Saturday 2 September 2017. A Little More Late Summer Floral Drama

It was 49 degrees F at 7:32 am as Rhododendron (which practically goes by itself since the wizards at Neutral Cycle worked their magic on it) headed toward Meadowbrook Park.

A yellow rose among purple hibiscus flowers caught my eye

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As did the apples.

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There were plenty of them, though the tree had some stressed areas.

But, farther along, saw no mushrooms under the spruce trees.

At Meadowbrook Park, along the dry beds of McCullough and Davis creeks,

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were still some cardinal flowers.

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In spite of the drought (because of it?) it’s been a good year for them.

Farther along the path, near the Marker statue and camouflaged from the casual observer, below the median height of the prairie vegetation, were lots of cream gentians.

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Also there were some that were a light blue-violet, paler than and too early to be bottle gentians.

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I’m guessing they were the hybrid gentian Gentiana x pallidocyanea, a cross between G. alba (cream) and G. andrewsii (bottle). There also is a pale blue non-hybrid species (G. saponaria, soapwort gentian) but the fact that both of the former two species occur together and that the cream outnumber the bottle by so much, it’s possible that bottle gentians got some cream gentian pollen. Just speculating. On the other hand, the bloom of the bottle gentians is much later than that of the creams, it’s hard to imagine how the cross-pollination would happen.

Also saw some, presumably cream gentians, with just a tinge of purple at the tips of the flowers.

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Gene flow? Environmental stress?

Also nearby were thistles in full fuzzy purple bloom, with about-to-bloom goldenrod behind to set them off.

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There were some Bidens (tickseed) near the statue,

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but noticed more of them, more in their characteristic golden yellow (so handsome against a blue sky, no matter how common) profusion,

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on the way back out of the park and toward home.

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Saturday 26 August 2017. CU Across the Prairie Homer Lake and the KRT!

It was about 54 degrees F under mostly (but lightly) cloudy skies

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this morning at 7:20, when I checked in at Parisol Records for the 2017 CU Across the Prairie ride. Yesterday when I registered online I’d thought maybe I’d go for the 20-something mile ride, but when the guy checking me in asked if I was doing the 40-something ride I said “Yes.” Ok. That’s one way to decide.

But before that, got myself to the yoga studio for a pre-ride practice.

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So was ready to ride!

Took my cue sheet and headed out!

Spent a little time (as did other cyclists) figuring out a mistake in the itinerary early on, but after exploring the neighborhood just east of Crystal Lake Park, where there was, e.g., a well-laden apple tree,

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soon was in familiar territory.

Headed out Brownfield Road,

Crossed Interstate 74, observing the first of the goldenrod bloom.

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Farther along, noticed what I thought was a run-over garter snake.

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There is a word in Sanskrit that describes this kind of mistake (Viparyaya), which is one of the disturbances of consciousness and can be the origin of a lot of personal suffering and interpersonal conflict. Btw.

Rode on, pondering the nature of mistakes and alternative perceptions, southward on 1800 E and east toward Homer Lake Road.

For the third time in a month passed “Gehenna,” which today was active and issuing smoke.

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The road opened under the mostly cloudy sky. It was quite pleasant.

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Crossed the Salt Fork.

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Where a great blue heron waded.

Stopped at the prairie-planted Lincoln “shrine”

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which featured Physostegia, tall Coreopsis, and rosin weed.

Met up with another cyclist who was deciding which way to go, a young woman from Canada who had just gotten a job in Champaign. We decided on a direction and chatted as we rode.

We made it to Homer Lake,

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but after that there were lots of not-well-marked twists and turns on the route around and through the Homer Lake Park, and neither of us could be sure we were where the cue sheet said we should be.

Thought it might be cutting off some distance from the ride, but sensed which was the way back and wanted to proceed there. So we decided to go different ways and wished each other a good conclusion of the ride.

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Eventually made it to St. Joseph and the head of the long-awaited (and just opened the day before) Kickapoo Rail to
Trail!

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The trail made its own beautiful crossing of the Salt Fork on what presumably was a form of a railroad bridge.

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The trail was lined with prairie flowers, most notably prairie dock,

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Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

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and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

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Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

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Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

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but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

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Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

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which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

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Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

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and down the path a little way

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Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

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and close-up.

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The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

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and the spiderwort

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therapeutically abundant!

