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!

Advertisements

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.

Sunday 6 August 2017. New Cardinal Flowers and Homer Lake Road, One Month Later

It was 64 degrees F under thickly cloudy skies at about 6:15 this morning as the New and Improved Rhododendron (especially the new freewheel and chain!) and I headed to Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the wondrous cardinal flowers from the rabbit-statue bridge,

img_2103

but did not go down to see them close-up.

Close to the banks, cup plants were in bloom.

img_2105-1

Rode over the bridge, around the corner, and down the path to look for cardinal flowers in the wet willowy area where they had been in some (not all) years past, but saw none.

But then noticed two spikes of cardinal flowers on the other side of path,

img_2111

close enough to view without walking in at all!

img_2109

Then a little farther east, on the south side of the path, was a profusion of pink, purple, and blue-violet flowers: swamp milkweed (some aphid-bearing),

img_2114

Liatris,

img_2126

and blue vervain.

img_2122

Farther down the path were tick trefoil,

img_2136

which was not as abundant as I’ve seen in past years, victims of insect herbivory, it seems, Monarda, and a spike of American bellflower.

img_2132

Later focused on the yellow flowers, Sylphium species: compass plants (S.laciniatum)

img_2142

rosinweed (S.integrifolium),

img_2147

and even the occasionally prairie dock (S. terebinthinaceum) bloom,

img_2182-1

in addition to the cup plants (S. perfoliatum) farther
back: four tall, robust, sandpaper-leafed, yellow-flowered Sylphium “sisters!”

Also in yellow, a little more distantly related and more delicate, were tall Coreopsis.

img_2157

Interspersed was bush clover,

img_2151
with its handsome, delicate bluish foliage.

Hidden lower among other foliage saw the first buds of this year’s cream gentians

img_2174

The list of common native flowers observed this morning still is incomplete; they are so many now! I will just mention: common milkweed with maturing pods, Baptisia with green pods, and remaining though past peak rattlesnake master, purple coneflowers, yellow coneflowers, false sunflowers, and Culver’s root.

Then headed away from Meadowbrook Park, east on Windsor Road.

Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, central Illinois!

img_2184-1

Rode next to the creek, a little tributary of the Salt Fork that paralleled Windsor Road for a while.

img_2186

As I did a month ago on this route, stopped to photograph the exotic but lovely pink soapwort blooms.

img_2194

There was the sign to warn of the dangerous hill

img_2195-1

but still couldn’t tell exactly where it was.

img_2196

Central Illinois, alright.

Looked down at the crossing of another little tributary where I’d often seen wood ducks before,

img_2197
but saw none this time.

Did see some nice swamp milkweed.

img_2191-1

Rode as far as the junction with Homer Lake Road

img_2198

and this time instead of doubling back headed left, toward east Washington Street. On the way passed a small clearing at the edge of a cornfield, seemingly devoted to burning things.

img_2200

It’s been there since the first time I remember passing it in 2011 or so. It makes me think “little Gehenna.”

Back in town, on Washington Street, I pass the Brookins baseball field (it may be called something else), northward across which is the shaded area where my friends from the Champaign County Nursing Home and I have popcorn, brownies, and coffee on nice days.

img_2202

Back home, there was a Cooper’s hawk in the dead ash tree behind our garage.

img_2205

Made me wish my phone camera had a better zoom.

If I had to compare this time with my ride of a month ago, I’d say it was slightly less magical (that time has not been displaced!) but it had its own particular, considerable delights.

Especially remembered from October!

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

img_1740

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

img_1729

The cardinal flowers really were in their full glory.

img_1741

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

img_1745

Noticed nearby a strangely curled stem, maybe a goldenrod.

img_1749-1

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

img_1793

accompanied by lots of rattlesnake master.

img_1799

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

img_1780

Also past peak but still holding forth were purple coneflowers.

img_1776

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

img_1761-1

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

img_1813

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

img_1815

and sometimes topped with a goldfinch

img_1769

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

img_1831

and of pink-purple Monarda.

img_1830

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 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.

img_1462

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.

img_1470

Got to view of the first flowers opening,

img_1468

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

img_1466

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

img_1474

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

img_1476

Farther along was rosinweed,

img_1489

Tall Coreopsis,

img_1484

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

img_1494

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

img_1496

Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

img_1491
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.

img_1509

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

img_1517-2

then flew off.

img_1518-1

There was ironweed,

img_1523-1

the ever-photogenic false sunflower,

img_1526-1

and Culver’s root.

img_1525

And, lo, there was royal catchfly!

img_1536

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

img_1535

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

img_1551

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.

img_1568

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

img_1576-2

and purple prairie clover.

img_1581-1

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.

img_1583-1

Saturday 15 July 2017. Meadowbrook Summer Prairie Crowned by Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:07 it was 59 degrees F under party cloudy skies, the air calm.

