You never know where the path will lead…. I went in search of Wild Turkeys and instead found Zen Rocks.
When I decided to hike on Sugarloaf Mountain (finally) there was no plan other than waking up, seeing the sun and deciding to go. On a few occasions I had brushed its edges, but always when I did not have the time to complete this leg of the Sunset Trail. I generally like to hike up the steepest parts of the trail at the beginning of my hike so I head up the Sunset Trail from the Cedar Glades entrance. My advice is wear good boots, have strong ankles and flexible knees as the trail is on an uneven loose Rock surface. I climb up into Forest that is a wonderful mix of Short Leaf Pines and a variety of deciduous Trees. Hearing a twig snap I glance to my right just in time to see fleeing Whitetail Deer. Soon the early morning sun crests the mountain top it bathing the Forest in ribbons of pale gold. Approximately 3/4 of a mile up I smell a Bear and although I stand silently for several minutes no sighting is made. The Bears in our area are very small and about the size of a miniature horse.
Just over a mile up is the trail leading to Balanced Rock, it is a lovely .2 mile mile hike along a rocky trail. I have wanted to see Balanced Rock since another hiker recommended I see it 6 months ago, so I am a bit disappointed that most of the view is obscured by leaves. This is definitely on my list for a bare Trees of winter hike. On the plus side is the scenic vistas of the the valley and other mountains in the park. The sky is a perfect deep blue and the light accents the Forest on both close and far mountains.
When I headed down the Balanced Rock Trail there were no Zen Rocks on the sign post, on my return from the Black Snake Road Sunset Trail head a stack was present. I added one of my own to top off the two that magically appeared. I should not be surprised as I have seen these wonderful Zen Rock stacks throughout the park. I notice several large stacks along the Sunset Trail on Sugarloaf Mountain, I even create one of my own perched on a hillside. One day I hope to see the Zen Rock Master Stacker of Hot Springs National Park, perhaps there is more than one
The trail is decked out in the purple of Asters and the vibrant yellow of Goldenrod. Tiny Gray Hairstreak Butterflies are feeding on wildflowers warmed by the sun where it slips between Trees illuminating the trail. Baby Prairie Lizards can heard if not always seen darting across and under the dried leaves blanketing the Forest floor. A beautiful Red Spotted Butterfly is perched on leaves above me like a glorious stained glass window set alight by the sun.
I never imagined my journey would end in sliding with intermittent hiking down a loose rock trail while I was humming the Beach Boys hit Little Surfer Girl. It worked, I made it the whole way down the mountain on my feet. It felt as if a strong pair of arms kept me upright a couple of times on this hike, the Universe is a wonderful traveling companion.
When I reach the bottom of the trail I cross over Cedar Glades to another trail head and noticed large patches of glorious yellow Sneezeweed. A gentle breeze is causing it to sway as beautiful Insects are feeding on the nectar warmed by sun. See video below.
Love to ALL!