Exploring Nature One Step At A Time

Posts tagged “Zig Zag Mountains

Moths, Butterflies, Wildflowers and Fordyce Peaks Hiking Along the Sunset Trail

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It is fun to explore the least traveled parts of the park.  To be honest I am not sure how far I hiked (at least 5 miles) as the last park marker was a metal post with no plaque.  The trail continued and I assumed the section I entered was the “Fordyce Peaks” and after climbing up, up and more up I reached the tails end.  The trails end is a relative term as it was marked by red neon nylon tape tied around two trees. It looked more like an arbitrary decision to call it the end and without a map I cannot say for sure.  Yes I looked for a map but this is a side trip according to the NPS and judging by the trail is rarely used.

This is one of the best hikes in the park winding up, down and up again as you travel between ridges and peaks.  It is a mixed Forest and will be beautiful in all four seasons.  As I near the top of the first ridge on Sunset Trail I notice a spectacular display of Pink Oxalis lining the trail edges.  Further along birdsong fills the air in the distance tiny Bluets begin to appear among the Oxalis.  As in many places in Hot Springs National Park the ghost of a carriage road now sprinkled with Trees parallels the trail.   Tiny yet to be identified white wildflowers and Pussy Toes now join the colorful display on the edges of the trail.

I pass a metal NPS post missing a plaque that likely once had valuable trail information, it saddens me that people often steal these important markers.  The trail now steadily winds down from this first ridge and into a lovely valley, I love the silence of hiking on a trail of dirt, old pine needles and moss.  Slowly the Trail begins to wind upward toward a once distant ridge I often photographed from the North Mountain Overlook.  As I climb higher rocks appear and the Forest begins to change as Pines give way to a mix of deciduous Trees.  This is a familiar landscape found on ridges throughout Hot Springs National Park and in nearby State Parks.  The trail along the top of the Fordyce Peaks winds gently through the rocky Forest floor and now barren Trees waiting for Spring.

At trails end the first thing I notice is the silence, only myself, 20 or so moths and 4 Swallowtail Butterflies (3 yellow 1 black) are at the top.  The Moths and Butterflies are engaging in a beautiful mating display flying in and around a glorious pink flowering Tree.  For half an hour I stand within a perfect moment of serenity.  A cool breeze begins to carry a sweet honey like scent as it circles the Flowers and blooming Trees. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and spread my arms as if to soar with the Vultures overhead.  I will return often to see the the beautiful transition of this peaceful place.

On my return journey I spot a a sweet Tufted Titmouse moving and hoping on a branch, in it’s beak a lovely bunch of moss.  It is nest building time in the park and I feel blessed to see this sweet bird.  Further up the the trail to the next ridge a pair of Black and White Warblers are singing a joyful tune.  The fly quickly together from Tree to Tree. Nature always reveals new sights along the trails once traversed earlier in the day.

Upon my arrival back at the Fordyce Ricks Pond Sunset Trail head a wonderful surprise from Nature awaited me.  After I pack my cameras into the van I come around the back to the drivers side door.  On a Tree next to my van door is a large green Moth.  I slowly back up and get my camera.  On my return the spectacular Luna Moth is still spread out across the trunk of the Short Leaf Pine.  It is holding tight as winds tug at its delicate wings. This is my first chance to photograph one of these green beauties.  Yesterday the Moon moved closer to the Earth than it has been in 20 years and I am a Moon Child, this Luna Moth is a wonderful sign… just not sure what it means, yet!

Thank You for traveling through the Forest with me.
Much Love,

PS I never know what I will see in the Urban Jungle heading out to go for a hike…

Woodpeckers And Blue Jays Shadow Me on the Hot Springs Trails

Hot Springs National Park Pileated Woodpecker On Ice

Hot Springs National Park Pileated Woodpecker On Ice

Hot Springs National Park Trails Red Bellied Woodpecker

Hot Springs National Park Trails Red Bellied Woodpecker

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

Recently I received several emails indicating my wildlife shots were not perfect. I should consider setting up a feeder or perch so the bird, squirrel, chipmunk etc., the subjects would not be surrounded by vegetation. In my mind if I wanted shots at feeders etc. I might as well go to the zoo everyday and take photos. I prefer to present the wildlife of Hot Springs National Park in the actual environment in which they live. No stagecraft, illusion or lures, they are living beings not puppets for me to control.

The icy climb to into the park continues, I am glad my arms are strong enough to pull me up the ice ramp. It is a cold day 26 feels like 21 degrees and I decide to move to the Carriage Road to get a bit of circulation going. When I arrive I am greeted by a Eastern Phoebe and a Female Cardinal. It is a lovely way to start any day in the park.

As I head up the Dead Chief Trail I can hear the call of a Red Bellied Woodpecker coming closer. I turn my head and see him sitting in the tree next to me. It is a sight that always makes me smile. I quickly make my way to the Short Cut Trail and I hear the mischievous woodpecker again. I turn to see him on a distant tree looking at me. I am being followed.

