HIkers take advantage of beautiful spring weather
Beautiful hiking weather and spring wildflowers brought significantly better than average participation for our walks.
The Department of Natural Resources had burned a large area for the state forest south of U.S. Highway 12 on April 6. Because the Ice Age Trail goes through that area, 10 of us decided to hike it on Tuesday. It made for unique scenery, but already wildflowers had begun to poke through some of the charred areas. The fire had significantly damaged many of the invasive plants there, which are prevalent in this part of the state.
Wood anemone was the dominant wildflower followed by buttercup, violet and pussytoe.
The next day 38 adventurers gathered at our meeting place and divided into three groups for hikes.
Norwin Watson took several of the long-distance hikers on the seven-mile, blue-blazed loop of the McMiller ski trails. Participants were rewarded by great views and a few spring wildflowers.
In the meantime, I had decided to take a contingency of 10 flower lovers, both long- and short-distance hikers, to Janesville to hike the Ice Age Trail from Riverside Park west through the arboretum. This is the Devil’s Staircase segment of the trail. It is not only one of the most scenic parts of the trail in southern Wisconsin, it has a wealth of spring wildflowers.
We parked a couple cars at the lot nearest the entrance to the arboretum and car pooled to the north end of Riverside Park. There we met up with Rita Fox and two young grandsons who joined us for the first half mile.
We were rewarded with the best display of spring wildflowers we have seen so far this season. The flowers were covering the entire steep banks of the river except for the sheer vertical sandstone cliffs. Being on a steep northeast slope overlooking the Rock River, the first half mile of this trail had many of the earlier bloomers, which already were past bloom elsewhere, in full bloom. This included Dutchman’s britches, hepatica and false rue anemone. Wild ginger was in bloom, as were trout lily, bellwort and rue anemone. Wood phlox, May apple and several others were in bud stage.
After crossing County Highway E and entering the woods, we observed rue anemone, buttercups and violets peppering the woodland floor.
We stopped for a rest and to enjoy the scenery at a creek which runs through the arboretum, and near the end of the hike we admired a real pioneer log cabin from around 1840, which had been reconstructed at this site.
Ellen Davis reported the following for the shorter walk:
Twenty-two people, including two new to our group, selected the short hike today. We drove to the Nordic Trails on County Highway H, and set off on the white trail with five fast hikers in front, the slowest ones at the rear and the rest of us in between. The day was brisk and this 3.2-mile trail was a good choice, being wide enough for conversation, smooth enough for a fast pace and with a few well-placed hills for variety.
Wildflowers were limited to a few hepaticas, many dark blue violets and one large patch of pussytoes. Though we saw birds in the distance, the only one identifiable was a tufted titmouse loudly advertising his (or her) availability!
-- Trail Work, April 22, at 9 a.m.: Volunteer workers should meet at the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age Trail lot, five miles east of Whitewater. Contact Andy Whitney, (262) 949-0286.
-- Monthly meeting of Walworth/Jefferson County Chapter, IATA, April 24, at 7 p.m.: Meet at U.S. Bank in Elkhorn. Contact Carol Prchal, (262) 495-8502.
--- Ice Age Trail Alliance annual conference, April 26-April 29: The conference is held Thursday through Sunday in Middleton -- details in Mammoth Tales. Register online at www.iceagetrail.org. Carpools possible; contact Carol Prchal, (262) 495-8502.
-- Weekly walks: We meet at 4 p.m. each Tuesday and at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age National Scenic Trail crossing located about four miles east of Whitewater and about a quarter-mile east of the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and Sweno Road. The parking lot is at the west end of Sherwood Forest Road, which is a short road that intersects U.S. Highway 12 at each end. All ages are welcome. A state park pass is required to park a car at the U.S. Highway 12 lot and may be purchased at the trail head.