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.

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Saturday 23 June 2018. Catching up with the Bloom at Meadowbrook, and Catching a Little Rain Just South

It was 64 degrees F under cloudy skies at

7:00 this morning (just before which spotted this perfect exoskeleton of a nymphal cicada) as I went to the garage expecting to take Rhododendron to the KRT to St. Joseph.

But Rhododendron was not in the garage; after a very brief moment of panic remembered that my husband picked me up from my job assignment at Clark-Lindsey yesterday and I’d forgotten to load the bike in the car.

So the plan changed from the KRT to a circle of Meadowbrook and maybe a ride south on Race Street. l drove to CL and parked in the lot: unlocked my bike, and headed east along Windsor Road for a counter-clockwise circle of the park.

The spiderwort still were plenty evident, but they bore lots of brown seed heads, indicating that more of their bloom was behind rather than ahead of them.

But false sunflowers,

purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans

yellow coneflowers,

and compass plants

were just beginning their bloom.

Farther down the path, at the viewing platform, the apparently expanding (compared to previous recent years) patch of lead plant was in mid-bloom,

as was the Baptisia.

Framed by lead plant blooms was this new inflorescence of rattlesnake master.

Decided that lead plant is much more spectacular in detail than from a distance.

Noticed that wild quinine, also in mi-bloom,

was more abundant than I remember from previous years.

Noticed a patch of pasture rose already full of green hips.

All along through the prairie, the common milkweed still was full of fragrant pink spheres of flowers, but didn’t stop to photograph them till I saw this one next to an early Monarda bloom.

Noticed that the wet place where the irises and cardinal flowers appear (in their respective times) was quite grown up with willows.

Tree swallows (there were three, all flew at my approach,and one returned) perched on a bird house.

Continued on and crossed McCullough Creek (which was quite full) at the rabbit statue bridge,

opposite my usual direction of travel.

Did not go straight out to Race Street but continued north on the path and exited near the “wonky Christmas tree,”

which looked like it had been trimmed (or had grown) since I observed it last.

Turned south on Race Street toward the open farm fields, where there was incredible corn!

Light rain began to fall before I reached Old Church so turned back

Was surprised by two deer, right next to the road.

They were completely unperturbed by my stopping to photograph them.

Then returned to the CL lot, packed the bike into the car and headed home, somewhat better synchronized with the season.

Wednesday 16 May 2018. The Last Shooting Stars and First Spiderwort at Meadowbrook

It was 57 degrees F under mostly clear skies this morning at 5:35 when I brought out Rhododendron for a ride to Meadowbrook Park.

It was wonderful to be heading out so early to Meadowbrook. Lately I’ve been biking to my work assignment in Savoy, and that has been lovey, but haven’t felt like there has been enough time to linger over the landscape or stop for photos.

So was happy to be heading south on Race Street for the purpose of observing.

Stopped to see a planting of peonies just starting to bloom.

I love the varieties that this gardener chose.

Made another stop at the grove of spruce trees where Amanita muscaria mushrooms have burgeoned in the past several years.

They’ve seemed to occur mostly in the fall, but I’ve also seen them here in the spring. No mushrooms were visible today, however.

Noticed that the growth tips of the spruces were in a variety of stages of development; wondered whether that meant anything about the health of the trees.

At Meadowbrook was about to take my customary counter-clockwise loop around the park but saw a man having an interaction with a large dog and decided not to distract them, reversing the direction of my trip.

There were plenty of golden Alexanders and some wild geraniums blooming, but so far the prairie was mostly green.

Rode along McCullough Creek and heard high-pitched frog-song, eerie and beautiful.

stopped to listen a while.

Saw ducks below the Vine St. bridge

and deer crossing the path into the prairie,

Saw a mourning dove and tree swallow on the prairie viewing station.

Checked out the progress of the nearby lead plants,the leaves of which were beginning to emerge and take shape. Turned onto the unpaved path to check on the shooting stars. It took some searching to find these last blooms. Their seeds looked to be well along in development. Walked along the path a little way searching for the pink shooting stars, on the way seeing tree swallows interacting then spotting my first of this spring’s spiderwort. Caught a view of a well-defined shoot of compass plantand finally found a couple lingering pink shooting stars.

On the way back saw a shrub with goldfinches–the yellow birds of happiness!

It was a joy to be among them under the sky, among the tree swallows, the deer and frogs and red-winged blackbirds. The joy was noticeably therapeutic; could feel the weight of various difficulties lift a bit. Was again amazed by and grateful for the medicine!

