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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Sunday 23 July 2017. First Cardinal Flowers and Other Summer Blooms

77 degrees F under very cloudy skies at 6:15 this morning as I headed out to, where else? Meadowbrook Park to witness the summer bloom of the prairie.

At the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek could see a faint spot of red, not quite visible in this photo.

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But I could see it, so today made the trek through the “briars and the brambles” to the creekbed, and was rewarded! Was thrilled to see newly blooming cardinal flowers, on both sides of the creek.

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Got to view of the first flowers opening,

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the stalked bulbs of the buds peeling out into their graceful, majestic bird-shapes.

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Around the corner and down the path were more flowers, starting with purple and yellow coneflowers and Monarda.

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Then was taken by surprise by a deer close to this bench.

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Farther along was rosinweed,

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Tall Coreopsis,

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early goldenrod, the exact identity of which I haven’t been able to figure out,

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and wild quinine, the cauliflower-like white flowers of which were more widespread than I remember from previous years and mostly quite healthy-looking.

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Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

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as I dismounted Rhododendron and walked into the prairie on the unpaved path.

Compass plant stalks with their version of sunflowers rose toward the clouds high above the other plants.

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A red-winged blackbird lighted at the top of one,

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then flew off.

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There was ironweed,

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the ever-photogenic false sunflower,

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and Culver’s root.

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And, lo, there was royal catchfly!

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Which was stunning close-up by itself as well as mid-distance, framed by rattlesnake master,

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or as the red splash in a prairie “bouquet.”

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It was the time of the two red prairie flowers, the zenith of the summer!

Noticed (cropped!) cream gentian foliage with the beginnings of buds but no blooms yet.

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On the way back to the paved path noticed white prairie clover

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and purple prairie clover.

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The progression along the inflorescence from pre-bud to bud to flower to spent bloom of both species looked like a flame moving from the bottom to the top.

The clouds continued to threaten rain, which came as I headed, entirely satisfied with the morning’s presentation, north on Race Street, toward home.

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Saturday 22 July 2017. Vervain and a Few Other Summer Blooms

It was 75 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:15 as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

The cardinal flowers in front of my house were beginning to bloom, so wanted to check whether they were blooming at Meadowbrook.

Rolled toward, over and past the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek and around the corner just to the wet area where cardinal flowers have been (though not every year) in the past, parked the bike on its factory kickstand, and walked away from the path and into the willowy wet area. But saw no cardinal flowers.

Saw plenty of newly blooming spikes of vervain,

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and wild senna surrounded by mountain mint, with a bumblebee working the flowers.

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This year have seen wild senna in more places in Meadowbrook than I recall from previous years.

Swamp milkweed, with its two-toned, dark and light-pink blooms, was abundant.

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Liatris (blazing star) was beginning to add its purple plumes to the summer bouquet.

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Saw some especially fresh, robust spikes of American Germander (if that’s what it was) pinker than others I’ve seen (along High Cross Road).

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A late flower spike of Baptisia, with little pods developing in the lower positions, rose toward the dark sky.

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Clouds gathered over the path, which may be why I cut the ride short. [Some time has elapsed between when I was there and this report. Sorry!]

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Always-photogenic compass plant set off the cloudy sky.

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This has been a reasonably good bloom year for them.

On the way back peeked over the rabbit-statue bridge looking for cardinal flowers, but could not quite see any red.

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Tomorrow I would return and investigate further.

Sunday 18 June 2017. Dark Clouds but No Rain

It was 71 degrees F and cloudy with a 12-mph WSW wind at 6:25 pm as I took Rhododendron out toward south First Street.

Rode south on Race Street, reasonably comfortable though feeling the somberness of the clouds.

Did not stop before Windsor Road except to examine the bike for the source of a light banging sound, but could not make it happen when I got off and spun each wheel independently. It was annoying but didn’t seem to impair the bike’s performance so just rode on.

Stopped at the linden tree on the corner of Race and Windsor.

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Was not sure whether it had not yet fully bloomed or whether it was mostly done blooming, but it didn’t exude the perfume I remember from past years.

Headed into the westerly breeze on Windsor, noticing dark clouds ahead.

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Observed how the diminished light and color pressed on my mood. The expression “like a wet blanket” came to mind.
There was some current pain in it (everyone has his or her list!), a little fear that the clouds would deliver discomfort-inducing rain or even electrical danger, but also some broody comfort, a little space to allow that pain before going back to face the slings and arrows that caused it.

Nevertheless decided to limit the ride (oh waste of extra daylight and free time!) to checking the lead plant at the City of Champaign “Prairie Restoration.”

The lead plants were starting to bloom,

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lax stewardship notwithstanding.

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And didn’t notice any plague of beetles, either. There is hope for that place, I think.

Thought again that I was missing a chance to get in good ride, but really felt averse to being far from home in a storm, and was not sure that the banging, knocking sound was not the sign of some kind of trouble with the bike.

Then riding north on First Street happened to look look at my right Keen sandal, which had a plastic knob at the end of loop of the elastic lacing, and saw that it was banging on the bike frame. Mystery solved!

So on the way back stopped at Japan House garden

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Where amazing, durable hellebores contributed to the design of the hosta planting.

Also stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, where the summer bloom was beginning to build.

There were post-peak spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Black-eyed Susan,

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common milkweed, in a big way(!)

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false sunflower, sporting either milkweed or box elder bugs,

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and lovely blue vervain.

