Tuesday 14 August 2018. Homer Lake, at Last!

It was 64 (I think) degrees F at 6:50 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron toward Homer Lake. Did not totally commit to the destination at that point; thought a trip to St Joseph on the KRT bike trail might be enough and played it by ear.

Stopped for a view of the oak grove across Main Street from the Dart plant (saw no foxes today)

and for a view of Weaver Park, where the cup plants seem to mostly have finished blooming.

Then rode and rode east on the KRT, first through the little “woods” just east of Walmart

and then on through the farm fields.

Noticed common ragweed growing rather far into the trail

and giant ragweed near Full’s Siding.

There were prairie plants here and there: prairie dock,

rosinweed,

as well as cup plants and the occasional compass plant, but they were too far from the trail to photograph easily.

And there was plenty of common milkweed, this one still blooming and with its own monarch butterfly. Thanks

Didn’t see them exactly swarming, but saw several individuals on the way. Saw evidence of feeding on this plant

But did not see a caterpillar.

Saw a little mouse-like rodent (briefly, but how often do you see those?) on the south side of the trail.

The trail spun out before me and I enjoyed comfort of temperature, light, and movement. The present was an attractive place to be. The landscape and I communed. Joy, joy, joy, and more joy!

Got a shot of blue morning glory on the Salt Fork bridge

before riding straight across,–what a lovely part of the trail it is!–traveling high above the water.

At which point there seemed no reason not to head on to Homer Lake.

Turned into and around St. Joe and headed toward Homer Lake Road on County Road 2200 E, which was busy enough to have a center stripe, but encountered only a few vehicles.

Saw an impressively large, handsome horse with covered eyes.

Then turned left on Homer Lake Road, which had been recently resurfaced, perfect for a road bike.

The body parts were pretty much happy; the top of the right knee reminded me it was there and the ring finger of the right hand had felt a bit numb for a while but all else was happy.

And there was Homer Lake!

Dismounted Rhododendron to look for cardinal flowers (found one medium sized flower spike about half way through its bloom) and then my phone ran out of charge, which was at once frustrating and liberating.

Heard great blue herons and saw the edges of one or two flying away as I intruded on them as well as other waterfowl on the other side that I couldn’t identify.

It looked like goldenrod was overgrowing the place where there had been more cardinal flower, swamp milkweed, and great blue Lobelia. It takes some management to make a planting look like our preferred picture of nature, otherwise goldenrod takes over.

Was glad to have made it to Homer Lake.

On the way back stopped at Geschenk Coffee Haus for a Florentine egg and cheese wrap and latte,and to charge the phone and blog a little.

On the way back on the KRT stopped for a woolly worm that was crossing the road at what looked like full caterpillar speed.

saw more early goldenrod than I’d noticed on the way out. And got closer shots of prairie dock,

which seem to be more abundant along the KRT than any other place where I cycle.

There was Gaura,

again, a little far from the trail to get a close photo.

Checked a lot of milkweed plants and even saw a lot of frass on one,

but saw no monarch caterpillars.

Noticed a lot of partridge pea on the way out but it seemed even more on the way back.

Once I was back in town stopped at Walmart to pick up a “water-flosser” and julienne peeler.

Explored the pond behind the store, which had a path on one edge and also a chain link fence

Again disturbed a great blue heron.

With this visit to Homer Lake felt like I’d fulfilled at least the minimum requirement for a complete summer!

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Wednesday 9 August 2018. KRT to Cottonwood and Olympian Drive, with Occasional Native Flowers and Monarch Butterflies

It was 68 degrees at 7:30 (not sunrise, alas, but I did get a solid 15 minutes of Pranayama and a dog-walk in) this morning as I readjusted Rhododendron’s seat, topped off the tires, and headed east and north to check in with the mid-summer countryside and get in a little bit of bike mileage.

Tried not to obsess about not swimming or practicing Asana during that time and to just enjoy the cycling. Which I did easily enough, though worries of how to take time from my paid work with a dear client to take a friend to an event (that and methods to help myself and others detach with love) continued intermittently to assert themselves. But thankfully it was clear that the road and its surrounding features were the dominant reality and the worries just boxes with limited contents.

