By Dave Coulter
We're officially four days into summer and the southern tip of the state is currently in a drought. In the northern reaches of Illinois we are much drier than normal. Lately I find myself in the peculiar mindset of rooting for the clouds to gather together and rain, and feeling dejected when - like today - promising looking storm clouds pass by leaving a sunny, cheery, and dry morning.
Over the weekend E and I traveled up to Moraine Hills State Park to hike around. Signs of the tension between dry and wet were easily seen. The wetlands around Lake Defiance were quite dry. The boardwalks that skirted the lake rested in dried brown cattail stems. The piers that jutted into the lake itself were surrounded by lily pads and duckweed. The late morning scene was very quiet, save for a couple of noisy Redwing Blackbirds. Possibly the most memorable sight was seeing a male Blackbird hopping from lily pad to lily pad, walking over the surface of the water with ease.
Off the boardwalk the trail led into a shady grove of small moraines. The canopy overhead was dominated by oaks, growing quite happily in the ancient dry heaps of gravel and rock. The only clue of drought in view were patches of brown, knee-high umbrellas of Mayapples covering the forest floor. They usually dry up come summer, but these seemed gone a little too soon.
Our walk was brief, a loop of maybe four miles. One benefit of these dry times is the relative absence of mosquitoes. Flies would occasionally give chase, but I think we noted one or two skeeters along the route. I kept my eyes open for blackberries, but we only saw a couple bearing fruit. The blackberries were sweet, but seemed a little stunted from the lack of moisture.
Back home we returned to the normal summer pursuits of watering the gardens and firing up the grill. The "midsummer" Fourth of July holiday looms and after sunset we hear fireworks set off by the neighbors. One lone firefly blinked in transit across the evening lawn. They say it might reach 100 this week, and people are comparing this to the (authentically) bad old summer of 1988. And we hope for the rains to return.