I can hear voices and laughter as two young men come in to view. Richard and Jerry are visiting from Paris, Texas and have been enjoying the ice and snow in the Park for the past two days.

When I reach the top of the mountain I can hear the call of another woodpecker but have yet to locate them so I head over to the Pagoda for my view shots.  It is like grand central station for birds.  I see my first flock of Blue Jays but they are in the distance weaving in and out of bushes.  Both Male and Female Cardinals drop in for a quick visit, pecking in the snow and grass gathering up a meal.  Jay calls Ring out and they are in trees all around me, they are in a playful mood as gather seeds for their breakfast.  The call of a Pileated Woodpecker rings out and I am able to spot him on the distant tree.  I feel so blessed to see so many beautiful birds on my hike today.

I promised Rick (my Beloved Fiance’) I would be home earlier today so I can rest up for hiking on the two big up coming snow days.  This mean I need to move down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and exit via the Peak or Honeysuckle Trails.  The hike along the HSMT is always enjoyable, it has varied terrain, wildlife and climates.  I can hear both woodpeckers and Jay calls as I move down the trail, they are both still following  me.  The air has warmed a bit and I am finding the paths easier to navigate, the snow is not as crunchy.  As I reach the the lower section of the trail I see a cardinal chasing sparrows.  The snow and ice are forcing birds out of their normal territories to battle for food. My heart sinks as think of the next snow fall and the stress it will put on resources for the wildlife in the park.  The air was rapidly cooling and I noticed the once soft snow was becoming icy again.

When I reached the fork of the Honeysuckle and Hot Springs Mountain Trail the path was now a thick sheet of ice both directions. The trail had warmed and refroze in the 1 hour I had been hiking along the trail. Camera safely in it’s case, I picked up a broken limb that was a perfect walking sick with a sharp point that I could jam into the ice. As I looked down trying to decide how to proceed I noticed a set of deep prints frozen in the ice. Like Cinderella I slipped my boot into one then I stepped forward into the next, the boot fit and stride distance was doable. I was grateful and wished I could thank the hiker who had left me their footsteps in which to follow. Slowly I made my way down the Honeysuckle Trail concentrating on matching  my stride to the prints and stabbing the ice with my stick so I would not slide. It was a slow agonizing descent.

I had never been happier to see the Fountain Street Trail, it took me directly to Hot Springs Mountain Road. Although I would have to carefully pick my way down on the dry patches it was not a thick sheet of ice. The miracle footprints went down the two sets of stairs and were even on the road edges. That was when the penny dropped, these were my footprints from Feb 08, the day I was in both a blizzard and a sleet storm. The frozen slushy Slurpee splashes that iced my pants were perfectly preserved by the hard freeze that night. I was the mystery hiker that had blazed a trail that I would need later.

The Universe was looking out for me.
Much Love,

Cedar Waxwings, Wildflowers and a Hover Fly on the Hot Springs Hiking Trails

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Cedar Waxwing

Hot Springs National Park Honeysuckle Trail Cedar Waxwing

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

Hot Springs National Park  Facts: The floral trail is the only trail in Hot Springs National Park that you have to go up hill to access either of the two trail heads.  The Floral Trail has a trail head on North Mountain and one on Hot Springs Mountain and it does matter which way you travel on  the trail you have to go up hill to exit at  trail heads.

As I entered the park at 10:30 am the sky was overcast, the Robins were sounding an alarm from the tree tops and  there were no Blue Jays or Cardinals to be heard or seen.  I immediately looked to West Mountain and saw a Hawk soaring above the trees.  It looked like the Hawk was catching a good ride gliding straight and then in slow circles.  If you want to clear the lower park of birds and small mammals a Hawk  over West Mountain will do it.

I had planned an extensive hike of nearly 7 miles so I  headed directly to the top take my Pagoda View Photo.  No birds in site and the skies darkening I continued on my journey.  As I stepped back onto the Hot Springs Trail a Blue Jay teased me darting in and out of the trees like a game of hide and seek, I love their companionship.  Blue Jays are always so quick, I was lucky to get any photos of him/her.

The Blue Jay lightened my heart, I felt as it I was dancing along the many trails on my hike.  I connected with the Gulpha Gorge Trail so I could hike the Goat Rock Trail.  All night I had dreamed of the lovely wildflowers I had photographed for my blog.  I hiked with great care checking all the trail edges and was rewarded with a chance to see a several new wildflowers.  Beautiful little blossoms peeking out from dried grass, pine needles and rocks.  So delicate in various shades of purple, each with it’s own unique shape.

I hated to leave the little flowers but there were more trails to hike before my return home to my beloved fiance’ Rick. Now for a  confession, for the first time since I started hiking I was singing out load heading up the last section of the Goat Rock Trail.  Near my connection with the Upper Dogwood Trail a sweet little Black-Capped Chickadee sang back to me and came close enough for me to see them sing.  I was having a wonderful day in the forest.

