Tag Archive | hiking

 The Last Spring Blooming Flowers 6-20-2017

Happy last day of Spring / First day of Summer!!! I’ve got mixed feelings. I can’t believe Spring is over, however that means my job gets easier. The rains have finally seemed to back off a bit, as I thought I’d have to build a Plant Ark. Can’t forget about the plants when another flood wipes most of us pink apes out 😉

Come with me to the past blooming flowers: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

       

Syringa reticulata~ Japanese Tree Lilac

Not smelly, but pretty.  Also salt tolerant. A great street tree.

Philadelphus (Mock Orange) x. ‘Buckley’s Quill’ ~ Buckley’s Quill Mockorange

These smelly little cuties are right under my window that is downwind. These have such a strong sweet smell. It’s 92F /34C out and windy. I have the window cracked ever so slightly to get the smell in without bringing in too much heat. Electric bill be dammed!!

Peonies in a backyard on Bangs Lake. Beautiful!!!

Valeriana officinalis ~ Garden valerine

Another smelly one!

Common asparagus beetle – Crioceris asparagi

Ugh. Just when you were enjoying all the smelly flowers, this stinker joins the party. Sigh. Welp. It’s time to offer them a swimming lesson, free of charge. Well, it’s not really a swimming lesson, as you will only learn to die at my pool. My fav way to trap these buggars is to use what they know as my advantage. They like to drop to the ground as a defensive tactic to avoid predators. So, I place a cup of water under them, wave my hand above them and watch them do the belly-flop into my cup. I mean, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel!!

     

Asparagus officinalis ~ Very small bloom   ||   Onoclea sensibilis Sensitive Fern

     

Nyssa sylvatica ~ Black tupelo   ||   Mullberry update = Almost!

Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Spring Blooming Flowers 6-19-2017

Come with me to the past blooming flowers: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

     

Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’ ~ Cheddar pinks, carnation   ||   Lotus corniculatus ~ Birds-foot Trefoil  (so cool!!)

     

Lonicera japonica – Japanese honeysuckle   ||   Plantago lanceolata ~ Buckhorn plantain (weed)

     

Not even gonna try on these grasses. Guessing weedys.

     

Barbarea vulgaris ~ Garden Yellow Rocket    ||   Stellaria media ~ Common Chickweed

Chickweed is known for its soothing and healing quality. Its high saponin content is thought to be the reason for its effectiveness in relieving skin problems, such as erysipelatous and other forms of ulceration, as well as many forms of cutaneous diseases.

Hesperis matronalis ~ dame’s rocket, damask violet, dame’s-violet, dames-wort, dame’s gilliflower, night-scented gilliflower, queen’s gilliflower, rogue’s gilliflower, summer lilac, sweet rocket, mother-of-the-evening and winter gilliflower.

Here, many folks think this is ‘wild phlox’. Sure, you could call it that if you like. However, the easy way to tell the difference is that this one has 4 petals and phlox has 5.

       

When this gets with this, does this happen?

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

Illinois State Beach Park ~ What a View!!

Last weekend we went to Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park to camp. We got right in since many folks weren’t thinking about swimming in May… at least not here. Lake Michigan doesn’t get warm enough for swimming until early July. We did walk by the beach and I could walk with my toes in the water, for a short time. No more of me was going in! Brrr.

This is a IDNR (Illinois Deptment of Natural Resources) park, one of the most protected areas in Illinois. I love coming here, as there is such a diversity of plants, animals, birds and insects. We also had a great view of the dormant Zion nuclear plant. Awesome…?

General Information and History

This area is 4,160 acres and has a recorded 650 plus different plant species. Long recognized for its unique geological features, native flora and unmatched beauty, the Lake Michigan dunes area originally was, in the 1700s, part of the “Three Fires” of the Algonquin Nation: the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa.

This area was slated to be a preserve as early as 1888, when Robert Douglas, a Waukegan nurseryman, and Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect (If you live/visit Chicago, you’ve seen a lot of his work), worked together to make the area a regional park. With the threat of industry progressing from the south and sand mining ravaging nearby dunes, legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s.

In 1948, the state obtained the first parcels of what is now known as Illinois Beach State Park. The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established in 1950 to protect the area. Through its efforts and the determinations of the Department of Conservation, in 1964 the area south of Beach Road was dedicated as the first Illinois Nature Preserve.

This area is unique, as it is a sand dune area and the rest of Illinois is nothing like it. I was on the hunt for Opuntia – Prickly pear & Juniperus horizontalis – Trailing juniper, both of these are native to this area. In 1804, explorers Lewis and Clark noted that trailing juniper “would make a handsome edging to the borders of a garden”.

