The Horseshoe Mountain Trail in Lake Catherine State Park Arkansas is one of my favorite places to hike. The trail winds through a wonderful variety of peaceful landscapes. Each season provides hikers with different points of interest and diverse wildlife.
My hike begins in a beautiful Pine Forest zigzagging up the side of Horseshoe Mountain. Two Swallowtail Butterflies dance lightly across a Red Buckeye Bush illuminated by stray rays of sunlight. Soon the Pine Forest is interspersed with broadleaf Trees as the trail hugs a large outcropping of Rocks. Winding higher up the mountain I pick my way through boulders and sparse Trees in a constant climb toward the first plateau.
Large Rocks and Pine Trees give way to a spectacular Deciduous Forest decorated with colorful Wildflowers. The trail make me feel as if I am moving through a vast cottage garden . The natural flow of the path is lined by Rocks, Grasses, Wildflowers and newly leafing Trees. Tiny birds move rapidly among the Leaves of the spring canopy stopping only to feast on the plentiful insects. An old log on my right is a launching platform for a swarm of white-winged termites. In the early morning light their translucent wings glow as they lift off drifting on a light breeze. For a moment I pause and imagine them to be woodland fairies launching themselves into the beautiful spring Forest.
At the top of Horseshoe Mountain (782 feet) the trail traverses a ridge through the thinning Forest. A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker is hopping from Tree to Tree searching for its breakfast. His red head markings are spectacular against the greenery surrounding us. Large clusters of Rose Verbena are growing from the edges of Rocks that create a series of obstacles on the trail. Yellow winged Grasshoppers spring forth with every step creating an illusion of flying Wildflowers. Lizards scramble under the Leaves as my footfall disrupts their basking in the sunlight.
The trail leads me down into a predominantly Pine Forest dotted with spectacular blooming white Dogwood Trees. A tiny Black and White Warbler peers cautiously at me as I pass beneath its hiding place in the leaves above. When I reach the bottom of the trail it intersects with the Falls Branch Trail then continues up the other side of Horseshoe Mountain.
On the top of the next ridge Deciduous Trees give way to a meadow sprinkled with Spiderwort, Wood Spurge, Birds Foot Violets, Rose Verbena and Potato Dandelions. In another month the dominant green ground cover will give way to a blanket of purple, pink, yellow and white. An opening in the foliage at the end of the ridge affords a view of both Lake Catherine below and Dam Mountain to the right. It is a perfect place to pause and reflect on the beauty Nature has painted for me today.
The trail rapidly descends toward the Lake through a forest floor blanketed by years of rust autumn leaves. Beautiful Red Buckeye Bushes dot the side of the mountain drawing me toward the shoreline. A sweet Chickadee sings a soulful serenade and glances shyly at me from a branch winding across the trail. I continue on the path crossing both a suspension and small wood bridge that leading me past nearby lake front campsites. A short while later I reach the trail head from which I began my hike.
Love to ALL!