Thursday 14 June 2018. Sunrise on the KRT

It was 61 degrees F and partly cloudy at a little after 5 this morning as I departed for the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike trail and points east.

At last I made it I made it out before sunrise! At last I had a bike ride! My early hours have be taken lately with other activities, and this was my first time out for days, as well as on the KRT since any native prairie plants had started to bloom.

Oh, the early morning sky!

Saw not one but two foxes, neither of which photographed well enough to bother trying to show the dots to indicate their presence.

Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park, where there were lots of orange butterfly milkweed in bloom

as well as other other early summer flowers I didn’t take time to photograph.

At the beginning of the KRT trail, stopped to view the sunrise!

Was glad to see it after having missed it for so long.

Soon after passing Walmart rode through the little wooded stretch that still was a little dark.

Got into the soothing rhythm of pedaling straight ahead, on and on through the subtly changing landscape. Got a view of the corn with clouds above.

Central Illinois!

Rode as far as Full’s Siding then turned back.

Saw fewer prairie flowers than I expected (no spiderwort to speak of!?). But this feral hollyhock was striking.

Near High Cross Road and the beginning of the trail I turned back to see the sun well clear of the horizon but still low in the spreading clouds

Stopped to get a view of the weedy but stately mullein.

And returned home to take up the rest of the day.


Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.


Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,




mountain mint,


at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers


common milkweed


butterfly milkweed,




and an early-blooming aster.


And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.


Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris


and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.


Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.


On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.


And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.


Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

Sunday 26 June 2016. Homer Lake Road, with Dog

This morning at 5:55 it was 74 humid degrees, the sky mostly cloudy but with gaps in the clouds.

After a lot of anxious indecision (why exactly?) decided to take Rhododendron eastward in the direction of Homer Lake.

This meant a quick stop at the “buffalo-wallow” pond at Weaver Park, where Culver root already were blooming, along with wild bergamot and yellow coneflower.


Heard a number of bullfrogs, who seemed to take turns vocalizing rather than sing in a chorus. Actually saw one jump up and “fly” across the lily pads and disappear back into the water. Also saw what I think were tadpoles leaping up out of the water (and falling directly back in).

Saw ducks too far away to ID, and then a swimming mammal: a groundhog, I decided (two thirds of the way down, just to the right of center).

And back on the road.

Noticed what a nice place the area near Washington and High Cross is to see the eastern sky.


Stopped after the place where Washington jogs into Homer Lake Road for a shot of the steel drum where they have been burning things since I first started riding out this way six years ago.


Along Homer Lake Road, the corn was taller than I in lots of places. “Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, in central Illinois!”

I know they make the economy go, but the spirit loves flowers. At least on the edges.

Rode on, periodically remembering to observe the breath. It wasn’t the Pranayama experience of last week but still nice for some stretches.

Passed a fenced yard in which there was a dog; trusted the fence and rode on. No problem. But in another yard not long after saw a rather large brown dog, unfenced (I think at least once in the past I have turned back after seeing this dog). Felt lucky and rode on, when the dog began to bark and come after me. There was no time to dread and work up fearful anticipation: here it was, the thing I dreaded happening.

So, carefully avoiding eye contact with the dog, just put the pedal to the metal, as it were, and rode ahead.

Oddly, felt almost calm; decided the dog didn’t really want to attack me. So envisioned him(her) just wanting to say “hi” the way my family’s 12 year old Bichon does with every person and dog we pass on his walks.

And soon the dog went back. Big whew.
But resolved not to pass this way on the return trip.

Reached the bridge over the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River and paused to look into the high water.


Rode a little way down, to the historical marker of the site of Kelley’s Tavern, a place that Lincoln was said to have frequented. It has a lovely little planting of native prairie plants, which today featured a bloom of common milkweed, with bees


as well as milkweed-specific (true) bugs


and beetles


as well as butterfly milkweed


Then turned back and veered off on a road that became Windsor Road, which, after an early turn, is straight as an arrow and seems to include uphill all the way to Meadowbrook Park. But it was better than risking another ride with the dog, who might no be so friend this time.

Had a treat crossing the little creek a little way west of the Salt Fork: a fairly large group of wood ducklings and adult female ducks.

If it hadn’t been for the dog I might have missed them. Wondered whether there is some special habit in the immediate area: have seen wood ducks in that creek once or twice before and never anywhere else on these bike rides.

Saw a nice collection here and there along the road of great mulleins (Verbascum thapsus),

img_7681each one like a fuzzy, flower-topped stately tower. They are not native but seem to fit nicely into the landscape.

(Ah, the inconsistency of human prejudice about “nature!”)

Heard many dicksissels to the right and left and above me on utility lines.

Seemed, like last year, to be a good year for them.

Was glad to reach Meadowbrook Park but also was ready to be home and didn’t stop.

Saturday 25 June 2016. Last Week Revisited: Update on Queen-of-the-Prairie

This morning at 10:20 (later, again) it was 84 degrees F after Yoga in the Park,

img_7586in which I participated, and introduced myself to the instructor. I volunteered to teach and she said there still might be some open Saturday’s yet this summer. Another new experience!

Knew the queen-of-the-prairie, which was in bud last week, must be farther along in its bloom, so made my way back to the middle of the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie to witness its preset state.

On the way from the Vine Street (playground) entrance saw compass plant stalks rising


With great restraint bypassed the Freyfogel viewing deck and the leadplant and rode directly to the “soft” path into the prairie. There saw false sunflowers and thick clusters of green, beginning-to-ripen blackberries.


Saw thimbleweed,


and some remaining Penstemon


Noticed cream gentian foliage, with growth tips nipped off. Some creature (let’s say deer) must find them tasty.


