Sunday 24 June 2018. All the Way to St. Joe on the KRT

It was 64 degrees F under clearing skies at 6:20 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway to head to St, Joseph on the Kickapoo Rail to Trail. The weather ap indicated fog, but by the time I got rolling it had pretty much cleared, leaving dew drops on the vegetation and spiderwebs.

Rode east on Main Street and stopped at Weaver Park to catch the bloom there:

Saw lots of lavender-pink Monarda,

some yellow

and purple coneflowers,

horse nettle,

and the stately foliage of cup plants.

Along Weaver Park saw branches of elm; survivors of the mid-century devastation?

Rode straight eastward out on the trail, feeling the rhythm of the rotating pedals.

Here at some things I saw but wasn’t able to photograph:

Singing dickcissels

Swooping goldfinches

A thirteen-lined ground squirrel (!?!)

Two black butterflies

Two monarch butterflies

One or two groundhogs

Noticed that the black-eyed Susans looked pristine and free of disease,

which may be why I didn’t pass them by as I often do and stoped to get a photograph of one.

The soapwort were abundant and lovely, not native, but fresh and of just the shade of pink my sister Vickie would have loved,

some accented with the foliage of prairie dock and common ragweed (which are native.)

Sumac on the south side of the trail made a handsome border for this bean field in the morning light.

There were mullein (not native) with beautiful, fuzzy, dewey foliage.

Saw a flower that might be another exotic but it caught my eye.

[Later looked through my handy Wildflowers and Weeds book and came up with moth mullein (Verbascum blatteria).]

At Full’s Siding stopped to check out the clever book- exchange.

Have to remember to bring something next time.

Saw post-fog dew-beaded spiderwebs among the (non-native) chicory.

Crossed the Salt Fork on the lovely wood-surfaced, metal-sided bridge.

Stopped for a view of the St Joe Post Office.

and of a coffee shop I need to come back to try.

On the way back stopped for the scene- punctuating red hollyhock.

And for more beautiful pink soapwort.

Spiderwort (native!) was abundant but couldn’t get close to it without getting down into the vegetation.

Headed back home after another soul-filling passage (and ready for the next one) on the KRT!

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Wednesday 23 May 2018. Early Spiderwort and Earliest Penstemon at Meadowbrook

This morning at 5:20 it was 58 degrees F under mostly clear skies as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway, destination: Meadowbrook Park. Wore my feather-light cycling jacket, that, with a bit of positive attitude based on the conviction that it would soon get warmer, kept me comfortable enough.

Was delighted to be rolling south on Race Street before sunrise, in the quiet, calm, pristine morning, all the more because the opportunity to do so has become rarer that in the past. Marveled at how pleasant it was to be riding in comfortable temperatures with good light.

Stopped a little way down Race Street at the stand of spruce trees to check for mushrooms, but there was no sign of them. This utter (visual at least, they certainly are there in some form, underground) absence is part of their mystique, part of the wonder of when, suddenly and abundantly, they do appear.

Crossed Windsor Road at my now-favorite, very responsive, traffic signal.

Rode straight to the rabbit-statue bridge, over which I coasted at high speed and had to (chose to, anyway) apply the brakes at the turn.

On the other side of the bridge saw a low blanket of fog resting over the landscape.

Then turned back to get a view of Douglas and McCullough creeks, with the sun coming up behind them.

Then back over the bridge and down the path where there were more good views of the sun rising over the misty prairie.

Looked in the wet area a little way down the path for blue flag iris, in early bud last week. There they were, well into their bloom,

a few close to the path, and the large patch farther away.

Noticed that the area had been “managed” to allow reasonably easy passage from the path. Still, the ground was wet and was glad I’d worn closed shoes and Smart Wool socks.

Thought as I proceeded along that there still were no spiderwort to speak of, but just then, there they were.

And to the left of this one was a Penstemon in bud.

It was the opening of the grand procession of the prairie bloom, and what a privilege it was to be there to witness it!

Rode on past lots of spiderwort, some receding golden Alexanders, and plenty though less dramatic blackberry blooms

on the way toward the prairie viewing station. Stopped for a moment to listen to the song sparrows and to the red-winged blackbirds, which today seemed to say, “talk with me!”

Just about every patch of spiderwort beckoned to have its picture taken, but I resisted many of them.

Was going to look over the prairie from the viewing station but saw what looked like an occupied sleeping bag and opted to pass today. Didn’t really sense danger about it, but you never know, and anyway didn’t want to disturb the person. Did stay close enough to get a photo of the lead plant,

which seem to be spreading.

Watched one of the many red-winged blackbirds

a little while before moving on.

Had thought about riding on at least to Yankee Ridge, but still wanted to time to swim and was very satisfied with what this short ride had revealed. So headed back homeward along Windsor Road. At almost the farthest corner of the park saw Penstemon starting to bloom!

And now to follow their progress.

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.

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.

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

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And of course there were spiderwort

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and Penstemon.

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

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

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

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Saw dew-beaded spiderwebs.

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

Sunday 19 February 2017. Signs of Life

This morning at 8 it was 47 degrees F under cloudy, foggy skies as I wheeled out Shadow for a ride, at least to Meadowbrook Park. Been trying to get back to a little mileage in my rides, though still am working on shaking off the fatigue of a tenacious winter virus.

