We are reminded that being open to wild places often yields unexpected gifts. On May 3rd, in search of soft light to photograph the illusive Kalmiopsis leachiana, Dick and Gwen Adams made the 17 mile (often bone jarring) drive from the Redwood Highway (199) at Selma, down the Wild and Scenic Illinois River, to the Illinois River Trail trailhead at Briggs Creek. From there they hiked into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness to the York Creek Botanical Area (2.5 miles).
The anticipated soft light evolved into a showery day, with cold blustery winds, rainbows and intense colors and their awe on first seeing the Kalmiopsis must have been similar to that of Lilla Leach, the pioneering botantist who first identified the rare shrub in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in 1930. Here’s their description and photos of the day:
We trudged to York Creek yesterday and upon rounding the bend were greeted with the glorious but wet and bedraggled kalmiopsis. Wind and rain compromised the photography but we had a wonderful time. Gwen would hold one umbrella, I’d wipe the lens and we both were just in awe. I love that place.
Read more about Kalmiopsis leachiana, it’s discovery by Lilla Leach in 1930, and the fascinating geologic and evolutionary history of Kalmiopsis country at the Conifer Country. Highly recommended and wonderfully written.
According to William Sullivan, the hike to the York Creek Creek Botanical Area is an easy 5 miles round trip. Of course most people make the hike in warm sunny weather and by then the York Creek Kalmiopsis can be sunburned and shriveled.
Below the Botanical Area, York Creek flows into the “Wild” section of the Illinois River forming a Class IV+ rapid. Read about the Wild Illinois River on American Whitewater.