There were purple coneflowers


and yellow coneflowers


and blooming butterfly milkweed.


The white wild indigo already were starting to produce seed pods.


Mountain mint, with its delicate bunches of white flowers and thin, short leaves, gave its fresh minty fragrance


And then there was the queen (of the prairie),

in her resplendent pink plume, still, after a week, with fewer than half of its buds open. Looked like it would be a long, luxurious bloom!

At the end of the prairie path, crossed the little wooden bridge over babbling McCullough Creek.


On the bank, again this week, saw ebony jewelwing damselflies.


Was glad to have participated in Yoga in the Park and to have checked in with the ever-changing prairie!

Monday 20 June 2016. First Morning of Summer, on the Edge of Weaver Park

At 5:35 this morning, this earliest morning, this first morning of summer, it was 72 degrees F and clear except for some thin clouds near where the sun was coming up.

Did not quite make it to see the very leading edge of the sun disc break the horizon, but it was close enough.

Had a little time to ride in the bonus daylight and wanted to stay fairly close to Crystal Lake Park, so the destination was Weaver Park, or what I could see of it from Main Street. Also wanted to check a wildflower garden across the street where I’d seen lead plant past bloom in previous years.

Weaver didn’t look like much from a distance, bit closer up were a variety of flowers:

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepius tuberosa)


Monarda (fistulosa, wild bergamot)


False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)


Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)


Rattlesnake master (Eryingium yuccifolium)


And some lovely late spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)


Then across the street in the wildflower garden, so generously right next to the bike lane, was the lead plant,

which was still mostly in bud.

Also lovely were the remaining pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa)


Love how much beauty one can take in
on such a short excursion!

Then to the pool, on the way to which tried again to capture something of what a lovely little ride that is.

Not quite possible, I think.

And on the way back, it was hard to resist a look at the winding Boneyard.

I think I do, mostly, like the results of that lengthy project after all.

Saturday 18 June 2016. This Year’s Queen of the Prairie

It was 62 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies this morning at 6:30.

This morning’s mission was once again to seek and hopefully find queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra) at Meadowbrook Park.

Tried not to chastise myself for doing laundry (it’s insidious!) instead of being present to witness the sun disc breaking from the horizon as I headed south on Discovery II.

The temperature was perfectly comfortable, the light was bright but slightly softened, the air fresh, as they say.

Some linden trees had almost finished blooming; others were in full fragrant bloom. The perfume of linden did not fill the block, but close to a blooming tree the fragrance was sweet and uplifting.

Made me think of Samadhi, or spiritual absorption. Not the same as pleasure, I understand. But I think it’s hard to imagine without a reference to something pleasant.

Away from Samadhi, observed irritation arise at the stop light at Windsor and Race, again.

Entered Meadowbrook Park near the garden plots and Sensory Garden and walked Discovery II toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

The sound of McCullough Creek babbling at the the little wooden bridge provoked from me a sigh. Calm!


Stopped for a quick look upstream

and walked on.

The path into the prairie was nicely worn, and comfortably proceeded to walk in and search for the prized flowers. On the way saw remaining foxglove Penstemon,

rattlesnake master,

and mountain mint, like last week.

Scanned the area toward the middle of the prairie where I’d seen it last year and at first saw nothing like queen-of-the-prairie except a bare-looking stalk that rose a little above the other plants, next to a blooming common milkweed. Had it finished blooming and I’d missed it?

Decided to walk in just in case, and to my delight discovered that the tall stalk was full of tight pink buds!

Not only that but there seemed to be more shorter stalks, even more than I recall from last year.

in company with the very photogenic common milkweed.

on which were a couple of Japanese beetles. Wondered whether the milkweed toxins affected them. Not enough to keep them off, apparently.

On the way back to the bike saw some lovely later-bloom spiderwort


Maneuvering the bike, noticed a hole pretty much flush with the ground

No chimney; was it made by a crayfish? It was the right diameter. Some other creature?

Onward to the little bridge, spotted a black-winged (ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata) damselfly resting on a leaf near the creek,

a lovely decoration for the stream-side.

Was glad to be able to witness the bloom of queen-of-the-prairie for another season.

Friday 26 June 2015. Crystal Lake and Meadowbrook Park with a Little Fog

It was 70 degrees F under a uniformly grey sky this morning at 5:30 as I took Discovery II for a ride before an early swim. There was a bit of an east wind. 

Thought about going to Weaver Park and started east on Washington Street, but by the time I got to Philo Road (which looked pretty cool with the fog that was rolling in)  


realized there wasn’t enough time for that. 

So headed north on Cottage Grove and on to Crystal Lake Park to that lovely winding path along the Saline Branch (which today was high and fast!)  

to the pool. 

Noticed a tree with red leaves at the growth tips.  


Was surprised to see red leaves in late June. 

Then went for a swim with the fog all around, oh, yeah(!) which lifted a lot before I was done.  

Then decided to check out Meadowbrook Park, at least to see what was blooming today, even if the picturesque fog was mostly gone. 

On the way stopped for a picture of (some of) the Crystal Lake geese,  
the population of which the Urbana Park District is working to reduce. Ah, the life force is so strong!  It’s hard (impossible?) to work against it without violence. 

Rode toward Meadowbrook on Vine Street.  At Florida Avenue saw a nice group of large white mushrooms.   

 At Meadowbrook went in the clockwise direction toward the Freyfogel Overlook. On the way saw a variety of flowers, including new yellow coneflowers 

and common milkweed   At the overlook got another batch of lead plant photos.  

   Also got pictures of butterfly milkweed

 and today’s false sunflowers,  

 Baptisia mountain  mint,  and bush clover with spiderwort.  

The bounty of such a summer morning boggles the mind!