I hiked the Upper Dogwood  to the Lower Dogwood and them connected with the Floral Trail.  I was excited, this was the only trail on Hot Springs and North Mountains I had not traveled.  The trail was rough and it appeared it was not used often, segments of the path had gnarled roots and loose rocks making the upward hike slow.   I photographed the rocks on the trail and when I edited the photo I discovered a sweet little yellow and black hover fly with it’s wings out stretched. So many little details in Nature, I wonder how many I miss each day.  I was happy to see the honeysuckle trail, it felt like I had been going up hill all day.

The biggest surprise was to be revealed to me on one of my favorite trails.  As I crested the first incline of the Honeysuckle Trail I was greeted by a flock of Robins, it was the first time I had seen them on this part of the trail.  The bigger surprise was their traveling companion, a large Cedar Waxwing.  I kept thinking when I got home my photos would really show it was only a pale Robin,  a fine feathered illusion.

I connected with the Peak Trail and as I neared the Tufa Terrace still no birds in site.  Walking bent over I checked under bushes and not one feathered creature was to be found.  Walking the last of the Tufa Terrace I looked up at a tree on the Promenade and saw several Robins and another Cedar Waxwing, this one smaller than one I had seen earlier.  It made me wonder if they had stayed when their flock left before the ice storm.  As I was not looking for them amongst the Robins it was a possibility.  I had seen Blue Jays and Cardinals together, so why not Robins and Cedar Waxwings.

Everyday in the park is a learning experience, Nature is a wonderful teacher.

Much Love to You All,

Wildflowers and Eagles on the Hot Springs Hiking Trails

Hot Springs National Park Goat Rock Wild Flower Violet

Hot Springs National Park Goat Rock Wild Flower Violet

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

“Best part of hiking is not know who you’ll meet or what tiny gift nature will give you.” ~ Lee Hiller ©2010

Cloudy skies and birds of prey kept the small mammals and song birds hiding undercover. When I entered the park the only sound was the distant call of a Blue Jay.  Not even the Robins were out in force.  I looked up to see two large crows fly overhead, the Jay calls became louder.

I hiked up the Dead Chief Trail, the skies darkened and I thought the rains were coming.  Some days are meant to be dark so that we can see the beauty often lost to our sight in the bright sunlight.  I looked up in the sky and smiled at the clouds.  As I looked down I noticed buds were forming on the branches near to where I stood,  so sweet the life about to burst forth.

Along the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails Nature  wove a beautiful display in cream & white. Delicate fungus fans layered over the fallen logs on the forest floor. Again I looked to the sky, clouds swirled and  branches became black silhouettes.

At the Pagoda the skies remained dark and the voice of a Eagle range loudly as it passed over Indian Mountain. Even the Blue Jays stayed deep in the the bushes sounding the alarm.  As I scanned the horizon looking for the eagle  Geoff and Chris arrived and let me know they had hiked up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails.  They were visiting from Florida and Pennsylvania and needed get down the mountain soon as their car was parked on Central Avenue. I suggested they use the Peak Trail for a quicker trip back down to their car.

I suddenly felt the need to go out to Goat Rock and hiked the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Gulpha Gorge Trail.  The hike was peaceful but I missed the usual bird song.  With an eagle so close who could blame them for staying still within the forest trees and bushes.  I connected to the Goat Rock Trail and when I arrived at Goat Rock climbed up to the view platform.  In the distance an eagle soared on the wind between North and Indian Mountains.  It was so beautiful to watch, the eagle left when a small plane appeared over Indian Mountain.  (Would love to know the make of the Aircraft see pictures below).

From Goat Rock I followed the trail heading toward the North Mountain Overlook.  A jogger was heading my way and I moved to the side to let him pass.  I glanced down at my feet, I saw a beautiful violet colored wild flower.  As I was positioning myself to take a photo my eye caught site of a tiny lavender bloom.  In the darkness of the day Nature revealed two beautiful wildflowers, a posy for my heart.

The memory of the  pretty little wildflowers made the trip to the North Mountain Overlook seem mere seconds.  The view up top was spectacular, dark sky made the trees seem greener.  A car pulled up and lovely blue color (really a blackish gray) American Pit Bull Terrier bounded over to show me some love, she was a real sweetie.  A couple from arrived next and I offered to take their photo with his Blackberry.

I looked at my watch and it was already 1:00pm, yikes I had been out three hours.  I walked down Hot Springs Road to connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, on to the Honeysuckle Trail, to the Peak, Across the lawn and out of the park.

Live with Nature in Love and she will embrace you.
Love All, Lee

Glorious Life Giving Rain on the Hot Springs Hiking Trails

Hot Springs National Park Trails HSMT Rock Lichen Moss

Hot Springs National Park Trails HSMT Rock Lichen Moss

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

Hot Springs Fact: Medical Arts Building was the tallest building in Arkansas from 1929 to 1960. At 16 stories tail this Art Deco Building became the tallest building in the South when built. (see pictures below)

It was a dark and stormy morning, literally.  My camera is not an all weather model and I discovered when mist and rain cover the sensor it makes it nearly impossible to use the auto focus LOL. I kept it under the wide brim of my oil cloth Henschel Hat so I could get a few pictures of my lovely adventure.