Just returned from several days in the Colorado mountains (yes, they were awesome!) and was eager to see what what the summer prairie bloom at Meadowbrook Park was doing.

Rode Rhododendron the road bike southward to Windsor Road and barely stopped before pushing the button and crossing. They seemed to have worked the bugs out of the system, hooray!

Then entered Meadowbrook at the Race Street entrance, passed by the Sensory Garden, and walked the bike toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

On the way, at the edge of the wooded area next to the pavilion were American bellflowers.

img_1258

McCullough Creek under the little wooden bridge was low and pooled. Was there some kind of dam upstream? The water level seemed to have gone down quickly.

Out in the prairie, looked for queen-of-the-prairie where I’d seen it a couple years ago but couldn’t see any this morning. Did not walk out into the dew-drenched vegetation to look more carefully.

But saw the early sunlight coming through the thin layer of mist that still lay over the prairie

img_1268

and through the condensation on the flowers and leaves of the prairie plants.

img_1266

Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.

img_1278

There was a gorgeous variety of prairie flowers blooming in synchrony, like a massive bouquet:

False sunflowers, Monarda,

img_1261

yellow coneflowers, Liatris,

img_1263-1

Culver’s root.

img_1275-1

Compass plant, with its erect, finger-like leaves,

img_1262

large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs

img_1327

stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,

img_1283

alone and in groups,

img_1282

was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint

img_1287-1

purple coneflower.

img_1329

Best of all, the royal catchfly were newly in bloom! They were stunning in bunches,

img_1308-1

close-up,

img_1299

and in combination with other flowers.

img_1307

On the way out got pretty close to a buck who seemed to have planned to walk right to where I was.

img_1336

Was not afraid he would charge me or something, but did have respect for his size, strength, and independence as “wild” creature. So I calmly stood where I was and tried to look at him in a way that conveyed: “No worries, dude, I’m not a threat,” and he veered off to the left.

Got a nice view of the sky over the prairie

img_1337

and headed back, stopping first for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

img_1342

Was glad to be there for the presentation!

Tuesday 4 July 2017. Almost to Flatville

It was 68 degrees F and mostly sunny and calm at 6:45 this morning of American Independence Day as I filled up Rhododendron’s tires (it made a helpful difference!) and headed east on Washington Street into the dappled canopy.

img_0396

Could not skip a stop at Weaver Park, even with having to traverse a stretch of trail-less grass, across which a couple of apparently well-fed ground hogs undulated toward the tree-lined street side of the park.

img_0397

The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,

img_0402

yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,

img_0401

and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,

img_0404

all beautifully set in front of the water lily pads and cattails of the pond.

Then headed back on Washington to Route 130 (High Cross Road), where there is a lovely place to view the sun rising over the landscape

img_0406

and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.

img_0407

A couple of cyclists behind me went right (perhaps to Homer Lake) and I turned left, to the north. The road was narrow but smooth and mostly without farm houses (that is, potential loose dogs) close to it.

The bridge over I-74 was simple and without much bordering vegetation.

img_0408

Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,

img_0410

and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.

img_0412

Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek

img_0413

then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.

img_0414

Came back to Ford Harris and an debated just continuing to retrace my path, but craved a little novelty. At the same time, could not remember this stretch, so took a bold gamble about its safety and plunged westward on Ford Harris Road.

Close to High Cross Road was a cemetery on the side of a little (central Illinois) hill.

img_0416

Got a distant shot of a dickcissel

img_0417

the calls (which which sounds to me something like “Uru ahim!” (“awake, my brothers!”) from the Israeli folk, song “Hava Nagila”) [Note: the dickcissel recordings I found on YouTube were not exactly like the birds I heard, but maybe you get the idea. Head out on a country road some morning and see what you think.) from conspecifics of which had been accompanying me for much of this trip.

At Perkins Road was a nice prairie planting that included non-native but handsome mullein.

img_0420

It was another satisfying 20 miles!