The sky was bright as I headed into the park, waiting for the sun to crest the tops of the highest trees. Although light was beginning to spread out on the ground as the sun shone between the trees, it was still twilight up in the highest branches. On the Tufa Terrace five different squirrels were foraging for nuts hidden in the leaves. On several occasions there were disagreements over area rights for nut hunting. While chaos ensued below a single Squirrel sat high in a tree enjoying a breakfast feast. It was perfect start to my morning in the park.
I hiked over to the carriage road in time to see a Northern Mockingbird sitting on a bush waiting for the sun to rise. It seemed intent on being the first to see, then announce the arrival of the new day. A golden glow fell over the Dead Chief Trail as I began my hike up to the top of Hot Springs Mountain. Bird song rang out from the highest trees and I could not see the sweet beaks of the the melody makers. As I reached the top of the mountain I could here the giggles of children and I was happy to see families hiking on the Trails for Spring Break.
On the slope in front of the Pagoda there were lovely Wildflowers, Spiderwort in both pink and purple were blooming. What was once green was sprinkled with Spiderwort, Birds-Foot Speedwell, Hensbit and Bluets. The colorful burst tucked into the green was glorious in the morning light. I could see many buds all waiting their turn to explode into blossoms.
As I hiked along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I encountered my first of 3 dogs off leash in the park. It was the large Boxer and I let his owner know there were children on the trail for spring break and most weighed less than his dog and that it should be on a leash.
I did not see any birds on the trail and only as I was 3/4 of the way along did I see a Chipmunk. A large tree that had fallen over a year ago provided a perfect chipmunk condo in it’s now exposed roots. I enjoyed watching it pop in and out of the many hiding spots the tree provided. I imagined a sweet little family of Chipmunks living in the elaborate root structure.
From the Hot Springs Mountain Trail I connected with the Gulpha Gorge Trail. Here I encountered a big Lab off leash and I reminded the couple walking him was a park rule to have your dog on a leash at all times. It was especially important with all the small children in the park. They looked a bit guilty and fastened the leash.
Goat Rock Trail was warm and sunny, perfect weather for wildflowers and lizards. The trail had both and I did not know where to point my camera. Blue bellied male Prairie Lizards were bobbing their heads and displaying their best form. I suspected somewhere out of site the female lizards were all looking on. Gorgeous Bird-Footed Violets in all hues, shapes and sizes dotted the Trail edges. far below me I could see large patches of violets and hope I would see more a bit closer to the trail edges. I was loving all the color and spectacle of a spring morning on North Mountain.
As I leaned over to photograph a wildflower I was charged by an on the loose Pomeranian, making an off leash dash up the trail. The owners were frantically calling and clapping, but the little dog kept running and was not captured until they were all at the top of the trail. Although it was a funny sight the little dog could have have been hurt if had darted off the edge of the path and down onto the rocks below.
I decided it was time to head home as I wanted to have hike with Rick in the early afternoon. I reconnected with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail, then over to the Upper Dogwood, Lower Dogwood and Floral Trails. I was treated to a patch of Spring Beauty Wildflowers as I reached the bottom of the Floral Trail. I walked down Fountain Street to the park entrance and stood below a gorgeous Saucer Magnolia full of large pink buds. The fragrance in the air was divine as the park began to bloom
Love to You all… missed our hike together yesterday.
PS: The Saucer Magnolia Blossoms were on a Tree outside the NPS Administration Building. Rick and I had a lovely hike on the Promenade in the early afternoon and were lucky to see the Magnolias in full bloom.