Saturday 7 April 2018. Signs of Spring at Meadowbrook

It was a bracing 22 degrees F with a north wind (not a problem on the way out) under sheer, thin clouds at 7:30 this morning as I headed on Shadow to Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge and looked back toward Windsor Road to see hints of green.

Red-winged blackbirds claimed their territories, which definitely said “spring.”

From the Freyfogle overlook, not much green could be seen.

Then rode by the woods along McCullough Creek,

noticing the dead trees.

Headed north on Race Street toward Home.

There was a tremendous number of squirrels under the oaks along Race Street; here are two (they tend to disperse when a camera is trained on them.)

It’s getting to have been a while since this trip, but the odds are good that my fingers were cold and was glad to be back to warm them.

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Sunday 1 April 2018. 30 Days of Biking, Day 1. Easter Morning Ride to Brownfield Woods

It was 28 degrees F (yes, below freezing) under mostly clear skies with a northerly breeze this Easter Sunday morning at 7 as I steered Shadow toward Brownfield Woods.

The sun was still low but well clear of the horizon and asserting its brightness as I headed east on Main Street.

Must say it took a little pushing against inertia to get going: my cycling groove has gotten rather shallow lately. And my mind was drawn more toward coffee and catching up on these blog posts than on the road!

But once I got going the joy of pedaling out in the morning began to kick in! Did not get drawn to many images, which was fine for conciseness and for my cold fingers.

Did not see any foxes across Main from the Dart plastic factory.

Did stop in front of Weaver Park because of all the bright yellow horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) fruits among the brown/grey thatch.

And noticed a frosty thistle rosette.

Was glad to see a bike rack and new signage at Weaver. Maybe there will be improved trails there soon!

Headed east on Main and north on High Cross.

It was good to see Brownfield Woods, even before there was much floral action, but noticed dead trees, piles of trunks, limbs, branches.

Are trees dying at a faster rate than in the past or am I just more aware of them?

Did not see any bloodroot or Dutchman’s breeches along Brownfield Woods as I have at least once before on Easter morning (though did see plenty of trash, alas).

It was like coming to the tomb on Saturday: the anticipated event had not yet happened. It’s been a long wait for spring this year. Though personally I prefer that to having it go too fast. I have faith (and years of previous experience) that the flowers will appear.

Had a very happy surprise view of a lovely bird with reddish-brown sides, white underneath, and mostly black above.

an eastern (rufous-sided?) towhee! And it kindly sat to have a distinguishable picture of it taken. Good consolation for the lack of flowers. Which no doubt also will get here eventually.

Turned back at Oaks Road.

Got a view of the morning sun reflecting on the wet, pre-planted, rich Illinois soil.

On the way back noticed the ditch along the road was quite full.

Heading south heard an animal sound, vaguely canine though maybe not quite, in a field to the east, as a raptor (hawk? owl?) sailed west to east over High Cross Road. Then a group of six deer went galloping across the road straight toward the source of the strange sound. As if it were a deer distress call, and these deer were answering.

Enjoyed the tail wind but now my fingers and especially toes were getting cold.

So a warming “song” came to mind:

“Warm blood, flow into my fingers

Warm blood, flow into my toes,

Warm blood, fill the extremities,

Keep this body warm!

It worked well enough.

At High Cross and University, hopped on to the beginning of the Kickapoo Rail to Trail and back to Main Street. Noticed some erosion on the trail and hoped it would be a reasonably easy thing to rectify and would not get worse.

Then on to home and Easter.

Saturday 31 March 2018. Slow Spring

This morning I got to see the dawn: purple, pink, orange, gold-yellow.

Saw the sun-disc at 6:47.

It was reflected in the front entrance to the yoga studio, where I attended to the first order of business, yoga practice.

This year the spring is coming very slowly, as if reluctantly. But the morning light, colorful today, is coming earlier, right on schedule.

After practice, the drama of the sunrise had faded, and the sky was filled up with grey, warm spring-weather-delaying clouds.

On the way home, noticed a pair (about 20 feet apart) of mallard ducks standing in front of someone’s house. Looking for a place to nest? Then noticed a cat in the window watching the duck(s).

Did not feel like suiting up to continue the bike ride in the rain so put Rhododendron away in the garage and walked to the local coffee shop to write.

Noticed the stump of a recently cut tree.

The sawdust was remarkably orange

Continued my observations au pied; it was so nice to see more color:

hellebores,

new bloodroot,

Scilla coming up among sweet gum balls.

daffodils,

purple crocuses,

pale lavender crocuses among ivy leaves.

