Spring is a chaotic rapidly changing slideshow of color. Wildflowers, Rocks, Birds, new Leaves and flowering Trees are glorious eye candy along the trails. Nature always has surprises waiting for me to share via my lens. Yesterday’s surprise was the return of a favorite hiking partner, a male Red-Bellied Woodpecker. His vibrant red head glowed in the sunlight high above me. Before the drought of 2012 it was rare not to see one every day I hiked, sometimes on every trail across Hot Springs and North Mountains. This sighting was beautiful gift.
Love to ALL!
It rained for two days feeding the parched land across Arkansas and Nature is painting every surface with new life. In Hot Springs National Park the Forest reveals the delicate unfurling of spring Leaves. Soft green pods slowly opening to release green fronds from the sleeping sentinels. A tiny Titmouse flits from Tree to Tree stopping to sharpen its beak on a branch above me. Rain dampened Rocks create a soft pallet of colors on the surface of the trail cradled in fallen Leaves and Needles. Tiny Bluets create a purple haze hovering on willowy green stems above the rust colored Forest floor. Flowering white Wild Plum Trees call to winged pollen collectors with their glorious blossoms. Question Mark and Variegated Fritillary Butterflies Spread orange wings wide warming in the afternoon sun.
Today is Spring and it is calling your name so come out and play…
Love to ALL!
Each hike reveals an ever changing open space art gallery. The winter Forest of Hot Springs National Park is filled with beautiful Tree sculptures. You can see a struggle for life in each trunk curve and branch bend. Pushed by storms, twisted by high winds, battered by ice and snow each Tree has a story to share. Colorful Rocks are a canvas for the lichen, mold and fungi to paint their glorious abstracts. Awakening wildflowers push through the leaves, twigs and seeds reaching for sunlight. Their late winter petal pallet of purple and violet dot the landscape. Lovely Birds are beginning to build homes in the branches that will soon be sheltered by new leaves. They sing sweet songs to visitors about the promise of spring. A living art gallery near you is waiting for you to visit… get out and play!
Love to ALL!
PS A storm is on the way so I took a detour after my hike to see the Cherry Blossoms :)
I am dedicating this blog posting to my Mom and Dad.
My Mom loved Violets above all other flowers, my Dad gave her pressed Violets in a love note a few days before he passed away. She kept his note nearby until she passed away twenty years later.
His love note began “The flowers that bloom in the spring tra la” The early spring weather has brought forth lovely clusters of Bird Foot Violets. Each delicate bloom is a reminder of my parents.
Spring warmth has awoken tender green plants along the edges of the trails. Saucer Magnolias are now covered in fuzzy flower pods and Dogwood Trees have tiny pink ball shaped buds. A few Tree branches in the park have already burst out in a spiny orange blossom covering. The Forest has awakened early with a subtle ballet of new growth and color.
Love to ALL!
When I head out for my morning hike I am glad to have a layer of Northface fleece under my Patagonia jacket. An icy winter chill is blowing through the park lowering the temperature into the teens. The sun is radiant in a spectacular “Hot Springs Blue” sky, it is a perfect day for a long winter hike. As I reach North Mountain the first thing I notice is a patch of frost covered vines. Rising up from the vines is a lovely surprise beautiful tiny blooms, Purple Deadnettle.
Heading up the the Floral Trail I see Frost Flowers blooming on the Trail edges. They are caused by moisture extruding from cracks in the base of a dead plant stem. The ribbons of ice are pushed out the dead stems forming the beautiful shapes as found in my photographs. I hope to capture many more this coming winter. The straws (deceased plants) suck up the moisture and create spectacular ribbons of ice. To learn more please read my old blog entry Ice Ribbons and Frost Flowers.
All along the Lower and Upper Dogwood Trail colorful rocks sparkle in the Morning sun. Painted by Nature in rose, orange, grey, pink, white, yellow and black each rock is a work of art. Coated in morning frost the quartz and newly forming crystals are the jewels of the winter Forest.
When I reach the Goat Rock Trail the sun warms my face and I close my eyes for a brief morning meditation. As I turn to head up the trail the sound of a soft crunching in the leaves catches my attention. I look up to see one, two, three, four and then a fifth Whitetail Deer. Each moving gracefully up the hill above me and turning to see what I am doing on the trail below. Usually I see groupings of three Does moving through the park, this was the first herd of five.
Further up the trail splashes of purple appear among the leaves and twigs covering the Forest floor. Velvety Bird-Foot Violets have emerged from their sleep in subtle shares of purple and violet. Gracefully bowing among the Violets are sheer blossoms of False Garlic. Spring is unfurling in the icy cold of winters breath.
