I decide to hike to a location in Hot Springs National Park that has a lower visitor count. It is my hope the Fordyce/Ricks Pond and the Sunset Trail will have an abundance of Wildflowers. The heat this spring has sorely limited the number of Wildflowers blooming along the most accessible trails in the park.
Unexpectedly the only blooms I can locate around the pond turn out to be an alien invader… a domestic pink Tea Rose. The pond is low and murky, the Striped Bass are barely visible even in the sunlight. The shell to shell line of Turtles that usually line the exposed logs basking in the sun are scarce. The usually abundant Dragonflies are not present either, the most hopeful sign is a swarm of gnats.
Further into the Forest on the Sunset Trail only tattered single Wildflowers appear on the trail edges. The usually encompassing canopy has many gaps and it seems too bright in the early morning light. I miss being wrapped in the dark green of past late springs. Even broad Leaf evergreen Trees are dropping there leaves covering the trail as if it were Autumn.
As I photograph and stare wistfully at a Black-Eyed Susan I have the feeling I am being watched. Slowly turning I see a sweet face peeking at me from the top of an old stump. A tiny Five-Lined Skink is watching me, after I take couple of photos he/she vanishes. As I take a step forward past the stump I see the beautiful blue tail of my new friend. It calmly stretches its full exposed body until we are eye to eye. I am surprised it is not moving it’s bright blue tail to lure me from seeing the lovely striped face.
Another half mile along the trail, still no sign of birds or small mammals and only a distant huff of a deer. Nearing the top of the ridge I spot a lovely turtle walking toward me. She stops momentarily unsure of my presence, then pokes her head back out continuing past me to the edge of the trail. Stopping to look back at me I am taken by the beauty of her markings and the lack of damage to her shell. Living off the beaten path has offered her some protection. The shells of most of the turtle on Hot Springs, North and West Mountains always seem to have damage including canine teeth punctures. This is becoming the year of reptiles in Hot Springs National Park.
I am concerned the extreme heat will add an extra layer of combustibility to the Forest. If you are out in the park this spring/summer please don’t smoke.
Love to ALL!