Our bedroom is in the back of the camper and furnished with a large window to gaze out of. You can barely see it to the right of the photo, however there is a small window right where my head is. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a window less than 3″ inches from your face. The fresh, night air is wonderful to sleep by.

The real view, not through the window. Lake Michigan.

     

We were back to balancing rocks. Here’s a simple one that took a bit of patience.  ||  I don’t think anyone was home.

This is the coolest thing. It’s an ice fishing house, that’s also a travel trailer! It’s on hydraulics and lowers to the ground / ice for fishing. So neat.

As far back as 1982, the federal government began collecting a nuclear-waste fee, paid by electricity users through fees tacked on to their bills and earmarked to pay for disposal of the radioactive spent fuel rods. Starting in 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy was supposed to start picking up spent fuel rods and taking them for storage, according to Everett Redmond, senior director of fuel cycle and technology policy for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a power industry trade group. But there was no ready storage option to hold them. So power companies were forced to store more and more of them at their own facilities and eventually successfully sued to recover costs for this storage.  Chicago Sun-Times 2017

Someone likes to dig.

     

We keep trying to outdo each other on the rock stacking. Well played husband, well played.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Western Painted Turtle – Chrysemys bellii

I’ve written about the Eastern Painted Turtle, however the photo for that post was lacking. And, admittingly, I think it actually was a Western Painted Turtle, as the Eastern are not supposed to be in my area. Although the painted turtle is found in most of the United States and some parts of Canada, there are four different species, and a lot of inter species mingling. As you can see, Illinois has either Western or Midland or a combo of both. Miss-identification can happen sometimes.. I’m a horticulturist, Jim! Not a herpetologist 😉

One of the more interesting things I learned about these turtles is that their sex is decided by what temperature the eggs are exposed to while in the clutch. These temperature-dependent turtles lack sex chromosomes, thus relying on the temperature to decide. Low temperatures during incubation produce males and high temperatures produce females. Think Jurassic Park!!
Since Painted turtles are cold-blooded, they need to bring their temperatures up when they want to be active. Basking in the sun is the best way to achieve this. Turtles of all varieties bask in large groups on logs, fallen trees, and any object that’s just above the water. Sunning also helps rid them of parasitic leeches. Ick.
Painted turtles feed mainly on plants, small fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and carrion. Young painted turtles are mainly carnivorous, possibly because they need the extra protein to grow, acquiring a taste for plants later in life. Turtles have no teeth, although they have tough, sharp plates for gripping food. Painted turtles like to eat in the water since their tongue does not move freely.

The painted turtle was designated the official Illinois state reptile in 2005 after winning the vote of the citizens of Illinois in 2004.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Unknown Common Brown Skipper

This poor guy was so beat-up I couldn’t figure out an ID for him. I’m going to guess Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (Staphylus hayhurstii), however I wasn’t ballsy enough to put it in the title. I am confident that he is a skipper of some sort, so I’ll discuss some skipper traits.

The skipper butterfly is part of the Hesperiidae butterfly family and is subdivided into seven subfamilies: Hesperiinae (grass skippers),  Coeliadinae, Euschemoninae, Eudaminae (dicot skippers), Pyrginae (spreadwings),  Heteropterinae (monocot skippers), and Trapezitinae (found only in Oceania).

Skippers wings appear small because of their much thicker body. The typical skipper butterfly shape is a thick body, large head and short triangular-shaped forewings.  Antennae are separated at the base and the tips appear very bulbous and curved.

They are called skippers due to their pattern of flight fly. They skip from flower to flower in a quick, erratic manner rather than a graceful flight pattern like other butterfly species. Kind like me when I’ve had too much coffee!

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Skipper on trillium.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Pearl Crescent ~ Phyciodes tharos

The Pearl Crescent is a very common butterfly in the eastern United States. It is also one of the hardest butterflies to identify with certainty, because of two very similar looking cousins, the Northern and Tawny Crescents. I’m hoping I picked the right one with this ID 😉

They love to inhabit woodland edges, roadsides, and open fields. I saw this one at Illinois State Beach.

They usually have two broods a season. The first occurs from early May through early July, with the second brood occurring in August through mid September.

Caterpillars like to eat species of smooth-leaved true asters.
Nectar from a many of flowers feed the adults including shepherd’s needle, dogbane, swamp milkweeds, asters and winter cress.

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This one was enjoying some clover.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Snapping Turtle ~ Chelydra serpentina

Common snapping turtles have a long neck and a long tail with sawtooth projections on the upper surface. They also have a large head with a strong beak instead of teeth. The edges of the jaws have sharp edges to rip apart food. I think their cute beaks look like piggy noses. =@)

They like to live in any body of water. They especially like shallow, mud-bottomed backwaters and ponds with lush aquatic vegetation. Exaaaaactly where we were walking the boys near Illinois State Beach Park.

