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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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!

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.

Saturday 2 June 2018. Notes on This Beautifully Cool Morning’s Commute

It was 55 degrees F (!) and mostly clear at 5:33 this morning.

Decided I had time to stop at Meadowbrook Park on the way to my job assignment in Savoy.

Without stopping at the rabbit-statue bridge, crossed over McCullough Creek, turned the corner, and got a look at the sunrise.

Then took the “Texas exit” (across grass) back to Race Street.

Saw a deer rather close to the road

apparently not perturbed by my staring at it for a photo.

A little farther down Race Street smelled strong skunk odor.

Then the landscape opened out,

which is always a thrill (and this photo does it no justice!), especially around sunrise!

Rode west on Curtis Road to Prospect. Had a little time to see the sunken pond there, with Coreopsis

an early yellow coneflower,

and plenty of Penstemon.

After work, on the way back, stopped at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, above which appeared an indigo bunting!

(the bluish blip a little below and to the right of center).

In the “prairie-let” were the requisite-for- early-June spiderwort and Penstemon,

the Penstemon, again, in full (probably brief) bloom. The false sunflowers were beginning to bloom;

more than one bearing a nicely contrasting box elder ( I think) bug.

More riding would be better, but every moment outside on the bike is good

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 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.

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

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

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The cardinal flowers really were in their full glory.

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

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Noticed nearby a strangely curled stem, maybe a goldenrod.

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

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accompanied by lots of rattlesnake master.

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

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Also past peak but still holding forth were purple coneflowers.

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

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

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

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and sometimes topped with a goldfinch

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

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and of pink-purple Monarda.

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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.