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Made it home without getting wet, satisfied enough with the ride.

Saturday 6 May 2017. Wet Meadowbrook, After the Shooting Star Bloom

It was 45 degrees F and mostly cloudy, not raining but with fresh puddles in the street

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at 6:30 am when I headed out in Shadow in the direction of Meadowbrook Park. It was a little past dawn, but the sky still spoke of the sunrise.

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Stopped on the way at the Amanita mushroom site, where there only were remnants of last year’s appearance. Getting back on my bike, puzzling in my mind about how one might make sure nursing home residents get their showers on schedule, my foot slipped on the pedal and the bike went down, taking me with it, something pinching my left middle finger hard. I think I saw the bike over my head for a bit(!?!). Was shaken and embarrassed but not seriously hurt, and very grateful it hadn’t happened in traffic!

Proceeded then, carefully, to Meadowbrook Park.

The “wonky Christmas tree” was full of pale green growth shoots,

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somewhat obscuring its resemblance to a four-limbed creature.

At the rabbit-statue bridge, the water in McCullough and Davis creeks ran high and fast.

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The park was quiet!

Puddles reflected the sky.

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The burr oak trees still had tiny leaves.

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The sky was sculptural and dramatic.

Walked in on the soft path, which was was quite wet and true to the name, to see whether the recent cool weather had prolonged the shooting star bloom enough to be able to still see any of it.

Alas, no, it was done. Only the slightest evidence of their presence remained.

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Could not help feeling sad for the brevity of their graceful presence.

It now was the time of the golden Alexanders

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which are nice enough but to me are humble place holders between the shooting stars and the more spectacular coming spiderwort and beardtongue. Not proud of my prejudice, but there it is.

The sky had some lovely cloud shapes

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Saw a group of 3-4 deer ahead of me and then one in the path that took a while to decide to move. I waited for it to do so, thinking it unwise to try to approach it head on.

Rode on and over the Windsor/Vine bridge, beneath which a mallard drake swam with speed and determination, as if it were late for an appointment.

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Glad at this point I wore mittens!

Then home.

Sunday 7 February 2016. Sky Over Meadowbrook 

34 degrees F at 6:40 am. 

Discovery II  Took me on today’s bike ride. At last, on the road! 

Saw a yard of “ghosts” Plants protected from winter Waiting for the spring.   

Thought of my troubles: They take a lot of mind space. For now they must wait. 

I crossed Windsor Road Against the light, though no cars came. Did a minor crime. 

At McCullough Creek, From the rabbit-statue bridge: Reflected sunrise.  
The water’s gone down  And the sides of the creek’s banks Are now visible. 

Saw a single deer.  Thought there must be more of them, And indeed there were.  

 Color in the dawn  Came and went and came back changed And then it faded. 

 The prairie sky spread Out over the pale grasses And dark bush clover.  

 The dried crab apples  Are a calendar that says It’s February.    

 
 Was glad for this ride, Another sweet sample of  The wide morning sky. 

Tuesday 15 July 2014. Royal Catchfly! And, of Course, Other Flowers, and a Large Caterpillar

Today all day it was so cool and breezy and comfortable (70 degrees F at 4:15 pm!) it was possible to take a comfortable ride in the late afternoon, which I did. Funny thing about the afternoon, even when the weather is perfect; it takes more resolve and energy to shift gears from the day’s activities and reach escape velocity.

But escape I did, to Meadowbrook Park, which was crowded with people, compared to how it usually is in the morning. The goal was to see whether the royal catchfly had started to bloom.

Took the big loop and waded into the wet area not far past the rabbit-statue bridge to photograph some swamp milkweed, which leaned in the breeze.
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Admired the Culver root, which are so abundant this year.
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At the beginning of the soft (yes, and now quite wet) path to the middle of the prairie (and hopefully the royal catchfly), got off of Rhododendron and walked. 20140719-083630.jpg
Not far into the middle of the prairie a milkweed plant bearing a large monarch caterpillar caught my eye! Saw a couple of adults earlier but wasn’t able to photograph them. Glad at least a few are still here.
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Walked on searching for royal catchfly but didn’t see it, and was just about ready to resign myself to this difference from last summer, when the intensely red little stars popped into the left side of my field of vision!20140719-084422.jpg
Talk about taking your breath away! And they were so nicely foiled by the Baptisia and rattlesnake master. 20140719-084608.jpg
A little farther down, on the other side of the path were more, in the same place and pretty much with the same distribution I remembered from last year. 20140719-084819.jpg
Life is change, but oh, how happy we are when something we like stays the same! Or especially, returns after an absence.

Turned and retraced my steps back to the rest of the big loop, and noticed yet another spot for prairie clover on the way out.

20140720-170906.jpg They must like the rain we’ve been having. I liked the clouds behind them, also.

And could not resist the latest stage of the lead plant bloom.

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This plant has everything from small buds to seeds, I think, and a few of those gorgeous little dark purple blossoms on between.

Spotted some smallish individual poppy-like magenta flowers that were new me in the very flower-rich area near Windsor Road and the border of Clark-Lindsey Village.

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It’s purple poppy mallow, Callirhoe involucrata. Not exactly native to Illinois but striking.

Got a lot of shots I rather liked, of clouds, rosinweed, purple and yellow coneflowers, for example, even with the intense afternoon light, but I think I’ll stop with this. So many flowers, so little time. A nice problem to have.