The past few weeks have been my first living with the threat of tornadoes. Engulfed in thunder storms, hail and heavy rain we have not been able to get out into the Forests and Mountains that surround our home. So when I discovered there was a 4 hour window in the morning of moderate weather I grabbed my boots and headed out for a hike.
Although my cell phone is suppose to ring me when there is an elevation in the weather alert system I tend to trust my eyes. I have a plan for distance and time that will bring home safely before the storms reach us. A Male Cardinal sits on a branch looking out toward West Mountain as I reach the Peak Trail via the Tufa Terrace. On the Carriage Road the Squirrels are high in the Trees screeching out a warning. They appear to be railing at the sky for the wind, rain and lightning that has bombarded the park for several weeks.
I reach the Dead Chief Trail as another Male Cardinal is singing a sweet song trying to beckon the sun to come out. He is unsuccessful. The hike up the trail is much better than I expected as often heavy rain will carve a channel into the rock and dirt surface. When I reach the Short Cut Trail I hear an unfamiliar bird call and turn to see a Juvenile Blue Grosbeak. Another call rings out and a Male Cardinal appears, the third I have seen this morning. The many vibrant red Cardinals are spectacular perched within the gorgeous spring greenery.
On the second rise of the Short Cut Trail clusters of leaves are strewn across the path. The wind definitely came up this part of the Mountain, as I reach the top I see a tree that has been twisted and bent over (see Hot Springs National Park – Twisted Bent Tree – Microburst, Tornado or…?).
The skies are darkening as I step into the Hot Springs Mountain pagoda and look out over the valley. I decide it is best to continue at a quicker pace as I am unsure how quickly any storm cells will form over the park. A sweet Chipmunk stops briefly on a log as I move along the Hot Springs Mountain Trail. I am pleased to see many new steams have filled and cross the path, water is life! A loud bird call reveals a lovely Gray Catbird in the mist ahead of me. As I finish taking a photograph a not so friendly reminder of spring smacks me in the forehead. As I feel the burning it is already too late, I pull from my face a huge winged stinging insect. Not the greeting I have expected or wanted to announce bug season has begun.
Near the trail head I can see a Tree laying across my path, it is sad to another lost life in the Forest. The saturated soil could not hold its roots against the storms of the past week and it was uprooted. On the North Mountain leg of the trail there is little or no sign of the high winds of the previous evening. Only the sound of running water in the distance reminds me of the volume of rain which has fallen in the park. A lovely Tufted Titmouse, a Male and Female Cardinals are all foraging for food before the storms return.
I connect with the Honeysuckle Trail then the Floral to make my way back home. Just over three hours have passed and I want to be home safe before the next storm warning. A sweet Male House Sparrow and a baby Squirrel guide me out of park, it is a perfect end to my much need hike in the Forest. I can see my beloved husband Rick is relieved and happy as I walk in the door… I am a very lucky woman.
Love to ALL!