This morning is perfection, 70s with a light breeze. It is wonderful hiking weather. The leaves gracefully wave above me as I head into the park. As I reach the of the Tufa Terrace ramp a sweet Chipmunk is sitting upright eating breakfast. A couple with a dog approaches so it dashes into the tall grass by the Tufa rocks. Further up the trail the male Eastern Cottontail is grazing in the grass. An insect causes him to dash around the grassy knoll. Once free of the annoying insect he settles back into his breakfast routine.
At the end of the Carriage Road the Asiatic Dayflowers are blooming again. Their beautiful blue blooms are always a wonderful sight. As I head up the Dead Chief Trail the rising sun shines through a gap in the canopy. The illumination of the leaves is radiant in the half light of the new morning. A glowing chandelier of green above the trail. When I reach the top of Hot Springs Mountain light is shining on a stump near the rocks. On closer inspection I notice a rock with blue and amber pattern. I am always excited when Nature reveals something new.
I hike along the Hot Spring Mountain Trail and decide to go on a mini expedition. I take the Gulpha Gorge Trail down to the camp ground and go to the creek. I hike along the banks on both sides and am sad that the beautiful sun fish are nowhere to be seen. I hope the campers have not been taking them from the creek. On a leaf I see a pale green insect with big iridescent wings. I would appreciate help with identification and am happy to credit the identifier.
My mini expedition grows as I decide to see where the Sunset Trail leads on this end. I am happy to see it is not over groomed meaning I am likely to have it all to myself. The terrain is mixed as is the landscape. Not far up the trail I see a set of stone stairs from the 1914 trail enhancements. I wonder who might have climbed them in the nearly one hundred years since they were installed. The trail from this point is rough with exposed roots and loose rocks, the terrain reminds me of the lower portion of the Goat Rock Trail.
The trail narrows and is like a goat track along the hill side with loose rock continuing. A dip in the trail entails making your way down a rock on inspection I see clear foot rests worn down by fellow hikers. I am careful as there is plenty of loose rock. Continuing along the trail I am faced with another set of much steeper and narrower stone stairs. This section of the trail runs along and drop off so I pay close attention to my footing.
The surprise is how the trail changes as you leave the stairs, it transforms into a woodland path. You find yourself enclosed in a canopy of mixed forest leaves and needles. Slightly overgrown with a few downed trees it is my kind of trail. I love its wild beauty. I discover an old stone wall and wonder its original purpose. It might have been a view spot long before the trees grew tall and thick.
I complete the North Mountain section and make a return trip. I will need to pack extra water and food the next time so I can travel over to Sugarloaf Mountain. When I reach the Gulpha Gorge Creek a couple is standing in the middle arguing and looking for something in the water. They are standing in front of a slice of paradise so I shoot the two and then the woman looking toward the lagoon. Each tells a very different story. I call them “Paradise Lost” it’s a shame they are forgetting to let Nature help them.
When I finish the climb up from the gorge I decide to take the Dead Chief Trail home. The heat has increased and I realize I will have to carefully ration my remaining water. It is definitely a 2 container trip when I venture past the gorge. As I near home I am excited to plan new adventures onto Sugarloaf Mountain and to see what is further along the Sunset Trail.
We are one with Nature.