Rain is a miracle element in the forest and as I entered the park the birds were all in the tops of trees and appeared as silhouettes against the darkening sky.   They were basking and feeding in the life giving rain.  When I reached the carriage road a tiny little bird was flitting amongst the leaves of a tree.  It was moving so fast it took me 10 shots to get one full body photo.  (If you can identify the mystery bird I would it you would leave a name in the comments section of the picture page.)

Heading up the Dead Chief Trail I was trying to dry my lens when a squirrel jumped across to a tree and I barely caught him peeking out of the ivy at me. A friend seeing me on my journey.  As I moved up the trail I could see everything blossoming around me.  Against the darkened sky the colors popped out from everywhere.  I am always amazed at how new the trails feels each day I hike.

Up top at the Pagoda the view worsened as fog began to rise up from the ground and the rain came down a bit harder. In the distance I could hear a tree frog chirping and I felt elation at the thought of new lives waking in the park.  So small, with a loud voice of joy proclaiming their birth in the forest.

I hiked down the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the path was glorious.  Nature has painted rocks and logs with vibrant greens and oranges.  I could hear creeks flowing from the melted ice and 2 days of rain.  It was wonderful to feel the change around me.  I felt as if I too were a part of the renewing and rebirth.

I decided to go up to the North Mountain Overlook, the view was turbulent not even the eagles were flying today. Darkening clouds and swirls of rising fog spread out before me.  The colors were spectacular, blue on the horizon, green and orange framing the hills   When I reached the Upper Dogwood I headed back over to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  The path was vivid, colors exploding from trees and rocks,  the clouds remained dark in the sky above me.

When I reconnected with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I could hear two creeks flowing and I stopped to listen to their song at the point where they merged.  My traveling companion, rain, kept falling as I hiked back to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.  Then it was back down the Peak Trail to the Tufa Terrace and out the park entrance to my home.

Love the Adventure of Life and let a little Nature in.

Much Love to You All,

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,

Changing Landscape, USGS Probes and more Falling Ice

Hot Springs National Park Facts: Hot Springs National Park Ranger James Cary was the first National Park Service ranger to be killed in the line of duty. He was shot by bootleggers while patrolling West Mountain on March 12, 1927. (NPS)

I have been wanting to write a poem about my experience in the park, but how could words ever compare to the beauty I see each day.  It is a blessing to be able to share with you my experiences in the here,  thank you for traveling with me.

Side Trip: Last night a comment appeared in my blog from Ralf Montanus (USGS).  He was letting me know the USGS would be uncapping the the springs and installing probes Monday 10:00 am.   Once operational the probes will send information to both a Kiosk in the Fordyce Bath House (NPS tourism headquarters) and the USGS online.  So of course my first stop was photograph one of the team climbing down in to the spring.  It will be amazing to link to the probe data when it’s online and of course take a picture of the new Kiosk.  Thank You Ralf for the head up! Those pictured are USPS Ralf Montanus, The guy in the spring box was Dr. Phil Hays, USGS, on loan to UofA, Fayetteville as a professor, Tim Kresse, Ar Water Science Center Water Quality Specialist, Jonathan Gillip, Hydrologist, and part time Geo-Physical specialist. Ralf notes, “I’ll let you know when they put it on line. I hope to have the 1st one up and recording today then our IT Specialists will have to hook it up to the internet. There are 2 planned. Both will be on line and we’ll have a display in the Fordyce Bath house where the public will see the spring as well as the others, on some kind of display. “

I hiked in at the old entrance steps as the tree that fell two night ago had not been removed from the main entrance.  It was a blessing, I never would have seen Nature’s artistry on the concrete steps if the tree had been cleared form the path.  A delicate filigree pattern that appeared almost as if only a shadow was on each step as climbed up into the park.

Once in the lower level of the park I could hear the ice fall near and distant.  Although many of the lower bushes and trees had begun to shed their icy coatings the larger trees where only just beginning.  There were no small mammals moving about and the birds were less than happy to be on open ground.  I had only seen two squirrels in 3 days as jumping from limb to limb had become risky,ed being on the ground riskier.

The ever adaptable Robins were having breakfast in a frozen tree grabbing ice coated berries. Most of the other birds were flying low under bushes  and pecking the ground for food.  Getting a photo of any of the birds was problematic as the shifting ice kept sending then deeper into the bushes.  If I did not like being pelt with leaf size pieces of ice, it must be brutal for them.  As I watch a Blue Jay darting about looking for cover I caught sight of a female Cardinal in a tree above the rising steam from a hot spring release. She looks contented in her tree top sauna.

As climbed up the Dead Chief  Trail I can see lovely patches of green re-emerging, the melting ice is rejuvenating the forest.  I notice the only sound is the pelting of the ice on the ground and me as I head up the Short Cut Trail. It’s another hail storm and I pick up my pace to get past the larger tree.

As I reach the top I am greeted by a female black throated warbler searching for food and a white throated Sparrow in a near-by tree.  I am grateful to be in the company of these lovely creatures.  Blessed to have them as my neighbors.