I am grateful to witness how, slowly but surely, spring unfolds again.

Sunday 18 March 2018. Frost, and Spring on Hold

It was 27 degrees F and clear at 7:20 this morning as I aimed Shadow toward Meadowbrook Park.

Although the sun was shining and I was eager to be down the road, it was a bit of effort to get moving. The cold air and thoughts of coffee and sitting down to catch up on blog posts 😉 kept me a little away from fully enjoying the first moments of the ride. It brought to mind how even some quite exothermic chemical reactions require the input of activation energy. Am I right?

But by arrival at Meadowbrook, I felt fully engaged in the frosty morning.

First stop was across Race Street from Meadowbrook, at pile of logs next to the U of I Forestry plantation.

So many trees have been cut down, most apparently in poor condition. Hopefully those remaining will better tolerate whatever plagued the others.

Thought maybe the Sensory Garden near the Race Street entrance to the park would have some exotic bulbs in bloom; on the way caught a view of the early sun rays slanting through the frosty organic garden plots.

The Sensory Garden bulb flowers seemed to be suppressed by the cold.

Then rode to the rabbit-statue bridge for the customary view of the confluence of Douglas and McCullough creeks.

Looked like someone had cleared a lot of the remains of last year’s (or more) streamside growth. Made it look like a much more finite pace than when I’d seen cardinal flowers there in late summer.

Around the corner in the prairie were winter-worn stalks and seed-heads of prairie plants, topped with ice crystals, through which the sun shone.

There were goldenrod,

yellow coneflower,

thistle,

nodding wild rye grass.

At the Freyfogle observation deck saw worn stalks and seed parts of compass plant

rattlesnake master,

and Baptisia pods

supported by thorny canes of blackberry.

Then rode via Windsor Road and First Street to Midtown Champaign for an avocado stack and pour-over at Flying Machine Avionics.

In the last throes of winter, my interest in the brown plant-shapes was limited, lovey though they were. Could feel yearning for the coming (when?) tender, colorful, new growth. But, dressed appropriately, did very much enjoy the crisp air and the ride.

Saturday 17 March 2018. Hellebores Abloom

It was 33 degrees F with light rain starting to fall as I headed out on Shadow for a quick visit to the Japan House garden.

The cherry trees nearest the entrance were newly mulched.

The Winter’s Ghost hellebores were beginning to bloom!

Got a closeup.

On the other side of the path were some pink ones.

Then looked up between the bald cypress trees toward the pond, the sky grey and somber.

Rode down the path a little way to get a quick view of the architectural feature and shrubbery near the entrance to Japan House

and rode back.

Sunday 11 March 2018. A Quick Spring-Forward Visit to the Rabbit-Statue Bridge

It was 32 degrees F and cloudy at 7:45 on this morning of the lost hour, i.e., “spring forward” to Daylight Savings Time. Must say I felt the absence of that hour quite distinctly and understood the arguments of those who would do away with the custom. And yet, I still like the idea of an observance of the seasons that we get to feel so physically. Welcome, spring!

Planned to wake up by riding on Shadow to Meadowbrook Park and did begin the trip,

But very early on, as I got a shot of this wonderful early iris,

a message came in from my new employer that a shift was available pretty much immediately. So much for today’s ride.

But did determine to squeeze in a fast trip to the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek,

where the water still was pretty high.

And it was infinitely better than not going out at all!

Sunday 4 March 2018. Pre-Spring Meadowbrook with Red-Winged Blackbirds

It was 31 degrees F under clear skies at 7:15 this morning as I rode out on Shadow toward Meadowbrook Park.

Stopped to see the snowdrops in front of the Lincoln statue between Urbana High School and Carle Park.

Then stopped to check “my” apple tree for “cling-ons,” of which there were two,

this one having retained more color.

At Meadowbrook the early (though not so early as I’d wanted: the dog-walk happened in that earlier light) sunlight slanted across turf grass and under the hawthorns.

At the rabbit -statue bridge, McCulough and Douglas creeks still were high.

Was struck by the brownness of the scene, even with the cloudless blue sky.

Yet the approach of spring was persistently asserted by the red-winged blackbirds!

Today it sounded like they were saying, “Vote for me!”

Then made a fairly continuous circle around Meadowbrook Park with few stops, though the curled shape of a dry, scaly brown prairie dock leaf caught my eye.

Once again, however, it looked much better to my eye than through the camera.

Farther on, near the Vine Street entrance to the park were newly planted hawthorn trees.

Was glad there was an attempt to replant at the spot where trees recently had died. Hope the coming conditions will allow them to prosper.