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


As did the apples.


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,


were still some cardinal flowers.


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.


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


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.


Gene flow? Environmental stress?

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


There were some Bidens (tickseed) near the statue,


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


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


Sunday 27 August 2017. Falling and Rising in Late Summer

It was 59 degrees F at 7:15 under party cloudy skies as I finished yoga practice (wish I could do everything first thing in the morning!) and headed on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park. Wanted to get a close look at the cardinal flowers as their bloom was concluding.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge; the bed of McCullough Creek was dry even with heavy rain one night last week.
The cardinal flowers are just barely visible here, with a little imagination.


Since the bloom would be done soon, I climbed down to the creek bed, and actually encountered the red bird-flowers on the close side of the stream.


Saw many cardinal flower plants, their red flower-spikes distributed more widely around the creek bed than I ever remember seeing them!


The contrast of goldenrod gave the red flowers even more intensity.

Noticed also sneezeweed, another lovely yellow counterpoint for the red cardinal flowers.


Was happy to see the last, top blooms above the stack of spent flowers: the process of growth and decay.


Down the path a little way were the annual Bidens, or tickseed, another species of photogenic Compositae.


Got a shot of the beautiful blue sage near the little arched bridge over Davis Creek.


This white flower with handsome dark green foliage, which I’ve decided is tall boneset, was abundant.


The thistle hosted a bumble bee as well as several small beetles.


Saw some handsome bush clover,


with its blue-green leaves and contrasting rusty flowers.

There was rosinweed with a cricket in its center,




compass plant holding forth,


prairie dock above and cream gentian down low,


and lots of invasive but gorgeous goldenrod about to burst into golden yellow,


Fall approaches.

Saturday 29 July 2017. Height of the Summer Bloom

It was 61 beautiful degrees under clear skies a little after sunrise (6:15) this morning as I headed south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park.

I apologize here for having fallen behind in getting my notes of summer rides (that keep receding further into the past and my recollection of the details less certain!) shaped up to release on the blog. But still want to share these distinctive markers of the seasons, so here they are.

For a stretch of ten yards or so, several newly blooming cardinal flowers (a single plant would have been stunning!) graced the banks of dry McCullough and Davis creeks below the rabbit-statue bridge


Also were contrasting purple-blue self-heal, aka “heal-all.” It must be good medicine of some kind.


The cardinal flowers really were in their full glory.


Farther down the path in the wet (iris, in spring) area Liatris were staring to manifest their blazing feathery stars.


Noticed nearby a strangely curled stem, maybe a goldenrod.


And farther on still, on the soft path to the middle of the prairie, was the splendor of the royal catchfly,


accompanied by lots of rattlesnake master.


There was Culver’s root, though past its peak bloom.


Also past peak but still holding forth were purple coneflowers.


At least three of the “Sylphium sisters” were in bloom there, S.integrifolium (rosinweed), with its simpler leaves and smaller flowers


square-stemmed, cup-leafed S. perfoliatum (cup plant)


And S. lacineata (compass plant), the little suns of its blooms stacked high over the prairie, as tall as the emerging big bluestem grass.


and sometimes topped with a goldfinch


It was the time of abundant, fresh bloom for yellow coneflower, ironweed,


and of pink-purple Monarda.


As I write, it’s been a while already since the prairie was in full bloom, but it’s nice to revisit that time as October draws life inward.

Sunday 2 July 2017. A Perfect Ride to Windsor Road to Homer Lake Road

This morning at 5:30 it was 65 degrees and clear, with a 2 mph breeze from the WSW, calm enough to head in pretty much any direction. So headed Rhododendron in toward Windsor Road (which I was pretty sure was free of loose dogs) with the goal of going a ways east.

Was glad to get a reasonably early start without sacrificing headstand or Pranayama, and pedaled smoothly through the perfectly comfortable (with the light cycling jacket) morning air to Windsor Road.

And there was Meadowbrook Park, which I hadn’t planned to visit, but thought, why not? and soon was taking a photo of the sun coming up over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

A mud bar separated Davis Creek from its connection with McCullough Creek.

The cup plants on the on the downstream side of the bridge stood vigorous and illuminated with the sunrise.


A layer of mist rested on the prairie and spread out the light of the climbing sun.


The air was scented with mint and bergamot.

Wondered if the willowy wet area harbored queen of the prairie but didn’t see any. Did spot a swamp milkweed, but didn’t stop for a photo so I wouldn’t miss the sun rising over the remaining mist.


Might have gotten a really nice shot of the deer in the mist if I’d arrived at the site two minutes earlier.

Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.


Stopped at The Freyfogle overlook and saw fresh Culver’s root with mountain mint,


spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.


Noticed how lovely were the lead plants,
which seemed to thrive despite a recent onslaught of insects.


Then rode out of the park and straight east on Windsor. The air was calm, except for a “biker’s breeze”, and the grade seemed to go up for stretches (though mostly down), which promised a reasonable return ride.

Was filled with the joy of early morning out in the country in perfect weather.

