Saturday 15 July 2017. Meadowbrook Summer Prairie Crowned by Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:07 it was 59 degrees F under party cloudy skies, the air calm.

Just returned from several days in the Colorado mountains (yes, they were awesome!) and was eager to see what what the summer prairie bloom at Meadowbrook Park was doing.

Rode Rhododendron the road bike southward to Windsor Road and barely stopped before pushing the button and crossing. They seemed to have worked the bugs out of the system, hooray!

Then entered Meadowbrook at the Race Street entrance, passed by the Sensory Garden, and walked the bike toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

On the way, at the edge of the wooded area next to the pavilion were American bellflowers.

img_1258

McCullough Creek under the little wooden bridge was low and pooled. Was there some kind of dam upstream? The water level seemed to have gone down quickly.

Out in the prairie, looked for queen-of-the-prairie where I’d seen it a couple years ago but couldn’t see any this morning. Did not walk out into the dew-drenched vegetation to look more carefully.

But saw the early sunlight coming through the thin layer of mist that still lay over the prairie

img_1268

and through the condensation on the flowers and leaves of the prairie plants.

img_1266

Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.

img_1278

There was a gorgeous variety of prairie flowers blooming in synchrony, like a massive bouquet:

False sunflowers, Monarda,

img_1261

yellow coneflowers, Liatris,

img_1263-1

Culver’s root.

img_1275-1

Compass plant, with its erect, finger-like leaves,

img_1262

large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs

img_1327

stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,

img_1283

alone and in groups,

img_1282

was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint

img_1287-1

purple coneflower.

img_1329

Best of all, the royal catchfly were newly in bloom! They were stunning in bunches,

img_1308-1

close-up,

img_1299

and in combination with other flowers.

img_1307

On the way out got pretty close to a buck who seemed to have planned to walk right to where I was.

img_1336

Was not afraid he would charge me or something, but did have respect for his size, strength, and independence as “wild” creature. So I calmly stood where I was and tried to look at him in a way that conveyed: “No worries, dude, I’m not a threat,” and he veered off to the left.

Got a nice view of the sky over the prairie

img_1337

and headed back, stopping first for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_1342

Was glad to be there for the presentation!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday 4 July 2017. Almost to Flatville

It was 68 degrees F and mostly sunny and calm at 6:45 this morning of American Independence Day as I filled up Rhododendron’s tires (it made a helpful difference!) and headed east on Washington Street into the dappled canopy.

img_0396

Could not skip a stop at Weaver Park, even with having to traverse a stretch of trail-less grass, across which a couple of apparently well-fed ground hogs undulated toward the tree-lined street side of the park.

img_0397

The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,

img_0402

yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,

img_0401

and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,

img_0404

all beautifully set in front of the water lily pads and cattails of the pond.

Then headed back on Washington to Route 130 (High Cross Road), where there is a lovely place to view the sun rising over the landscape

img_0406

and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.

img_0407

A couple of cyclists behind me went right (perhaps to Homer Lake) and I turned left, to the north. The road was narrow but smooth and mostly without farm houses (that is, potential loose dogs) close to it.

The bridge over I-74 was simple and without much bordering vegetation.

img_0408

Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,

img_0410

and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.

img_0412

Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek

img_0413

then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.

img_0414

Came back to Ford Harris and an debated just continuing to retrace my path, but craved a little novelty. At the same time, could not remember this stretch, so took a bold gamble about its safety and plunged westward on Ford Harris Road.

Close to High Cross Road was a cemetery on the side of a little (central Illinois) hill.

img_0416

Got a distant shot of a dickcissel

img_0417

the calls (which which sounds to me something like “Uru ahim!” (“awake, my brothers!”) from the Israeli folk, song “Hava Nagila”) [Note: the dickcissel recordings I found on YouTube were not exactly like the birds I heard, but maybe you get the idea. Head out on a country road some morning and see what you think.) from conspecifics of which had been accompanying me for much of this trip.

At Perkins Road was a nice prairie planting that included non-native but handsome mullein.

img_0420

It was another satisfying 20 miles!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 2 July 2017. A Perfect Ride to Windsor Road to Homer Lake Road

This morning at 5:30 it was 65 degrees and clear, with a 2 mph breeze from the WSW, calm enough to head in pretty much any direction. So headed Rhododendron in toward Windsor Road (which I was pretty sure was free of loose dogs) with the goal of going a ways east.