My wonderful hike concludes as it began with a Robin observing my presence from the Fountain Trail.
Have a wonderful time on the Trail…
Love to ALL!
I had a beautiful hike in the Spring Forest yesterday morning and a second later that afternoon with my husband Rick. I hope you will forgive the brief text today and enjoy the photographs that chronicle my morning hike. As it is Wednesday I am trying to be light on the words and invoke a limited “Wordless Wednesday” for my blog.
The Spring Forest is both beautiful and for this photographer filled with obstacles. Beauty is found in the birth of new Leaves, Birds building nests and the sprouting of colorful Wildflowers. The slowly unfurling Leaves and newly sprouting vines create both a barrier that allows me to be somewhat hidden, but also hides that which I wish to see. Along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I hear below me the delicate crunching of leaves and I quickly duck behind a large Tree. In the distance passing between the jumble of Leaves, Vines, Bushes and Trees I can see the shapes of Whitetail Deer moving slowly along what once was the road for carriages, although overgrown the outline of its flattened surface is still visible. They are a perfect Deer trail as remnants of the old roads are hidden throughout the park.
My line of sight is obscured by the new spring growth, I decided to head quietly along the path and connect with the Honeysuckle Trail which is lower on the north side of the Mountain. When I arrived at the Wedding Chapel, aka NPS rest hut I go inside hoping it will camouflage my presence. Barely five minutes have past when I hear the graceful crunching of the Deer as they moved toward me across the dead autumn Leaves. Unfortunately they too have moved farther down the Mountain before heading my direction and are now below me on the Floral Trail. I slowly slip down the stairs of the rest hut and over to the Floral Trail. Moving stopping, moving stopping trying to keep rhythm with the Deer I tip toe along the trail. From behind a Tree I try to focus my lens between the spring growth standing between myself and the lovely Deer. I am somewhat successful.
Love to ALL!
PS: I am thankful and blessed to have my new camera and lens, they have revealed the fantastic colors and patterns of the tiniest Moths. I hope to see many more of these winged beauties this spring and summer… and share them with you :)
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.
This is dedicated my Beloved Husband Rick London who does not complain when my photo safaris carry on past time expectations. His Love and support of my work is a blessing beyond words.
Morning began with a serenade from a Chickadee hanging on a lamp post… I knew it was going to be a perfect day! I was out from 9am to 12:30pm and then back out from 1:30pm to 4:00pm on my expedition see Spring in action. I spent the day hiking across Hot Springs National Park searching for the wildflowers appearing in an explosion of color. We have another storm rolling in on Sunday so it feels as if I am racing against time to catch the beauty before rain and lightning arrives. I hope you will enjoy the beautiful wildflowers and blossoming trees… swimming turtles and lovely birds too!
Lets all play in Natures garden
Lovely Birds of Winter, new favorites are the sweet Yellow Rumped Warbler and the Pine Warbler. Last Spring I caught brief sightings, now my new lens allows me to get higher into the Trees to capture lovely warblers. The beauty of these strong little birds that spend the Winter in with us in Hot Springs National Park is now revealed to me. To look in the highest Trees and marvel at the gorgeous winged friends that stay with me through the ice and snow is a welcome treat. I am blessed to hear their joyous songs and graceful antics.
In a distant high Tree a Juvenile Blue Jay watched me, slowly limb by limb it came a bit closer. Juvenile Blue Jays often follow me at a safe distance, sometimes in silence and other times loudly giving away my presence to the entire Forest. Even though I could barely see my blue shadow I snapped off a couple of shots. Imagine my surprise when I began to edit my photographs and discovered this Forest “Blues Singer” wearing vintage Ray-Ban Wayfarers. I hike in the hippest Forest in the South :)
A storm is nearly upon Hot Springs National Park so I decide to revisit the Goat Rock Trail to see all the lovely violets before they get hammered by rain, sleet and wind. These beautiful Springs flowers are a gift I do not want to waste. Their colors vary in each patch or single flower, even the shapes are different from most I saw last Spring. As my regular readers know I adore Wildflowers and these, Bird-Foot Violets are my favorites. Global warming or a semi regular occurrence, I do not have the answer.
I hope to learn more about what has caused Spring to arrive early in the park. I spotted Spring Violets on the Dead Chief Trail on December 11th this year. Two lone blossoms pushing up through the autumn leaves. I went back the next day to see if I had miss others along the trail. On December 22nd I hiked over to the Goat Rock Trail and discover 11 different patches of Bird-Foot Violets. There was snow on Hot Springs Mountain Christmas last year, I do not believe this will occur in 2010. The intense Summer heat that usually arrives in late July or August began early in June this year and did not let up until mid September. Now it appears the park is attempting to skip from Autumn into Spring.
