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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Thursday 14 June 2018. Sunrise on the KRT

It was 61 degrees F and partly cloudy at a little after 5 this morning as I departed for the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike trail and points east.

At last I made it I made it out before sunrise! At last I had a bike ride! My early hours have be taken lately with other activities, and this was my first time out for days, as well as on the KRT since any native prairie plants had started to bloom.

Oh, the early morning sky!

Saw not one but two foxes, neither of which photographed well enough to bother trying to show the dots to indicate their presence.

Stopped at the edge of Weaver Park, where there were lots of orange butterfly milkweed in bloom

as well as other other early summer flowers I didn’t take time to photograph.

At the beginning of the KRT trail, stopped to view the sunrise!

Was glad to see it after having missed it for so long.

Soon after passing Walmart rode through the little wooded stretch that still was a little dark.

Got into the soothing rhythm of pedaling straight ahead, on and on through the subtly changing landscape. Got a view of the corn with clouds above.

Central Illinois!

Rode as far as Full’s Siding then turned back.

Saw fewer prairie flowers than I expected (no spiderwort to speak of!?). But this feral hollyhock was striking.

Near High Cross Road and the beginning of the trail I turned back to see the sun well clear of the horizon but still low in the spreading clouds

Stopped to get a view of the weedy but stately mullein.

And returned home to take up the rest of the day.

Sunday 8 April 2018. 30 Days of Biking Day 8. Trelease Woods, Weaver Park, and the KRT

It was a degree F warmer (23 as opposed to 22 this morning) than yesterday, under mostly clear skies and again with some wind from the north as I rode east on Washington Street toward Cottonwood Road.

Am so glad that 30 Days of Biking is getting me motivated to ride more (for various reasons my mileage had been dwindling), especially since the weather has not been a great invitation itself.

Stopped at Weaver Park, crossing the non-trail

to get to the alleged buffalo-wallow pond.

At the pond were the mandatory red-winged blackbirds and, alas, Canada geese, though only a few. They didn’t seem quite awake.

But also, a quick look revealed a mallard duck, a coot,

(more, I noticed, farther out) and a grebe,

which looked like it had just found something to eat, or perhaps some nesting material.

Saw no teals, as I have in previous years, and it was too cold for amphibian song, but was not disappointed.

Came back to Washington Street and kept going in the direction of the still-low but bright sun until Cottonwood Road and turned north, where the wind greeted me and introduced a bit of rigor to the ride.

Crossed the Kickapoo Rail to Trail (KRT) bike trail (which runs from Urbana to St. Joseph, paralleling the highway) US 150, I-74

and the Saline Branch,

going as far as Trelease Woods,

where several deer galloped within the fence. Did not see them jump to get in; maybe there was easier access on the other side. Then turned back, rode to the beloved KRT trail and headed west. Saw to the south a pond I hadn’t been aware of until friend asked if I’d seen it. Did not see waterfowl there but made a mental note to return and check again, Might have loved to ride all the way to St. Joe, but suspected my extremities would get cold and reduce the enjoyment of the ride, which is one reason I’ll welcome warmer weather when it gets here!And apparently made it the rest of the way home.

Sunday 1 April 2018. 30 Days of Biking, Day 1. Easter Morning Ride to Brownfield Woods

It was 28 degrees F (yes, below freezing) under mostly clear skies with a northerly breeze this Easter Sunday morning at 7 as I steered Shadow toward Brownfield Woods.

The sun was still low but well clear of the horizon and asserting its brightness as I headed east on Main Street.

Must say it took a little pushing against inertia to get going: my cycling groove has gotten rather shallow lately. And my mind was drawn more toward coffee and catching up on these blog posts than on the road!

But once I got going the joy of pedaling out in the morning began to kick in! Did not get drawn to many images, which was fine for conciseness and for my cold fingers.

Did not see any foxes across Main from the Dart plastic factory.

Did stop in front of Weaver Park because of all the bright yellow horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) fruits among the brown/grey thatch.

And noticed a frosty thistle rosette.

Was glad to see a bike rack and new signage at Weaver. Maybe there will be improved trails there soon!

Headed east on Main and north on High Cross.

It was good to see Brownfield Woods, even before there was much floral action, but noticed dead trees, piles of trunks, limbs, branches.

Are trees dying at a faster rate than in the past or am I just more aware of them?

Did not see any bloodroot or Dutchman’s breeches along Brownfield Woods as I have at least once before on Easter morning (though did see plenty of trash, alas).

It was like coming to the tomb on Saturday: the anticipated event had not yet happened. It’s been a long wait for spring this year. Though personally I prefer that to having it go too fast. I have faith (and years of previous experience) that the flowers will appear.

Had a very happy surprise view of a lovely bird with reddish-brown sides, white underneath, and mostly black above.

an eastern (rufous-sided?) towhee! And it kindly sat to have a distinguishable picture of it taken. Good consolation for the lack of flowers. Which no doubt also will get here eventually.

Turned back at Oaks Road.

Got a view of the morning sun reflecting on the wet, pre-planted, rich Illinois soil.

On the way back noticed the ditch along the road was quite full.