Was glad to get a reasonably early start without sacrificing headstand or Pranayama, and pedaled smoothly through the perfectly comfortable (with the light cycling jacket) morning air to Windsor Road.

And there was Meadowbrook Park, which I hadn’t planned to visit, but thought, why not? and soon was taking a photo of the sun coming up over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_0271
A mud bar separated Davis Creek from its connection with McCullough Creek.

The cup plants on the on the downstream side of the bridge stood vigorous and illuminated with the sunrise.

img_0277

A layer of mist rested on the prairie and spread out the light of the climbing sun.

img_0279

The air was scented with mint and bergamot.

Wondered if the willowy wet area harbored queen of the prairie but didn’t see any. Did spot a swamp milkweed, but didn’t stop for a photo so I wouldn’t miss the sun rising over the remaining mist.

img_0287

Might have gotten a really nice shot of the deer in the mist if I’d arrived at the site two minutes earlier.

img_0289-1
Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.

img_0296-2

Stopped at The Freyfogle overlook and saw fresh Culver’s root with mountain mint,

img_0308-1

spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.

img_0311

Noticed how lovely were the lead plants,
which seemed to thrive despite a recent onslaught of insects.

img_0318

Then rode out of the park and straight east on Windsor. The air was calm, except for a “biker’s breeze”, and the grade seemed to go up for stretches (though mostly down), which promised a reasonable return ride.

Was filled with the joy of early morning out in the country in perfect weather.

img_0327
Did not expect quite this perfection and tried to let as much of it in as possible. Yes, yes, yes!

Rode past a ditch where I remembered seeing a family of raccoons.

img_0334-2

There were no raccoons today, but it’s always fun to peer down into a stream, a different world from the surrounding farm fields.

Above the creek banks, near the road, were abundant soapwort blooms,

img_0349

exotic weeds, but so softly pink and fresh and dewey.

img_0348-1

Even these plantain weeds looked like stately sculptures in this morning’s fine light.

img_0350

Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous

img_0352

The dangerous hill actually was hard to detect. Ah, my beloved central Illinois!

Then crossed a little tributary of the Salt Fork (of the Vermillion River)
where I think I always have seen wood ducks whenever I’ve been there, adults and ducklings, no less. Looked into the water, and there they were!

img_0354

There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

img_0357
A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.

img_0360

Rode east a little way, crossed the Salt Fork, and stopped at the nicely landscaped marker of the historic site of Kelley’s Tavern, where it says Lincoln used to visit.

img_0362-1

The bloom seemed different from what I recall from last year. Lots more milkweed.

img_0366

Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork

img_0370

Then turned back and retraced my route. There were horses fenced on the southeast corner where Windsor Road met Homer Lake Road, and the tail of one caught the morning sun as swished and spread wide its long horse-hairs. Didn’t manage to get a photo, but the glittering image stayed with me as I returned home on this pleasant ride, pleasant to the end.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.

img_9983

Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,

img_9985

Monarda,

img_0002-1

mountain mint,

img_9993-1

at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers

img_9995

common milkweed

img_9984

butterfly milkweed,

img_9998

Baptisia,

img_0008-1

and an early-blooming aster.

img_0005

And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.

img_0009-1

Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

img_0010

and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.

img_0011

Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.

img_0012-1

On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.

img_0022

And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

img_0026

Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wednesday 21 June 2017. Sunrise on the Solstice at Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 5:15 this morning of the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

Was thrilled (and amazed) to have gotten myself going early enough to be heading to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron ahead of the phone weather ap’s promised 5:23 sunrise.

Did as little as possible (alas, no Pranayama!) to get out to witness the Solstice sunrise at Meadowbrook.

Sped to the park and caught the sun at the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_9772

Over the bridge and around the corner looked to the north out into the prairie and saw a thin layer of mist on the ground, which enhanced the atmosphere of the sunrise.

img_9779

Tried not to tarry on the path but noted spiderwort, the occasional lingering Penstemon bloom, black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, lots of purple coneflowers in early bloom, and emerging Baptisia, with its stately white spikes of blooms that play tag-team with the Penstemon’s white flower spikes.

Got another view of the sunrise over the little bridge across Davis Creek

img_9780

and a sunrise view of a handsome Baptisia spike.

img_9788

But the flowers in which I was most interested on this solstice ride were the lead plant at the Freyfogle overlook.

img_9791

Which, against the slings and arrows of insect attack,

img_9795

were well into their micro-gaudy deep blue-violet and orange bloom.

img_9798

On the bird house to the north of the overlook were perched unmoving tree swallows, and in front of them (not pictured, alas, you have to trust me), a bright yellow and back goldfinch,

img_9802

that amazing stimulator of human endorphins. (At least for some humans. If you’re reading this you probably are one–try focusing on a goldfinch for a moment next time you get a chance and see what happens.)