Did not expect quite this perfection and tried to let as much of it in as possible. Yes, yes, yes!

Rode past a ditch where I remembered seeing a family of raccoons.


There were no raccoons today, but it’s always fun to peer down into a stream, a different world from the surrounding farm fields.

Above the creek banks, near the road, were abundant soapwort blooms,


exotic weeds, but so softly pink and fresh and dewey.


Even these plantain weeds looked like stately sculptures in this morning’s fine light.


Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous


The dangerous hill actually was hard to detect. Ah, my beloved central Illinois!

Then crossed a little tributary of the Salt Fork (of the Vermillion River)
where I think I always have seen wood ducks whenever I’ve been there, adults and ducklings, no less. Looked into the water, and there they were!


There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.


Rode east a little way, crossed the Salt Fork, and stopped at the nicely landscaped marker of the historic site of Kelley’s Tavern, where it says Lincoln used to visit.


The bloom seemed different from what I recall from last year. Lots more milkweed.


Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork


Then turned back and retraced my route. There were horses fenced on the southeast corner where Windsor Road met Homer Lake Road, and the tail of one caught the morning sun as swished and spread wide its long horse-hairs. Didn’t manage to get a photo, but the glittering image stayed with me as I returned home on this pleasant ride, pleasant to the end.

Wednesday 21 June 2017. Sunrise on the Solstice at Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 5:15 this morning of the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

Was thrilled (and amazed) to have gotten myself going early enough to be heading to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron ahead of the phone weather ap’s promised 5:23 sunrise.

Did as little as possible (alas, no Pranayama!) to get out to witness the Solstice sunrise at Meadowbrook.

Sped to the park and caught the sun at the rabbit-statue bridge.


Over the bridge and around the corner looked to the north out into the prairie and saw a thin layer of mist on the ground, which enhanced the atmosphere of the sunrise.


Tried not to tarry on the path but noted spiderwort, the occasional lingering Penstemon bloom, black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, lots of purple coneflowers in early bloom, and emerging Baptisia, with its stately white spikes of blooms that play tag-team with the Penstemon’s white flower spikes.

Got another view of the sunrise over the little bridge across Davis Creek


and a sunrise view of a handsome Baptisia spike.


But the flowers in which I was most interested on this solstice ride were the lead plant at the Freyfogle overlook.


Which, against the slings and arrows of insect attack,


were well into their micro-gaudy deep blue-violet and orange bloom.


On the bird house to the north of the overlook were perched unmoving tree swallows, and in front of them (not pictured, alas, you have to trust me), a bright yellow and back goldfinch,


that amazing stimulator of human endorphins. (At least for some humans. If you’re reading this you probably are one–try focusing on a goldfinch for a moment next time you get a chance and see what happens.)

Felt like I stood firmly and with joyful awareness on the summit of the year. Hooray! Let the summer begin!

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

and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas


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


Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,


but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.


Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

which looked healthy enough.

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


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


and down the path a little way


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

Framed by prairie dock leaves,


and close-up.


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


and the spiderwort


therapeutically abundant!


Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook


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


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


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,


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


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.



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


butterfly weed


and a small, less showy milkweed.


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.


They sure are wary.

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


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

Saturday 27 May 2017. Out Yankee Ridge Road via Lush Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 6:20 under cloudy skies this morning as I got Rhododendron the road bike out for a long-awaited spin!
The nice people at Neutral Cycle put the pedal crank back into is working position, replaced the cables and brake pads, and reduced the number of speeds to five (really, who needs more than that, at least in central Illinois?) by removing the rusted-out front derailleur.

Was amazed by Rhododendron’s speed and smoothness and didn’t stop until Windsor Road, where I did not wait long to cross.

Made the customary stop at the rabbit-statue bridge.


Then sought blue flag irises, which I found, more abundant and widespread than I ever remember seeing them.



And of course there were spiderwort


and Penstemon.


Pasture rose provided a pink counterpoint to the greens, white and blue.


At the Freyfogle overlook was lead plant, with its festive-looking foliage.


The clouds broke up enough to reveal some blue sky and cloud-shapes over the land.


Saw dew-beaded spiderwebs.


The flowers and foliage at Meadowbrook this morning were spectacular and particularly uplifting, at least to this observer!

Then rode along Windsor road on the “sidewalk,” (which I see more as a multi-use path) to Philo Road and east on Old Church, then south on Yankee Ridge Road.

Here is Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road, viewed from the west


as ever, a place of quiet. I think of it as a bit of sacred silence, accompanied by its stark and subtly beautiful view.

Wanted to go on


but time limitations prompted me to turn back at the road that is paved to the east but is wet and unpaved to the west.


Returning home rode into a north wind (which explains the ease of the trip out) and just wanted to get back!


The fog blew toward me and I was sure it would rain even though the phone Ap assured me it wouldn’t. There was nothing to do (as is so common in so many aspects of life!) but hunker down and press on.

After some discomfort just settled into it as if I were lost, but not in a bad way, just absorbed in the present. And made it back with some satisfaction.