I’d been planning to spend the afternoon working in my garden, planting the last batch of bulbs that arrived this week. When my wife suggested that we do something outside as a family, and my son eagerly agreed, I abandoned my bulb planting plans so that we could enjoy a spectacular autumn day hiking in Meadowbrook Park in nearby Urbana, IL. Much to my son’s delight, we arranged to have one of his good friends join us for the walk.
Meadowbrook Park is an treasure here in Champaign-Urbana. Located in southeast Urbana, it stretches over 80 acres including 30 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. More than three miles of paved paths and countless steps of unimproved paths through the prairie make the park a destination for walkers, runners, and hikers alike. When my wife and I were newly married and living in Urbana, we’d frequently break out our rollerblades and spend evenings getting some much needed exercise after a day at the office.
In this first week of November, the prairie at Meadowbrook is in full autumn splendor. The arching stems and seed heads of wildflowers intersect the upright architecture of native prairie grasses to create an unending visual symphony of texture and shape.
At one point during our hike, my wife noticed the cirrus clouds behind us formed a smoky white whisp rising from the horizon, the perfect foil to the vertical orientation of the prairie.
A variety of sculpture are installed throughout the prairie walk at Meadowbrook. The bronze pictured below is a Peter Fagan piece called “Marker”. As with most art, not all of the sculpture in Meadowbrook appeals to every visitor, but the park district has done an excellent job in rotating a wide variety of work over the years we’ve visited. For me, the sculpture is the perfect marriage between the artistry of nature and that of humankind.
Most of the trees in Meadowbrook have already dropped their leaves, so foliage color was sparse during our walk. The bright red foliage of sumac, wild rose and brambles was visible from a great distance as it stood in contrast to the brown and bronze of the dried prairie plants.
For a November day, the weather couldn’t have been more ideal. A light breeze, warm sun and blue sky entertained our senses for our two hours at Meadowbrook. My wife and I followed from a distance as my son and his friend shared conversation and laughs for the length of the hike.
It was the perfect day for fresh air and fraternity.