Thursday 24 September 2015. Apples, Mushrooms, Flowers (Especially Gentians)

It was 55 degrees F at 6:35 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park, hoping to see bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii), which seem to be blooming early this year. 

Stopped for the white iris,   

the cabbage roses,  

  and the apples on the way.  
Also stopped to check for mushrooms, especially after last week’s deluge. 

Amanita muscaria were not immediately evident; the last episode of fruiting apparently finished. But did see mushrooms of another species  

 which looked distinctive enough to be able to figure out their identity, but for now shall remain nameless.

Closer inspection also revealed the beginning of a new round of mushrooming  Amanita.  

 They are a force with which to be  reckoned!

And speaking of such forces, my trip this morning was even more than usual a fervent prayer for balance, for clarity, for presence in each beautiful moment, for  serenity to accept what I can’t change,  courage to change what I can, and wisdom to know the difference….

 Rode on and passed through the construction zone to Meadowbrook Park.   

Below the rabbit-statue bridge McCullough and Davis creeks were full and still with dead leaves floating on the surface. 


The view of the horizon was clearer than it had been earlier this season: foliage is being shed. 

There was a lot of goldenrod still blooming but it definitely was past its peak. New England asters appeared in surprise clumps among them, lovely and complementary purple.

  Then made my way to the Marker statue in search of bottle gentians.  Wondered whether it would be a good year for them; my last search turned up only a few plants. 

But here they were!   Was even able to get a few “bouquet” shots especially with goldenrod and Bidens


The bottle gentians actually were quite abundant

and from the number of small buds still  quite early in their bloom.


Was happy to see so many plants. 

Noticed the old soapwort gentian, the flowers of which were mostly brown but still quite shapely and handsome.


Kept finding more bottle gentian plants but didn’t try to find every last one.


Was delighted to find a reasonably fresh cream gentian and fit it into the same frame with a blue one. 


Started back then saw a group of deer,  young ones and presumably their mom, in a recently cleared area surrounded by goldenrod. 

I paused and we exchanged recognition. Nice to commune, even in this limited way, with other species. 

Like so many times before, felt quite refreshed by this brief contact with the outside world au vélo.  The apples, the mushrooms, the flowers…. They were like the offerings of flowers that loved ones bring when one feels unwell, symbols of love and comfort. 

Thank you, God. Thank you, beautiful world!


Sunday 20 September 2015. A Few Sunny Miles Up North Lincoln 

7:05 a.m. it was already before I made it out the door to get on Rhododendron and ride in the 52 degrees F and clear sky. 

 Near the mystery (to me) pit was a small group of (oak, I believe) trees, including a dead one, a not uncommon sight this year. 

And it’s not just ashes.

Rode to where Lincoln Avenue divides into two roads: one that winds a bit to the east (even more now that there is a detour) before continuing north and the other, with no outlet, leads straight into a vast world of recycling. Went straight just long enough to stand on the bridge over the Saline Branch and headed back.  

At Bradley turned left and sped (!) down the hill between Busey Woods and Woodlawn Cemetery. Almost at the bottom marveled at the standing water from Friday’s torrents that surrounded this very healthy looking oak tree. 


And rode over the Saline Branch where the road turned sharply, which I always think would make a good shot, but it just seems like not a great place to stop. 

Turned south on Broadway and stopped at the Anita Purvis/Crystal Lake prairie for a photo of asters. 

And back. The summer is coming to a close.  So glad to be here to witness its passing 

Thursday 17 September 2015. Through Goldenrod to Yankee Ridge

It was 57 degrees F this morning at 6:22 as I headed south on Rhododendron.  Dreamed of a long ride but was ready to settle for a shorter one. It’s goldenrod season, and knew it would greet me no matter the length of the ride. 

First did stop at “my” apple tree, near which the fall bloom of the cabbage roses was beginning.  

and of the white iris was continuing.  

There were lots of apples both hanging from the tree 

and on the ground.   

Then a little way down stopped to check on the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which were fewer and less “fresh” than at last visit.    

Maybe they were at last finishing their “bloom.”

Liked the view of the underside of this one. 


