Weekly Walk: Hikers find hidden treasures along the trail

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Ellen Davis | May 28, 2015

The Weekly Walks for May 19 and 20

Note to dog owners: It's now nesting season & dogs must be on leash at all times on State Forest land through July 31: http://dnr.wi.gov/news/weekly/article/print.asp?id=2199

The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Norwin Watson:     

The clouds had moved out and it was a cool sunny fifty-five degree afternoon. Since there were only four hikers today, we decided to go to the Emerson cabin on Young road to do some bush-whacking. At the cabin we headed north through the grass that was burned earlier this spring. A huge patch of spiderwort not quite ready to bloom appeared after about a quarter of a mile. We soon hooked up with the path back to the cabin, where we saw both starry (false) and true Solomon's seal as well as hoary puccoon. Toward the end of the path there was sweet cicely, Russian olive, and yucca.

From the cabin, we hiked west across Young Road.  We bush-whacked for a while, then started following a small animal trail. Suddenly Jake signaled us to stop. I got my camera, came up to the front, and saw a tiny fawn lying in the grass; it looked to be only one or two days old. We passed at a distance, not disturbing it, and continued to the south. We passed a couple of ponds that appeared to be man-made and watched a pair of ducks take flight. Soon we came out on Young Road again and spotted an eastern phoebe sitting on a fence. We returned to the parking area very pleased with our short but rewarding one-and-a-half mile hike.

The new 9:30 a.m. Wednesday 10-mile hike, reported by Bonnie Nommensen:

Several of the long-hikers are working on getting in shape for the Annual National Trails Day Hike on June 6, hoping to hike the whole twenty miles of the Ice Age Trail from county line to county line that day.  

Rich and I met at 9:30 a.m. to get three miles in before the main hike at 10:30 a.m. When we found that they were only hiking five miles, we opted to do something different in order to get in ten miles. We drove to Bald Bluff, parked just east of County Highway H, and hiked the connector bike trail from Bluff Road to Tamarack Road and back. We hiked against bike traffic so we would be able to see bicycles coming, but today we only found one mountain biker using the trail.  

It was a beautiful trail which we hadn't hiked in a long time. We were surprised at how flat this section of trail was, since Ice Age Trail in this area is a very hilly hike. We also enjoyed the beautiful prairie views that you cannot normally see when hiking the IAT.  This section is very diverse, with areas of pines and hardwoods as well. All in all it was a delightful hike of ten and a half miles, and we hope to do it again in the fall to view the changing colors.

Anyone wishing to join us for these longer hikes, please feel free to do so. Email Bonnie at nommo[email protected] (cell phone 920-728-2016) so we know who's coming.

The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:

As we arrived at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place, the sky was light gray and the temperature was in the high forties, perfect for hiking. There were 18 long-hikers this day, and we decided to carpool to Oleson cabin on Duffin Road and hike back to Highway 12. But first there was a distribution of native prairie plants grown from seed by Theresa and Gerhard Stegemann, who are widely recognized for their use of native plants at their home on Whitewater Lake – and promoting the use of these plantings to others in the area.
Our hike of three and a half miles was accomplished at a rapid pace, with periodic stops to let the hikers in the rear catch up. We did not hike too fast to notice a couple of wild turkeys crossing the trail and a red-winged blackbird flitting overhead. We also saw shooting stars (the plant – not the astronomic phenomenon), wild geraniums, jack-in-the-pulpit, mayapples (in flower), Solomon's seal, asters (not in bloom), and more.  Our collective sense of smell was jolted by the aroma of honeysuckle growing all along the trail, especially near Lake La Grange.  At the posted map, about three miles into the hike, Jo Steadter treated us to a taste of cold fresh grapes, which gave those who partook a burst of energy to finish the hike.

At the end of the hike, the carpoolers were returned to their vehicles on Duffin Road, and most of us adjourned to the La Grange General Store for good food and conversation.

The  10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hikes, reported by Ellen Davis:

The Impromptu Wildflower Hike (from details provided by Dave Nowak):

Six wildflower hikers led by Mariette Nowak carpooled first to the Emerson cabin for a short hike, then drove to Kestol Prairie off Young Road. They examined – and photographed – a hillside nearby covered with shooting star in bloom,  prairie smoke, and both hoary and fringed puccoon. Wild geraniums proliferated along the trail and throughout the woods.  The hikers passed a group of Department of Natural Resources staffers and a botanist from the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission along the trail, doing an assessment of the results of the DNR burn there last year.  

From the Ice Age Trail the group took the rugged horse trail back to Young Road then hiked the road back to their cars. The highlight of this section was a steep hillside covered with maidenhair, bracken, and other ferns. It had been a wonderful two-and-a-half mile hike, and the participants were well-satisfied with what they had seen.

The Wednesday short hike took the connector trail from the Bald Bluff parking area on County Highway H to the Ice Age Trail. We had twelve hikers in our group today, including a couple who had completed the Kettle Trekker program on their own, and were hiking with the group for the first time. Once past Young Road, we covered the same route as the wildflower hikers initially, admired the same spectacular hillside, passed the assessment people on the trail and thanked them for the abundance of wildflowers that the burn had fostered. It was a very scenic, dramatically hilly hike, decorated with patches of wild geraniums and mayflowers – and highlighted by a single large yellow ladyslipper spotted by Jake.   

We slogged through the sand on the prairie section of the horse trail and began unzipping or removing jackets as we worked our way back to Young Road. At this point we continued on the horse trail to the Ice Age Trail for the long trip back to the trailhead. This section of trail is relaxingly level, with pines and meadows dotted with the occasional bright orange of hoary puccoon flowers. Patches of bird's-foot violets appear sporadically along the borders. As the trail began to rise, we were in the hardwood forest again. I found a geriatric morel at the side of the trail and the hikers were noticing occasional mysterious bumpy green galls on the ground. We opened one and found a small central capsule radiating stiff filaments toward the outer wall – the plant's response to an insect intrusion.    

Putting the distractions of the forest aside, we eventually panted our way to the top of the bluff and took a well-deserved break to enjoy the view and the breeze – and examine yet another gall. It was the same as the others. We were treated to more bird's-foot violets along the steep path as we returned to the trailhead. We had hiked 3.26 rather challenging miles – the equivalent of 82 flights of stairs – and were ready for lunch. After burning approximately 975 calories, some of us were even ready for ice cream!

Happy trekking!

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis


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