You never know what is around the bend… have a lovely day on or off the trails.
The Universe’s Love caresses the earth, its golden embrace fills my Soul in mornings first light. ~ Lee Hiller-London
Summer heat is fading into cooler days and the Forest has begun its transition to autumn. Early morning light illuminates the Forest as I head up the Canyon Trail on West Mountain. Beautiful wildflowers abound on the Oak and West Mountain Trails in purple (Southern Blazing Star and Common Dittany), green, pink (Slender Bush-Clover and Small Leaf Tick-Trefoil), yellow (Partridge Pea and Yellow false Foxglove), blue (Asiatic Dayflower) and white (Nodding Ladies’ Tresses, Flowering Spurge and Deerberry).
Colorful False Turkey Fantail Fungi are banded in green, gold, rust, burgundy, grey, purple and white cover fallen Forest giants. Autumn Leaves have begun to dot the landscape both in the Trees and on the path. Spectacular leaves of vibrant yellow, rich red and bright pink glow in the rising morning sun. Baby Lizards are darting back and forth as I reach the top of West Mountain and onto the Sunset Trail. The view of the valley below stretches far to the Ouachita Mountain Forests past the sparkling blue Lakes of Catherine and Hamilton.
Delicately moving in the distance among the Trees Whitetail Deer scatter at the tiniest sound. A small Nuthatch hops skyward on a tall Short Leaf Pine as I hold my breath and try to get closer to a young Buck nibbling on leaves. Cool breezes gently tug at my hair as I stop to watch Common Dittany swaying gracefully along the trail edges. When I step out of the Forest I glace back once more into its beauty before I head home.
Much Love to ALL!
Happy Earth Day! Please enjoy these photographs taken in the Rainforest on Hot Springs and North Mountains in Hot Springs National Park. The morning was foggy, rainy and windy perfect weather for a hike on Earth Day. I hope you will enjoy the photographs of my hike through the Rainforest. The Universe has been feeding the Forest for several days and now the creeks are full so they will provide a much needed resource for the park residents. What others see as bad weather I see as life, these storms have been a blessing.
Love the Earth!
PS:Note to Hot Spring national Park management… having staff mow down the fields of Wildflowers on Earth Day seemed an odd way to celebrate. Tourists and hikers actually enjoy seeing and photographing the beautiful blooms and you feature them on several pages within your website (Plants, Natural Features & Ecosystems, Outdoor Activities, Sunset Trail). The many insects that pollinate the park feed from their spectacular flowers; including but not limited to Butterflies, Moths, Bees and Wasps. Not sure if your conservation team is communicating with the park maintenance staff, but it might be a good topic to discuss. Wildflowers are as your website states an important part of the Ecosystem.
The language of the Forest is beautiful and complex, I feel blessed whenever it shares it’s songs with me. Learning the language of many species has allowed me to photograph them in the wild as they are mean to be seen. No cages to trap them, no food to lure them; behaviors that are true not controlled by the devices of man. This morning as I hiked along the Oak Trail I heard a distinctive cry high above me. Actually it can be best described as the sound of cackling Chickens. Once you have heard it and spotted it’s source you cannot resist looking up to see this beautiful bird. Black and white with a sassy red crest the Pileated Woodpecker is ALWAYS a glorious sight. Slightly smaller with reddish brown eyes I know this is a juvenile. Although I can hear two maybe three, this is the only one I can spot among the Short Leaf Pines. Note for birder/photographers my camera lens is a 70-400mm the Sony Alpha 55 digitally extends the shooting capability to 600mm although very high in the tree the sun was in the perfect position to capture a clear view/shot.
I Love the West Mountain Trail, this is the second time I have caught sight of a flock of tiny Black-Capped Chickadees. They flit in rapid playful movement among the bright colored autumn Leaves. Their sweet pipping song fills the Forest trail the Trees around me and I have to guess at times where I think they will appear based on their voices. Even when I can hear them, within in the cover of the leaves they are often invisible due to their speed and tiny size. I Love being surrounded by their joyful song and playful flight.
The Autumn Leaves are vanishing quickly as December approaches Trails once bathed in red green gold and rust are nearly naked. This reveals Natures strength, Her Rocks and Trees now stand exposed to the coming winter. They become Her Winter canvas painted with a colorful pallet of Lichen, Moss and Fungi. Once hidden by the leaves of Spring, Summer and Autumn I see sculptures, twisted, bent, pitted chipped and broken. I marvel at Trees that hold one and other in gentle embrace against storms long past. At Rocks shaped by rain, hail, wind and ice. Where others see a barren Forest I see Nature’s strength, a beauty beyond the visual. Pure emotion can be seen in Her Winter Mountains, a world filled with exquisite detail and subtle colors.