I stroll through the now empty picnic area and over to the Pagoda to embrace the view.  As always it was spectacular. I headed down to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail as Robert (see earlier posts) was exiting, he indicates it’s raining ice on the the trail.  Like that would ever stop me :o)

Part way along the Trail I decide to hike down the Gulpha Gorge trail and back round to the Dead chief.  It had been several weeks since I had gone this route, I was curious to see if the impact  of the ice on the south side of Hot Springs Mountain.  The Gulpha Gorge Trail is steep, rugged and rocky with lots of older trees, a feeling of being in a more remote location.  The Dead Chief Trail in comparison has a wide open, new forest feel with vast clearings.

When I reach the Dead Chief at the Gulpha Gorge incline I do not see the same abundance of damage I have witnessed on the other trails.  Yet, I feel great sadness at each broken tree which lays stretched out across the trail, it’s life ended so quickly.  As the winter holds dormant the greenery the forest fungus creates it’s own beautiful flowers in yellow and orange along the trail.  Nature itis a lovely artist weaving color and texture throughout each season.

Once I reach the carriage road I hear bird song and can catch only glimpses of my feathered friends as I make my way out of the park.

Make everyday an Adventure
Much Love,

The Glass Forest, Ice Bullets and I Wish I had Brought a Hat

Hot Springs National Park Facts: The hot spring water at Hot Springs National Park becomes heated at a depth of approximately one mile before beginning the journey back to the surface through a fault. (National Park Service)

27 degrees wind chill 21, how much ice can melt?  A Lot!

When I arrived at the park I discovered I could not use the main entrance, a tree had split in half blocking the path.  Once in the park I realized my folly in thinking the cold air would win against the sun.  Part way up the Tufa Terrace I felt drops of water.  It was not bad but I realized my error in thinking air could beat sunlight. Birds were squawking as the ice was becoming unstable.  I have great admiration for Robins they are an amazing hardy bird.  The snow and ice did not slow them down, they flocked and worked in teams during the storm.

The Female Cardinals were all busy feeding on the ground , but I could see brief glimpses of the males as they darted from bush to bush.  As the sun crested the mountain I was heading up the Dead Chief Trail, everything stated to moan as the ice began a slow melt.  Birds frantically searched for stable perches and bushes that would provide protection.

As I hiked ever higher the drip from above slowed as the air became cooler, but I could see the melting would not be completely halted.  My heart was heavy as I passed broken limbs and fallen trees, my friends were injured and I had no way to help them.  It was a feeling I would carry throughout my 6 mile hike. Amidst the beauty was the carnage of  lost and broken lives.

Up the top the view from the Pagoda was hauntingly beautiful cast is silvery and pale blue.  The sun pierced the clouds, suddenly all the ice on the pagoda started to melt; huge drops fell like a spring shower.  As I looked toward the valley a Jay called out loudly then appeared on bush below me, landing briefly before seeking cover in a large bush.  As I headed back down to the Hot Springs Trail the bushes began crashing as ice shifted and I barely made it through the trail before it was completely closed off.

The trail now resembled a forest of shimmering liquid coated trees and large drops of water would occasionally, annoyingly crash on my head and face while I tried to take a photo.  I took off my neck scarf and fashioned a make-shift hat to keep the drops out of my eyes.  As I hiked the trail it was as if I was on a strange exotic planet,  light shimmering across the branches of the trees as distant bird calls filtered through the air.  When I reach the trail head I experience a rare event a moment of true silence. No distant man made noise, no bird calls, not even a rustling of leaves; absolute silence. A perfect moment of peace.

The Gulpha Gorge Trail glistened and the air was still as I headed over to the Goat Rock Trail.  The great melt down had not reach the North Mountain and I was able to walk without fear of ice falling.  Once on the Goat Rock Trail it appeared I had entered a glass forest where the skeletons of soon to be reborn tree glistened in the cloud filtered light.  Later editing the photos I could still feel the cold from their icy covers.

I hiked up from the Goat Rock Trail to the North Mountain Overlook.  The view had a frosted glaze over it  and even the Eagles were not flying today. Several vehicles pulled into the parking area but no one emerged to enjoy the view.  As I left another vehicle arrived and two couples got out and had a snow ball fight.

On the the dogwood trail the melting took on a whole new dimension, ice bullets.  Instead of the slow drip chunks of ice began to rain down like a hail storm.  I hike the Upper Dogwood in record time; the ice was a great motivator.  From the Upper Dogwood I connected to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, then to the  Honeysuckle and onto the Peak Trail.

As I was reaching the end of the Peak Trail the ice pellets were coming down so hard the birds though it was a rain shower.  There was great confusion, they would run out from under the trees to feed only to be pelted by the ice.  This scene played out from the Peak all the way down to the Promenade.   I wanted so much to be able to tell them it was not raining.

I looked over the rail at the main entrance and notice no one cleared the big tree off the path.  As I exited the park  in the hailstorm I wondered if the car owners who parked under the huge magnolia tree knew what was happening to their vehicle.

