Your car won’t start. Going outside means donning a scarf, gloves, hat, coat, and at least three layers underneath. The driveway is a sheet of ice. You’re out of sidewalk salt.
Welcome to January, a month a lot of suburban Chicago folks love to hate. It’s tempting to skip our trips to the tallgrass prairie. Too cold. Too slick. Short days. No flowers.
But missing prairie encounters after the turn of the year means losing out on some magical moments. Consider these ten reasons to hike the prairie in January.
#10. Ice, ice, baby. The designs change from minute to minute.
#9. Snow becomes a journal for prairie stories you missed. Invisible critters become visible.
#7. Unbelievable skies.
#6. Snow pooled in the grasses gives the prairie a new look.
#5. Noticeable transitions.
#4. The color blue.
#3. Unexpected contrasts.
#2. Intriguing seedheads
#1. Slow hikes.
Yes, it’s treacherous underfoot. But walking carefully, picking our way through ice and snow, offers opportunities to slow down and to pay attention.
All photos copyright Cindy Crosby. (Top to bottom) Snow and ice rim Willoway Brook, which runs through the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; squirrel tracks, SP; tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum), SP; prairie grasses, lake, and sunrise at Hidden Lake Forest Preserve, Downer’s Grove, IL; grasses, SP; Schulenberg Prairie savanna; Clear Creek winding through Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; robin on smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), SP; round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata), SP; hiking the Schulenberg Prairie in the snow.
(*SP is an abbreviation for the Schulenberg Prairie)