Tuesday 21 November 2017. A Brief but Restorative Fall VĂ©lo to Mushrooms and Meadowbrook

It was 38 degrees F at about 6:40 this morning under a bright sky spread with some thin clouds.

At last got out of the house an on Shadow to touch the fall of 2017, which has been going really darned fast!

Stopped to see the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, growing slowly (or arrested in their growth) in the relative cold since last week.

The floor of the spruce grove was not covered with mushrooms, but there was a nice view looking out from it toward the outside.

Continued southward on Race Street and noticed a maple tree to which some yellow leaves still clung.

At Meadowbrook Park was unpleasantly surprised to see the path closed.

But saw no action of the type described on the barricade and disobediently proceeded along the path.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek

Where there still was, somehow, a lot of green foliage, and turned back toward home.

Advertisements

Sunday 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.

img_5825

Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!

img_5826

They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”

img_5837

And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.

img_5833

So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.

img_5849

The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.

img_5853

Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.

img_5852

Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

Saturday 11 November 2017. Fast Fall

It was 25 degrees F as I made my way through the neighborhood on Rhododendron at 8:15 am. It hardly qualified as a ride. But wanted to bear a bit of witness to this blitz-autumn.

The cold came suddenly and the ginkgo leaf fall was unceremonious.

img_5771

These ginkgo leaves never got to be gold. Still, the subtle range of their greens made a nice texture.

Farther along, on Oregon Street, was an uncommon (“umbrella?”) magnolia tree that, under the mandate of last night’s cold, had dropped a big pile of its large, exotic-looking leaves.

They kind of looked like fish, I thought.

I like how we anticipate the general sequence of seasonal changes but always are met with surprises.

Saturday 4 November 2017. Cranksgiving!

It was about 54 degrees F, not too cold, at 1:18 pm under November-grey skies, the air misty and with a hint of fog.

Locked Rhododendron (my road bike) to the rack outside the Bike Project and went downstairs to register for Cranksgiving 2017. Cranksgiving is an event where participants ride bikes to area grocery stores and buy various Thanksgiving-type food items for the Central Illinois Food Bank. Mostly it’s just a non-competitive food drive, but there were silly “prizes” for the first person to finish and the person who collected the most food.

On registering I received a “manifest” of needed items and a nifty spoke card.

img_5797

This would be my fourth (at least the fourth, I’m pretty sure), Cranksgiving.

In the past it has taken me most of a Sunday afternoon to do the circuit of grocery stores in Champaign, Savoy, and Urbana for Cranksgiving. But this year it was on Saturday, and I had to teach a yoga class at three. So instead of going to several stores decided just to have a pleasant ride to Aldi in Urbana and pick up all the items from one store.

To start the event, the participants gathered outside the Bike Project for a group photo

img_5247

And off we went!

After stopping at the ATM, headed toward Main Street, observing the so-recently turning leaves

img_5251
and eastward.

Traffic was light on East Main Street.

img_5256

Near the grove of oak trees by the train tracks, across from the Dart plastics factory checked for foxes but didn’t see any.

img_5257

Stopped briefly at Weaver Park for a fall-status view.

img_5258

Then continued on East Main to University Avenue. Was not sure exactly how to get down University from Main Street to the Aldi store–there was not a direct path and it involved crossing some pretty fast vehicle traffic. So crossed University and walked just outside the left side of the road. Was not crazy about this choice and resolved to do something different on the way back.

Got to Aldi, which was not too crowded,

img_5262

and directly picked up stuffing mix, mashed potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, and a boxed kit for sweet potato pie.

img_5260

Paid for the items and tucked the receipt, with my manifest, into the envelope provided by the Cranksgiving organizers, packed the goods in my backpack, and headed back.

Noticed a sidewalk along University Avenue and rode on it.

img_5264

I know sidewalks are supposed to be verboten to bikes, but as long as you watch for pedestrians, there are places where riding on them just makes more sense than threading through fast traffic.

