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And answer I do by retreating to the far, far northwestern corner of Illinois, which along with southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northeast Iowa is known as the Driftless Area.

This area derives its name from being unglaciated in a region that had many glacial episodes, going back nearly two million years to the Pleistocene Epoch.

Having escaped the leveling effect of continental glaciers, the ancient land surface has been exposed to essentially continuous weathering and erosion. Several thousand feet of bedrock strata may have been removed during an overall span of some 243 million years. This erosion carved a series of deep valleys into the gently tilted bedrock formations with the Mississippi River Valley draining the entire region.

I feel fortunate, indeed, to be familiar with this area having friends and family living there now and once living there myself. It is an easy 3 hour drive from Chicago so for me it is a favorite get-away.

On May 25th a friend and I took a driving and hiking tour of Apple River Canyon State Park and Mississippi Palisades State Park. They are within 30 miles of each other. Apple River Canyon is a small park of only 297 acres. Mississippi Palisades SP actually begins at the confluence of the little Apple and the mighty Mississippi. It is about 10 times larger at 2,350 acres consisting of upland woods, steep bluffs, caves, sink-holes and, of course, Ol' Man River himself. According to a park ranger, this is the least visited State Park in Illinois and that is a cryin' shame. Evidently it was over-run by meth-cooking outlaw motorcycle gangs for several years but more recently the authorities have won out. In the whole of both parks on an incredibly beautiful day we saw only one other human, a fisherman.

My friend's meditation frog always helps me chill
1582 meditation frog

Sunset on the 24th portended a good day to come
1608 sunset

All day the sky was filled with cotton-candy-like cumulus clouds
1622 scape

Typical countryside
1626 river barn

A little closer, please
1627 close

The Apple may not be mighty but she is endearing
1675 stream

unknown wildflower
1679 flowers

Ol' Man Cottonwood grabbed me by the camera straps...
1686 cottonwood

and said "take this..."
1688 cottonwood zoom

"and this..."
1687 cottonwood

and this, too..." Only then was he satisfied.
1684 zoom

Lots of fungi to be seen
1677 fungi greens

Solomon's Seal ?
1676 greens

'scuse me while I kiss the sky
1663 tree upward

Nature's greatest gift: green against blue
1660 trees sky

Soon this fallen branch ...
1659 fallen branch

will look like this
1650 fungi

Our trail was spongy underfoot
1654 woody path

The noxious mustard weed
1640 mustard weed

Cross-cut
1651 cut log

The light was just right
1632 apple river

A pause to reflect...
1617 apple river

on a bluff.
1637 apple river

sky above, sky below
1638 river great

On the way to the Palisades
1701 clouds

What a joy to catch this from the windshield of the car
1706 train engine

I love trains!
1703 train

The Mississippi from Lookout Point
1707 lookout

This is just too J for words
1710 train river

The ever-changing Upper Mississippi
1711 river

Bridge at Savannah, Illinois
1713 river bridge

Typical growth of moss and ferns on the shady sides of the bluffs
1678 ferns moss

Do you know what this is?
1646 white flowers

Looking northwest
1714 river

Islands and sandbars abound
1718 river

The turkey buzzards were flying about with apparent joy
1723 turkey buzzard

Shooting stars
1740 shooting stars

The heart-shaped leaves were so lovely
1748 heart leaves

Wild violets
1648 flowers

Buttercups ?
1744 yellow flowers

Ferns grow wherever they want
1749 ferns

Wild columbine
1751 flowers

One last glimpse of the Mighty Mississip
1738 river thru leaves

One last wildflower
1661 pink flowers

Then how better to end the day than in the local bank turned tavern?
1753 tavern

Any help identifying the wildflowers whose names I did not know or improperly named would be most appreciated. I hope this diary gave you a feel for my neck of the woods. There is great beauty when we don't just look but see. Thanks for stopping by.

Originally posted to Boldly going nowhere on Tue May 01, 2012 at 10:48 AM PDT.

Also republished by Headwaters, J Town, Backyard Science, and DKOMA.

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