I hiked up to the park’s highest point, the Music Mountain towers. The paths to the top are not marked by park signs, I Love that someone created trail head markers by stacking Rocks. I have seen stacked rock throughout the park and wonder if they are all created by the same person. If you read my blog THANK YOU for these wonderful markers, they point and flow with Nature’s beauty.
Although I am saddened by the sight of these Mountain top metal structures I am grateful for the park wide cell service. Cell service that allowed me to share my hikes with my Mother when she was nearing her death, a chance for us to be together with a background chorus of Nature. The spires of metal have now become perches to the largest of the feather creatures of the park Turkey Vultures, Eagles and Hawks. I wonder if the presence of these man made structures as encouraged larger populations of these magnificent birds? For good or bad the towers will remain. I felt guilty for photographing the Vultures on the towers the other day, it felt as it was cheating viewing them on these man made perches that act as lures. I wonder if the towers have changed their behavior as ground nesters.
As I am hiking down West Mountain I reach a bend just in time to spot a Slate-Colored Junco, it is a glorious blue black with a pale beak. It suddenly flies away at the sound of a Hawk screeching. Although near-by I cannot locate it’s Tree top perch, and it is only as it call fades I catch a glimpse of a wing tip flying away. A few steps further down the mountain and I hear a familiar beeping sound. I quickly scan every near-by Short leaf Pine until I spot the source. It is a wonderful tiny Male Downy Woodpecker hopping up, down and around the truck of a distant Tree.
As I near the end of the Oak Trail I can hear a chorus of birds that include Sparrows, Cardinals and another voice. They are gathered just off the trail on what once was the old scenic dirt carriage road that circled the park at the base of all six Mountains (Hot Springs, North, West, Music, Sugarloaf and Indian). It appears Trees were removed to create a fire break between the city below and the Mountain above. A Female Cardinal leads me down the old dirt road to a flock of Sparrows. The sound of the unidentified bird has grown louder and I look up to see what appears to be a small woodpecker. The spectacular back & wing pattern with a yellow belly and flash of red under the beak let me know I have found a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
I discover a spectacular Yellow wildflower, would love to know what it is! UPDATE: Special thanks to Twitter @USWildflowers http://USWildflowers.com for identifying this yellow beauty as False Foxglove. A wonderful treat to end my hike.
Get out and play a park, a forest, a dessert, a green space or your backyard… Nature is waiting for you 🙂
Love to You ALL!
The leaves are still falling and the sky is a perfect “Arkansas Blue” (you have too come to Hot Springs to see what I mean) that makes photos seem unreal. They are preparing the lower park Arlington Lawn for the Holiday light show. November 23rd will be the chili cook-off and tree lighting this year. As I head up into the park I realize it is MUCH colder now and the steam from the vents is more visible. When I reach the Carriage Road a sweet squirrel is digging up some breakfast which it proudly displays as I move closer. As I reach the Dead Chief Trail I look up to see a another squirrel heading across a branch to reach a large nut.
Traveling up the Dead Chief Trail I look up to see amazing red, yellow and green leaves highlighted in the first morning light. The sunrise is spectacular as the light radiates through the multicolor leaves. I feel rejuvenated bathed in Nature’s Autumn colorful rays. Along the Short Cut trail it is silent except for the light crunch of the rust leave covering the path. Moments later a LARGE dog rounds the bend roaming free and ahead of it’s owner (please see ongoing park dog problem).
On the Hot springs National Park Trail I hear the lovely chatting chirps of an old friend as I near the Pagoda. Peeking at me from the side of a tree is a wonderful Carolina Wren. In a sweet game of peek-a-boo it pops out on the side on the tree then hides for several minutes. Autumn reveals many winged friends hidden in the lush greenery of spring and and summer. I Love the transition of the Forest into winter.
When I reach the Floral Trail the Autumn Leaves are glowing in the late morning sun. The happy pip of a Tufted Titmouse is echoing before me. It is a joy to spot the delightful bird in the last of the green leaves to my side. Vibrant yellow rimmed in rust leaves are spectacular against a perfect “Arkansas Blue” sky, maybe that should be a perfect “Hot Springs Blue” sky. Its hard to keep from staring upward at the dazzling contrasting colors. I am blessed to be on this trail to see the beauty today.
Get out and crunch in the Autumn Leaves.