presque Isle  rather than Arkansas.

Now that the vehicle traffic was back the Woodpeckers and Blues Jay had moved deeper into the park.  I missed their lively chatter, but understood as I was not thrilled by the number of motors zooming past and slamming of doors.  After my pagoda view shot I decided to head over to goat rock to see how much snow was still on the ground.

There was snow cover of the sides of the Hots Springs Mountain, Gulpha Gorges and Goat Rock Trails.  The patches of white made the still cloudy day seem brighter.  I was happy to see the gaps in the snow, as these were places the birds and small mammals could easily forage for food.  It was wonderful to see sweet female Black-Throated Green Warbler was doing  just that.

The Goat Rock Trail was colorful as the multi-color lichen covered rocks painted a contrast to the bright white of the snow.  As I traveled the Trail I ran into (not literally)  Jay one half on the LoveBirds (Kathy & Jay) I had met them in early February. He gave me a big hug and thanked me for taking the photo of himself and Kathy.  We had a lovely chat and we were each on our way.  I was stopped taking photos when a couple approached and called out “Hi Lee”.  John and Beverly had met Jay on the way up and he had told them about me.   Beverly was a bit shy but John, Mikey and Jack were willing to have a photo taken.  Soon Mikey and Jack were ready to be on the move again and we parted company.

I caught sight of a familiar face, a sweet Carolina Chickadee that always seems to be on the trail as I head to the North Mountain Overlook.  From the Overlook I headed along the Upper Dogwood Trail.  As I made my way down the second half of the trail loop I saw another Carolina Chickadee and two Tufted Titmouse foraging for food, it was the first time I had seen one out of a tree.

From the Upper Dogwood I connected with the Hots Springs Mountain Trail.  The elusive Blackburnian Warbler appeared and landed next to my boot.  I was unable to adjust focus fast enough and captured only a blur of half it’s tiny body.  As I neared the connection to the Honeysuckle Trail I met two friends Linda and Haltom.  They had not seen their picture yet, so I gave them business card with the link so they could see the blog.

When I reached the “Wedding Chapel” on the Honeysuckle Trail an unusual flock of tiny birds arrived. The mixed flock had Slate-colored Juncos, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse and Black-Throated Green Warbler. So many flew in I cannot be sure what other  birds might have been in the flock, it was an amazing site.  Another lesson, birds of different types will flock together.

I continued on the Honeysuckle Trail to Peak, onto the Tufa Terrace and out of the park toward home.  It was another wonderful adventure in the park.

Valentines Day tomorrow… staying home with my Love Fiance Rick!  See you all again on Monday.
Much Love,
Lee


A Day for the Birds on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Eastern Phoebe

Hot Springs National Park Pagoda Northern Mockingbird

You can click on any image in my blog to see a full size enlarged Image.

The ice is the main obstacle to my getting into and out to the park each day.  I must have looked like Buster Keaton holding the rail trying not to slide, my feet running in place.  It is always wonderful to enter the park laughing.  The Robins were behaving oddly, all clustered in a single tree at the entrance to the Dead Chief Trail.  I had never seen them coming to roost in this location.  The extreme weather in the park was changing the territory of many of the birds.  The impending snow storm would cause  still more changes to the living patterns of the park wildlife.

As I hiked up the Dead Chief Trail Sparrows, Warblers and Cardinals were nowhere to be seen on the second part of the incline. I wondered if the Robins had scared them away.  It was usually busy, a grand central station of all the small birds darting back and forth.  I had seen the the Red Bellied Woodpecker here just yesterday and that was a first as well. I followed the bend in the trail trying not to slip on the still present sheet of ice a the top of the second incline.

One tiny Black Throated Green Warbler appeared where the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails meet. It’s sweet song resonated through the forest as it peeked out from behind a branch.   I was relieved to see and hear her.  On the Short Cut Trail most of the ice had melted, only an a occasional patch still linger and I could easily navigate what still remained.

Up top the forest was silent, no squirrel chatter and no bird song.  I headed over to the Pagoda across a field of crunchy ice to get a view shot and see if any Hawks were in the air.  Plenty of view and zero birds of prey.  Today I would hike the first leg of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and come back the same way.  I was not keen to repeat my ice adventure of the day before.

