Sometimes Nature comes to your front door and I was on my way out when I spotted a lovely green beetle. Special thanks to @Squirrelbasket on Twitter for identifying it as Cetonia Aurata (Rose Chafer). On my way up the Tufa Terrace I am greeted by a Chipmunk standing as sentinel in the Park. It is a beautiful way to begin my morning hike. As another person approaches it moves to the Tufa Rock to my side. As I connect with the Peak Trail I watch a Spider Wasp fly up the trail ahead of me.
When I reach the Carriage Road and see an Eastern Cottontail heading up the hill. I love how it’s ears glow in the sunlight. At the end of the Carriage Road there is a new patch of beautiful blue Asiatic Dayflowers. I head up Dead Chief and hear a Male Cardinal singing high above me in the green leaves. The heat is building and it is so quiet as I hike up the Short Cut Trail to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.
You appreciate the wonderful taste of water when you sweating like I am as I stand in the picnic area. I hike along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and I see flashes of red and green above me. Further along I spot a Juvenile Male Summer Tanager transitioning between green and red. It is a spectacular sight. Nearing the Trail Head I hear a loud rustling in the leaves. My first thought is Chipmunk, often they move leaves for nesting in their burrows. I finally locate the source, it is a Five-Lined Skink with a giant Moth in it’s little mouth. The Skink hauls the Moth up to a log and I can see it’s bright blue tail as it weaves it’s way through the leaves.
I hike from the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Upper Dogwood Trail, down the Lower Dogwood and Floral Trails. I stop at the cold spring water station to fill my stainless steel water bottle. When I arrive a pretty red spotted purple Butterfly and a bright yellow Moth. They rarely land fluttering frantically around the water spigots.
As I am walking home I notice leaves are falling as if it is autumn. The park need more rain desperately.
Never miss an opportunity to seek the wisdom of Nature.
I start my morning hike at 7:45 am with only a skiff of clouds trailing across the blue sky. The sun is still behind Hot Springs Mountain as I enter the park. A bush at the foot of the Tufa Terrace has beautiful pink blossoms, if anyone knows what it is I would love to know the name of the flower. (Special Thanks to @melisheath of Twitter for identifying this as Pink Peonies Flowering Bush). As I cross over the Promenade I look up and see a sweet baby Squirrel in the tree above me. It is still wanting to stay hidden form the crowds moving below.
I continue up the Tufa and am delighted to see the lovely bunnies together in the grass. They do not stay long as the lower park is busy with joggers and dog walkers. Saturdays are often busy in the lower reaches of the mountain. The clouds are increasing as I make my way to the Dead Chief Trail via the Carriage Road. A single blue Asiatic Dayflower is blooming in the green grass, I Love seeing their delicate shape and spectacular blue color.
Near the top of the Dead Chief Trail a lovely little yellow Moth is flitting from leaf to leaf. It rests for a few seconds then is is on its frenetic journey again. As I reach the Short Cut Trail the sun is beginning to rise above the Trees. This is the last I will see of the sun on my morning hike. As the clouds move in the sunlight forms a rainbow ring, a glorious sight as the rain begins to fall.
When I reach the top of the mountain the rain continues to fall as I continue my hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. In a Tree I try to shelter under a lovely little Hutton’s Vireo is also trying to keep dry. I am so happy to see it as the last time I saw a Hutton’s Vireo was this past winter on the Short Cut Trail.
I try to protect my camera from the rain as I am hiking the east side of the Hot Springs Mountain trail. As the rain fall increases I cannot tell if the sounds I hear is the rain on the branches or a large creature moving through the Forest. Thunder rumbles through the park and it startles a Deer, for a brief moment we look at each other. Another clap of Thunder and we both head off to find shelter. I reach the rest hut at the trail head as the skies open up with a heavy downpour. So much for less than a 20% chance of rain.
half an hour later the rain lessens so I make a dash for home as Thunder echos in the distance. I am so happy to finally arrive home before lightning reaches the Mountain.
Respect Nature )
Hot in Hot Springs the heat index is already 95 degrees when I leave for my hike at 8 am. On the Arlington Lawn a sweet Squirrel is searching for food in the dry earth. The weather has been August hot not the normal June hot. I am happy when I finally see it has found a breakfast morsel.
I head up to the the Tufa Terrace I see several lovely Squirrels foraging under bushes. On sweetie is sitting on a platform by the stairs grooming and watching photographing other Squirrels. Further up the trail I see a Brown Thrasher sheltering under a bush. The heat is beginning to dry the foliage and I wish it would rain.
On the Peak Trail I spot a pair of long ears in the grass being lit by the sun. I move very slowly so as not to scare this beautiful Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. As I am moving with little baby steps I hear a noise to my left and a second Rabbit is crossing in front of me. Two Rabbit in the same space might mean Baby Rabbits will soon emerge. I have a lovely time watching and photographing these beautiful Bunnies.
More gorgeous Asiatic Dayflowers decorate the grass below the steps that head up to the Dead Chief Trail. I head up the Trail and the heat is beginning to climb as I get deeper into the Forest, I stop again to drink some Spring Water and see a male Cardinal high above me fluffing his crest and carrying a seed. The Forest foliage is beginning to wilt as the heat continues. As I connect with the Short Cut Trail I can see more sunlight is able to penetrate the Forest canopy.
When I reach the top I am greeted by a lovely large Woodland Sunflower, it’s a beautiful yellow bloom. Increasing heat helps me decide to drink from one of the drinking fountains in the picnic area letting a little spill over into a small pool on the stones. In the increasing I pick up my pace and head over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. As it get hotter less creatures appear to be moving about. Even though water has been scarce for weeks pretty Wildflowers in lavender and violet are appearing on the trail edges ( if you know what they are can you please let me know).
I continue on the Hot springs Mountain Trail to the Honeysuckle Trail, past the Wedding Chapel and down the Floral Trail heading home. Three hours in the heat has drained me, but it was still an amazing day in the park.
Nature is fragile and strong, we need each other to survive.
PS Rick and I were married in the Wedding Chapel on Friday June 18th at 8 am.