Spring is not waiting for the calender in Hot Springs National Park. New green Leaves and and bright pink Red Bud blossoms are weaving a spectacular tapestry along the Mountain trails. Across the Forest floor new foliage has begun to change the texture and color in the park. Wildflowers push boldly upward seeking the increasing sunlight. Among the purple, pink and white blooms delicate winged insects stretch their wings to bask in the warmth.
Birds have reappeared and are beginning to work in pairs preparing their nests. Avian adolescents soar on gentle breezes as they battle for territory, landing only to sing of their triumphs. A Spring awakening beckons to all who will listen. Have a Lovely day on the trails…
Love to ALL!
PS: Special Thanks to
@JavaJuicellc (Java Juice extract), your organic coffee is wonderful. Usually if my husband or myself have coffee in our hiking smoothies we have to use nut milk and agave to cover up the bitter taste. Your product is so smooth and tasty it did not require anything other than fruits and veggies. Energy without the jitters too! Tastes wonderful in all our favorite smoothie recipes. We love the individual liquid filled packets, at home or around a campfire a tasty cup of organic coffee will always be at hand.
Winter casts her blue light upon the Forest as first light caresses the canopy. Delicate wings whisper among the Leaves as I become one with Nature. A sweet serenade to the morning echos softly as I move along each trail.
We are the unfolding mystery of the Universe. ~ Lee Hiller
Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah
Much Love to all!
Spring hiking this year in Hot Springs National Park has become a weather divination nightmare. Storms have been raging in Hot Springs and across the south, lives have been taken and communities destroyed. Please take a moment to say a prayer and donate to the Salvation Army to help those who are struggling to rebuild their lives. This weekend Lightning Storms, Flash Flood Warnings and Tornado Watches have returned to Hot Springs, Arkansas and many other areas across the southeastern United States.
While others were glued to their televisions watching the Royal Wedding I went hiking. I feel blessed to be able to enter the park to commune with Nature, sunshine and the chance to get outside must not be wasted This hike fulfilled my goal of traveling someplace new in the park this spring. After photographing Ricks Pond in its new greenery I headed up the Sunset Trial to the junction that leads to the Fordyce Peaks. This time I headed left and explored the Sunset Trail that encompasses the third leg of the Sunset Trail and connects the old Fordyce Estate to Sugarloaf Mountain.
The spring rain has greened the bare winter forest and decorated it with vibrant colorful wildflowers and previously traveled parts of the trail seem new. Dragonflies in blue, brown and yellow buzzed up and down the trail, one stopping to have a snack in the sunlight. Warblers sing beautiful tunes tucked safely under the lush spring leaves. Although I heard several deer I only caught a teasing glimpse of the tops of their ears bobbing below the ridge line on both side of the path. Last year I did not hear frogs along the trails, today in distance there were faint ribbits echoing in the Forest. I discovered a bight green Katydid eating the pollen covered stamen from the center of a purple Spiderwort. The Trail heading toward Sugarloaf Mountain has knee high grasses and resembles an overgrown road more than a traditional trail and on several occasions completely vanishes. It is a lovely hike along a trail that meanders through mixed Forests of Pine and Oak.
Recent rains have exposed roots and rocks, sturdy boots will help save your ankles from twits and turns. The storm water cut trenches into the center of sloping paths and there are many loose rocks on the inclines. Note to hikers and NPS there are downed Trees on the Sunset Trail midway between Ricks Pond and the Fordyce Peaks Junction.
Love You ALL!
Field Notes: Thursday, January 27 2011
Today I was testing my strength for a new hiking location so I did not take many photographs. I hiked to the Top of West Mountain then down, around and back to the top. Are the 50s the new 40s? The jury is still out on this cultural axiom, but I am happy to be a unofficial test case.
On the Canyon Trail not long after I entered the park I noticed an unmarked trail that has been blocked by two logs. I stepped up on a big Rock to have a peek, as I balanced for a better look a mixed flock of Warblers and Juncos landed in the Trees around me. Breakfast was being served, berry clusters were being enjoyed by the small birds. They bent their bodies and reached for the tasty orbs dangling from the slender branches. I followed them to the Oak Trail and continued up the Mountain.
Hiking late morning into afternoon, when I ran out of liquid I knew it was time to head home. It was a successful fitness test. Two climbs up and around West Mountain made me realize how fortunate I am to live so close to Hot Springs National Park! It is a the best therapy, gym and church all in one glorious Nature filled package. I am truly blessed to be living here with my beloved husband Rick.
I must share with you what I saw on my way home through the Hot Springs Historic District. There is a western theme photography studio and in their window is usually a pile of colorful feather boas. Today peeking at me from the feathers was gray, white & tiger stripe cat with brilliant yellow eyes. The contrast of bird feathers and a small cat was too good a photography moment to pass up.
Stay tuned for my next blog… new park, trail and views )
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.
I have completed 1 year without a vehicle, it was NOT easy and at times down right frustrating. However, I did prove it could be done and that perhaps I did not need to drive as much as I had in previous years. I walked to the post office, bank, local stores etc. all of my own choosing. Great for the planet and great for my health, a win win. This said I will enjoy being able to drive to and hike in some of the many nearby state parks in Arkansas that were further afield than walking would allow. This was a personal journey of learning about my carbon footprint. My Husband Rick was always available to give me a ride to the grocery store for our larger shopping expeditions and trips that we took further afield in the city. This was a personal challenge for me, especially since I Love to drive. My lesson is to be more thoughtful about how much and where I drive.