After completing the return trip back to the Pagoda I was heading up the knoll and a Northern Mockingbird landed on the rock in front to me. I was so startled I almost forgot to take a photograph.   As she flew away a Brown Thrasher landed a few feet away.  I carefully backed up so I would not disturb their foraging.  As I moved along the path a Male Cardinal landed in a nearby tree and a Female Cardinal landed on the grass above me. Continuing to slowly back up I wondered if I was invisible.

I had though I might try hiking down the Peak Trail to exit the park.  I hiked on the nearly clear pavement of the Hot Springs Mountain Road and was surprised to see a thick sheet of ice 15 yards wide standing between me and the Peak Trail.  I  knew I would have to exit the way I had entered via the Short Cut and Dead Chief trails.  Half way down I heard an odd sound coming from the Hot Springs Mountain Road.  I looked up just in time to see a skateboarder whizzing past. I guess he was enjoying the park being in lock down as much as I was, bet it was a great ride down the many twists and turns.

As always “Thank You” for joining me on my hike today!
Much Love,
Lee


Ice, Snow and Sunshine on the Hot Springs National Park Trails

Hot Springs National Park Trails Green Warbler and Sparrow

Hot Springs National Park Trails Pine Warbler and Sparrow

You can click on any image in my blog to see a full size enlarged Image.

I can honestly say this was the hardest hike I have accomplished. It was 6 miles of slamming my boots into Ice coated snow. I felt my muscles rebel as I climbed, my toes are battered and I am so happy to know I could do it.

Getting into the park was slow, the ice at all the entrances made none of them a practical choice.  I ended up on the steepest as it had rails.  It was a hand over hand pulling my self up on a sheet of ice. Getting down out of the park later should be interesting I thought as I was sliding all over bricks trying to cross the promenade to grass.  Marching seemed the only safe choice as it broke through the ice coating on the snow.

There was no sign of life in the lower park so I started my march, literally, up the Dead Chief  to the Short Cut Trail. It was lonely without the bird song and the squirrels leaping through the trees, but I knew it was safer for them all to stay perched safely out of harms way.  The Short cut trail was beautiful and it was hard to know where to look at any given moment.  The park gates were closed to vehicles and I able to enjoy listening to trees in the silence.  at the top of the trail lay two  large short leaf pines, more lives lost in the harsh winter storms.  The larger of the trees had caused the small to fall as it slammed into the trees across the path.  It’s root mass was so large I could walk under it to continue on my journey.

I headed to the Pagoda to see if the view had improved from the day before, it had.  It was beautiful as the sun reflected off the snow and ice spread out on the valley floor.  The ice cycles were melting and it looked as if it were raining in front of the Pagoda on the east side.

From the Pagoda I decided to travel on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Gulpha Gorge Trail and on the Goat Rock Trail.  The marching action tested my leg muscles and I had not even begun the hardest trail yet  As I neared the trail head I saw an unusual sight, a  Pine Warbler and a White-Throated Sparrow sparing for a pecking location.   The rest hut looked a happier place from the day before.  It had been the first time I had used it out of necessity, a refuge in the driving snow. Today it was sunny, bright and inviting, so I had not need to go inside.  The Gulpha Gorge Trail was an obstacle course and I carefully maneuvered around each bent tree in hopes they would one day spring back to an upright position. The inclines were slippery, so a had to focus of each foot step.

I was relieved to connect with the up hill climb of the Goat Rick Trail, going up I had better control of my footing.  The view from Goat Rock was as always gorgeous, it’s one of my favorite places in the park. When I climbed down from the viewing platform I decided to continue on the Goat Rock Trail to the North Mountain Overlook.  The ice forest was back and I felt as if were transported to a fictional land.  The trees sparkled in the bight sunlight, glinting like jewels. Half way up on my climb to the overlook I found one tiny wildflower peering up from the snow.  It made my heart smile at it’s strength and will to live.

When I arrived at the North Mountain Overlook and Eagle was flying low occasionally brushing the tops of the snow covered pines. I felt as if I was soaring with him above the park and I stretched out my arms to feel the wind pass around them.   After a twenty minute air ballet the eagle vanished into the gap between the mountains.

