Weekly Walk: Remembering Russ

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Ellen Davis | July 28, 2015

The Weekly Walks for July 21 and 22, 2015.

Dog owners:  It's now nesting season and 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 Marv Herman:     

On this mostly sunny day with temperatures near 80 degrees, four hikers met for the regular Tuesday weekly walk. Since Norwin was on vacation, I acted as leader. We hiked the Ice Age Trail across U.S. Highway 12 to County Highway P and back, having considered returning via the horse trail but finding it quite overgrown....

There must have been a memo about a severe mosquito infestation on the trail, but I missed it.  Two of the hikers were decked out in “Little Fly” Mosquito Jackets which covered them completely from the waist up. I was told that this gear could be purchased for about $70 (including shipping) from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.  

Early in the hike we noticed trees down on the trail. We were able to clear all but one, and we sent out a notice to the proper parties as to the location of that remaining downed tree. As we walked along, we saw baneberry (both red and white), begemot, tickfoil, daisies, coneflowers and sow thistle. In the edible category, we saw and tasted red and black raspberries, and little green apples near the newly-placed bench honoring Ingrid Larson, one of our IAT chapter flounders. We saw – but did not taste – some beautiful orange mushrooms, and also noted a couple of monarch butterflies. All said that they enjoyed our hike of 5.2 miles.
The 9:30 a.m. Wednesday pre-hike hike, reported by Bonnie Nommonsen:

Rich and I hiked the Ice Age Trail across Highway 12 to a nice raspberry patch about 1 ½ miles in. After a break to eat some very good ripe red raspberries, we turned around and returned to the trailhead for the 10:30 a.m. hike.

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

The morning sky was cloudy with temperatures in the mid-70s: a perfect day for hiking. This day marked one year since the hikers presented the founder of our group, Russ Helwig, with a bench in his honor overlooking Lake La Grange. A very large group of hikers and guests met at the IAT trailhead on U.S. 12 and walked to the bench for a brief ceremony to commemorate the anniversary and the memory of our friend and leader. Several hikers shared personal memories of Russ and good times on the trail, and many photos were taken during the ceremony.

After these festivities, seventeen long-hikers continued on the Ice Age Trail toward Duffin Road, taking the third cut-off to the horse trail and back to the parking lot – a distance of about six miles round trip.

Following the hike, nearly fifty participants lunched at Casual Joe's Restaurant in Whitewater, entertained by photos and video clips projected on the wall during and after the meal.

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

Two newcomers joined us for the first time this morning, and our group of nineteen brought up the rear of a very long line of hikers. Going down the big hill we noted a variety of oddly colored and shaped fungi in the woods; a great blue heron on the far side of the lake ignored us as we passed. Black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and spurge soon gave way to prairie coneflowers, rough blazing star (not yet blooming), whorled and common milkweed, and a variety of sunflowers and prairie clovers.  

As we crested a hill we could see the crowd gathered at Russ' bench. Most were hikers, but others – including Karen, Russ' widow – had joined them for the ceremony. We hurried forward, eager to share in this occasion.

Marv Herman, whose speech at last year's dedication moved people to tears, gave another brief speech today reminding us of the many things we learned from Russ and his example.  

When the last memory had been shared, the groups moved on with the short-hikers once more in the rear. We passed a group of young backpackers, packs abandoned, splashing in the lake.  Then a patch of liatris just starting to bloom, and a meadow dotted with bright orange butterfly weed. The corn was sporting lovely yellow tassels, and the mosquitos were waiting in the woods....  

So were the toads. The first toad we saw was the size of a silver dollar, the next was quarter-sized, then several more even smaller, each of which would fit on a dime with a bit of room to spare. We seemed to spot one or more tiny toads  every few yards until we reached the gravelly open area near the end of the trail. We heard cranes, looked up and saw a pair passing overhead, followed by a group of six. In the distance we saw two people near the gate doing something at the side of the trail. As we got closer we recognized Mariette and Dave Nowak removing a patch of invasive Japanese hedge parsley – exactly what Russ would have done.  We arrived just in time to help them pull the last few plants and load them into the trunk of their car, bound for annihilation. It had been a pleasant and relaxed 2.8-mile hike with much to see and remember and think about.

Happy trekking!

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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