Heading south heard an animal sound, vaguely canine though maybe not quite, in a field to the east, as a raptor (hawk? owl?) sailed west to east over High Cross Road. Then a group of six deer went galloping across the road straight toward the source of the strange sound. As if it were a deer distress call, and these deer were answering.

Enjoyed the tail wind but now my fingers and especially toes were getting cold.

So a warming “song” came to mind:

“Warm blood, flow into my fingers

Warm blood, flow into my toes,

Warm blood, fill the extremities,

Keep this body warm!

It worked well enough.

At High Cross and University, hopped on to the beginning of the Kickapoo Rail to Trail and back to Main Street. Noticed some erosion on the trail and hoped it would be a reasonably easy thing to rectify and would not get worse.

Then on to home and Easter.

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 vĂ©lo,” glad to have gotten the physical and especially the spiritual exercise.

Sunday 10 September 2017. A Short, Chilly Ride on the KRT

It was 48 (no way!) degrees F at 7:00 am under clear skies as I headed out Main Street to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail bike path. Usually I’m not a fan of doing the exact same ride so soon, but I like this trail so much just want to keep doing it and observe the subtle differences from one time to the next.

In the interest of warmth, did wear a long-sleeved shirt and my cycling windbreaker but with shorts and Keen sandals. And who would think mittens would have been useful in early September? Big mistake!

So didn’t think too much of the chill I felt stopping at Weaver Park to get some nice early-light views of tall Coreopsis,

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Black-eyed Susans

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compass plant

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and rosinweed,

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not to mention that most handsome pairing of common goldenrod and New England aster with a foil of cup plant leaves

img_3645and a tall but leaning-over sawtoothed sunflower

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Figured it would get warm as I rode on.

Passed the little grove of oaks where I used to see a fox every time I rode past it on a Sunday, but for the second time (last week also) did not see one. Guess it could be hiding among the soybean plants.

Crossed High Cross Road where the trail begins and recorded a view of its terminus.

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The scenery was beautiful, the Helianthus blooms as yellow as road signs,

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but I was not warming up. Debated internally whether to push on or to turn back at some point short of the original destination of St Joseph.

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My fingers were numb and my toes were cold (Keen sandals had been quite comfortable before today), but pushed on.

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Made it to Cottonwood Road

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then turned back.

But stopped for the enticing view of white masses of tall boneset among the goldenrod.

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Back in town, stopped at the Walmart near the beginning of the trail and bought a pair of socks and a pair of high-vis fleece gloves.

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It was too late to really get warm but was glad for the little bit of protection.

At the very beginning of the trail, just west of High Cross Road, saw a nice spray of goldenrod with contrasting thistle and stopped to catch a shot of it.

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Then high-tailed it on Washington Street

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toward the warmth of home!

Sunday 3 September 2017. To St. Joe with a Stop at Weaver.

It was 64 degrees F under party cloudy skies 8:15 this morning as I headed Rhododendron to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail path and St. Joseph IL.

But first there was morning yoga practice (!!!) wherein I tried to get my shoulders ready for the un-yogic downward reaching for the handlebars, including slithering into a self-assisted shoulder Savasana, lots of Ardha Parsva Hastasana, and Sirsasana using a chumball. Yes, it costs watching the dawn break from the bike, but the rest of day is just so much better if yoga is first!

Rode east on Main Street (did not see the fox) and made a quick detour to the Champaign County Nursing Home to drop a promised pair of sun-viewing glasses for a friend who lives there. Then proceeded to Weaver Park and stopped to see what was blooming there.

The season had advanced and flowers were mostly on the decline, like these cup plants, accompanied by big bluestem and

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stiff goldenrod and near rosinweed foliage.

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Saw blackeyed Susans

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tall Coreopsis,

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some remaining compass plant blooms,

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and even some late purple coneflowers.

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Proceeded along Main Street to University Avenue and the head of the Kickapoo-rail-to-trail towards St. Joseph, Illinois.

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And what a pleasant trail it was.

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Since the CU Across the Prairie ride there were fewer species in bloom, but still there were plenty of flowers along the way:

Exotic but colorful morning glories,

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Jerusalem artichokes (or sawtooth sunflowers–I wasn’t sure which, glorious golden sun-bursts either way.

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and sawtooth sunflowers were just coming into bloom.

Also were the beginnings of the goldenrod and more than a few prairie dock sun-flowers

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which were complemented by the pink Gaura,

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Rode on with minimal photography (I get conflicted between riding on and not interrupting the experience versus stopping to document it) to the town of St Joseph.

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Then turned back, and this time photographed the Salt Fork crossing.

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Got a shot of the lovely photograph of unionid mussels at the educational marker.

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beloved inhabitants of my former life as a biologist.

On the way back stopped for (sawtooth, I’m pretty sure) sunflowers,

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including a group visited by monarch butterflies (saw at least four in one small area).

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Farther along looked across the paralleling highway and saw soybean fields beginning to turn yellow, with Gaura and tall(?) boneset between the highway and the bike trail.

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At the Fulls Siding crossing, stopped to photograph this dear bicycle book-exchange box.

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Must remember to bring something to exchange next time.

And on toward home!

My second KRT ride was just as wonderful as the first!