Morning had passed and I still had a couple of miles to travel to get home, so I decided to walk down Hot Springs Mountain Road to connect with the trails.   It was a slow icy hike through the forest,  the warblers and Juncos kept me company as I struggled to stay on my feet.  I hiked to the top again to take the peak trail down as  the grade was not as steep as the other lower trails.

When I reach the bottom there was still the task of figuring out how to get out of the park.  I decided to exit as I had come in.  To avoid falling I bent my knees grabbed the rail and began a semi controlled slide, then I remembered the stairs. Thankfully I was able to stop and take careful baby steps,  navigating  one step at a time.  Home was across the street and I was happy to have made it back safely.

Some adventures test us.
Much Love,
Lee


Sleet, Ice and Snow on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail

Hot Springs National Park Short Cut Trail

You can click on any image in my blog to see a full size enlarged Image.

I awoke to a wintry mix falling from the sky, a surprise as the Weather Channel did not issue the warning until it was already here. I decided to hike up the mountain as it appeared in the higher elevations it was snowing.

The lower park area was a slushy mix and the birds did not appear enthusiastic about the sudden change. Only a hand full of Robins were visible in the trees, joined by a solitary Cardinal. From the ground I had to agree with them, it was a sloppy mess on the Promenade,Tufa Trail and Carriage Road. Like walking through a Slurpee, the thought made me giggle.   As I traveled the Tufa Terrace I stopped smiling, the trees that has survived the freezing rain a week earlier and stood upright again were now bending from the weight of the ice snow mix. More painful changes were coming to the forest.

As I headed up the Dead Chief Trail the mix became more favored toward snow. Unfortunately this mixture was causing ice to form on my lens making photography less than optimal. Half way up the trail a lovely Black-Throated Green Warbler appeared and did not seem to care about my proximity. A Black-Eyed Slate Junco on the other hand would fly away at the smallest gesture on my part. I thought the Warbler might be smarter to follow the Junco’s lead.

The Short Cut Trail was snow only, large beautiful flakes fell coating the landscape. I had this wonderful winter wonderland all to myself. It was like being a child again, with a snow day in the park. I wanted to share this day, so no matter where people were they could have a snow day too, especially my fiance’ Rick. Although my camera lens was not icing up it was like trying to take a photograph from inside a recently shaken snow globe.

When I reached the top another lovely Green Warbler appeared this time joined by sparrows. They were all frantically digging around the sheltered side of trees trying to get a few morsels. The snow began falling at a faster rate so I headed for the Pagoda for my daily view shot. In this case it appeared it would be a lack of view shot. Even on the worst day of the ice storm I could see the valley, now the view stopped at the trail below. The snow storm was closing in around me and I could not wait to see how the park looked further down the trail.

I loved being the first person on the trail, ahead of me was pristine untouched snow. Others had left prints on the Dead Chief and Short Cut, but their prints indicated they had travel only part way up. The silence of falling snow has it’s own beauty. It can fall in the night only revealing itself when you draw back the curtains in the morning. It casts a light over the places it falls and no matter how dark the sky there is an ethereal glow.

The changing landscape spread out before me as I hiked along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. Familiar bends in the trail and trees standing watch, I always feel at home here. Half way between the Pagoda and the Rest Hut at the Gulpha Gorge Trail head the snow fall increased and visibility decreased. I was looking forward to reaching the rest hut. As I neared the hut a heard a loud crack followed by a soft thud, my heart sank. Another life had been lost in the forest. When I entered the hut I took my hat off and discovered two inches of wet snow had accumulated on the top and brim. After clearing my hat of the snow fall I removed my jacket and shook it off.

When I looked out the entry of the Hut I could not see the trail head I had exited nor the trail I was going to enter. I decided I had better move out in case the storm worsened. I was half way home when the lovely snow switched to a heavy sleet, I was now missing the snow. The journey now entailed hiking through Three inches of slush on top of loose rock and trying not to slip. My consistent hiking of the trails gave me an advantage, knowing where the obstacles were under the soupy mess. As I made my way to the bottom I thought of the lovely little wildflowers I had seen the day before. So delicate, I did not think they would fair well under the ice and snow. I was so glad I had gone back yesterday to photograph them.