Wondered though whether this was just the end of their time for this go or whether  this end was was being hastened by some human agency. 

Looked like some that had not fully matured had been pulled out. 


Rode to Meadowbrook Park but then turned east on Windsor Road and only rode along the  northern edge. 

Was glad to see Gaura among the goldenrod. 

Pasture thistle (Ciserium discolor) made a nice occasional purple-pink accent against the goldenrod yellow.   

Above the goldenrod, against the sunrise southern sky, rose the already decomposing remnants of rosinweed 

Along the path into the park was a border of yellow. 


Could not resist catching the message chalked on the path, even though it seemed to discourage leisurely observation.  

Then kept going east on Windsor Road to Philo and then south. The road was lined for a long stretch with goldenrod. 

Loved the golden border, not minding that it’s weedy and invasive. 

 Overhead noticed a great blue heron flying, which appears below  

as a dot in the sunrise clouds between the lowest and the second-lowest utility line. They seem to be so much more common than you’d imagine in central Illinois. Just have to know where to look. 

Liked the spray of goldenrod growing in this drain or whatever it was in the middle of the rip-rap. 

Rode farther south on Philo Road to Old Church Road and because of limited time was going to turn back, but was so close to the summit of Yankee Ridge, and the morning sun was coming up over it, so just turned left and rode on through the familiar remarkable quiet and was rewarded with another lovely view.   

And then headed back, gladdened by this starkly beautiful spot and all the intervening September goldenrod yellow.  

Saturday 12 September 2015. Gentians and Other Joys of Late Summer

Started the day wanting to accomplish too many things by 9 am: prepare my afternoon yoga class, have a long bike ride, check the bloom at Meadowbrook, and post on this blog. “Impossible!” you say? Perhaps. But I entered all of those requests into the “central processing center” of my mind and tried to go with however it worked out. Which then did take the stress level down and let me enjoy what was possible.  It was an example of how less fussing can give better results. Engage. Let go. Skip the agonizing.  See what happens. 

The temperature was 52 degrees F as I left the house before dawn (about 5:45, yay!), the sky partly cloudy, the clouds spread out in long, threadbare sheets. 

Got through class prep. The mind did wander in the supine poses but managed not to berate myself as much as usual. Progress!

Then headed for Meadowbrook Park. There was no way a long ride was going to happen. Ok, let go. 

Knew there probably still was construction at Race so thought of approaching from Vine, but wanted to see how the Aminita muscaria mushroom population, the most abundant and ongoing group of mushrooms I’d ever seen, was doing. They weren’t as thick as they were last year, but there were plenty, and a lot of them were HUGE!


Also there were some of a darker orange than I’d seen so far this year.  

 The wonder of the mushroom haven continues; I’m never sure just what will be there at the next visit.   

Continued south on Race and stopped just north of Windsor Road, across from the U of I Pollinatarium for s sky shot. 


On my bike travels have been trying to note the places with a good view of the sky, and this is one. 

Entered Meadowbrook Park through the Vine Street entrance and proceeded pretty much directly to the Freyfogel Overlook, where the cream gentians were starting to have a lot of brown flowers but still had plenty of white ones. 


Here (once you’re standing up) definitely is another good place to see the sky. 

Loved the clouds, especially over the sea of goldenrod. 


Farther down the way, at the Marker statue, got to see a dense patch of tickseed, another variation on the late summer prairie’s theme of golden yellow,

with enough big bluestem and Indian grass behind it to establish its location in the prairie, and a wonderful foil of sky. 

Nearby found the soapwort gentians, which already were starting to fade. But what a treat they were to find!

Looked for and found the true bottle gentians

dark blue and late-blooming. 

Amazingly, there were nearby also some quite fresh cream gentian blooms. 


In my past experience the cream gentians had been pretty much all gone by the time the bottle gentians appeared. 

Also got a shot of goldenrod with another common late composite flower: boneset. Not sure if it was a common (Eupatotium

Saw a lovely spike of light blue flowers that  I’d seen at this site in years past but could never identify. 


