Saturday, March 31, 2018


When you take the training to become a certified Arkansas Master Naturalist ( ), there are several books that are included as a part of your registration fee.  One of those books is the wildflowers book shown in this photo.  Even through Arkansas is not listed as one of the areas shown on the cover, many of the flowers identified in this book may also be found in Arkansas.   Although an actual GPS device is not included in the registration fee, participants are given numerous opportunities to learn how to use a GPS device in the natural world, in ways that make recording significant locations, easier to find.

This photo shows a group of North Central Arkansas Master Naturalists who met up on a chilly morning in early spring of this year, for the purpose of photographing and marking the GPS location of wildflowers we could find along the Dogwood Trail in Lakeview, Arkansas ( ). 

Besides making notes on the GPS devices, and automatic dating/mapping of photographs taken, there was also a "hard copy" (aka, pencil and paper) record kept, of what we found.

This photo shows that in addition to phones, cameras, and GPS devices, some folks were also using tablets and i-pads for recording data and photographs.  (Did I mention it was CHILLY!!??  Hence, the need for "convertible" mittens!)

The Dogwood Trail is close to Bull Shoals Lake, in north central Arkansas.  It is accessed by entering the Corps of Engineers Campground at Lakeview.

Instead of switchbacks to get from the top of the hill to the lakeshore area, the Corps has put in these steps, and wooden railing. 

The Dogwood Trail is a pleasant 3-mile-out-and-back (1.5 miles each way) jaunt.  This sign indicates it has a 2 hour average walking time, but that is totally dependent on how many curiosities of nature one wants to investigate along the way.  Our group was doing LOTS of photography and GPS mapping, so we were on the trail considerably longer than two hours.

In this photo, a Master Naturalist has spotted a tiny little flower coming out of the hard winter ground, and it is no bigger than a penny! (Which is appropriate, because that is the hiker's name!)  She is photographing it with her smart phone, identifying it, and recording the GPS, co-ordinates for future reference. 

With special apps available for smart phones, all of the above can be done with a single "tap" of the finger!  The app notes a location with a "stick pin icon".  Then when the user clicks on the stick pin, the GPS co-ordinates will come up, along with any notes that have been added to describe the location. 

This may seem like a daunting task, which it is; however, our little group was just concentrating on spring wildflowers.  There is a DIFFERENT group of North Central Arkansas Master Naturalists, that met weekly for several years, to complete a bio-inventory of the huge expanse of Bull Shoals-White River State Park!  Now, that was a DAUNTING TASK, on a whole different level!  The data this group of volunteers collected (which had the blessing of being led by a Master Naturalist volunteer who is a professional botanist) will be invaluable as the years go by, so that comparisons can be made of plants found in the park in the year 2050, as compared to those found in the park in the early 2000's. 

Note in this photo how there is a clearly-defined trail that leads to the stream at the bottom of the hill?  Note that there are fallen leaves on either side of the trail?  Do you think that happens by itself???  NOoooooo!!  Members of the North Central Arkansas Trail Patrol regularly work on Dogwood Trail (and many others in the area) with a leaf blower, clippers, rakes, etc., to ensure a "defined" walking path for visitors.  If the leaves had not been blown off this path, it would be invisible to anyone trying to negotiate their way to the bottom.  So next time you are out enjoying our wonderful hiking trails, don't take them for granted!  In fact, you might consider being a volunteer to help keep them open to visitors!

In this photo, our project leader, Jeff H., was not using a smart phone to take the necessary photo, rather his electronic tablet. 

His device had a special "clip-on" macro photography lens, that gave him the detail he was wanting in his pictures of the tiny wildflowers. 

Most field guides for wildflowers will give descriptions and illustrations of the plant in various seasons/stages of growth.  Whereas, if there was only a photograph of a wildflower in full bloom, it might not be as easy it identify, if you were seeing it when it first emerges from the ground. 

In addition to looking on the ground, we did a bit of investigating of the buds that were beginning to come out on the some of the trees.  In cases such as this, the bark of the tree can also be helpful for identification purposes.

I took this photo of Jeff, as he made photographic records of the topography along the trail. 

And here I am, with hands uplifted, giving thanks that I made it to the turn-around point of Dogwood Trail!

We recorded the GPS location of this early bloomer, so that in future years, we can go back and see if it continues to survive in this location.  These records will also provide data that can show trends toward "early spring", "late spring", drought, and other changing climactic conditions.

I included this photo to show what a wildflower looks like in its "pre-blossom" phase.

Here is that same species of wildflower, but with the yellow bloom starting to emerge.

I am
using this photo of a "Trout Lily" wildflower, as a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse that says, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:18  This bloom will soon be "unseen", but thanks to GPS co-ordinates taken on its location, we can "fix our eyes" for future viewing, keeping in mind that God's glory is eternal!

The North Central Arkansas chapter of the Arkansas Master Naturalists will be starting a new session in January, 2019, and interested persons can check out their website, referenced earlier, for information on how to sign up.  The Master Naturalist leader (Jeff H.) of this particular GPS mapping hike of wildflowers, has a blog that has great information on other hikes of interest in north Central Arkansas.  You can check it out at    I am extremely thankful that I live in an area so filled with the beauty of God's creation, and also thankful for all the wonderful people I have met through my participation in the Arkansas Master Naturalist organization!   All of these attributes of Ozarks living has given me "MILES OF SMILES"!!!   Tricia