First snow of the seasons provides beauty, some challenges
Ed Rynko and I hiked around Lake LaGrange on Tuesday evening, Christmas Day. A gun deer season was on and part way around we had a friendly chat with two hunters who were walking back to the parking lot after the close of season for the day.
The walk was pleasant and I tried out my new headlamp, which has a red light setting. Red light does not ruin one’s night vision so it is preferable to white light, which makes the surroundings harder to see. The red light was bright and lit up the trail for several feet in from of us so we could easily see where to step, and it did light up the blazes and orange and red reflectors well down the trail. But it was not great for lighting the trail near as far in front of us as the white light. We really did not need the light because the white snow in the trail made it easy to follow, but I was pleased with my test of the new headlamp.
The next day 16 of us split into two groups. Ellen Davis and Jake Gerlack led half of the hikers around Lake LaGrange where Rynko and I had hiked the evening before.
Ellen’s report: The short hike around Lake LaGrange began auspiciously enough. The temperature was in the low 30s. But once we left the shelter of the parking area behind the hill, the sudden wind chill made it feel more like the teens. This section of the trail, packed down by snowmobiles, was easy hiking so, as we lost feeling in our fingers, we hurried toward the protection of the woods.
The next section was narrower and sans snowmobile. Canine and human tracks were plentiful and the snow on the trees and bushes was still undisturbed, creating a peaceful and picturesque winter vista.
The snow was deeper and drifted as we started up the slope into the prairie section. The trail was a single track now, but still easy to navigate. Though we were once more exposed to the wind, we were now warm enough to ignore it.
The lake had at least a skin of ice and several ice fishermen were on the thicker ice of the bay. In the open prairie past the bay, we ran into the first of several areas of knee-high snowdrifts crossing the trail. Luckily, previous hikers already had broken through them and we simply walked in their footprints.
The only real challenge of this hike was the new trail up the final hill. Narrow, rocky, steep and twisty, it can be difficult even without the snow. All of us were wearing ice cleats, which were not needed up to this point but a great help in navigating this particular slope. We returned to our starting point warm and energized and ready for lunch. All in all, a good hike on our first snow of the season.
-- In the meantime, I took the other half of the hikers to Price Park. This beautiful county park is 15 miles from our meeting place on Hodunk Road, south of County Highway D and west of Alpine Valley. We met a few people walking their dogs on the first part of our hike but had the park to ourselves for most of our adventure.
We hiked four miles, which included all of the park trails except for a couple short connector paths between the prairie and the east woods trail. This involved repeating some parts of the trail sections to get the full mileage in.
The pond was frozen except near the spring hole and the exit where small streams kept the water open. Rynko tested the ice and walked out several feet on it and then Norwin Watson joined him. The ice was clear but elsewhere the snow also made for very pretty scenery.
-- Ice Age Trail work and potluck, Jan. 13: Meet at noon at the Converse home, W8339 R&W Townline Road, first house east of Lakeview School about five miles south of Whitewater. Bring unlabeled IAT chapter tools for labeling, work on the scrapbook; make signs and other indoor projects. Bring a dish to share.
-- Ice Age Trail chapter annual meeting, Jan. 15: Meet at 7 p.m. at U.S. Bank, Elkhorn. Elect officers, select an “in-the-mud” awardee and have a monthly business meeting. Contact: Carol Prchal, (262) 495-8502.
-- Weekly walks: Meet each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age National Scenic Trail crossing located about four miles east of Whitewater, about a quarter mile east of the intersection of U.S. 12 with Sweno Road. Two or more walks of different distances are offered on Wednesdays (and Tuesdays when desired). Note that a current state park pass is required to park a car at the Highway 12 meeting place. A daily or yearly pass may be purchased at the meeting place provided correct change is available. New annual passes for 2013 are available and will be good from the time of purchase throughout 2013.