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Happily this day involves snow not ice, making hiking a bit easier. Although I am sure any observers of my climb up the entrance ramp each morning will miss my comedy routine of sliding.
Snow dusted the landscape as I entered the park this morning, light and fluffy the slightest breeze sent it up in the air falling lightly about me. The Robins were in the biggest trees enjoying a feast of berries and basking in the morning light. I headed to the Tufa Terrace and as I moved up the path a Chipmunk pop it’s head out of it’s burrow. I froze and waited to see if they would be heading out to forage, I did not want to frighten them as I knew it was important for them to get food. They popped back out and sat grooming for a few minutes then went back into the burrow.
The Carriage Road was filled with bird song and I caught site of a lovely little Tufted Titmouse in the tree before me. More bird calls lead me to a female Cardinal and a White-Throated Sparrow. I headed up the Dead Chief Trail and as I connected to the Short Cut Trail more bird calls rang out. First a Pileated Woodpecker sounded an alarm and flew off, then a Blue Jay appeared to make his warning. Suddenly the the sound of Crows filled the forest and a large flock flew over dipping and diving looking for food.
I climbed to the top of Hot Springs Mountain and as I crossed the Picnic Area a Female Cardinal landed on a branch in front of me then soared up and out of the tree. A few paces further and a Male Cardinal appeared on a snow covered branch. Their presence lifted my heart and lightened my step. As I climbed the steps into the Pagoda I noticed the sky was pastel blue with a variety of cloud formations. A female slate-color Junco landed in the grass below and was joined by a Northern Mocking Bird. A few minutes passed and a Male Cardinal appeared and was joined by a Blue Jay.
The Hot Springs Mountain Trail was peaceful and I enjoyed the snow covered scenery. It was a meditative journey broken only by the arrival of a Red Bellied Woodpecker. He traveled with me until I changed over to the Gulpha Gorge Trail. Small Juncos were everywhere and they flew up from the path almost my entire hike down to the gorge. I decided to return to the park entrance via the Dead Chief Trail, I had never seen the gorge end of the trail after snow fall.
The trail looked beautiful decked out in snow, it made me smile. I was greeted by Blue Jays flying from tree to tree sounding their warnings. A few minutes later the large flock of crows flew over again. I was looking up at the flock and nearly ran into a large tree that had fallen across the path. Ice and snow fall the past few days had accumulated in the tallest trees. The heavily weighted crowns of the short leaf pines were bringing them down throughout the park.
A the trail head a Chipmunk and I nearly ran into each other and I am not sure which one of screamed loudest. Our startled looks at each other made me laugh out loud. I was still thinking about the encounter when I reach the park exit ramp. Half way down I looked to the side to see a chipmunk peeking at me from the side of the tree. It had been a lovely day in the park.
To Love Nature Frees Our Soul to Soar within the Universe.