Saturday 15 September 2918. Bottle Gentians at Busy Meadowbrook

It was 69 degrees F under clear skies at 8:20 am as I pointed Rhododendron southward in Race Street for a very brief visit to the bottle gentians at Meadowbrook Park.

On the way stopped to check under the spruce trees for mushrooms. It was about this time three or four years ago that I first witnessed the glorious profusion of Aminita muscaria (fly agaric) mushrooms.

It was not completely devoid of mushrooms, but almost.

Rode as directly as possible over the rabbit-statue bridge

and briefly took in the unavoidable and alluring goldenrod ,the lovely violet-blue of the wild sage,

and the gold of the Bidens

And there they were, the bottle gentians.

which looked like they had not been blooming for very long.

There were several plants in the vicinity of the Marker statue, and I got a variety of shots.

Many flowers were not free of “blemish”

but their shape and color still were beautiful.

On the way back stopped for bees in goldenrod.


Wednesday 12 September 2018. A Spontaneous Short Jaunt on the KRT

It was a perfect 70 degrees F under clear skies at 10 this morning as I headed toward Main Street and the Kickapoo Rail to Trail on Rhododendron.

Yoga, swimming, and now unplanned cycling. Hooray! Too beautiful a day not to check on the goldenrod and sunflowers.

These were from Weaver Park; was surprised to find any still in bud.

Realized as soon as I got on the trail it would be late when I got back if I went all the way to St. Joe, so contented myself with turning back at Cottonwood Road, which was a good spot for yellow flowers, like these Jerusalem artichokes.

Stopped for a few more shots

on the way back.

Thursday 23 August 2018. Meadowbrook and West on Windsor Road

It was 60 degrees F (at most) and mostly clear at 6:50 this morning as I, with as little deliberation and fuss as possible, headed south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park and then perhaps out west on Windsor Road.

Stopped to look for mushrooms under the spruce trees. There were no Amanitas but did notice a couple of dough-like masses,

which I assumed were fungi and not actual masses of dough, although one can never, without further exploration, be sure.

Sped (but not completely without applying the brakes) towards and across the rabbit statue bridge. Then stopped and turned back to find the Great Blue Lobelia I’d seen on a previous visit, but first was distracted by thistle and wingstem.

Soon found the Lobelia

and then a little to the right saw a cold dragonfly perched on a boneset plant.

(Look slightly to the left of the very center of the photo.) But it zoomed away when I tried to get a closer shot.

Going back to the bridge I noticed colorful trash in the open container,

including a funny, ironic label, the literal reading of which actually came close to describing the mood of the morning.

Proceeded eastward on the path and stopped for a nice counterpoint of boneset and late compass plant.

Also stopped for the tall Coreopsis against the blue sky.

Farther along the path saw a deer crossing to the other side,

Then another,

And another, and another (four in all!), off to the buck’s club, or wherever.

Near the Freyfogle observation deck noticed that many compass plants were done blooming,

but even the last flowers sent out their yellow exuberance.

The cream gentians were abundant!

Apparently, bees had been at work getting into the flowers.

Then turned west along Windsor Road on the south edge of the park. Close to the path were thistles framed by tall Coreopsis.

At Race Street crossed to the westbound bike lane and headed west on Windsor just to ride!

Saw a harvested field and was amazed by how early the corn had been harvested, which was good news for these geese,

availing themselves of the bounty.

Along Windsor Road in Champaign there were crab apples laden with and dropping fruit.

Rode on Windsor as far as 700 E

and turned back, stopping to look down into the current of Copper Slough.

The corn along Windsor Road had golden ears on green stalks and surrounded by green leaves –a picture of health and vigor.

My bike for scale shows how crazy-talk it was.

Some of the corn stalks were decorated with blue morning glories.

Not sure whether the morning glories were harmful to the corn, but visually they were lovely.

Headed east and and then a little north, across the U of I campus just in time for move-in at the dorms.

Cars were lined up on the sidewalk (!?!), but the mood seemed calm, as if everyone expected it to go just like this.

Was deeply satisfied to have inserted a decent ride into the busy week and trekked out in the waning summer!

Sunday 19 August 2018. To the Parkland Prairie

It was 65 degrees F and mostly cloudy at 7:15 this morning as I turned my back to the sunrise and the mist (?!?) and headed toward the prairie restoration (thank you, Mike, for reminding me!) st Parkland College.

Made my way through the U of I campus, along old bike paths

and through new engineering buildings

The paths among which which were empty but probably not exactly bike-legal. Another good reason to do the trip on Sunday morning.

Took Stoughton to the Boneyard crossing and then Clark to Mattis, a busier street than I prefer for biking. Made a mental note to return via Country Fair Road and John Street.

And on to the Parkland prairie.