Felt like I stood firmly and with joyful awareness on the summit of the year. Hooray! Let the summer begin!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.

img_9663

Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.

img_9665

Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,

img_9672

lax stewardship notwithstanding.

img_9669

And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

img_9684
Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort

img_9693

and Penstemon

img_9695

Black-eyed Susan,

img_9687

common milkweed, in a big way(!)

img_9691

false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

img_9689

and lovely blue vervain.

img_9701

Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday 17 June 2017. Lots of New Flowers at Meadowbrook but No Visible Queen of the Prairie

It was 72 degrees under progressively more cloudy skies at 6:05 this morning as I pointed Rhododendron down the driveway, toward the street and Meadowbrook Park.

First, looked at wild roses in my own back yard, which were attracting lots of pollinators.

img_9559

At Meadowbrook stopped at the arresting sensory garden

img_9570

where there were poppies, common milkweed, purple coneflowers, Delphinium, (a shameless mixture of natives and exotics, i.e., a garden) and more.

img_9579

As I walked toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie, noticed that already black-eyed Susans were starting to bloom.

img_9582

Crossed the wooden bridge over McCullough Creek

img_9584

and walked out, i.e., off the path, into the dew-covered prairie, looking where I’d see them before (but not last year, I don’t believe) for queen of the prairie flowers. Did not, however, see any.

It was pretty much worth the soaking shorts and shoes, though, because I did get decent views of other prairie flowers: common milkweed

img_9598

butterfly milkweed

img_9599

rattlesnake master

img_9613

purple coneflower,

img_9602-1

Baptisia

img_9608

false sunflower,

img_9597

wild petunia.

img_9631

Saw stalks of cup plant

img_9618

and compass plant

img_9592

elongating upward.

Spiderwort, though past its peak, continued to produce nearly perfect violet-blue triangular flowers.

img_9601

Got back on the paved path and rode past the wet area, the place of irises, where my eye was caught by an unusual (two, actually) bird. They turned out to be, unmistakably, two rose-breasted grosbeaks!

img_9623

Farther on by the Freyfogle overlook,
lead plant continued its bloom.

img_9634

Was sad not to see queen of the prairie, but its absence reminded me not to take it for granted and to appreciate the unique floral symphony that the prairie offers each year.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wednesday 12 July 2017. Velo Colorado!

It was 70-some degrees and partly cloudy at around 11 am, Mountain Time, as one of my oldest friends, her three sisters, one of her sisters-in-law, one of my sisters, and I set off for a bike ride (the day after we’d seen Santana at Red Rocks!) along the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon.

But first we had a good breakfast at the Daily Bread Restaurant, (including eggs Benedict with veggies!) which featured a lovely display of perfect-looking donuts and a clever sign based on the design of the handsome Colorado state flag.

img_1032

Felt compelled to take home one of those beautiful donuts, and did enjoy several bites (not quite the whole thing) over the next couple days. But I digress!

On the way back from breakfast, our group decided all to get one of a t-shirt I’d spotted on the way there: featuring a bike (wheels for eyes) with a smile under it.

img_1249

We were a united front!

My friend, the birthday girl, who has been living in the mountains an hour west of Denver for the past 35 years or so, had arranged a trip (bike rental and a ride to the top of the trail–not a rugged expedition but an efficient way to be together in the awesome mountains) that originated next door to the Hotel Colorado, where we were staying.

The expedition outfitters were friendly and confident as they distributed our bikes, which were labeled with names so we could easily find the one we’d spent time carefully adjusting, once we got to the trail. Mine was called, a little ironically, “No Name,”

img_1138-1

the actual name of a nearby town.

img_1061

And off we went to pedal along the Colorado river, which rushed over boulders and between walls of sculpted rock, on a bike trail that paralleled Interstate 70. Thank you, CDOT!

We stopped at a few particularly scenic places along the way

img_1065

including a little waterfall at the head of a hiking trail,

img_1092

where we chatted a while with some hikers touting the merits of inexpensive walking poles, which you could get at Walmart in a pair and split with a friend for hiking up more rocky trails.

img_1094

The scenery definitely was in another league from Velo du Jour’s usual material. It was mile after mile of SPECTACULAR landscape.

img_1067

So there was no way to describe it the way I usually do in this blog.