Looked it up and finally figured out it was wild blue sage, Salvia azurea grandiflora, which apparently is a native species (yay!)

Kept going on the “big loop” path and stopped for a view of McCullough and Davis creeks from the rabbit statue bridge. 

The water was pretty high, and still. Liked the reflection of leaves and clouds on the smooth surface. 

Made my way to the crossing of Windsor Road at Race Street and found a little passage across the construction zone. 


Was grateful to whomever set that up. 

On the way back stopped at the place across from the Pollinatarium for another sky view. 

Tried to take in and hold its wide beauty as I set out for home and to meet the coming week’s challenges.

Sunday 13 September 2015. Great Blue Herons and Great Blue Lobelia 

Departed this morning at 6:35, when the sky was clear and the temperature was 45 degrees F. Believe it was the coldest morning so far this waning summer, and took care to dress appropriately: long pants, closed shoes, light long-sleeved layer, light jacket, and even a knitted hat and converable mittens. Could always shed something if it was too much but not produce it if it wasn’t packed to begin with.  

Time was limited but really wanted to do some continuous riding; was craving that feeling of smooth effort under the sky. 

So decided to go by way of Crystal Lake Park to North Lincoln Avenue. 

Passed Carle Hospital and remembered times in the not so distant past when it was so familiar. Now, unless it’s right in front of me, I never think about it.  

Passed the wonderful Crystal Lake labyrinth without stopping and rode on down Coler Street and into the edge of Busey Woods. At the corner of Bradley Avenue saw the little prairie-let in front of the Lincoln Bindery and stopped. 

Much of it was bloomed-out, just green and brown already, though still attractive in a quiet, “sober” kind of way, especially the bush clover.    

 But there still were some flowers left; got a shot of the September goldenrod and New England aster, always a lovely combination.

And there was one of my current favorites–saw-tooth sunflower,  

with their tall stems with long dark green leaves, topped with deep-golden sun-faced flowers

Then continued on Sunday morning-quiet Lincoln Avenue and over I-74 and then over one loop of the Saline Branch 

past  Mack’s Recycling, the UPS facility,  

and the mountains of construction materials toward the stretch of Lincoln  

 that zig-zags a bit before crossing the Saline branch again, just beyond the sign for a detour on Lincoln. 

Noticed ducks in the water to the west, but could not see them clearly enough for an ID. 

On the east side could see the still-low sun shining through spiderwebs on the bridge.  

The pause from pedaling made me aware of how lovely the morning was as it quickly warmed, and it was good to be able for that short while to take it in.  

 On the way back stopped at another crossing of North Lincoln over the Saline Branch, where there was a great blue heron  

(at the upper right of the water, above) on ether side of the bridge. They certainly don’t like to be observed, even from so far away, and the western one flew off as soon as I stopped to look at it. 

The air was warm enough by this time that The mittens and jacket needed to come off, and stuffed them in the backpack. 

Continued back on Lincoln and stopped to photograph these signs that tell cool things about my home town, Urbana. 

Then turned east on Bradley and down the speeding  hill next to Crystal Lake Park. 

Two thirds of the way down the hill, the pedal crank decided not to go past half way before getting stuck. (Made me think of getting that new road bike.) It worked for a while to pedal forward half way, back pedal, then go forward again. Couldn’t work up much speed, but it was faster than walking. 

Eventually the crank went all the way around again: a relief!

Rounded the corner south on Broadway and noticed a nice diversity of prairie plants between the Anita Purvis Nature center and Crystal Lake Pool. I remembered that area as being rather weedy, but today noticed a variety of prairie flowers, including, e.g., remaining yellow coneflowers as well as the goldenrod and Black-eyed Susans. So made a stop to look more closely and saw some purple-blue flowers I though were New England asters but turned out to be great blue Lobelia!

Also there were New England asters and an attractive grass that may have been Canada wild rye, 

which I’m more sure is the identity of the  dry grass plants in the foreground. 

Another surprising flower of purple-blue coloring was showy tick trefoil 


which has normally blooms earlier, at least in my experience. 

And of course the little prairie was full of twittering goldfinches. It was altogether a pleasant discovery and altogether a satisfying ride!


