Weekly Walk: Hikers and bikers share scenic fall trails
The Weekly Walks, Oct. 20 and 21, 2015
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Norwin Watson:
Today was our fifth annual Tuesday potluck hike. After waiting for latecomers at U.S. 12, I joined thirteen other hikers at the Nordic Trails shelter. The day was overcast, with the temperature around seventy degrees and the air very still – good hiking weather. We were eager to get going so we could get back and eat, and quickly headed out on the white ski trail.
Right away we saw a small black snake that we couldn't identify; it was about six inches long with an orange spot on its head. Continuing on, we passed and greeted a young mother walking with her children. The flowers (except for very few white asters) were done for the year; the woods were highlighted by occasional brightly colored maple trees and a variety of bushes along the trail. We returned to the shelter after another nice 3.2 mile hike, eager to share food, drink, and conversation.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
As I headed for the U.S. 12 meeting place the temperatures were in the mid-sixties and heading for the low seventies, where they would remain as we finished our hike. Skies were partly cloudy with a pleasant breeze. Sixteen long-hikers regrouped at the Bald Bluff parking lot and trudged up the bluff. Some stopped to admire an interesting cairn (rock pile) at the side of the trail near where the Ice Age Trail cuts in. After stopping atop the bluff to catch a breath, we followed the trail toward Tamarack Road, turning left on the horse trail. We made our way along the hilly and sandy path, getting a great view of fall colors in the thick woods -- especially admiring a large orange- and peach-colored maple tree. Reds and golds stood out in contrast to the non-deciduous pines, rulers of the woods in winter. After encountering a couple of horses on the trail, we took another short break near the Stone Elephant for grapes furnished by Bonnie and Jo.
When we reached Tamarack Road, we saw a group of bikers on fat-tire bikes continuing on the bicycle trail in the direction from which we had come. We then headed in that direction ourselves on the Ice Age Trail – including another trip up Bald Bluff, this time from the opposite direction. Soon we completed our hike, a distance of 5 and three-quarter miles. What today's hike lacked in distance, it compensated for in the variety of terrain and hiking surfaces. Most of us headed to the LaGrange General Store for food and conversation.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
Seventeen short-hikers (and two canines), given a choice of two hike locations, chose the John Muir bicycle trails for today's hike. We had been warned about the large number of cyclists we could expect on the trails on a beautiful fall day like today, so Jake provided specific instructions to get off the trail immediately in response to his cry of “Bike.” It sounded simple enough. We left the trailhead traveling counterclockwise so we could see cyclists (riding clockwise) coming toward us. It wasn't long until we heard the first warning call of “Bike!” and jumped into the brush.
Back on the trail again, we continued on the wider combination trail to the first intersection, where we took the orange trail down the steep slope. For several of our newer hikers, it was their first time on a narrow, twisting, rocky trail such as this. For all of us, the irregularity of the leaf-littered surface required more attention to our footing than usual and less attention to our scenic surroundings.
In this wood, too, the maples provided the bright bursts of color, with the oaks furnishing a discrete background of avocado green, antique gold, russet and shades of brown. We noted healthy new bright green hepatica leaves here and there beside the trail, promising a wealth of tiny pastel blossoms in spring. A large puffball, its skin ripped open, exposing its core, also caught our attention; a poke with a hiking pole released a brown cloud of spores into the air. The marshy kettle lake was quiet today, devoid of birds. After a short break, we started up the next hill to begin the trip back to the trail head.
The orange trail took us to the beautiful but challenging Rainy Dew, and finally to the brown trail and back. Jake showed us our route on the map board and estimated our distance as 3.75 hilly miles. Our leg muscles agreed. We had survived our encounters with six more cyclists, and it had been one of the nicest hikes of the season. Now it was time for lunch.