Morning began with a lovely hike up and back down West Mountain via the Oak Trail. My first treat was watching a sweet sparrow as it flitted up and down a weave of vines and leaves. It was singing a sweet song as it peeked out from leaves casting a shy glance. It was the perfect start to peaceful hike. Up the top of West Mountain always reminds me of the Goat Rock Trail on North Mountain or vice versa. The bare Trees and rocks cast a silver light along the Sunset Trail. I stop to sit in the ruins where once stood a rest hut that at one time was not unlike the one I was married in on Hot Springs Mountain. The sky is a perfect Hot Spring blue and the sun warms my face as I tip back a protein drink.
As I head back down the Mountain I hear a familiar winged sound as a flash of beige lands on a branch near the bottom of the West Mountain Trail. A juvenile Mourning Dove sits staring at me from its perch. Even as I inch closer it does not move but instead it puffs up its chest. In the winter light the lovely Mourning Dove and Forest are bathed in golden glow. It’s sweet demeanor is a blessed sight. As I near the middle of the Oak Trail I can hear a sweet song so I scan the Trees to my right. A flash of green leads me to a tiny Orange Crowned Warbler. Last winter they were always just out of range but now they appear to be along every trail. I am thankful for my new camera and lens, it has allowed me to see so many beautiful creatures.
I decided to visit Ricks Pond which is on the old Fordyce Estate located within Hot Springs National Park. The last time I had been here was summer, the greenery was lush and the pond was teaming with life. Now the Trees are bare and there is a silvery glow around the edges of the water. This time it appeared I was alone as I stepped upon the stone bridge. A loud rattling call rang out across the march and off in the distance I saw a large blue-gray and white bird fly up into a Tree. At first I thought the colors indicated a Blue Jay, but the marking and body shape seemed different. Even though it was well out of range for a clear shot with my 400mm lens I shot several photographs. As I tried to creep closer it would fly just a bit further away, not completely out of sight but to far for me to identify. To my delight when I returned home I was able to see my welcoming committee had been a young male Belted Kingfisher. I Love making new friends in the park.
The water reveals it own beauty, once green aquatic plants have turned gold with a vibrant red center. Autumns leaves float just below the surface of the pond in dreamlike imagery. The last of the rust leaves dangle and reflect just above the murky edges of now filled with the autumn debris.
In Loving Memory
As you look through my photos today please remember my Mother via my memories of her.
My favorite birthday cake was the one my Mom made using a Barbie Doll. She made a half circle cake and stuck a Cinderella Barbie Doll in the center. She used icing to create and dress Barbie in a ball gown… all my friends wanted one for their birthday too )
When I was a small child I got chicken pox, my Mother put mittens on my hands so I would not scratch and a scarf over the lamp shade to to protect my eyes from the light. She tucked me into her bed so she could care for me throughout the night. I miss my Mom
It was a glorious mixed day, cold and sunny with a perfect blue sky. Small birds poked their beaks out in-between fly overs by the sky surfers. I visited new trails and the haunted forest too.
On the promenade I was greeted by a lovely female Cardinal; she had wonderful poses in the early morning light. Our photo shoot ended quickly as a Hawk flew past. Silence fell over the Park so I made my morning dash to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.
The view from the Pagoda was wonderful and as always brought peace to my soul. I met several nice people up top, but sadly no one would agree to be in my blog “sniff sniff”. If by chance they read this, “it was really lovely to meet you”.
My hike on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail was uneventful as a large group on a tour had passed through earlier. The high volume of Trail traffic meant nothing was nearby so I hiked to the trail head and up to the North Mountain Overlook. I watched a pair of Turkey Vultures dancing in the distance, then hiked down to the Upper Dogwood Trail.
Every time I hike the Upper Dogwood it blows a gale and I feel a little battered by the time I reach the end. There never appears to be any wildlife, or the wind roaring drowns out all other noises. I had never been to the Lower Dogwood or Arlington Trails so I decided to be adventurous and pay them a visit. Part way along the Upper Dogwood an unmarked trail appeared, so I had to see where it went. Remember in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy goes to get the broom from the Wicked Witch of the West. The Yellow Brick Road begins to get rough looking, fallen trees and the path gets more difficult to discern. I halted my journey down the path when something moved under the leaves at my feet.
When I was back on the Upper Dogwood I decided to hike over to the Lower Dogwood Loop and the Arlington Trail. It was very peaceful and the bird song was beginning to return. I reached a Trail marker for the Arlington, it was one of those great signs; Arlington with arrows pointing to both trails. I kept to the right and found a lovely little Trail that lead me to the elegant Arlington Hotel sundeck and swimming pools. It looked inviting in the bright sunshine and I imagined it would be wonderful to sit and relax year round. It was difficult to leave it behind and continue on my journey.
The next section of the Trail was filled with song birds and I was able to photograph a Robin and a female Black-Throated Green Warbler. I continued until it connected up with the second part of the Lower Dogwood Loop. Even though a Hawk was circling overhead I was able to photograph a Hairy Woodpecker both on a tree and taking flight.
I connected with the Upper Dogwood to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, onto the Honeysuckle, then the Fountain Trail and on Home. As always it was a wonderful day in the park.
Much Love to All, Lee