The conditions worsened and I decided it would prudent to exit onto the road and out to the closest paved walkway. The slushy mix was getting so deep ice was forming on the bottom of my pants. When I reached the bottom of the road the gates were locked and I exited to the side of them.

It was a mixed adventure and I can’t wait to see what Nature has in store for me tomorrow.

Much Love,
Lee


Respect for the Sentinel Blue Jays and New Trails

Hot Springs National Park Trails Tufa Terrace Blue Jay Cardinal

Hot Springs National Park Trails Tufa Terrace Blue Jay Cardinal

Hot Springs National Park Facts: There are six Mountains in Hot Springs National Park.  Hot Springs, North, West, Music, Sugarloaf and Indian Mountains

When I entered the park it was empty and only a Grey-Cheeked Thrush welcomed me.  Suddenly the load cries of multiple Blue Jays rang out with the occasional Cardinal call in-between.  I looked over to West Mountain and saw 3 large birds of prey circling.  Three together seemed unusual and I wondered if these were the vultures I has heard and read about.

As I made my way along the Tufa Terrace I saw a Cardinal and a Blue Jay together sounding the alarm.  I rarely see either but together this was a first, the danger must be great.  On the Carriage Road I could hear the calls of another Blue Jay and I spotted them in the top branches of a tree watching the three circling LARGE birds over West Mountain.  Today was a lesson in sacrifice.

How brave the forest Sentinels,
Blue Jays perched sounding the call.
Selfless atop the highest branches,
the fierce protectors of all.

I headed up the dead Chief Trail to the Short Cut and was blessed to see so many wonderful creatures. A lovely Black and White Warbler landed in a Tree near me, it was the first one I had seen. Further up the trail a lovely Chipmunk sat on a log and I took several photos before he/she grabbed an acorn and dove under the leaves. A gray squirrel looked on with great interest as I stood perfectly still for several minutes.

As I finished with the photos I turned and coming down the trail was a lovely couple with their four pawed companion. David and Char from Wisconsin were enjoying hiking the trails on Hot Springs Mountain. They were planning to visit the baths and they asked me which ones would be the traditional style, I suggested either the Arlington Hotel or Buckstaff Baths on Bathhouse Row. (If you read this I forgot your lovely companions name and I hope you will post her name in the comments.

After out lovely conversation I headed quickly to the top. I was planning a first trip to the Gulpha Creek and I needed to decided which trail I would take. At the pagoda I took a lovely view shot then headed down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail (HSMT). Not long after I started down the trail I ran into Jay who I had met previously on an icy cold day before I started my blog and his lovely wife Kathy.  The hiking lovebirds :o)  Halfway along I looked out into the forest and spotted a Mourning Dove sitting alone on a large tree.

I decided to take the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the bottom, connect with the Gulpha Creek and the Sunset Trail. My goal in the near future is to hike the 9.7 mile sunset Trail.  The creek at the bottom is quiet and I wonder if most of the birds show up for the spring and summer.   Next time I will hike further on the Sunset Trail as it runs along the creek further up steam.

Back up the Gulpha Gorge Trail I stopped to visit with an old friend, every time I pass we exchange a hug. My beautiful friend is an old short leaf pine who holds many secrets about the park. Leaving the Gulpha Gorge Trail I cross over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. I am greeted by a sweet White-Throated Sparrow and a talkative Black-Eyed Slate Junco. The smaller the bird the faster they appear to be and I can only get an out focus shot of a beautiful Blackburnian warbler. I hope our paths will cross again.

I decide to hike down the Peak Trail and when I reach the bottom I see two forms of Nature’s blooms;  white fungus flowers on a log and new pink bud on a green bush.  A perfect end to a glorious day on the mountain.

Let Life take you on a Nature Adventure.
Much Love,
Lee


Moss, Lichen, Fungus and a Carolina Wren

Hot Springs National Park Facts: In May 1862, Arkansas Governor Henry Massie Rector moved the state government to his hotel and bathhouse located on Hot Springs Reservation, now Hot Springs National Park. That July, the government seat was moved further south to Old Washington for the remainder of the Civil War.

As I went up the incline of the main entrance I passed remains of the tree that blocked the path for two days. Sadly the tree that broke in two at the entrance was one that has berries which provide food for many birds. Although there are many such trees in the park this one was near the hot spring cascade so was a refuge to eat with a bit of warmth in the icy winter months. It’s life supported so many others in it’s large branches and soft green leaves. The Amazing part, one branch on the broken trunk survived.