Have a Lovely Adventure no matter where your travel take you!

Much Love,

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

Freezing Rain and Cardinals on Ice

Hot Springs Facts: Hot Springs National Park is America’s Oldest Park in the NPS System

Going to the Park for my morning hike was a tough decision. I went out on our patio and could see trees covered in ice, but when I looked below at the street everything appeared to be moving.  It dawned on me the Hot Springs kept the ground warm so the ice was likely, only on the plants.  I threw on winter gear and was out the door before 9:00 am.

Yes, the park was still except for myself, some Cardinals, a Green Warbler and Robins. It looked so beautiful, but I could see the strain the ice was putting on many of the plants. The silence was broken by cracking sounds in the distance as limbs were giving way to the weight of the frozen moisture.  As I turned a Cardinal landed in an ice layered tree and  I imagined it was not comfortable to be clinging to a frozen branch.   I strolled along the Tufa terrace and over to the Peak Trail.  Once I heard bird calls up the carriage road I headed out that direction.

I had not planned to hike to the top but once I was half way up the Dead Chief Trail there was not turning back.  I had to see what was on the short Cut and the view from the Pagoda.  Up top the birds were all trying to shelter around the NSP restrooms and I felt guilty walking past as it caused them to take flight.  Still no sign of human life and when I reached the Pagoda the view of the valley had a silvery eerie cast.  Leaving the Pagoda I heard a loud crack and turned to see a large branch swing upside down. The branch made me realize it would be safer to take the peak Trail down as it had less over hanging branches.

The Peak Trail was transformed from the day before.  Where once sleeping leafless trees stood, now was a silvery forest.  Shimmering glazed trees lined the path as I made my way back down in silence. It was a peaceful hike back down the mountain.  The last section of the path was now completely covered with bent trees and I had to carefully step around them.  I did not want to accidentally break any plants on my way out.

As I headed out of the park I noticed a male and female Cardinal warming themselves at the edge of the hot spring water as it cascaded into the pool below.  Above them a male Cardinal sat perched in a tree above the steam content to be in a temperate zone created by the rising vapor.  It’s seems everyone in the park loves, the hot springs.

Thank You for joining me on today’s Adventure.
Much Love,

The Calm Before the Storm

Hot Springs Facts: The springs are all grouped about the base of the Hot Springs Mountain, with a flow well over a half million gallons a day.

A winter storm is approaching and I want to get into the park early.  I love snow but some are predicting freezing rain others a winter mix.  The skies are dark this morning, but it does not feel ready to rain.  I am out by 9:00 am and quickly head to the park.  The drop in temperatures and impending storm seems to have cleared the park of Cedar Waxwings.  I have great admiration now for the birds that stay here year round, though rain, snow and high winds.  For all their beauty the Waxwings are a bunch of wimps,  even the tiny green warbler was here in the snow.

At the park entrance I hear “Hi Lee” I turn to see Derrick one of the the park’s staff members, I give him the URL for the blog and I am on my way up into the Park.

Birds and squirrels are under the bushes and hiding in the leaves foraging for food.  As I walk into the park the there is only a rustling sound, I miss the bird song.  In the distance I see movement on a rock and it’s chipmunk popping in and out of it’s burrow.  So Far away and so fast I wonder if I manged to get anything with my camera. In the park they are like little red bullets shooting across paths, so fast you wonder if you really even saw one.

As I head down the carriage road I hear a bird singing and I walk silently, as silently as anyone can on gravel and dead leaves toward a nearby tree.  The song halts and as I turn my head I can see a bird in the tree next to me, an Eastern Phoebe is staring at me and not flying away. It graciously allows me to take 2 photos and I am on my way.

The top of the Mountain is quiet again and the view from the Pagoda is less than promising.  The beautiful sunny sky from the day before has bee replaced with dark purple & blue clouds.  The temperature is beginning to drop so I head out on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail to make my way round the mountain.  The trail is empty and I have not seen anyone since I began my hike.

At the trail head is a green NPS (National Park Service) tractor prepping the trail for the impending storm.  As I cross Hot Springs Mountain Road I see a car with the friendliest blond in the back wagging her tail. Charles Meade lowers his window to let me know that’s his girlfriend, she is perfect because she doesn’t shop. I laughed at his criteria for the perfect girlfriend. He said he had seen me hiking and when they were out on the trails next time I could add them to my blog. I continued my hike but had to moved over to the side and let a jogger pass me.

I spotted another heart shaped moss and this one held a clue as to how they are formed.  It appears when two clusters form near each other they merge into a sort of heart shape.  These are all found in the same area as little ice ornaments I discovered when the temperatures dropped in December of 2009.  This section of the Valley between Hot Springs and North Mountain has artistic talent.  The temperature is falling and as I pull on my gloves the jogger passes me again.  I am definitely seeing the park in the slow lane.

