On Saturday, the weather was perfect. The temperature was warm, but not hot, and the sky was sunny and filled with big, puffy clouds. After a hot, dry summer, this nice day was a welcome relief.
As I drove east along Interstate-80 toward Goose Lake Prairie State Park, I realized that 200 years ago, the flat areas along the highway would have been covered with a variety of tall prairie plants, mile after mile, for as far as the eye could see. What an amazing site that would have been!
Driving through the park to the visitor center, I noticed that the Goose Lake Prairie was ablaze with colorful and hardy plants. I parked at the visitor center, where I was scheduled to present a program and read Rachel and Sammy Visit the Prairie. It was tempting to spend the morning hiking through the prairie or hopping on one of the prairie wagon rides that were planned as a part of the annual Prairie Day celebration. I brought several plant specimens featured in this educational children's book that I had collected the day before from our small prairie plot at work and from my backyard prairie. However, looking at specimens indoors is different than seeing the prairie in its entirety.
Most prairie plants are deep-rooted perennials that are adapted to Midwestern weather extremes. Even though many parts of the country have been under drought conditions this summer, the prairie plants survived. But, this summer's dry weather changed the normal tremendous beauty of the prairie. While plants may have survived, they are not as tall as normal, and if the plants flowered, the blooms may not have been as spectacular as usual. But, a true prairie enthusiast appreciates the beauty at any time and knows that the next visit to the prairie will be a different view that may be even prettier than imagined.
I was excited to read the newly revised second edition of Rachel and Sammy Visit the Prairie to a group for the first time. This book, and my two others, Rachel and Sammy Visit the Forest and Rachel and Sammy Learn About Trees, have recently been released by Rising Phoenix Press, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to revise these books to improve them. I think the end result for all three books is wonderful, and I look forward to continuing to educate people on nature, using Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Skunk books.