Then looped back toward the rabbit-statue bridge. where the walnuts seemed to be doing fine, but lots of other trees, for whatever reason were not. Alas. Rode to the end of Meadowbrook through the grove of haws and crabs.

And then back homeward and off to the pool for a swim.

Sunday 18 March 2018. Frost, and Spring on Hold

It was 27 degrees F and clear at 7:20 this morning as I aimed Shadow toward Meadowbrook Park.

Although the sun was shining and I was eager to be down the road, it was a bit of effort to get moving. The cold air and thoughts of coffee and sitting down to catch up on blog posts 😉 kept me a little away from fully enjoying the first moments of the ride. It brought to mind how even some quite exothermic chemical reactions require the input of activation energy. Am I right?

But by arrival at Meadowbrook, I felt fully engaged in the frosty morning.

First stop was across Race Street from Meadowbrook, at pile of logs next to the U of I Forestry plantation.

So many trees have been cut down, most apparently in poor condition. Hopefully those remaining will better tolerate whatever plagued the others.

Thought maybe the Sensory Garden near the Race Street entrance to the park would have some exotic bulbs in bloom; on the way caught a view of the early sun rays slanting through the frosty organic garden plots.

The Sensory Garden bulb flowers seemed to be suppressed by the cold.

Then rode to the rabbit-statue bridge for the customary view of the confluence of Douglas and McCullough creeks.

Looked like someone had cleared a lot of the remains of last year’s (or more) streamside growth. Made it look like a much more finite pace than when I’d seen cardinal flowers there in late summer.

Around the corner in the prairie were winter-worn stalks and seed-heads of prairie plants, topped with ice crystals, through which the sun shone.

There were goldenrod,

yellow coneflower,

thistle,

nodding wild rye grass.

At the Freyfogle observation deck saw worn stalks and seed parts of compass plant

rattlesnake master,

and Baptisia pods

supported by thorny canes of blackberry.

Then rode via Windsor Road and First Street to Midtown Champaign for an avocado stack and pour-over at Flying Machine Avionics.

In the last throes of winter, my interest in the brown plant-shapes was limited, lovey though they were. Could feel yearning for the coming (when?) tender, colorful, new growth. But, dressed appropriately, did very much enjoy the crisp air and the ride.

Sunday 21 January 2018. To Thawing Meadowbrook in Fog, with Lesson

Got out on the road on Shadow at about 7:30 this morning, after applying some lube to the chain. The temperature was 41 degrees F under clouds and fog but no wind to speak of.

The streets were wet but clear; small piles of snow remained along their edges from last week’s snow-fall and low temperatures. In other words, they were not interfering with passage “au vélo.”

Checked “my” apple tree and found a few fruit still attached.

Riding south on Race Street, stopped to get à view of the enveloping fog.

The wintry fog made me think of death and funerals. So far in my life I’ve never arranged a funeral and wondered whether it would be worth learning how to do it before it was necessary, like a scout project, to be prepared. But did not make a decision.

Stopped again just before entering Meadowbrook Park to see the fog through the pine planting,

a doorway of mystery.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the state of McCullough Creek.

Which was melting but still with some ice.

Stopped to get a view of thistle remains against the foggy winter prairie

and of the of the path receding into the fog.

Across Douglas Creek, the fog lent drama to the forms of the bare trees.

Saw a particularly full raindrop hanging from a budded twig near the path. After a bit of struggle was able to focus the iPhone camera on it,

and was reasonably pleased with the result: an inverted microcosm.

Stopped then at the Prairie Viewing Station

which previously I had carelessly referred to as the “Freyfogle Overlook ” but henceforth will use its official name. Really have to work on tightening up accuracy in the blog. The more integrity the better!

Got a view of old compass plants

old goldenrod

and Baptisia pods.

At the Windsor /Vine bridge

noticed wet, uneven ice on the path leading to the bridge. The smoothness of the ride so far had given me confidence to traverse this small patch of ice, which I don’t think would have been a problem if my way were straight ahead. Unfortunately, I had to turn slightly to the right to get over the bridge, but my momentum kept going forward, the bike slid under me, and I went down.

It was a minor, slow-speed, not entirely unexpected fall, but a nearby friendly golden retriever was concerned, and she and her owner hurried over to make sure I was ok. We were joined by two other concerned passers-by, but soon all were convinced I was fine.

Headed home across Windsor Road, enjoying the amazingly responsive traffic signal, and with renewed respect for the laws of physics.

Sunday 7 January 2018. Frozen Meadowbrook

It was 17 degrees F under cloudy skies this morning around 7:45 when I rolled Shadow down the snowy driveway and toward Meadowbrook Park. Race Street (and about half the width of the bike lanes) was mostly clear, but a south wind blew toward me, making me even more mindful that I haven’t been biking as much as I used to.

