Clouds do not abate as I head out for my hike into a cool spring breeze traveling across the park. In the overcast morning light the beautiful Wildflowers seem to ignite the landscape as I hike up Hot springs Mountain. The vibrant pink of Wild Roses on the Tufa Terrace lead me to the glorious Blue of Asiatic Dayflowers on the carriage Road. Like lanterns lighting my way Woodland Sunflowers glow again the lush green tendrils caressing the edges of the Dead Chief Trail. As I climb higher soon yellow gives way to the purple of Smooth Petunias and Small Skullcaps. On the Short Cut Trail Spring has sent out vines to caress the Rock features. Bushes once covered with red Berries have sprouted delicate tiny white and yellow Flowers.
On the Hot Springs Mountain Trail pale yellow wildflowers dot the rise leading to the Pagoda. A male and female Cardinal are moving through the Trees and Grass seeking a morning feast. The trail ahead has a pink glow from the bright blooms of Ouachita Blazing Stars covering both sides of the path. Further along a sweet Carolina Chickadee sings a beckoning song to the morning light trying to pierce the clouds. For a brief moment sunlight breaks free to reveal beautiful Carolina Larkspur on slender stems between the trunks of Short Leaf Pine Trees. As I near the trail head patches of Fungi begin to decorate the path.
On the Gulpha Gorge Trail yellow Lance Leaf Coreopsis lead me to the now blooming storm battered blush color Goat’s Rue. I glance up to see the now fading Ouachita Blazing Stars have been replaced with the yellow and orange blooms of the Prickly Pear Cactus (Lesson learned doing plant research for this blog… the Prickly Pear Cactus is native to Arkansas! I had no clue.). As I turn to leave a Brown Butterfly kisses my cheek and lands in the dried autumn leaves at my feet. I take a moment to pause and say a silent prayer of thanks.
When I reach the Goat Rock Trail I wonder which wildflowers it will reveal to me this morning. Bright yellow Lance Leaf Coreopsis and St. Johns Wort lead me past Goat Rock heading up the trail. The Clouds are separating in patches exposing the brilliant Hot Springs blue sky. Looking down to right I see an unusual Wildflower, it is square white with yellow banana like protrusion. My research later reveals its name, Horse Nettle. In the distance I see what appears to be the glow of torches. As I draw near I am delighted to see tall radiant orange Butterfly Weed glowing in the light of now brightening skies.
As I round the bend of the final rise along the Goat Rock Trail a lovely hiking partner appears. On many occasions along this trail I have had the blessing of being lead by many different winged friends, but none as small as the one hopping a few feet a head of me. My usual hiking companions on the trail have been Robins, Crows or Mourning Doves. To have a tiny Black and White Warbler leading the way, not flying off at my close foot fall has never happened prior to this moment. Five minutes along she flies up to the side of a nearby tree and I take a final photograph before she moves back across the trail and deeper into the Forest.
Turning to follow her path I see a wonderful Wildflower climbing up the branches of a small Tree. This unusual vine has lovely bell shaped purple blossoms that appear to bust forth into feathery tendrils. I am intrigued by the variety of beautiful transitions this Wildflower attains. Special Thanks to Gerry Williamson @USWildflowers http://USWildflowers.com for assisting me with the identification of Leather Vasevine – Clematis viorna. Also a thank you to the sweet Black and White Warbler for leading me to its location.
I decide to begin my return home via the North Mountain Loop to see which Wildflowers are blooming on the roadside. It is a visual feast of Sunflowers, Black-Eye Susans and Daisy Fleabane with the occasional patch of Ouachita Blazing Stars. It is as if Nature threw a hand full seeds at the hillside to created a wonderful tapestry of color. I spot a lovely patch of Pink Clover Flowers and for a moment I am five years old in the field next to my childhood home in Oregon. Near the bottom of the loop I spot another patch of Prickly Pear Cactus with large yellow and orange blossoms. I am still amazed that Cactus could be native to Arkansas.
As I leave the park another wonderful gift from Nature awaits me on the Arlington Lawn. Pecking in the Grass is a lovely Juvenile Brown Thrasher. I can’t wait to hear it’s repertoire of the park and city sounds as it matures. The last one I saw in the park could imitate all the neighboring birds, a GameBoy and several different cell phone ring tones.
When you see the world through Nature’s eyes you will find peace in your heart.
Love to ALL!