Got back to the Bike Project just in time for someone making a delivery to leave the door open (he, uninformed about Cranksgiving, was about to lock it, for security reasons, and leave!)
Guess I was the first one back.

Didn’t feel the kind of satisfied fatigue that I had in previous, all-afternoon Cranksgivings, but was done in time to teach my 3:00 yoga class, and it still was good to have been a part of the event!

Saturday 14 October 2017. Patience Rewarded with the Last Bottle Gentians

It was about 64 degrees F at about 7 am under clouds that were breaking up, occasionally letting the sun through.

My schedule lately has prevented me from biking much, alas, but today there was nothing to stop me from riding to Meadowbrook Park to catch the last of the bottle gentian bloom, if, in fact, there were any flowers left.

So headed off on Rhododendron, riding south on Race Street.

Stopped at the place where Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been abundant for the last three years, at least. But did not see a single one.

img_4800

And one of the spruce trees looked quite bad. It seems like yet another result of stress from recent droughts. This blog is documenting a little piece of a larger phenomenon. Alas.

At Meadowbrook, there was about to be a walk/run to raise money for breast cancer research and support; pink signs were posted about the trail.

img_4801

But did not run into any crowds.

Saw water again (at last, rain) in McCullough Creek below the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_4803

Then rode along the path toward the Marker statue and the bottle gentian site. Looked on the way among the willows where I saw some bottle gentians last year, but today there was no sign of them.

The prairie was still green underneath, and above the tree leaves had not turned color, but overall it was somber. Many goldenrod plants were snowy with seeds and their vehicles .

Saw a deer out where the Liatris had earlier bloomed.

Then at the Marker statue looked for the gentians. At first, there seemed to be nothing but dry grass and flowers gone to seed. And I felt sad; could they really have left no trace after two weeks?

I lingered and kept looking, even though it seemed unlikely that more looking would produce any gentians.

Then spotted a single worn bloom, and was grateful for that.

Keep looking, and in a while found a cluster of blooms, worn but still beautiful, as old gentian flowers are.

Then, for the sake of revisiting a spot where I’d seen gentians before, I checked it, and amazingly found one plant, then another.

Then went back to the first place I saw them and as if by magic, there were more, and fresher flowers.

It was comforting and uplifting to see them all. The end was coming but had not yet arrived.

Then walked Rhododendron onto the soft path (where bikes and dogs are prohibited but where I recently saw both a guy riding a wide-tired bike and a guy walking a handsome chocolate Labrador retriever. At low volume it might not actually be a problem. I walk my bike; maybe that doesn’t count, I don’t know.

Along the soft path were wintry manifestations of flowers: rosin weed,

compass plant

the curled leaves of which were like illuminated manuscript decorations,

stiff goldenrod, I think,

with clouds above, and Baptisia

with black pods but still plenty of green foliage.

Even found an outlying remaining cream gentian bloom.

Note the cropped stem.

Got a closeup of a dry, prickly compass plant stem.

Then crossed the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and headed back,

feeling a sense of impending conclusion but still nourished by the short- and the longer-lasting forms of the landscape.

Sunday 10 September 2017. A Short, Chilly Ride on the KRT

It was 48 (no way!) degrees F at 7:00 am under clear skies as I headed out Main Street to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike path. Usually I’m not a fan of doing the exact same ride so soon, but I like this trail so much just want to keep doing it and observe the subtle differences from one time to the next.

In the interest of warmth, did wear a long-sleeved shirt and my cycling windbreaker but with shorts and Keen sandals. And who would think mittens would have been useful in early September? Big mistake!

So didn’t think too much of the chill I felt stopping at Weaver Park to get some nice early-light views of tall Coreopsis,

img_3642

Black-eyed Susans

img_3643

compass plant

img_3644

and rosinweed,

img_3650

not to mention that most handsome pairing of common goldenrod and New England aster with a foil of cup plant leaves

img_3645and a tall but leaning-over sawtoothed sunflower

img_3653

Figured it would get warm as I rode on.