Thursday 3 September 2015. Catching up with Late Summer Meadowbrook 

This morning at about 6:30 it was 68 (or maybe 70) degrees F and mostly clear, though with patches of thin fog in some open areas. Noticed that the bright waning moon was at just about half and pretty close to overhead. 

Wanted so much to take a long ride but also wanted so much to see what the late summer was bringing to Meadowbrook Park. 

So headed there on Rhododendron, but  first stopped to catch the fall iris  

 (is there really a variety that’s supposed to bloom now or is this one odd?) and then “my” apple tree  

 laden with and dropping fruit but not looking super healthy. As with all living things, its future is not guaranteed. 

Then almost passed by the spruce grove where mushrooms have been.  Did not expect to see any in particular but just because it was easy to do stopped to check for them. And they happened to be coming up in abundance.  

 Was amazed by the sheer number of fruiting Amanita muscaria bodies (i.e., mushrooms) that have manifested themselves in this area since last fall.  

  Restrained the urge to get endless photos  but of course indulged a little.  

Noticed that toward the south end there was more of a ground-cover vine under the spruces than last year and that there were fewer mushrooms (that I could see!) in this area than where there was bare ground or “mulch.” Thought maybe the drought of a couple years ago caused a die-back of the ground cover, which later opened more space for the mushrooms.  Hard to resist  looking for an explanation. 

At Windsor Road construction on Race Street continued, but walked Rhododendron across the construction zone to get to the  Meadowbrook path. Felt a bit like I was trespassing.  Really, will go another way next time.  Was amazed to see a pink cement mixer at work.  


The phrase “now I’ve seen it all” came into my head, though of course I haven’t. 

Proceeded on to the rabbit-statue bridge, where the sun was coming up and an isolated layer of fog rested on the ground in the open area on the other side. 

Stood on the bridge and looked down at McCullough and Davis creeks and saw lots of giant ragweed but only a slight hint of red cardinal flower.    


Thought about going in through the overgrowth to get close to the last of this year’s Meadowbrook cardinal flower bloom, but between not wanting to disturb the site and not wanting at the moment to get scratched, bitten, and covered with clinging seed pods, decided to be satisfied with what I’d already seen, which was plenty awesome. 

Around the corner and down the path a little way got a shot of the sunrise reflecting on the layer of fog on the ground, goldenrod in the foreground. 


Was amazed at how quickly the fog vanished as I passed near it, feeling as I went the layers of cool moist air and warm moist air that hadn’t yet mixed.   

Continued on  toward the “Marker” statue to see how the bottle gentians were doing.

Near the statue, noticed a lot of big bluestem in bloom, the anther part of the flower dangling along each “branch” of the inflorescence in neat, trembling rows. (“Den alles fleisch es ist wie grass…” The setting by Brahms.  It’s like a trigger.)


Without too much searching found the  bottle gentians, and which were pristine and gorgeous, and full of buds of all sizes as well as mature blooms. 


Looked for but did not find other plants of its kind, which seemed odd given that during every one of the past five years there had been a lot of them at that site. 

Then realized this probably was not the same species of gentian I’d assumed it was; perhaps it was Gentiana saponaria  (soapwort gentian) rather than G. andrewsii, which would explain its paler color and earlier than anticipated bloom. 

Saw a spike of flowers I didn’t recognize.

So looked it up later and decided it was swamp lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata), which apparently is parasitic on the roots of other plants. 

Behind me heard a deer snorting. Or maybe coughing.   Ordinarily they are ghostly quiet; wondered whether there was any occasion beside the rut (a curious, counterintuitive expression) for which it would make that kind of noise. Maybe it was sick. 

Stopped at the Freyfogel Overlook to photograph some cream gentians

which were abundant but beyond their peak bloom. Still quite regal, I think. 

The grasses were rising all through the prairie, which gave a distinctly vertical element to the landscape.  Also just now the goldenrod were budding, showing yellow-green.  

And tall Coreopsis were common, though not all plants were especially tall. 

It was a quick visit but quite enough to view the resplendent offerings of this late summer morning.  

