“Nature is a portal that lifts our Soul into the Universe.” ~ Lee Hiller
The Hot Springs Mountain Trail is often a tail of two worlds in the winter. The North side is always cooler, often Ice and snow covered it is a place where the frost flowers bloom. The South side thaws quickly in the morning and afternoon sun. This hike revealed the beauty of both winter worlds on Hot Springs Mountain.
Love to ALL!
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