April through July, is their mating season, which generally takes place on land, resulting in Mama turtle laying 20-50 eggs in a shallow clutch. Just like sea turtles, the hatchlings just know where the water is, and head for its safety.

They only seeking to escape when approached by humans in the water and are of little threat to swimmers. However, they are aggressive and menacing when on land. If you see one on the road and want to help it across… Be Careful! Watch the video below to educate yourself on how to safely pick up a snapper!

Vegetation is their main food source, however they also eat fish, snakes, and crustaceans. The turtle actually ‘inhales’ its food by using a strong suction created from its buccal cavity. They extend their necks to create a negative pressure and the prey is sucked into their mouth and down their throats! Now that’s how you gulp food! HaHa =-)

Snapping turtle’s heads are too large to pull all the way into their shell, so they have learned how to use that powerful jaw as defense and snap at their enemies. The hard beak on their jaw is attached to adductor muscles that are situated at an angle to the trochlear to create an enormous force. These guys are strong enough to remove a finger! Yikes.

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Isn’t she* cute?!?

As there were many (100’s!)  leopard frogs leaping as we approached them, we were constantly looking down, hoping to avoid stepping on the ‘lil guys. Oreo stepped on one, however he seemed unphased and hopped off. Whew. So, while looking up to enjoy the landscape and down to avoid the hoppers, we got pretty close to this little lady before noticing her on the trail.

The trail is narrow, and both sides turn into swampy, muck pretty quickly, so no deviation off the trail is possible. We weren’t turning around either. We neared her, hoping she would just scurry away. Nope. Is she dead?? I inch closer…. Waiting for movement. Oh! She blinked! OK, now what? Us humans can jump over her, but the boys? I kept myself between Oreo and her and he virtually ignored her. So did Breck. That’s a Border Collie for ya… No movement, no fun! Thus, I have no cool ending to my post. The End =-)

Here’s a helpful video to learn how to help a turtle across the road!

*Sometimes I don’t know the sex of an animal and just assign it one, as I don’t like referring animals as ‘it’s.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park

This is the third time we’ve been to Illinois State Beach Park. Part one here  | Part two here.

This is a IDNR (Illinois Dept. Natural Resources) park, one of the most protected areas in Il. It’s located in Zion, kinda a rough neighborhood, but you don’t even realize where you are after entering the park. We also had a great view of the dormant Zion nuclear plant. Awesome…?

This area is 4,160 acres and has a recorded 650+ different plant species. Long recognized for its unique geological features, native flora and unmatched beauty, the Lake Michigan dunes area originally was, in the 1700s, part of the “Three Fires” of the Algonquin Nation: the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa.

This area was slated to be a preserve as early as 1888, when Robert Douglas, a Waukegan nurseryman, and Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect (If you live/visit  Chicago, you’ve seen a lot of his work), worked together to make the area a regional park. With industry progressing from the south, sand mining ravaging the dunes and parts of the surrounding rural area succumbing to pasture and homesteads, legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s.

In 1948, the state obtained the first parcels of what is now known as Illinois Beach State Park. The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established in 1950 to protect the area. Through its efforts and the determinations of the Department of Conservation, in 1964 the area south of Beach Road was dedicated as the first Illinois Nature Preserve.

This area is unique, as it is a sand dune area, and the rest of Illinois is nothing like it. I was on the hunt for Opuntia – Prickly pear & Juniperus horizontalis – Trailing juniper, both of these are native to this area. In 1804, explorers Lewis and Clark noted that trailing juniper “would make a handsome edging to the borders of a garden”

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Cicuta maculata ~ Water Hemlock    Stay away!!    ||   A mossy rose gall, caused by a Diplolepis rosea or Bedeguar Gall Wasp. So cute and fuzzy!! Not really detrimental to the plant.

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Midwestern Plant Girl on the hunt for blooming flowers!!!image

The still standing Zion Nuclear Power Plant. It was built in 1973 and decommissioned in 1998. The hot, nuclear mess still sits in holding tanks below the buildings. Supposedly, the new date for clean-up is in 2020. All the hot stuff will be sent to a remote location in Utah. Poor, Utah… drew the short stick, didn’t we??? It will then be restored to its original habitat, hopefully.

Pretty scary that it sits right next to the largest fresh water supply of the Midwest….

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There were a few gulls on the nuclear power plant side of the fence. 😉 They know folks are supposed to stay on the other side of the fence. There are still armed guards here, keeping folks away from the hot mess.

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Pretty rocks… I would have made a great petrologist =-)

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I love our savannas.

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Chelydra serpentina — Common snapping turtle   ||     Lithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens ~ Northern leopard frog  They were everywhere!

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Wasps and beavers

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Breck with Daddy and Chicago waaaaay in the distance.