Tuesday 25 August 2015. South to the End of Race Street, with a Meadowbrook Stop

At 6:15 this morning it was 52 degrees F and the sky clear. 

Took Discovery II today because, though a road bike allows the best position for getting power from the legs as well as for an aerodynamic shape, I missed viewing the scenery from a more upright position. 

Again wanted both to link in to the maturing summer at Meadowbrook Park as well as just ride for some miles  through the corn and beans, today south on Race Street. 

But first stopped for a shot of “my” apple tree with its smallish reddening fruit.  

 When you observe a living thing many times through the different seasons, especially over repeated years, it becomes like a friend. 

Then rode on, wondering what might be happening at the little prairie on Florida and Orchard, or at the Japan House Garden.  It’s a full time of year for native flowers in east-central Illinois, but it makes more sense to enjoy what I can fit in than to worry about what I’m missing.  🙂

At Windsor Road, Race Street was closed, as anticipated,

 but figured there would be a way for a bike to get in to Meadowbrook Park.  There kind of was, though it didn’t appear very official. Just proceeded on toward the rabbit-statue bridge, took a photo of McCullough Creek in the sunrise, with a spiderweb to the left and what appeared to be a spider to the right.  

(Another barely detectable image, but it is at least an indication, like the fox last time, of something very cool. 

The sun over the creek was lovely, too.  

Didn’t see the cardinal flowers right away, but walked down into the stream-side vegetation (which left my shorts and shoes full of little clinging seed-pods), stopping on the way to photograph a wingstem plant   

 and then, there they were, cardinal flowers.


The topmost buds were large and the flowers were coming to the late part of their bloom.  But noticed several plants scattered around the site,  

 most on the bank close to me,  

  so didn’t have to cross Davis creek.   

Almost got away to continue the trip but was pulled back by another, larger spike of red flowers.  

Yes, could easily have spent a long time there!

But moved on to see whether the very first signs of bottle gentians (near the “Marker” statue) might be evident. On the way, saw an abundance of Gaura flowers,  


delicate pink and white, quite a contrast with the fiery cardinal flowers! They were unmistakably more abundant this year than last. 

Saw many blooming cream gentians but didn’t stop for photos. There will be other opportunities. 

Near the Marker statue the grasses were getting taller. Did not really expect to see bottle gentians yet but looked where I’d seen them before. Mostly the search was negative.  Then, saw a couple of tight but plainly bluish buds–here they were!  

Looked forward to coming back to observe the bloom develop.  Ah, hard not to slip away from the present in anticipation of  the future…. 

 On the way back to Race Street these thistles against the Black-eyed Susans near the rabbit-statue bridge caught my eye. 


Another eye-catching image near the bridge was a fluffy, brown and white striped feather resting on a leaf, just above eye level. 

Turned back toward Race Street (took the official exit) and headed south. It was good to ride. The simpler the landscape got, the smoother my breathing became. It felt good to push the speed a little and breathe deeply. 

Couldn’t resist stopping just long enough to catch the mighty late-August corn with its ears beginning to bend back away from the stalks. 

Noticed that I was getting colder: feet, hands and ears, as I rode along, exertion and deep breathing notwithstanding. Walking through plants in the morning means getting wet feet.  Closed shoes probably would be good as fall approaches. 

Stopped (per the sign) where Race Street ran into country road 900 N. 


When there is more time will jog to the left or right and keep going. 

On the way back noticed these huge utility poles that hadn’t yet been strung with wires. 

Made me wonder how they accomplish that. Could be that they’re actually wireless, I guess, like the wifi I’m using to work on this post. Must return and see what they look like in a couple weeks. 

Enjoyed the continuous stretch on the way back. There is something comforting about the familiarity of the way back. There is something comforting about letting go of thinking for a while and just residing in the physical motion. 

Closer to home, observed that the U of I egg sales place on south Race Street was open for business–just then it happened to be within the three and a half hour window each week when it’s open. So stopped and bought a dozen. 

Aside from being cold, was very pleased with this morning’s ride grateful that it  included both great scenery and decent milage.