I continue till I reach the path junction and switch over to the Honeysuckle Trail, my personal favorite.  Want to know why?  See  Wrong Path Best Adventure and look at the photos the clue is there. I love the hike home on this trail it has wonderful scenery, beautiful (treacherous) loose rocks on the trail and second hike up to exit the park.  When I reach the junction with the Peak Trail I decide to hike back to the top to see if any large birds are perched along the way.  I see a Red Bellied Woodpecker and what I think might be a Falcon.  If you look at the images and can identify my mystery bird I would appreciate info in the comment box. Yes the two photos are cryptic at best.

I hiked back down the Peak to the Tufa Trail across the Promenade and out the park’s main entrance and back home.

Thank You for joining me on this adventure.
Much Love, Lee

PS: Don’t forget if you are on facebook to Join “Hike Our Planet

Leaping Squirrel, USGS and Rockin’ Robin

Hot Springs Facts: Hots Springs National Park is the Nation’s oldest National Park within current  NPS Parks, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years.  On April 20, 1832 President Andrew Jackson designated “…four sections of land including said (hot) springs, reserved for the future disposal of the United States (which) shall not be entered, located, or appropriated, for any other purpose whatsoever.”

Another cold morning and I rummaged around for a pair of wool socks to go with my favorite boots.  About 6 years ago I was in a Thrift store in Oregon and there was a brand new pair of hiking boots on the shelf so grabbed them.  They ended up in a closet, buried, forgotten and never worn.  When I cleaned out my home to move to Hot Springs, Arkansas I rediscovered them.  My Garmont Storm-Bloc Boots ROCK they have saved my ankles on the hikes over solid rock and loose rock trails!  I had not hiked in years when I grabbed them, the Universe must have known these days were in my future :o)

Today began with a chance meeting of a friend at the USGS Ralf Montanus.  He is part of team monitoring the springs within Hot Springs National Park.  Ralf is also a fountain of knowledge about places I should visit in and out of the park.  This was a great start to my morning hike.  Thank You as always Ralf for the great information.

I looked across at West Mountain and saw a rare sight in the park, city pigeons.  Hot Springs National Park is a series of mountains and Central Avenue in the park rests between Hot Springs and West Mountains. The Pigeons seemed out of place trapped between the two Nature habitats. I wondered if they ever ventured into the park.

With an impending storm and bird of prey overhead it is difficult to find any bird out in the open.  One Brave Robin could not resist the first rays of the morning sun and perched on the highest branch singing a beautiful song.  In the tree below him another Robin sat quietly nestled in the the leaves cooing.

On my way up the mountain a female Cardinal popped out briefly for a photo shoot, I love Cardinals.  As I turned onto the Short Cut Trail I watched as a Squirrel lept at something on the trail. It was a funny sight and I started giggling.

Up top the view from the Pagoda was as always spectacular with the sun shining brightly over the valley below.   I glanced down at the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and saw Robert a fellow all weather hiker.  He was headed into Hot Springs to get Jack London’s “Call Of The Wild” for a book report.  I thought it was a great book choice.

I hiked the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and up the Hot Springs Mountain Road to the North Mountain Overlook. Storm clouds were massing  and the sky was growing dark.  As I hiked down from the overlook it occurred to me how quiet the park was today.  Yesterday there had been people everywhere.

I took the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and discovered a wonderful area of moss that was like a Valentine from Nature and another like a Caterpillar.  I then made my way to the top again and I decided to head down the Peak Trail. Once on the trail I looked to see if  Hawks were on the dead tree perches.  Nothing, so I headed home.

Have a Lovely Adventure
Much Love, Lee

The Yellow Brick Road and Sky Surfers

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

Birds of Prey Ruled the Day

When I awoke the Weather Chanel informed me low temperatures had returned to Hot Springs, so I gathered up my cold weather gear. Out the door and into the park early, I could sense things were not as they were yesterday. The birds appeared to be flying into every low bush they could find, not basking in the first sunlight of the tallest trees. I glanced across to West Mountain and saw a large bird flying just above the tree line. What appeared to be a large hawk then banked heading straight for Hot Springs Mountain.  As he/she flew over I was able to get a single photo before they vanished over the trees on the mountain top. I knew it would be a VERY long time before the small animals and birds came out from their hiding places so I continued my hike to the top of Hot Springs Mountain.

All the way to the top it was silent accept for an occasional bird call off in the distance. When I arrived at the Pagoda for my daily view shot all was still silent.  As I raised my camera a Hawk flew into view it was spectacular.  I often stand for 30 or minutes waiting for a large bird to soar past and generally walk away with nothing.  Today I was blessed with two separate sightings.

I decided to hike over to Goat Rock and headed down Hot Springs Mountain Trail.  During the Icy cold mornings late in December and in early January I would see only one other person when I was hiking. Today I introduced myself to hiking regular Robert (formerly of Colorado).  He kindly imparted lots of information about what I should look for as the seasons change.  He headed out on the trail as I continued my search for birds.

I ran into Robert again as I headed down the Gulpha Gorge Trail and we were joined by Cynthia and Teddy (Great Pyrenees).  They were visiting from Chicago, Illinois for the racing season at Woodlawn. We all chatted parted company and headed out on our separate hiking trails.

