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!

Saturday 14 July 2018. Tour des “Prairielets”

It was 68 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies at 6:15 this morning as I solved the question of where to go by deciding to visit a number of spots with native prairie plantings.

On the way south had to stop for a giant hibiscus,

not in a “prairielet” but compelling. they seem especially impressive this year.

Stopped briefly on the edge of Meadowbrook Park, not a “prairie-let” by any means, but it was on the way,

and how could one not stop to check it out?

Then “Texas-exited” the park to Race Street

and rode southward, turning east on Old Church Road to the Barnhart Prairie Restoration.

Did not find anything spectacular but was glad for the space devoted to prairie plants, and for the bike rack.

From Old Church turned south on First Street. At County Road 1100 N stopped at the pond between First Street and the housing subdivision to behold the blooming pink lotus!

Couldn’t get very close to it, but even from a distance the dabs of pink among the large, round leaves were striking.

Continued southward, wondering whether the roadside prairie I’d seen before in this area was still there or whether it may have been mowed. And then, there it was!

At the edge of a carefully mowed lawn with planted evergreens could make out stalks of compass plants.

Up close, saw yellow coneflowers and purple coneflowers, and Monarda.

And there, amid cup plant and small milkweed foliage and Culver’s root flowers, as I’d hoped, was royal catchfly!

It was a little far from the road and on the other side of a ditch, but I zoomed it in for a documentary photo.

The strip of prairie plants continued southward, and I expected to see more royal catchfly, if memory served; did not expect this,

the utter profusion of bright red flower-stars!

And there were several patches, some close enough to get more detail than from the one at the other end.

Also was able to photograph them associated with different other plants.

It was a thrill to see this abundance of red flowers at the very peak of their bloom!

Then headed back to town to the little prairie garden behind the Natural Resources Building, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Saw something cool there of which I didn’t remember the identity, but which I recalled seeing on the “Tall-Grass Praires of Illinois” poster.

(Consulting the poster later revealed that it was flowering spurge, Euforbia corollata.) There were milkweeds I wasn’t sure of:

the blooms were darker pink and the leaves narrower than those of common milkweed, but they didn’t quite look like swamp milkweed, either. Later research suggested it might be prairie milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii).

There were fresh blooms of rattlesnake master.

And, set off by a handsome cluster of wild quinine flowers,

there was more royal catchfly!

Then rode on and, finally, stopped at the prairie planting at Florida and Orchard.

There was rosinweed (blooms of which have not been especially abundant this year), Monarda,

purple coneflower,

blue vervain,

and Culver’s root.

Was glad to have located so many prairie flowers in a relatively small area.

And all this bloom is one reason why my vote for best month of the year goes to July.

Wednesday 4 July 2018. Royal Catchfly at Meadowbrook and Riding a Little Farther out on Curtis Road

It was 72 degrees F under mostly clear skies at 5:50 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway toward Meadowbrook Park.

Had been undecided (indecision seems to be one of those factors that subtracts from the net joy of an activity) this morning about where to go: there are so many routes I haven’t taken since last year or longer ago. But what I most didn’t want to miss was the progression of the bloom at Meadowbrook and decided to make that the priority.

As soon as I was rolling down Race Street felt a smile bloom on my face. The air was humid but still cool, and calm, and the sun had broken the horizon less than a half hour before. It was a beautiful holiday morning.

Stopped at the grove of spruce trees to check for mushrooms below their branches

but there were none. Wondered whether the undergrowth of honeysuckle, etc., which seems to be encroaching on the needle-mulch ground, would discourage the appearance of mushrooms. Well, summer seems generally not to be their time. Will watch to see what the advance of the season brings.

At Meadowbrook sped directly to the rabbit -statue bridge but did not stop: a young man wearing a fedora-type hat was already standing on the bridge and didn’t want to interrupt his solitude. Or mine.

Rounded the corner of the prairie and stopped to take in the present population of prairie flowers, especially the signature for this time of year, yellow coneflower

and Monarda

which I didn’t (yet) find in big masses as they sometimes occur, but still each fountain of purple-pink petals was lovely.

Near the wet area where the had been irises earlier this year suddenly saw the hind end of a deer.

When I stopped to photograph it, noticed another one off the path a little way to my right, facing me, presumably a doe.

She kept walking in my direction and stopped rather close to me. The other deer crossed the path and joined her, and I noticed there was another, smaller deer with them.

After we shared the morning a little longer they slowly walked off to the west.

Stopped at the little bridge over Douglas Creek

where I liked the early light through the passing clouds over the bridge and to its upstream side.

Closer to the middle of the prairie noticed it looked like it would be a bumper year for compass plants,

the tall form,

lace-like leaves,

and radiating benevolent-face-like blooms of which

one never tires of photographing.

Other flowers blooming today included mountain mint,

purple coneflower, and false sunflower.

At the Freyfogle prairie overlook were Baptisia,

Culver’s root,

late spiderwort,

and, as a most happy surprise, royal catchfly!

to photograph which I had to walk into the vegetation (at least not too far), which I can’t help feeling as a little violation of the sacredness of the place. So was careful and quick.

I’m always amazed and delighted at how such bright flowers escape the casual glance and only appear after careful observation.

Another prairie-lover with a camera came by and we exchanged words of admiration for the bright red star-flowers, and for other prairie flowers (treasures that, we agreed, were good for the eyes as well as the soul) we had seen.

Then headed out toward Curtis Road to pay my respects to the mighty phalanxes of corn.

Rode east on Curtis as far as Route 130, noting the slight rise and fall of the road slope, intermittently sitting upright with no hands to give the shoulders a break.