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Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

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to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

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Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

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Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

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so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

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Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

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On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

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butterfly weed

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and a small, less showy milkweed.

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Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

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They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

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The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!

Sunday 11 October 2015. The Prairie Flowers Fade

It was 46, or so, degrees F at 7 this morning as the sun came up in a partly cloudy sky. Destination on Rhododendron was very specifically to see whether there were any bottle gentians in the middle of the Meadowbrook Park prairie, near the “soft” path. 

But did stop for white iris, 

 apples,  with a spider strung in front of “my” tree,

 
and of course mushrooms (Amanita muscaria

 which still included young  and large individuals. 

  

But also, quite a few were getting on in maturity  
and succumbing to disturbance. 

 But at this point still there were plenty of them. 

Then proceeded to Meadowbrook directly to the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie,  

 
walking Rhododendron across the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and stopping to see how still the water was now.  

 No babbling today. 

Moved along at a brisk pace on the path, glad that the grass leaning into the middle was not so dense as it was the last time I tried to look for bottle gentians here.  Seemed like the spent flower-tops of the grasses were weathering down. 

 And the goldenrod flowers were moving from yellow toward ochre.  Was surprised  that the  fragrance of mint was so strong here. Have seen mountain mint around here before, but didn’t realize the scent persists long after the flowers are done  blooming.  

Was surprised that the prairie was so brown and seemingly pretty much done with the bloom for the year. 

 

It made me sad, less that it had reached this stage, more that I had missed a lot of the process (and isn’t it just about always about the process?).  Yet here I was, with wonders of a more subtle kind in front of me: the task was to refocus. 

Looked carefully for bottle gentians but found none, unless this one counts.  

  Thought maybe it was just cream gentian blooms that got a little purple as they aged.  The leaves seemed narrow like  bottle gentians, but couldn’t be sure.  Looked like I was way late for it; tells me I need to check earlier next year.  

Did also find a couple of straggling  but definitive cream gentian flowers.  

 Noticed so many stalks of gentian leaves with their tips cropped off. Deer food, presumably. Maybe the deer had gotten to all the bottle gentian flowers here. 

Had only a small window of time and now had to get back, a bit sad and regretful, but ever glad and grateful to have been here at all. Makes me think, in life it would be so nice to have the equivalent of scarlet cardinal flowers, golden compass plant blooms, and azure-blue bottle gentians around all year, when what happens is that they may visit only briefly. Still, their very existence, ever, like sweet times, even moments, of harmony and balance is cause for gratitude.

Wednesday 7 October 2015. The Latest from Mushroom Land

It was 50 degrees F and thinly cloudy this morning at 7:30 when I squeezed in a little ride on Discovery II to check on the amazing Amanita muscaria mushrooms. 

And on the way looked at the fall-blooming white iris  

 
and the apples from “my” tree. 

 
The mushrooms, which I wasn’t sure had not been ravaged by some unfriendly or even indifferent source, were indeed there!  Was encouraged as soon as I got close to see large, fresh individuals at the very north end of the stand of spruces.  

   The Amanitas were in fact numerous and exhibiting many sizes and states of development. It was not a solid, uniform fruiting of fresh fungus, but it was extensive and amazing!

For example, there were clusters of small and medium-sized mushrooms whose caps had split into flower-like shapes before they could form the inverted-umbrella that larger specimens often make. 

  

Top view. 

 And worm’s eye. 

Speaking of larger specimens, saw what must be the largest Amanita I’ve ever seen!  So far. Laid a quarter on top of it for scale. 
  

Yikes!

Noticed that the ground-cover plants under the spruces did not seem to inhibit the mushrooms at all, contrary to what I’d supposed a few weeks ago, when there were so many fewer of them. 

Loved seeing the bunches of round spiky  ones crowded together. 

  

And liked this large, rather mature one, the inverted top of which made the shape of a bowl. 

Seemed like the ones growing in the ground cover had the deepest orange color. 

Honestly could have stayed a very long time!
 

But practiced letting go and kept the rich display in my mind and heart to get me over the day’s inevitable humps.  

Thursday 24 September 2015. Apples, Mushrooms, Flowers (Especially Gentians)

It was 55 degrees F at 6:35 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park, hoping to see bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii), which seem to be blooming early this year. 