Have a Lovely Holiday Weekend! Merry Christmas :)
PS School holidays means trail runners, I wish they would run the park road instead. Runners leave a wake of smashed Insects, trampled Wildflowers, frightened Wildlife and I hate being pushed off the trail. Runner you have miles of road within the park please consider some of seek peace within the Forest, stopping and listening to witness nature’s mircles.
When I entered the park this morning I was greeted with an amazing serenade. To be honest I believed I was hearing Northern Mockingbird with a phenomenal repertory of songs. It is a Brown Thrasher sitting in the Tree above me greeting the morning with a spectacular serenade to the sun. According to Cornell Lab All About Birds “the Brown Thrasher has one of the largest song repertoires of any North American bird”.
The Brown Thrasher is also the size of the large Blue Jays that live in the park as you will note in the photo below. It chases the Blue Jay off the Peak Trail, diving at it and striking until it succeeds. I will assume it is a good idea to stay a safe distance from the Brown Thrasher.
As I reach the gates to the HRC Hospital on the Carriage Road I wonder if someone will unlock the gates and allow the patients to access the park. Hiking up the Dead Chief Trail I notice the lack of Robins in the area since the arrival of the Brown Thrasher. Will this territory grab continue? I will observe the the status of the Robins and other birds in the lower Peak Trail area during the next few weeks. The recently ousted Blue Jay escorts me up to the Short Cut Trail and I am happy to have the company.
The Short Cut Trail is changing rapidly, beautiful green leaves add texture to the forest. The Trees are wearing their new Spring attire, it is enchanting. Winter has truly given way to Spring. Even the Valley view from the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is lush and green loosing the pale gray of Winter.
My journey along the trail is gorgeous, Twinkling green Leaves and Wildflowers decorate the Forest. A loan Hawk dips and soars riding the breeze above the Trees. For the second day the Chipmunks are murmuring their warning, it echoes loudly all along the Trail. I feel fortunate catch site of a sweet Chipmunk with full pouches gathering food during the high alert.
From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I head to the Honeysuckle and over to the Floral Trail. I can see numerous bulbs sprouting broad leaves and I cannot wait to see what Flowers will be blooming. It is a delight to see my first Chipmunk on the Floral Trail, it pops up from behind a leaf surprising me. The trail edges are covered with lovely lavender Oxalis, as always a beautiful site. It is a perfect way to end my hike in the forest.
Love to You ALL!
When the Birds of prey are crisscrossing the sky above the forest only the brave appear. Above the greening canopy I can see the flickering shape of a Hawk as I hike up North Mountain. It’s cries are echoing throughout the forest silencing the song birds. There is a soft murmuring underground as the chipmunks sound their alarm, it is an eerie mix as I head higher onto the mountain.
New wildflowers appear along the Floral Trail today and I spot a patch of lovely lavender Oxalis. The yellow throat of the the Oxalis is spectacular in contrast to the lavender petals. Each new Wildflower adds to the pallet of color possibilities along the Forest trails.
A Hawk cries out in the distance and I am happy to catch one brave Robin on the Upper Dogwood Trail. It is sitting in the shadows of a large tree silent, barely visible. The Goat Rock trail is transforming at an amazing rate. Wild Plum blossom glow in the bright sunlight and Wildflowers are painting the trail edges. Honey Bees are traveling from bloom to bloom, pollinating the various plants in their path.
Dog Violets, Birds-Foot Violets, Spiderwort and Yellow Star Grass are all spreading out from the path up and down the slopes. They surround the many Lichen covered rocks create an abstract canvas in the forest. It is a graceful spectacle of color and light.
From the Gulpha Gorge Trail I head over to the Upper Dogwood and down the Floral Trail. The banks of the Creek along the Hot Springs Mountain Road are blanketed with Spring Beauty and Common Violets. It’s a beautiful display of Pink and purple against the lush green of the grass and clover. On Fountain Street I look down and see a Large Magnolia Pod from last years blooms. It won’t be long before the air is filled with the sweet scent of Magnolias from the large Trees in the Historic District.
Why do we fight change? Nature shows us how elegant it can be.
Love to You All!
PS I have included photos of the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center built in 1933. It sits on the edge of the park and once a upon a time those recovering from the wounds of war would be taken into to the park via the carriage road. I think it was a sound practice to let Nature heal their souls.
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.
PS: CONGRATULATIONS! My fiance’ Rick London’s “Londons Times Cartoons” turned 13 years old today… I Love You Baby!
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 p