It was a beautiful day and the view from Goat Rock was Spectacular and I sat for a while at the lookout enjoying the view. I decided to continue my hike by heading back up the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the North Mountain Overlook.  The sky was an amazing blue and in the distance an Turkey Vulture slipped behind a ridge top.  I stood there for 5 minutes and was rewarded with a spectacular display of two Turkey Vultures flying in tandem.  This was my first experience trying to keep two birds in frame and not step off the edge of the overlook and crash down onto the Upper Dogwood Trail.   Only one brave chipmunk had slipped out for a moment and I was please to see him/her safely return to their burrow.

I headed home via the Upper Dogwood Trail and the wind was punishing and it continued on Hot Spring Mountain and Honeysuckle Trails.  My amazing day finished with a look out my window at my mountain as another large bird road the wind across the ridge top.  The Raptors had been like surfers catching the perfect wave and not wanting to go home till darkness fell. Who could blame them.

Love to You All, Lee

The Morning Tree, Old Friends and Feathered Ones

Early start revealed the The Morning Tree, a place where as the sun touches as it crests the mountain and all the promenade birds gather. It was a chaotic cacophony to start a perfect day. The tree held all manner of birds including Cardinals and Cedar Waxwings. They all began feasting on the berries as the sun rose against the blue sky. It was a spectacular sight. Amidst the flight of fancy a squirrel slipped off a tree to gather it’s own morning feast.

I quickly hiked up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails and made my way to the mountain top. As I looked back I saw a young man carrying a small boy on his shoulders, Jude and Neil.  I shook hands and introduced myself and asked I could take a photo for my blog, they agreed. Young Jude announced “Where is the Tall Building” and it made me smile, he was excited about going to the Tower.

It was off to the Pagoda for the view, then on down to the Hot Springs Mountain trail to connect with the Gulpha Gorge then over to Goat Rock.  At the beginning of the Gulpha Gorge Trail a beautiful little Tufted Titmouse appeared and vanished in almost the blink of an eye.  Further down the Trail I was surrounded by wonderful Blue Jay calls and was fortunate get several photos.

Goat Rock held my favorite surprise, new friends Ginger and Rickey along with their beautiful dog Lady were there. We had a delight visit until the skies started to darken and we headed off in opposite directions.

I climbed to the top and took some photo at the North Mountain Overlook.  The skies were the antithesis of the sunny view from the pagoda. It was filled with dark blue gray clouds and I decided it was time to head home.

Thank you for joining me on this days adventure. Love, Lee

Busy Day on the Mountain

The urge to search for my four paw friend from the day before means I will be covering a lot of ground today. As I will be searching specific areas I decided to photograph in earnest the trail, markers etc. for winter so I will have a four season gallery for each trail.  Up on the Tufa Trail the squirrels are mating (photos below) and the birds are singing as the sky begins to clear.  It is another wonderful day in the park. Took my own pic on Mountain Top and shot one of a LARGE American Crow?  Beautiful Bird Perched high above the Peak Trail. Even caught a sweet Slate-Colored Dark-Eyed Junco as I continued down the mountain.

To be clear I covered about 5 1/2 miles today and climbed to the top on two different trails in hope of spotting that sweet little dog, but there was no sign of him/her.  I hiked the Tufa, Dead Chief, Short Cut, Hot Springs Mountain and Peak Trails in an effort to locate any sign they might still be out there.

Lost shot conceals a hidden treasure

It was an overcast morning in Hot Springs and the forecasts indicated rain later in the day so I headed out at 09:30 CST.  I decided to hike the Dead Chief Trail although I usually save this route for cold mornings but I am still keen to photograph the elusive Bobcat.  I headed up the steps to the top of first incline but no sign of my four pawed friend.  Birds are all active and I try to catch a few in my lens, snap a few that appear to be a bit late.  However upon returning home I discovered a missed bird had reveal a hidden treasure hiding on the branch above me.

The sky began to darken so I opted for a hike that involved speed rather than a leisurely photo shoot.  As I moved to another section of the trail where it parallels the mountain top road a small dog suddenly appeared.  After I took his photograph I noticed a stream of cars and ran out to alert them to his position on the road.  All attempts to lure him/her to us failed both by my self and others.

I continued to the top via the Short Cut Trail, then took the  Hot Springs Mountain Trail around to The Honeysuckle Trail down the Peak to the Tufa Terrace and home… just missing the downpour.  Don’t get me wrong I have climbed/hiked in  a torrential rain, weather rarely stops me :o) but I left my rain gear behind and getting soaked was not something I was hoping to avoid.

Charge Your Camera Batteries

This is a public service announcement.. CHARGE YOUR CAMERA BATTERIES!  I lost the opportunity for 3 great photos when my camera kept turn off in the middle of taking the threes photos I post for you today.  Not my best work but I share them as a reminder to us all in the digital age of what can be missed if your batteries are low.  Featured in the blurry photos below are the Pileated Woodpecker, Red Bellied Woodpecker and a Chipmunk.