Door County, Wisconsin

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I write many of my camping posts while riding in the passenger seat. The star is Door County.

We decided to spend our long, Independence Day weekend in the quiet town of Rowley’s Bay in Door County, Wisconsin. It was magnificent! My husband used to come up here for his summer vacations as a child. I’ve never been.

He was tooootally holding out on me!

The area is called, The Cape Cod of the Midwest, however I liked the catchier, The Thumb the local radio station used. Cherries and apples orchards are everywhere around here. We were here for cherry season, and if you are a fan, you can enjoy cherries in too many forms for me to list here! Basically, from wine to cheese to pie, you name it, they can make it with cherries here!

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Halfway to the North Pole

The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today. Click here if you’d like to read more about it. I think it’s fascinating. I really feel like a true Northerner when we stood at the halfway point between the equator and the North pole.

There are many bays on this peninsula and since the area is so skinny, there aren’t any cities in between the bays on the Green Bay side and the Lake Michigan side. The GB side is much calmer, better for us kayaks, swimmers and non-motor boaters. The LM side is rougher, requiring a larger boat, however that’s where the good fishing is. Many folks at our campground had both campers and boats.

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Actually not sure which Green Bay side bay I’m in here, however they are all equally exquisite!

The area is also known for its concentration of artists. Every craft is represented via signs along the roadways. Aside from the beauty of the area (which would make anyone want to stay), I’m not sure what draws them all here. Is it the camaraderie?

There are many workshops available to attend. The Clearing, a folk school founded by Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect of this area, is a future destination of learning for me. We visited, however only went on the 2 hour walking tour of the grounds. I’ll have a post to link to this soon.

Otherwise, living here year-round can be tough. There are no Walmarts or big box stores nearby. I think the nearest larger town is Sturgeon’s Bay, which was an hour away from our campsite. The winters can get really hash here and there are no tourists at that time. I could see it being a good time to be immersed in a project. A bit of ‘alone time’.

The towns are all very conscious of the natural beauty around them and try to keep Mother Nature happy. Many shops had beautiful gardens and well chosen natives for the area. I think these gardens gave me about 6 posts of Blooming Flowers alone!! Hmmm, I wonder if I could make it as a garden designer up here?

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Many little nooks contained fountains and other artwork. Modern technology is not abandon here, however it does get its artistic touches, like this cell tower currently getting spruced-up to resemble a spruce!

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These folks spend many hours putting together their summer flower displays. So pretty!

Sadly, we felt that the shopkeepers were all pretty rude. It seriously amazed me. The shops here are all somewhat upscale and expensive, not exactly touristy. Most of the time we were not acknowledged at all. We went into a kaleidoscope shop. I love them! Many were over a grand, however there were some for as low as $50. The ‘Do Not Touch!’ signs outnumbered the kaleidoscopes. Had one of the two clerks just said HELLO, I would have promptly bought the $80 one that I thought would produce some cool photos via my camerone. I’ve got principals, tho. I felt like I was looked-over and dubbed too poor to buy and no energy was going to be exhausted on us. They lost a sale because of their attitude.

Like I said, there are not many average places to buy a shot glass with Sister Bay on it or a T-Shirt, seems those places were off the beaten path. If you did find a T-shirt location, it was an astonishing $35 for a thin shirt. I always feel you have to go to a ‘locals bar’ for good T-shirts. Now those are our homes away from home. We love hanging with the natives and getting the inside scoops to places they go, away from the hustle and bustle. My advice is, always tip heavy and respect that you’re in their hood. They’ll be flapping their gums about the best spots in less than 10 minutes.  We bought our commemorative, vacation glass from a bar in Gills Bay that was being sold for charity, with all the proceeds going to the local dog shelter. Duh, that was a no-brainer!!

As with any area here in ‘Merica, there seems to be a concentration of one culture or another. Here it’s Nordic. We saw many examples of this, such as the Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik, “The place with the goats on the roof”. in Sister Bay. You can click those words for the ‘Goat Cam’… Yes folks, there is a goat cam!!! (It’s a still shot, so repetitively click your ‘refresh’ button to make it a video).

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Clearly not something you see on a daily basis….

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Aside from the horns, they almost resemble Breck!

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Horns are great for getting those back itches!

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Another bay where I don’t know where I am….

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There was only one night of rain, but it was a doosey. Many weak tornadoes around, but little damage. This was Rowley’s Bay.

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More examples of the artistic flair of this county.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and we’re so coming back to this area next year. Among so many other pluses, there is little light pollution at night, which makes star gazing and spotting constellations cake. Fishing is great, along with the fish being offered at the restaurants. It is very quiet here, no big box stores, large highways or airports. If you pick a strategic location, you can see a water-based sunrise and a water-based sunset!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl