To be honest what started as a beautiful day in the park became stressful as I was snarled and barked at by several off leash dogs. Two sets of runners thought they could run with big off leash dogs that were not always with their owners. I was trying to take photos and relax but I ended up being pushed off the trail by runners and their off leash dogs. See the ongoing saga of out of control dogs in the park.
This is my first full Autumn in the park and it is a subtle blend of red rust brown and gold. As I head up the Dead Chief Trail I can see the historic cistern on the hospital property has had a roof cave in. I am sad to see this as many of the park animals use it for shelter during extreme weather. It is also a spare source of water during drought conditions. It has been here for over one hundred years, now it is a vanishing piece of history. My hike to the top of the mountain is spectacular in the early morning light. It is so quiet though and I wish I could hear a bird or the shuffling of squirrels in the leaves.
Along the Hot Spring Mountain Trail I am surrounded by the Autumn Glow of multicolored leaves painting the Forest. Every step reveals the beauty of the changing Forest, from the smallest Vine to the tallest Tree. The sunlight filters in illuminating the varying shades of color making many leaves appear translucent. I am perched on the edge of the trail photographing a leaf when a runner bumps me, several seconds later I am knocked by an off leash dog trying to catch up. Another dog appears, this one barks and growls at me it continues the chase, seconds later another runner brings up the back. I move along the trail enjoying the gorgeous Autumn morning when suddenly a large tan dog appears (off leash) seconds later followed by a runner, followed by another. They are steaming full on at me and I am forced off the trail off the edge of the embankment. I realize these groups are the reason the wildlife has vanished. I wish the NPS would uphold their prime directive to protect the wildlife and ban dogs from the unpaved areas of the park. To read more “Note to NPS about dogs in the park”
I spend the rest of my hike warily waiting for the next round of dogs and runners. As I pass other hikers I am asked by two women whether I have seen any dogs on the trails, when I confirm that I have they sigh and shake theirs heads. It has been a beautiful but sad day in the park. Who will stand up for the rights of the wildlife in the park? The local NPS officials only appear to care about the commercial viability of bath house row. The Mountains, Forest and Wildlife are unfortunately the forgotten treasure of Hot Springs National Park.
Later in the evening I go out for a second hike with my husband Rick. On the Upper Dogwood Trail a group of hikers appear with another off leash dog. The only place we see any wildlife is as we exit the Forest and stroll on the Promenade. A lovely squirrel is gathering acorns in the failing light as a Northern Mockingbirds sings a soulful song. The sun sets behind West Mountain casting a pale golden glow pulling the treeline into silhouette. I Love hiking with my Husband. Nature can be enjoyed alone or with others, please make time in your day to visit the Trees.