Up on the promenade the Robins were singing and having their breakfast feast. On the Tufa Terrace I could here bird call but they were moving to fast to photograph. As a gesture of goodwill a Robin landed in a tree next to me. I was focusing the shot when he flew away and was replaced by a wonderful Red Bellied Woodpecker. A spectacular way to begin my hike.

As I hiked toward the mountain top I notice new bits of green beginning to emerge. Where once dry yellow grass stood little spouts of green appeared. Even the coniferous trees seemed to be a richer green. The ice storm had taken lives, but it has also created new life. The green was exploding everywhere.

Up top a male cardinal allowed me one photo, while his female counterpart sat in a bush nearby. The view from the pagoda still held the after effects of the storm and the sun did not pierce the cloud cover. I headed out on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and began to notice Nature’s after storm artistry. A leaf and some needles trapped in the bark of a short leaf pine. Rocks, trees, stumps and logs were painted with Moss and Lichen. Baby ferns poked their tiny fronds out from under dries leaves.

Further down the trail I met a fellow hiker John from Texas. His wife was busy at the convention center and he was enjoying the many Hot Springs National Park Trails. He had a wonderful smile and my favorite kind of handshake, firm. After a lovely conversation we both headed down the trail in opposite directions.

Coming down the Peak Trail a flock of tiny brown birds arrived, they were so fast. Each smal move I made to get closer sent them farther away. I had all but given up on taking a photo when one landed on a rock in front of me. I pecked at the a large piece of fungus, then flew away.  Later at home I identified my first Carolina Wren, so beautiful.

As I headed out of the the park a lovely Robin sang a song to be me farewell.

Find time to get in touch with Nature, it will lift your soul.
Much Love,
Lee


Ice, Snow, New Friends and Baxter the Beagle

Hot Springs National Park Facts: The park used to have Bison, Wolves, Elk and Cougars.  As the population of people increased around the park the larger animals left.

You know how to tell it’s icy? When a guy leaving the park is holding the rail and sliding past you on the incline; unable to stop heading for the stairs.  I figured if he made it in to the park so could I LOL, I would worry about how to get out of the park in one piece after my hike.  A little ice and snow makes me a happy hiker.

It was a slippery climb into the park, I hate the paved areas as they always ice up.  To avoid landing on my ass I stick to the grass where possible until I can get to Dead Chief Trail. The Robins were all having breakfast meetings in the Tree Tops as I picked my way around bent Tree.  As I turned to go up to the Carriage Road I saw Robert he had already done an early morning hike and chastised me  for being so late onto the Trails.

As I walked along the Carriage Road to the Dead Chief Trail it was sad to see so many bent trees and bushes.  Even the one that still stood upright made a terrible creak and moan when the wind would blow. I snap a photo of a lovely Fox Sparrow perched in the frozen branches.

The Dead Chief Trail combined with the Short Cut is my Cardio Trail combo which is why I start there most everyday.  They are the toughest inclines from the West side of Hot Springs Mountain.  As I am hiking up the trail I hear a Tufted Titmouse and finally spot him long enough to take a picture.  The view is so lovely hiking up the trails that I loose sight of how far I travel until I am nearly at the top.  As I am on the last part of the Short Cut trail I meet a lovely couple Brittnay and Cody out for the morning and enjoying the snow.

Up the top I head over to the Pagoda and take my daily photo.  The silvery gray cast over everything is in stark contrast to 3 days prior, when the sun was shining so brightly over the valley.  A female Cardinal and a White Throated Sparrow poke their heads out for a brief photo.  So I decide head out on the Hot Springs Mountain trail where I am blessed to see both a Bay Breasted Warbler and a Red Bellied Woodpecker.  It is an obstacle course of bent branches and small trees and I am mindful not to bump any of them so they can spring back when the ice melts.

As I reach the trail head for the first section of the HSMT I decide to take the Gulpha Gorge Trail to Goat Rock.  The hike is beautiful and I can hear elusive Jays in the distance.  I realize as I move to the Goat Rock Trail I am the first traveler on it since the snow fell last night.  The pristine snow is a beautiful site, I hate leaving prints on the trail.  The view from the top of Goat Rock is beautiful, and so different compared to the photos I took of the view of Goat Rock January 25th 2010.