The first sign of early spring greeted me on the pavement of the street just around the corner from my house:

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Silver maple flowers! They are very early bloomers, but they mark the beginning of a process that soon will clothe the landscape in vegetation.

The fog lent a bit of drama to the familiar path to Meadowbrook.

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At the park, enjoyed speeding downhill toward and over the rabbit-statue bridge, Shadow’s smaller-than-road-bike (26, as opposed to 27-inch) wheels easily handling the sharp turn left on the path.

Then doubled back to get the customary shot of the confluence of Davis and McCullough creeks.

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Just past the little bridge over Davis creek saw a pair of ducks in the fenced-off pond.

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Loved the softness of the fog

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punctuated by the sharp stalks of last year’s compass plants.

Then cut over to the “short loop” along McCullough Creek and stopped at a years-old beaver-fallen tree.

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Noticed also the recently scraped bark of the tree seedling (sapling?) in the foreground, presumably the work of a deer.

Along McCullough Creek noticed a lot of dead (standing and fallen) trees.

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I think some of that is intentional riparian management, but it reminds me that there seem to be so many diseased trees around these days.

Everywhere I look
I see dead and dying trees:
Climate change at work.

Farther along, in the Meadowbrook sensory garden, pussy willows (don’t think they’re native) were in their early stages of bloom.

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Also, there were some winter aconite (also not native) blooms emerging from beneath the mulch of fallen leaves.

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Then got back on Race Street and rode through the fog a little while south. Turned back at Curtis Road and stopped at the sign welcoming travelers to Urbana, just above where Race Street crossed McCullough Creek.

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Likely there will be more cold weather ahead, but the rise of green and the other colors of plant growth is not far away.

Wednesday 17 August 2016. Glimpse of Summer Fog

It was 70 degrees F and cloudy at 7:07 this morning, with a bit of distant fog. Am behind in my posts and had intended to make yoga practice and not a bike ride the first item on the morning’s agenda, but the fog was fleeing and did not want to miss it.

So headed south on Rhododendron to Meadowbrook Park. Stopped to get a shot of a ginkgo tree with fog behind it.

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At Meadowbrook, sped over the rabbit-statue bridge and around the bend (did use a bit of brake) and looked for fog images.

Besides the fog, the prairie bloom was muted with maturity (and perhaps disease?)

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but so far there still were flowers, like these cup plants,

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not to mention the giant ragweed.

Noticed a swamp milkweed covered with aphids.

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It was a picture of destruction, but not without its own strange beauty.

Saw early goldenrod with dew-beaded remains of a spiderweb nearby.

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Knew there was not much time but did go as far as the “upland” cardinal flowers site and get a distant shot

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as well as a shot of big bluestem flowers that were not quite fully in bloom.

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Did not examine it (or others of its kind) to see whether it was early or late in its bloom.

Saw a beaded, mostly intact spiderweb

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and knew there must be lots more of them, jewels of condensed fog out there in the rest of the prairie, but, alas, had to leave them undiscovered and make my way back to the day’s demands.

Turned back

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but did stop to see some nice clusters of wingstem

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in front of the dense streameside growth
and, back at the rabbit-statue bridge, the glorious, if partly hidden, riparian cardinal flowers.

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Was grateful to have made it for this visit, another example of how a short time of awareness is WAY better than none!

Friday 6 May 2016. Sunrise on Green Meadowbrook

It was 45 degrees F at 5:45 this morning, the sky clear, at least on the horizon.
Rode south to Meadowbrook Park, not especially focused, then saw a group of large deer on the mown grass among the ornamental trees

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There was some mist on the ground that reflected the sun.

As always, the view of McCullough and Davis creeks from the rabbit-statue bridge was an attraction

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but it seemed especially lush and brilliant in today’s slightly foggy dawn.

The air was so fresh and so fragrant! Couldn’t put my finger on the source, but it was lightly sweet and delicious.

And the sunrise from down the path was quite photogenic.

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Farther down a little way was the spot where I knew there were irises about to bloom, but didn’t want to wade among the possibly tick-infested willows to get close enough for a good photo. Settled for this iPhone-zoom shot.

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Thought I could pick out buds. Must devise a strategy to get close to them!

Crossing the little arch bridge over Davis Creek got another nice view of the sunrise

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Noticed quite a few tree swallows, flying with their pointed, glossy wings and sitting defiantly on on various perches (Glendy, did you notice the correct spelling?) along the path, like this pair on the sign at the entrance to the soft path through the prairie.

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Down and around to the Freyfogel Overlook, there was a tree swallow tenaciously stationed on a corner of the structure.

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Not wanting to disturb it, I bypassed the ramp and stairs and climbed to the platform to get a shot of the blue and clouds and line of trees in shades of light and medium green–past the yellow-green and densely-flowered stage.

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It seemed like a transition I’d never caught before at quite this stage.

Was glad see the brave swallow unmoved as I left, glad my proximity hadn’t forced it away from its post.

Saw lots of golden Alexanders blooming in the prairie near Windsor Road.

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Have to remind myself that they are native and early-blooming because they don’t pull at my attention the way other flowers do.

Away from Meadowbrook and back in the neighborhood noticed that the many-soft-greens-in-the-morning-light phenomenon was all around!

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Sweet middle of spring! And I got to see it!

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