Not only that, but this was a social event,

img_1120-1

and my attention just wasn’t available to dwell on my personal connection to the landscape.

So had to work to stay present and not to cling to every mind-blowing arrangement of rock and water (there were so many!) that went by during this close but fleeting contact with Glenwood Canyon.

img_1099

Of course a lot of the best views were not photographed; it was ridiculous to keep stopping things to get an accurate documentation of the experience. I suppose other aspects of life are like that: you move through them without stopping, trying on the way to absorb their marvels. Perhaps like raising kids.

It certainly was a body-mind-soul stirring experience! I breathe more smoothly and fully just thinking about it. Easily imagined how people could leave behind whatever life they came from to be here, even to live here, as my friend did, to be embraced by the intoxicating mountains.

Could see how one’s thinking can be shaped by the surrounding landscape: imagining surprises tucked among the land’s folds versus seeing what seems like everything out in the open.

Knew there must be stories in each of the formations we passed and wondered what the native Americans who used to live in reverence of this area would think about tourists easily speeding among the rocks on bikes. But was hugely grateful to be able to come into such close contact with the rocks and the river without risking my life.

Toward the end of our ride we crossed the river (and I-70) over a fence-enclosed bridge

img_1135

and headed back to the Hotel Colorado to enjoy one another’s company over the sandwiches we were going to eat on the trip but didn’t because the weather seemed a little uncertain.

The rest of the trip, though without bikes, continued the high spirits of this awesome ride!

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday 11 June 2017. To Philo, Center of the Universe, and Back

It was 66 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 5:50 this morning as I rode Rhododendron south on Race Street.

It sounded so calm outside, but the phone weather ap said there was a 9 mph south wind. Have learned to respect that information so planned for a trip to Philo IL, Center of the Universe, according to its water tower.

Indeed, riding south presented me with a noticeable headwind.

Stopped, as I almost always do, at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

img_9349

Noticed dying trees.

img_9351
Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort

img_9359

and Penstemon

img_9354

Used restraint to continue around the prairie without further stopping to Windsor Road. Rode east to Philo Road, south to Old Church then east again.

img_9366

Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

img_9367
that lovely little oasis of vantage and sacred silence, then rode around the corner onto Yankee Ridge Road, past a friend’s amazing house, complete with extensive prairie landscaping.

Turned east onto section road 900 N (County Highway 18) to Philo.

img_9374

Rode to the water tower; went off the road along the train tracks to get a view of all the words.

img_9378

On the way back saw my friend who lives in the amazing prairie-landscaped house, out walking her dog. It was nice to actually stop and talk a bit this time!

Then rode downhill with the wind at my back toward Old Church Road.

img_9385

Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration

img_9388

Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.

img_9394

Saw a good number of prairie dock leaves: large, erect, serrated spade-shapes, with the sunlight and shadows showing through them.

img_9395

Saw spiderwort farther down, along the road, among waving grass flowers.

img_9398

Stopped on the way back to check for Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees. They were prostrate and dried up.

img_9399

Felt a little more centered for having visited Philo this morning.

Posted in Nature, Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday 10 June 2017. Worn Flowers at Meadowbrook

It was 66 degrees and mostly sunny at 6:09, on this morning of my father’s 90th birthday, as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and headed south on Race Street.

Stopped for a cabbage rose shot

img_9270

And checked the Amanita mushrooms, which seemed to be very much on the decline.

img_9276

Rode directly to Meadowbrook Park and stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek for the customary shot.

Farther down, in the willowy wet iris territory, Penstemon held forth, but with more brown than white flowers.

Near The Freyfogle overlook went to check the lead plant, which had been munched and damaged by (not unnatractive) beetles.

img_9294
But the beetles seemed to have eaten their fill and mostly gone, though who knows what was going on with their actual eating-machines, the larvae? This year, at least, it seemed there would be flowers.

Rode to the end of the path at Windsor Road and west on the sidewalk along the park.

There was a lot of green; the spiderwort were past the peak of their bloom. Yet there were some remaining fresh blue daily flowers,

img_9307
every bit as lovely as the first ones.

Along with the wizened spiderwort were soon to bloom rosinweed

img_9310

and green blackberry fruit.

img_9314

The early prairie flowers are finishing as summer, with its own anticipated bloom, draws near!

Posted in Outdoors, Spirituality, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment