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!