I am typing my blog watching a large storm rage outside, thunder, lightning and flash floods. It is rain that has been so desperately needed in the park, life giving liquid. For two week we have been under a heat advisory and with each passing day wildlife was becoming less visible. I was worried they could die from the lack of rain and the extreme heat, Hot Springs has been having “August temperatures” since mid June. The ground cover foliage was turning yellow and leaves were drying and falling off the Trees as if it were Autumn. Today a cool breeze came in ahead of the storm and the park came back to life.
When I enter the park at the Arlington Lawn above me in a Magnolia Tree I hear a delicate conversation taking place between two Sparrows. I look up to see a female House Sparrow teaching her chick how to fly from branch to branch. It is a beautiful sight to see how loving the instruction is delivered. My heart is filled with joy as I head further into the park.
When I reach the promenade a tiny moth is fluttering on the brick walkway. As I get closer it fans open it’s tattered wings as it feeds on the pollen that coats everything (everyone too) in the park. I admire it’s courageous ability to fly off with the tips of it’s wings shredded. Further along a small squirrel is coming up from the first level of the hot water spring cascade and I wonder if it was trying to get a drink.
As I move over to the Tufa Terrace the bird song is lovely and I enjoy the peaceful moment. Nearing the large Tufa Rocks I see a lovely Wild Rabbit, an Eastern Cottontail having a breakfast of sweet long grass. Although I am clearly spotted it continues eating and allows me to freely take photographs, I feel blessed. Further along a juvenile Male Cardinal is searching for water at a site the NPS often vents the upper Hot Springs. The Juvenile is half way between it’s baby green and it’s soon to be vibrant red. It is a wild color transformation.
When I reach the Carriage Road I can see a female Cardinal searching for seeds. Once she locates her treasure she moves into a Tree above me to enjoy her feast. I love seeing her bright orange and olive green contrasted against the Juniper Tree. When she flies away I follow her up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails to reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain.
I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and begin hiking on the east side of the Mountain. When I see what I thought was a leaf move on the Trail I stop. When I zoom in with my camera I realize it is a tiny Chipmunk sitting in the middle of the trail. Once I am spotted it dives swiftly in to the undergrowth. I am however surprised it does give me away by sounding the classic and extremely loud Chipmunk clan alert.
Not more than 10 yards further down the trail I see another Chipmunk gracefully perched on a Rock to my side. It sits for several minutes before diving into the leaves, again no warning sounded. I am floating down the trail on the memories of all the beautiful creatures that have allowed me to see them today. I hear a noise to my side and see another Chipmunk climbing up a fallen Tree, I love how their markings and colors vary. As I reach the final bend in the trail I notice it is lighter than normal. It takes me a moment to see the NPS has cut down a large Short Leaf Pine and based on the amount of woodpecker holes on it this might mean it is was dying. As I scan an old downed Tree near it I see another lovely Chipmunk. I am so happy so many are alive and survived the extreme heat. At the Trail head I look down as a bright green grasshopper, it is wonderful!
When I reach the west side of the Trail a lovely Black-Capped Chickadee lands in a Tree above me. They are so tiny and I marvel at their loud and vibrant song. To my side a tiny juvenile Squirrel peeks at me from a high limb. As I connect with the Upper Dogwood Trail I look up to see a Juvenile Mourning Dove poised on a high branch in front of a perfect Arkansas Blue sky. As I continue my hike a lovely blue butterfly lands on the sunlit green leaves next to me. At one point the sunlight causes a beautiful halo effect around it’s wings.
Nearing the my connection with the Lower Dogwood Trail I notice a large moth feeding on a plant I first noticed on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a couple of weeks ago. I Love watching it’s delicate dance as it moves from on blossom to another. I make a mental note to pay more attention to these bushes.
From the Lower Dogwood I hike down the Floral Trail to finish my hike on North Mountain. When I reach the trail head I see a group of young people in yellow T-Shirts climbing up the Floral Trail on Hot Springs Mountain. They are with the Youth Conservation Corps and I extend my thanks to them for helping to take care of the park.
Make taking time to explore Nature a priority.