Another morning in the southern heatwave, 6:45 am it is already a sauna as I enter the park. Passing the Arlington Lawn I realize that the Tree ahead of me looks different. On closer inspection the change is actually not a discoloration but a large Cicada. It is an example of how I often spot wonderful creatures in the Forest to photograph. The clue is anomalies, things and places that seem not quite the same as the last time I passed.
As I head up Hot Springs Mountain a lovely squirrel peeks at me from behind a Tree on the Tufa Terrace Trail. Further along a male Eastern Cottontail is sitting by the side of the trail. Slowly I approach taking five steps then stopping, repeating until I am in camera range. Only a few feet separates us and the Cottontail looks at me and begins to groom his fur. Cleaning completed he begins grazing on the delicate green grass. After 20 minutes I leave to begin my assent up the Peak Trail past lovely Asiatic Dayflowers and tiny Fungi on the path edges.
At the top I connect with the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the continue on the Honeysuckle Trail. As I near the “Wedding Chapel” I see a lovely green bird in a Tree to my right and I watch as it fly across the path. When I turn my head a flash of red appears in the leaves of the high canopy. It it a glorious Male Scarlet Tanager and I believe the Green bird was the female. They are the first I Scarlet Tanagers captured by my lens in the park during my two years of hiking. I have never seen a more spectacular red, it glows even in the dim early morning light. Soon the male is it flying away and deeper into the high Forest canopy.
From the Honeysuckle Trail I reconnect with the Peak Trail to finish my descent. I am surprised to see the Male Cottontail from early this morning in the grassy edge of the Trail. He sits still as I draw closer and turns his head to look at me from several different angles. It makes me realize the wide range of sight the placement of the Eastern Cottontail eyes afford them. Even with its head completely facing away his eyes are visible.
As I exit the park via the Tufa Terrace Trail I can see Common Mullein growing on the bank below. The yellow blooms remind me of drops of sunlight. Another first for my lens on this VERY HOT early morning hike through the Forest in Hot Springs National Park.
Nature is waiting to embrace you today!
Lot of Love,
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