Felt plenty warm in the ensemble of long down coat, sweatpants, mohair socks and waterproof boots, fleece gloves/ felted mittens, and fleece balaclava hood. But still didn’t want to stop for too many photos, exposing those cold-prone fingers to the heat-sucking air.

Crossed Windsor Road with almost no wait. It’s funny to remember my impatience before the system was fine-tuned.

At Meadowbrook passed the “wonky Christmas tree” without stopping and proceeded to the rabbit-statue bridge, carefully coasting downhill over the frozen footprints.

As expected, there was ice over McCullough Creek,

more of a white than of the dreaded black variety. Wondered what factors account for this; a layer of snow, perhaps.

Farther along got a shot of the texture of the frozen footprints on the path.

The bike tires made a satisfying crackle as they rolled down the path and over them.

Stopped to observe a little clump of trees along Douglas (more on that later) Creek.

It inspired a haiku:

Blunt-ended branches/ Made me wonder whether they/ Would leaf out come spring.

Got a shot of the Marker Statue presiding over the snowy prairie.

Then saw something (a beautiful graphic, I must say) that made me embarrassed:

I’ve been referring to this stream as “Davis Creek” for at least the last couple years, thereby spreading false information and ignorance. Alas!

For a brief moment understood the impulse to respond as our president might: “the sign is part of a malicious plot to make me look bad!” But so far I still have some capacity to recognize my mistakes and stand apologetically corrected.

Here exemplified is a pitfall of blogging, and of instant mass-communication in general: I can say whatever I want without checking the facts, without even realizing my “facts” may be wrong. As time allows, I hereby commit to minimizing such sloppy editing.

Near the Freyfogle overlook got some shots of the winter manifestation of purple coneflower

and compass plant .

Got a view of the winter prairie from the Freyfogle overlook.

Farther along, stopped at the Windsor/ Vine bridge over McCullough Creek

and wondered how the hole in the ice had been made.

Stopped later on at this relatively new Meadowbrook sculpture

which in my view is reasonably harmonious with its prairie surroundings. I see it possibly as the shoots of prairie plants or as flames of prairie fire. Its title is, enigmatically, “Two in the Hand.”

Wondered how much ice and snow there would be this winter. Was glad to have witnessed its presence today.

Sunday 17 December 2017. Almost to St. Joe on the KRT

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy skies at about 8:00 this morning as I headed toward the Kickapoo Rail to Trail intending to ride its entire length to St Joseph.

Even though the temperature was above freezing, I dressed carefully: down coat, fleece hood, and felted mittens. Cycling is an activity that adds heat to some areas of the body but distractingly subtracts it from others.

Rode out on East Main Street past the little grove of oaks across Main from the Dart plastic factory, a place where I regularly used to see a fox,

but haven’t the past several times I’ve been by.

Stopped at the Main Street edge of Weaver Park to get a glimpse of the winter version of horse nettle fruit and compass plant leaves,

Monarda seed heads,

and yellow coneflowers.

Then proceeded to where Main Street ran into University Avenue, the head of the KRT.

Headed east on that straight line and settled into the rhythm of pedaling.

In a shrubby stretch on the north side of the trail saw more cardinals than I’m used to seeing in one place, a “flock” of them, though they dispersed when I stopped to get a photograph.

Noticed a pile of old railroad ties on the south side of the trail,

evidence of the trail’s former (rails) life.

Passed Full’s Siding, with its towering, humming grain storage structures.

Felt enveloped by the landscape, close with the birds (saw juncos and woodpeckers in addition to the cardinals), the bare shrubs, the expanse of brown and black soil, the grey clouds.

Noticed nests in the bare trees and bushes, including this one topped with golden fluff

There was a strong smell, like sewage, which wasn’t exactly pleasant but which was of the outdoors and for that reason not completely unwelcome.

Light rain fell.

Rode as far as the Pioneer Seed facility just outside of St. Joseph.

The rain seemed to fall a bit more heavily now and didn’t want to have any more distance riding back in it than necessary.

On the way back saw a hidden “Christmas ” tree.

Noticed the seed head of a plant I didn’t quite recognize but that seemed like an unusual growth form, with a broad, flat stem.

Farther down saw that the once-green, erect spade-like leaves of prairie dock now were brown, bent down and curled, transformed with a different kind of beauty.

The rain had disappeared and felt like I could have reached St. Joe, but still was SO full with contentment to have been out on the KRT, “au vélo,” glad to have gotten the physical and especially the spiritual exercise.