Which featured prairie dock, big bluestem and purple coneflowers

as well as rosinweed and a few rather stunted compass plants.

Saw yellow coneflowers,


false sunflower,

and side oats gramma grass.

The morning fog had condensed on spiderwebs, beaded threads in the typical spoke and whorl pattern

as well as some less structured threads connecting spent Monarda(?) flowers.

Rode then to Midtown Champaign for coffee and stopped nearby at the wetland planting near the landscaped Boneyard retention area. It was full of cardinal flowers (!!) and sneezeweed,great blue Lobelia,

and obedient plant,

among which were butterflies. Liked it especially for being so close to urban Champaign.

On the way home saw another huge student apartment building going up.

Not what I remember from my student days, but before my student days all students lived in dorms or “approved housing, ” and before the University was here there were farms, before the farms Native American people, before that prairie (or something else). Just the latest change.

Then back home, glad for one, at least, of these increasingly infrequent rides.

Saturday 18 August 2018. An Abundance of Cardinal Flowers and Cream Gentians

It was 67 degrees F and partly cloudy at about 6:30 this beautiful morning as I headed on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park.

On the way stopped at the stand of spruce trees where I had in the past seen great numbers of Amanita muscaria mushrooms. At first saw no evidence of them, but closer examination of a bit of debris revealed the remains of moldy mushroom. Found a couple more

but that was all. Wondered what role disease (if that was what was happening here) plays in the cycles of mushroom life.

Then headed straight to Meadowbrook, eager to see whether there still were any royal catchfly, whether the cream gentians had made their subtle but great manifestation, how and where the cardinal flowers were, and what kind and how many yellow composite flowers there were.

Stopped for a view after crossing the rabbit-statue bridge at high speed, even with tapping the breaks twice (my 1973 Schwinn Sierra, restored by the wizards at Neutral Cycle, SO rocks!) The prairie “baton” was being passed from the yellow coneflowers and compass plants to the goldenrods.

But then another late-summer bloomer asserted its presence in my field of vision: great blue Lobelia!

Which I didn’t see at Meadowbrook last year.

Turned back toward the bridge and looked down at McCullough Creek and the mostly dry bed of Douglas Creek, looking for cardinal flowers.

They were not in evidence here, so walked along the creek farther upstream then walked through the undergrowth, and there they were!

Noticed many plants distributed up and down the creekbed. Of course had to get a closeup.

Nearby were late but still vigorous compass plants. Even late into their bloom, compass plantS with flowers are compelling.

Also predictably compellingly were the dangling stamens of the big bluestem

Walked a little farther up Douglas Creek then toward the creekbed, and there were more cardinal flowers!

And still more!

Felt reassured that the population was healthy.

On the opposite side of the path, in the willowy area spotted pink hibiscus,

but did not venture in to get a closeup.

Saw abundant sprays of Gaura

and did get a closeup of them.

Then saw a large caterpillar, upside down, like it was about to pupate.

A luna moth! Or perhaps a Polyphemus.

Then spotted more cardinal flowers!

for which there was nothing to do but go in through the wet vegetation (and wet ground) to get a closer view.

Also saw vervain,

but did not see the turtlehead that had been in this area in past years around this time.

And saw EVEN more cardinal flowers!

Was glad I wore proper shoes in anticipation of getting them wet.

And was extremely satisfied to witness so many gorgeous cardinal flowers!

Heard a bird (did not see it) whose song had the melody of the theme of the old Woody Woodpecker cartoon (“ha-ha-ha-HA-ha”).

Then ventured to the soft path to look inside the prairie for royal catchfly and cream gentians.

The path was quite obstructed by wet, leaning big bluestem.

Knew from this that it would be less pleasant than the the preceding bike ride, but in I went.

Actually thought about turning back, but inertia (an object in motion…) prevailed and continued forward.

Though did have the feeling, for a while, that I wasn’t so comfortable, was not feeling one with nature, that I kind of wanted to go back to the “man-village.”

Did not see gentians at first, but looked carefully all along the path because they can pop up in unexpected places from year to year; so far did not see any.

And then there they were, behind the brown-eyed Susans.

Then they seemed to be everywhere

in their understated splendor!

They beckoned; more irresistible images.

Then looked for royal catchfly but did not find any, alas. Remembered that it had taken a while to find them before, but was satisfied with the results of the search and wanted to get back.

On the way back saw bush clover, with its modest flowers and handsome foliage

Then, on the way out, was greeted by

a lovely caterpillar, which at first I assumed was a monarch. But half of its black stripes were broken lines, and it lacked false antennae. Also it had recently munched a lot of Queen Anne’s lace, suggesting it was a black swallowtail.

A splendid late summer prairie morning it was!

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,


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!

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.