So pedaled with a light heart eastward on Main Street and stopped first at the edge of Weaver Park, where there were cup plants and rosinweed blooming vigorously side by side.

and caught a honeybee visiting a fresh cup plant flower.

Saw the tallgrass prairie-defining big bluestem and Indian grass.

The dangling, trembling yellow stamens of big bluestem always draw my attention.

Examined a common milkweed plant and discovered a small (second instar?) monarch caterpillar!

Saw a bit of pink-purple tick trefoil with developing pods, which always dresses up a prairie composition.

stopped for the few compass plants, with their stacks of bold, welcoming yellow faces.

Kept on eastward on Main Street to the beginning of the KRT and onward.

The flower-bearing stalks of mullein plants along the trail were ever stately though brown and pretty much bloomed out.

Saw American bellflowers,

though on the raised trail it was hard to get close enough for a good shot.

At Cottonwood Road turned north and crossed I-74, which was in the middle of some extensive construction.

On Cottonwood rode past Trelease Woods, along which were some very late spiderwort

and also, I’m pretty sure, poison ivy, as well as Joe Pye weed.

A little farther down, past the woods was a little patch of ironweed and yellow coneflowers,

a bright accent to the uniform farm fields.

Saw monarch butterflies, which definitely have been more abundant this year than they have for the last few.

At Olympian Drive turned west

and then south at High Cross Road.

Saw blue morning glories twined around corn

and possum bones embedded in the asphalt like a modern fossil.

Saw jewelweed

and stinging nettle

along Brownfield Woods.

Back on the KRT near Main Street stopped to observe partridge pea,

which for some reason I usually tend to pass by. Funny how some plants call one to stop and others a lot less so.

And then headed home.

Sunday 5 August 2018. A Second Intensive Nature Walk

It was, about 65 degrees F under partly cloudy skies at 5:45 this morning as U headed out with fellow yoga student Erin to Meadowbrook Park for a repeat of yesterday’s nature walk.

It was a morning very much like the one before, but of course you can’t step into the same prairie twice!

We took the same route as yesterday, entering the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie from the side of the Sensory Garden near the organic garden plots.

On the way we saw goldfinches and common yellowthroats, which bobbed through the air, perched atop compass plants and tall Coreopsis, and sang their songs.

In the prairie there were obedient plants,

and delicately dangling stamens of big bluestem grass,

Today, again, there was mist over the prairie that condensed into water-beads of different sizes, capturing tiny inverted landscapes.

(It’s one of the few conditions that make me wish for a real camera.)

We saw ironweed in counterpoint with compass plants.

Then in all their regal glory were the royal catchfly!

We walked a little way into into the wet vegetation to discover more of these red-flowered plants that were hidden from view from the path.

Saw plump green pods of Baptisia,

fresh purple coneflowers

dewy Desmodium (tick trefoil).

All around were the radiating faces of compass plant blooms, lined up on their tall stalks, many and glorious against the blue sky.

Then on the path back toward Race Street we explored more thoroughly the area where yesterday there were cardinal flowers.

Their flower spikes were relatively small, but we were happy to see so many plants along the bed of Douglas Creek.

From here we returned with full spirits, ready for the yoga intensive.

Saturday 4 August 2018. Intensive Nature Walk

It was 72 degrees F and clear at 6:30 this morning as I rode on Shadow to Meadowbrook Park.

Had announced the previous day at the yoga intensive that there would be a nature walk through Meadowbrook Park at 6:30 am, but, surprisingly, only one other stalwart nature-lover made it for the event. Which was fine. We parked our bikes near the organic garden plots and headed toward the unpaved path through the middle of the Art and Billie Spomer prairie.

Although had not noticed fog on the way, there was a layer of mist on the prairie that had begun to condense on the plants. Looking toward the sunrise saw dew-beaded big bluestem and tall coreopsis.

