Below a clear bluish violet morning sky it is 58 degrees with a light breeze as I enter Lake Catherine State Park. The park glows in the early light as I stand on the balcony of the visitors center looking out over the lake. I pause to watch the glossy black birds flying back and forth across the lake from the nesting boxes atop a high pole.
I drive over to the trail head and begin my hike on the Horseshoe Mountain Trail. The first thing I notice is the trail has been cleaned up a bit since my last hike here in January 2011. Last winter I could barely see the trail as the Autumn leaves were several inches deep from the winter wind. The beginning of my hike along the Horseshoe Trail is a series of gentle inclines in a Short Leaf pine Forest. Soon the landscape changes and a large Rock formation appears on my right. The dirt trail now is a series of well-worn boulders heading higher into the park. Glorious yellow Lance-Leaf Coreopsis are growing in patches among the Rocks, drops of sunlight in the spring Forest. A Pine Warbler peeks at me from the branch of a Pine Tree while higher up a Male Blue Grosbeak looks out across the park.
The higher I climb Pines begin to give way to a mixed forest and greater numbers of wildflowers. Twistflowers in pink and magenta cast a lovely pink glow over the top of lovely green undergrowth. Accents of Purple Small Skull Caps and Clasping Venus Looking Glass, Blue Carolina Larkspur plus yellow Lance-Leaf Coreopsis create a colorful feast for the eyes. The tall growth waves gently in the morning breeze and Forest has the appearance of taking rhythmic breaths. I cannot express the beauty of each step along the trail and can only hope my photographs will be an ample expression.
As I proceed up the second climb on the trail bright pink Ouachita Shooting Stars appear in greater numbers. At the top a lovely garden of Wildflowers is revealed in the rocky loose soil. Ouachita Blazing Stars, Clasping Venus Looking Glass and Twistflowers create a glorious Butterfly haven. Vibrant orange and Large Black Swallowtail Butterflies move from flower to flower surfing on a perfect spring breeze.
Soon the trail is winding down the Mountain and rounding the next bend I have a clear view of the lake below. On this perfect day I am surprised there are no boats out on the Lake. Further along the trail more Ouachita Blazing Stars sprinkled across the left side of the trail, on the right lovely blush and yellow Goat’s Rue are just beginning to bloom. As I hike down the Mountain the mixed Forest gives way to Tall Pines stretching up toward the sky and glimpse of the lake appears between their large trunks.
At the bottom I look across a small cove, on the opposite shore I spot the silhouettes of two familiar large birds sitting in the shade. Turtles are lined up along partially submerged logs catching the warmth of the spring sun. A beautiful garden of green is growing on log near the shore. Soon I reach a chain suspension bridge that likely would have water below it when the lake levels are higher. When I leave the trail to reach the Lake front I can see my to photographic subjects are still resting in the grass.
A pair of Canada Geese and Mallards Ducks are sitting at the edge of the Lake and I approach slowly, 15 minutes later all four get up and swim out into the Lake. The Mallard pair swim into the cove and tuck their heads under their wings to float and sleep. The Canada Geese paddle out into Lake and swim cautiously past a Fisherman standing on the bank.
Back on the trail it isn’t long before I spot a Squirrel foraging in the Forest and climbing Trees. It is always a delight watching Squirrel agility, their amazing skill at leaping from Tree to Tree. When I reach the Trail Head I glance once more back into the wonderful Forest where I spent my morning.
Find time to get out and let Nature wrap you in her arms.
Love to ALL!
PS Special Thanks to K J Garrett for settling the debate of Canada Geese vs Canadian Geese… although the Internet has many articles debating this issue here a Hike Our Planet we tip our hat in deference to KJ.