And headed back, feeling tired but well-content.

Sunday 1 July 2018. Sunrise, a Ride East on Old Church, and Lots of Compass Plants at Meadowbrook

It was 73 degrees F under partly cloudy skies at 5:15 this morning as I headed south on Race Street on Rhododendron.

Wanted to, and did, catch the early summer sunrise!

Wondered about everything that was blooming at Meadowbrook but first headed to Old Church and East toward Yankee Ridge.

The corn was almost supernatural looking with its ears and tassels on this first day of July!

Stopped to see spiderwort along the Barnhart Prairie Restoration.

A spike of Desmodium (tick trefoil) rose above the purple and yellow coneflowers

Culver’s root blooms were sent off by the erect spade-shapes of prairie dock leaves.

Then continued east and got a view from the “summit ”

of the Yankee Ridge moraine. Almost as beautiful as looking out over the ocean. Perhaps.

Rode in to Meadowbrook as far as the garden plots and then dismounted and walked Rhododendron toward the Art and Billie Spomer prairie.

McCullough Creek was full and “babbling” under the little wooden bridge.

The path into the prairie was flanked by lush vegetation.

In the path of the rising sun were many dewy tall compass plants,

heralding the splendor of the emerging summer prairie bloom. (My, those compass plants were abundant!) So much to see, on another day.

I’ve gotten out of the routine of longish bike rides so was feeling some fatigue. So it goes.

Still, was extra glad to have been out communing with the landscape.

Saturday 30 June 2018. KRT to Geschenk

It was 76 degrees F under partly cloudy skies this morning at 7 as I departed for St. Joseph via the KRT.

Had to start later than I would have preferred because the Geschenk cafe, which I’ve wanted to try, doesn’t open till 8 am on Saturdays.

Rode pretty much directly to the straight-line KRT, soon amid expanses of soybeans and especially corn. Noticed two kinds of corn smells: one of Fritos (not Tostitos or Doritos) corn chips, the other like the pot of water left after boiling sweet corn.

Along the trail were some native prairie plants (spiderwort, yellow coneflower, false sunflower, Monarda) but the landscape belonged to exotics, like mullein

and soapwort.

But had to admit I liked their floral presence. It was a way of accepting what I couldn’t change (would that they all were natives!) at that moment, and was rewarded with joy.

Dickcissels on utility lines and in shrubs sang all along the way.

Saw at least one monarch and quite a few black butterflies with yellow near the bottom edge.

The temperature was starting to climb.

Crossed the bridge over the Salt Fork,

stopping to observe the flotsam and jetsam collected on its north side.

and rode into St. Joe, to the Geschenk cafe.

Which I just noticed was in a Masonic Temple.

Had a great Florentine egg wrap and cafe latte and worked on the blog at Geschenk. Sat close to the front window, and the atmosphere was very pleasant, except maybe for the TV playing instead of music. The young barista was very pleasant and I thought it would be nice to bring a family member or friend here.

Also wrote a quick letter that I mailed from the St. Joseph post office and then headed westward into the now-high, unimpeded sun. Did wish it were earlier.

Tried not to lengthen the trip (felt hot and tired) by stopping but did get drawn to the white (exotic) morning glories.

The glaring sun and heat made the ride a little less pleasant than earlier, but tried to allow this measured discomfort and to imagine it as any situation in life that didn’t feel especially good but where there was nothing to do but endure it.

Overall I enjoyed this latest ride on the KRT and my visit to Geschenk in St Joseph.

Sunday 24 June 2018. All the Way to St. Joe on the KRT

It was 64 degrees F under clearing skies at 6:20 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway to head to St, Joseph on the Kickapoo Rail to Trail. The weather ap indicated fog, but by the time I got rolling it had pretty much cleared, leaving dew drops on the vegetation and spiderwebs.

Rode east on Main Street and stopped at Weaver Park to catch the bloom there:

Saw lots of lavender-pink Monarda,

some yellow

and purple coneflowers,

horse nettle,

and the stately foliage of cup plants.

Along Weaver Park saw branches of elm; survivors of the mid-century devastation?

Rode straight eastward out on the trail, feeling the rhythm of the rotating pedals.

Here at some things I saw but wasn’t able to photograph:

Singing dickcissels

Swooping goldfinches

A thirteen-lined ground squirrel (!?!)

Two black butterflies

Two monarch butterflies

One or two groundhogs

Noticed that the black-eyed Susans looked pristine and free of disease,

which may be why I didn’t pass them by as I often do and stoped to get a photograph of one.

The soapwort were abundant and lovely, not native, but fresh and of just the shade of pink my sister Vickie would have loved,

some accented with the foliage of prairie dock and common ragweed (which are native.)

Sumac on the south side of the trail made a handsome border for this bean field in the morning light.

There were mullein (not native) with beautiful, fuzzy, dewey foliage.

Saw a flower that might be another exotic but it caught my eye.

[Later looked through my handy Wildflowers and Weeds book and came up with moth mullein (Verbascum blatteria).]

At Full’s Siding stopped to check out the clever book- exchange.

Have to remember to bring something next time.

Saw post-fog dew-beaded spiderwebs among the (non-native) chicory.

Crossed the Salt Fork on the lovely wood-surfaced, metal-sided bridge.

Stopped for a view of the St Joe Post Office.

and of a coffee shop I need to come back to try.

On the way back stopped for the scene- punctuating red hollyhock.

And for more beautiful pink soapwort.

Spiderwort (native!) was abundant but couldn’t get close to it without getting down into the vegetation.

Headed back home after another soul-filling passage (and ready for the next one) on the KRT!