Nearby saw obedient plant,

wild senna and Monarda.

Saw mist-like switch grass (pretty sure that’s what it was) among compass plants.

There were Monarda and cup plant,

spiderweb strands strung from which looked more like the warp of a fairy’s loom than the beginning of a spider’s web.

Checked a chewed up milkweed plant for monarch caterpillars but instead found a mass of milkweed tussock moth caterpillars.

Saw purple coneflowers.

side-oats gramma grass,

not quite bloomed out.

Heading back toward the rabbit-statue bridge we checked the banks of Douglas Creek for signs of cardinal flowers, and there they were, young plants in early bloom.

Looked forward to following the progress of the bloom.

It was a delightfully typical midsummer morning on the prairie that we were privileged to sample: colorful, fresh, uplifting! We returned to the yoga studio ready to receive the gifts of the Intensive!

Wednesday 1 August 2018. Fog and Hidden Royal Catchfly

It was 60 degrees F under cloudy skies as I got Shadow out of the garage (Rhododendron’s seat currently is adjusted for a friend who is staying with us) to go to Meadowbrook Park in search of royal catchfly.

On the way encountered fog.

Rode straight through to Meadowbrook until the mandatory stop at the rabbit statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

A little farther along on the other side of the bridge and around the corner were stalks of blooming compass plants. And what could be more photogenic than stalks of blooming compass plants but stalks of blooming compass plants in the early morning mist?

The fog diffused and expanded the sun’s light behind the shrubs and trees.

Farther along, saw swamp milkweed (past the peak of its bloom) in the willowy wet area

as well as the perennial patch of Liatris near the two young trees (oak and cherry, if I recall correctly)

accented this year by robust blooming compass plants.

Tall Coreopsis were abundant and healthy looking.

Stopped to see the fog across the small bridge over Douglas Creek,

like a gateway to the future.

Crossed and looked over the sunrise on the misty prairie, noticing flowers of giant (native!) ragweed.

and turned left onto the unpaved path,

which was closely bordered with compass plants and other prairie flowers, as well as (wet and leaning into the path, which dampened the nature-joy a little) prairie grasses, inviting more photos.

Saw lots of tick trefoil,

attractively beaded with dew. Saw dew-beaded spiderwebs.

Saw several quite fresh-looking purple coneflowers,

ironweed and occasional yellow coneflowers ,

Culver’s root,

and more compass plants and spiderwebs.

The scent of mountain mint was distinct.

Big bluestem, apparently having a good year, was in bloom.

Its trembling stamens always evoke for me “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras…” as interpreted by Brahms (as I have mentioned in previous years at this time, in case it sounds familiar).

So far the gifts of the morning prairie were rich and abundant, but I still wanted to behold the pinnacle of the prairie summer: royal catchfly.

Walked to the very middle of the prairie and searched the area to the north of the path and finally found a plant with a handful of bright red flowers.

Looked for more, remembering widespread blooms of previous years, but did not see them from the path, alas. It was a disappointment, never mind the lovely specimen in front of me and the wonders that came just before.

Wrestled with this ingratitude and was about to resign myself to the disappointment, when I decided to walk out into the wet grass for a last look. And there they were!

Here and there, down below the taller vegetation, there were dew-wet red flowers. This year they were more crowded among other plants, somewhat tempering the effects, but still was delighted to see them.

Looked for another flower of this time of year, cream gentians, but only saw buds today.

The blooms will be abundant soon, no doubt!

Noticed some (at least two distinct specimens) peculiar animal “droppings” on the path; my guess was that they were of to coyote. Coyote poop tends to look similar like that of dogs only usually rougher, full of seeds and other plant bits, etc. These actually were smoother than dog poop, strangely so. I can’t be sure it wasn’t dog; in any event, I avoided them on way in to the prairie, but, alas, distracted by the soaking I got from the dewey vegetation, not on the way out. No pictures.

As I made my way back the sun was climbing higher above the horizon and the morning fog was dissipating; the smaller dewdrops were evaporating from the spiderwebs.