As I finish taking photos I turn to leave and meet the lovely Annie and her trusty companion Baxter.  She too has come to photograph the view.  Baxter appears to be an old trail hand and is enjoying his trip to the Rock.  It’s wonderful seeing so many people and beagles enjoying the park today.

I hike back to the Gulpha Trail via the Goat Rock Trail and back up to the the top of the divide between Hot Spring and North Mountains. On my way up I hear the sound of a Toad and I wonder if he/she knows it’s still winter. Crossing the road I proceed on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  I stop to photograph a small bird and am delighted later to learn it is a Winter Wren.  The temperature is dropping as it often does in the divide so I pick up my pace and head back up the top of Hot Springs Mountain and connect with the Peak Trail.

My  hike down the peak Trail is a silvery snowy world of enchantment.  Alone in the shining forest I listen carefully for the sounds of small mammals.  I had not seen in any today, only their lovely paw prints in the snow on every trail.   Nearing the bottom I see a couple I have passed many times on the trail.  I decide to ask if they would like to be in my blog and am so happy when they say yes.  They introduce themselves and I am pleased to meet Linda and Haltom.  When I first started to tackle the double incline of Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails I spoke in passing with Haltom as he was hiking the same stretch.

Back down to the base of the Peak trail and I am greeted by a female Cardinal and a White Throated Sparrow.  I briefly spot a male Cardinal in the distance as I head for the Tufa Terrace Trail.  I take one last look over the lower park before I exit and I hear a noise over my shoulder.  In the tree next to me just above my shoulder is a large squirrel surveying the park as well.  With a look we both turn and head our separate ways.

The ice has melted and I am able to exit the park without skating to the bottom.  It has been a wonderful day out  hiking as always.

Much Love to You All, Lee


Overcast Skies, Blue Jay Warning and Hippy Mike

I Love overcast days, the colors seem more vibrant… green is always greener. I thought I might have to pass on a day in the Park because of the storm forecast yesterday.   Last nights Thunder and Lightening storms were spectacular!  I was joyful when I read weather report first thing this morning stating storm warning was over until later this coming evening.

I hiked up the Peak Trail to check out 3 very tall dead trees that are likely perches for birds of prey. My shot of the crow the other day made me aware of these possible locations for a Bird of Prey shot.  Might even see a Vulture as they also frequent the park.

Once on top of the mountain I headed to the Pagoda as it is the only spot I have seen the golden eagle soar past.  I was so mesmerized the first time the camera never reached my eye.  The Pagoda acts a a bird watchers blind and I have been able to photograph many lovely birds there.  Today I was blessed in seeing a White Throated Sparrow, Female Cardinal, male slate-colored dark-eyed junco, a Blue Jay and a Tufted Titmouse ( identification by Lisa Frame).

I left the Pagoda and headed to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and a Blue Jay started making a great deal of noise flying quickly from bush to tree to bush. I finally panned to his position snapped off a shot and he was ready to move on again.  His actions, I know now, are a warning for what was above and coming my direction.  As I looked up a black silhouette soared past and I barely had time to change lens magnification and settings before it was gone.

Back on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I met Hippy Mike and his two beautiful dogs Sarah and Chloe starting their hike through the park.  I wanted to show Mike’s responsible attitude as he had both dogs on a leash.  This is important as I see dogs every week off leash chasing small animals and destroying the off-trail areas of the park.  The park has a delicate balance of creatures and plants. We are visitors in “Their Home” and should respect the rules not to go off-trail and keep dogs on a leash.  The fall leaves are cover for a variety of small mammals in the winter and are home for reptiles and amphibians in the spring and summer.  It is important to respect their space and stay on the Trails within the Park.

I continued on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and decided to return home via the Honeysuckle Trail which is a personal favorite of mine.  I rarely see squirrels and other small mammals on this trail, so I was excited to photograph a squirrel running up a tree.  The squirrel had unusual ears and I wonder if this is a different species or an anomaly.

Honeysuckle to the Peak, then to Tufa, across the Promenade, down to the Park entrance and Home. Love Nature and she will Love You back!


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