Stopped for the white iris,   

the cabbage roses,  

  and the apples on the way.  
Also stopped to check for mushrooms, especially after last week’s deluge. 

Amanita muscaria were not immediately evident; the last episode of fruiting apparently finished. But did see mushrooms of another species  

 which looked distinctive enough to be able to figure out their identity, but for now shall remain nameless.

Closer inspection also revealed the beginning of a new round of mushrooming  Amanita.  

 They are a force with which to be  reckoned!

And speaking of such forces, my trip this morning was even more than usual a fervent prayer for balance, for clarity, for presence in each beautiful moment, for  serenity to accept what I can’t change,  courage to change what I can, and wisdom to know the difference….

 Rode on and passed through the construction zone to Meadowbrook Park.   

Below the rabbit-statue bridge McCullough and Davis creeks were full and still with dead leaves floating on the surface. 

  

The view of the horizon was clearer than it had been earlier this season: foliage is being shed. 

There was a lot of goldenrod still blooming but it definitely was past its peak. New England asters appeared in surprise clumps among them, lovely and complementary purple.

  Then made my way to the Marker statue in search of bottle gentians.  Wondered whether it would be a good year for them; my last search turned up only a few plants. 

But here they were!   Was even able to get a few “bouquet” shots especially with goldenrod and Bidens

  

The bottle gentians actually were quite abundant

and from the number of small buds still  quite early in their bloom.

  

Was happy to see so many plants. 

Noticed the old soapwort gentian, the flowers of which were mostly brown but still quite shapely and handsome.

  

Kept finding more bottle gentian plants but didn’t try to find every last one.

  

Was delighted to find a reasonably fresh cream gentian and fit it into the same frame with a blue one. 

  

Started back then saw a group of deer,  young ones and presumably their mom, in a recently cleared area surrounded by goldenrod. 
  

I paused and we exchanged recognition. Nice to commune, even in this limited way, with other species. 

Like so many times before, felt quite refreshed by this brief contact with the outside world au vélo.  The apples, the mushrooms, the flowers…. They were like the offerings of flowers that loved ones bring when one feels unwell, symbols of love and comfort. 

Thank you, God. Thank you, beautiful world!

Thursday 17 September 2015. Through Goldenrod to Yankee Ridge

It was 57 degrees F this morning at 6:22 as I headed south on Rhododendron.  Dreamed of a long ride but was ready to settle for a shorter one. It’s goldenrod season, and knew it would greet me no matter the length of the ride. 

First did stop at “my” apple tree, near which the fall bloom of the cabbage roses was beginning.  

 
and of the white iris was continuing.  

 
There were lots of apples both hanging from the tree 

 
and on the ground.   

 
Then a little way down stopped to check on the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which were fewer and less “fresh” than at last visit.    

Maybe they were at last finishing their “bloom.”

Liked the view of the underside of this one. 

  

Wondered though whether this was just the end of their time for this go or whether  this end was was being hastened by some human agency. 

Looked like some that had not fully matured had been pulled out. 

 

Rode to Meadowbrook Park but then turned east on Windsor Road and only rode along the  northern edge. 

Was glad to see Gaura among the goldenrod. 

 
Pasture thistle (Ciserium discolor) made a nice occasional purple-pink accent against the goldenrod yellow.   

Above the goldenrod, against the sunrise southern sky, rose the already decomposing remnants of rosinweed 
  

Along the path into the park was a border of yellow. 

  

Could not resist catching the message chalked on the path, even though it seemed to discourage leisurely observation.  

Then kept going east on Windsor Road to Philo and then south. The road was lined for a long stretch with goldenrod. 
 

Loved the golden border, not minding that it’s weedy and invasive. 

 Overhead noticed a great blue heron flying, which appears below  

as a dot in the sunrise clouds between the lowest and the second-lowest utility line. They seem to be so much more common than you’d imagine in central Illinois. Just have to know where to look. 

Liked the spray of goldenrod growing in this drain or whatever it was in the middle of the rip-rap. 
  

Rode farther south on Philo Road to Old Church Road and because of limited time was going to turn back, but was so close to the summit of Yankee Ridge, and the morning sun was coming up over it, so just turned left and rode on through the familiar remarkable quiet and was rewarded with another lovely view.   

And then headed back, gladdened by this starkly beautiful spot and all the intervening September goldenrod yellow.