Fleeting summer! How good to have been one with your splendor for a while!

Wednesday 25 July 2018. To St. Joe via the KRT on a Perfect Morning

It was 67 degrees F with just a few clouds to the east and otherwise clear as I set out on Rhododendron for St. Joseph on the KRT bike trail. Wished I had gotten out while the sun was still at the horizon, but at least those little tasks that delayed my departure were done.

Stopped briefly at Weaver Park to photograph the cup plants ,

Some of whose flowers were brown with disease, but many of which were healthy and yellow-petaled.

Saw also Monarda, purple coneflowers,

tick trefoil,

healthy-looking black-eyed Susans

and Indian grass.

Then rolled eastward on the trail.

Again noticed a scarcity overall of the native prairie plants that elsewhere (like at Weaver Park or Meadowbrook) now are in full bloom. But the flora was not without its charms, e.g., the architectural, even past their bloom, mullein plants,

and the pop of color of the declining hollyhock just west of Full’s Siding.

Did see quite a few prairie dock in bud and some reasonably thick patches of false sunflower.

The light was perfect. The temperature was perfect. The air was calm. It was a good place to be.

Crossed the Salt Fork

and proceeded into St. Joe and to the Geschenk cafe for a Florentine egg and cheese wrap and latte.

Saw a few of the the St. Joe vultures

from the front window.

Then felt adventurous on the way home; much as I love the KRT, instead of retracing my outward path rode south to Homer Lake Road and East Washington Street

and stopped at the Lincoln historical marker with its surrounding prairie planting, featuring full-blooming compass plants.

Stopped for a late-morning view of the Salt Fork at Homer Lake Road,

a nice patch of wild petunias,

a deceased monarch butterfly (saw a handful of live ones this trip), corn, to document the progress of the crop,

and to document the (uncommon) existence of stalks with two ears, and the spot near 1800 E that I refer to as “Gehenna,”

where there always (or has been since 2012) is fire, or the ready ingredients for and evidence of it.

It felt good to be back out in the open countryside for a little longer than has recently been typical. Somehow when I started this blog, I’d anticipated expanding the trips over time, but instead they’ve become shorter and less frequent. It makes me think of a particular obstacle to a strong yoga practice: backsliding.

But decided to let the ride just fill the present without measurement and continue when and however possible, observing what happens.

Sunday 15 July 2018. Summer Bouquets at Meadowbrook

It was 72 degrees F at 5:55 this morning under skies with large, spread-out clouds.

All I wanted to do was go for a quick ride to Meadowbrook Park before devoting a good hour and a half to yoga practice.

But it just didn’t seem possible not to stop, first for the clouds.

Then stopped for the rabbit-statue bridge, after speeding over which, hitting the brakes lightly on the turn, getting this shot first,

then returning to get a shot of McCullough Creek from the bridge

and on, trying hard not to stop for every beckoning image.

But this was mid-July, about the peak time for beckoning images.

Like this one of the ever-photogenic compass plant framed by clouds, walnut leaves, Monarda and purple coneflowers,

With soft mist in the distance.

Found the spot between the little trees where I’ve seen Liatris blooms every year since I started observing the Meadowbrook Prairie.

The Liatris (not obvious in this photo) were just starting to bloom. Here, too, were compass plants. It really is a good year for them.

Here are more, under the clouds, with mist.

The mist slowly dispersed as I watched.

Bouquet shots abounded, here featuring purple coneflowers, Monarda, and false sunflowers.

Saw Culver’s root,

the sky with delicate and varied clouds and masses of flowers below,

royal catchfly(!), but not up close,

the patch in front of the observation deck, the one that blooms earlier than the ones in the middle of the prairie near the unpaved path, more swirling, expanding clouds,

ironweed and yellow coneflower,

yet more dramatic compass plants,

the sky and a bouquet shot,

a dense bouquet,

purple coneflowers(!!),

and yellow coneflowers and Monarda,

the signature of July!

How fortunate to be here, however briefly, to pass through and take them all in!