Passed the little grove of oaks where I used to see a fox every time I rode past it on a Sunday, but for the second time (last week also) did not see one. Guess it could be hiding among the soybean plants.

Crossed High Cross Road where the trail begins and recorded a view of its terminus.

img_3654

img_3655

The scenery was beautiful, the Helianthus blooms as yellow as road signs,

img_3660

but I was not warming up. Debated internally whether to push on or to turn back at some point short of the original destination of St Joseph.

img_3665

My fingers were numb and my toes were cold (Keen sandals had been quite comfortable before today), but pushed on.

img_3666

Made it to Cottonwood Road

img_3670

then turned back.

But stopped for the enticing view of white masses of tall boneset among the goldenrod.

img_3676

Back in town, stopped at the Walmart near the beginning of the trail and bought a pair of socks and a pair of high-vis fleece gloves.

img_3687

It was too late to really get warm but was glad for the little bit of protection.

At the very beginning of the trail, just west of High Cross Road, saw a nice spray of goldenrod with contrasting thistle and stopped to catch a shot of it.

img_3691

Then high-tailed it on Washington Street

img_3694
toward the warmth of home!

Saturday 9 September 2017. The Late-Summer Prairie, Featuring a Magnificent Cream Gentian Display

It was 62 degrees F at 7:30 this morning as I smoothly made my way on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Destination was the wet area a little east of the rabbit-statue bridge to look for late blooms.

McCullough Creek was dry under the bridge (one couldn’t help thinking of the precipitation recently deposited by Harvey and Irma) and no red petals of cardinal flowers were visible. May have been able to locate the last ones by getting into the creek bed but moved on.

Noticed it was goldenrod time.

img_3468

Thistles provided complementary accent.

img_3469

On top of the yellows of goldenrod was the yellow of tickseed

img_3472

and of sneezeweed

img_3473

Remembered abundant turtleheads from last year but today saw only a few sparsely blooming plants.

img_3479

Mountain mint was especially fragrant here though the plants are common all around the park. What releases the smell?

img_3483Sneezeweed was delightfully abundant here, and set off nicely by what I’ve decided is tall boneset.

img_3480

The vervain had senesced beautifully.

img_3485

Got a better shot than previously of a goldenrod I haven’t been able to identify precisely.

img_3488

Still haven’t figured it out. Is it actually a goldenrod?

Over the small arched bridge was still blue sage, in that rare, heavenly light-blue color.

img_3495

Nearby, viewed the roll of the beautiful late summer prairie spread.

img_3501

And then located, just a few at first, unlike yellow flowers they don’t jump out at you, cream gentians in front of the Marker statue.

img_3503

Then found some pink-blue ones, probably hybrids (or soapwort gentians?) rather than bottle gentians.

img_3504

Looked and looked and finally found the tiniest hints of bottle gentian (maybe) buds.

img_3514

Walked on into the goldenrod-lined soft path,

img_3521

which, in spite of the lovely masses of goldenrod, struck me with a feeling of loss: the high-perched golden faces of the compass plants had lost their extroverted rays and become somber seed-heads.

img_3601

The sadness took me by surprise.

Moved on trying to admit and absorb this while hoping for consolation from the cream gentian bloom.

Indeed, there it was.

In profusion.

img_3548

And many flowers were open, indicating that bees had visited them.

It was hard to stop photographing them!

img_3583

Eventually moved on and noticed stiff goldenrod, which was not as abundant as in some previous years, but was able to get a decent closeup.

img_3617

Near the end (beginning) of the path, abundant (yellow!) wingstem decorated the little wooden bridge over another dry stretch of McCullough Creek.

img_3620

Before leaving Meadowbrook got a view of light through the young trees and undergrowth next to the pavilion.

No longer felt desolation but more a sense of the maturity of the year. Which now, reflecting in November, seems especially sweet.