Weekly Walk: A summer abundance of wildflowers and mosquitoes

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Ellen Davis | August 12, 2015

The Weekly walks for Aug. 4-5, 2015

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

It was 78 degrees and sunny as I headed out to our U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age Trail meeting place a bit earlier than usual to find Marv already there waiting. Six more hikers showed up and we decided to hike the Nordic Green Trail for a change of scenery.

Most of our group was well out-fitted for this time of year: two sported mesh mosquito-proof jackets and four were disguised by veiled headgear. The bugs weren't bad as long as we kept moving, but moved in for the kill as soon as we stopped.

The usual wildflowers – wild bergamot, prairie coneflower, heal-all, yarrow, and Queen Anne's lace -- were doing fine in spite of the lack of rain, but the sunflowers sported a lot of wilted leaves. We saw goldenrod in bloom for the first time this season, and about a half dozen monarchs – none of which would hold still for a photo. Total wildlife encountered: one rabbit and a chipmunk.

We took a break at the bench, drank our water and admired the view, then made our way back to the trailhead. It was another nice but uneventful hike of 3.6 miles.

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

 On a warm and sunny morning with temperatures that would reach the low 80s, a dozen long-hikers gathered with over twenty others at the Highway 12 meeting place.  Norwin was not present to lead the hike today, so he nominated me to plan it. I asked Gerhardt to lead a hike starting at the Bald Bluff parking lot, so we regrouped there.  We hiked up the slope to the intersection with the Ice Age Trail, then up the steep path to the overlook. From there we took the IAT to the horse trail. Rather than turn left toward Tamarack Road – a hike of less certain length – we turned right toward Young Road, stopping at “Confusion Corner” for a snack of Jo's melon. The mosquito population was not very pesky but the tickfoil was a nuisance and many of us spent time picking the sticky green burrs from our clothes.

Along the trail we passed while and purple prairie clover, goldenrod just beginning to bloom, big and little bluestem (clump grasses that afford cover for small critters), and sunflowers. We also noted dotted mint, lead plant, and side-oats grama – a grass with seeds hanging on the side, identified by Theresa.

After the hike, most of us re-grouped at the La Grange General Store for alfresco dining and conversation. In all we hiked a not-very-long but quite rigorous 3.6 miles.

The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday impromptu wildflower hike, reported by Mariette Nowak and Judy Wildermuth:

We had eight hikers this morning for a walk over the best prairie we had seen so far this year. We carpooled to HiLo Road and fought our way through shoulder-high weeds that had taken over the un-mown trail. On reaching the prairie we found a jungle of tall grasses and layers of outstanding wildflowers attended by a variety of colorful butterflies and hard-working bees. Prairie dock towered over blazing star which, in turn, dwarfed the black-eyed Susans and the other prairie flora. (A burn in this area earlier this year had generated this fantastic explosion of native plants.)  

 Making our way through this flowery wonderland we eventually reached Bluff Creek, where several hikers removed their shoes and socks to refresh their feet in its cold clear water. Then slowly back to our cars, still amazed by the abundance of color and form that surrounded us this sunny morning.   

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

The original destination for today's short hike was the Nature Conservancy trail at Lulu Lake. We cleverly arranged carpools that would fit the maximum number of occupants into the smallest number of vehicles, while also putting all those who would not be going to lunch that day into the same car. Feeling smug about our excellent planning, we arrived at the parking lot to find a “No dogs allowed” sign that I had somehow forgotten about. Since our group included eight humans and two eager canines, this necessitated a change of plans, and we drove to the other side of the lake for a nice hike on Department of Natural Resources land.

The trail across the prairie had not been mowed in quite a while, so hiking through knee-high ankle-grabbing clover, chicory, and Queen Anne's lace was not nice. But the prairie was peaceful, with spots of color. We saw compass plant, prairie dock, coneflowers, and sunflowers, plus wild white indigo and leadplant. It was easier going once we reached the woods where the trail was wider and very dry. The famous “screaming tree” was still standing. Lobelia bloomed among the willows as we reached the first bog. The water level was low, and many of the tamaracks across the bog looked skeletal. Rough blazing star and purple prairie clover appeared as the ground grew rockier, then disappeared again from the softer ground near the lake.

The peace of this pristine lake was somewhat marred by the presence of a speedboat and a pontoon boat that pulled up to the fragile shoreline—which was well-marked with “Keep Off” signage and people playing in the water. We admired the clear water and the far shoreline then started back. Cranes passed overhead as we once again braved the overgrown prairie. Our hike totaled 2.9 miles.

Four of us went to lunch at a newer restaurant/organic grocery on the square in East Troy called 2894 on Main, and found a creative menu, good food and coffee and smoothies – and a very nice selection of bakery goods made on-site. Would we return?  Oh, yes.

Happy trekking!
Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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