Weekly Walk: Wind in the pines is hikers' soundtrack

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Ellen Davis | December 22, 2015

The Weekly Walks for Dec. 15  and  16,  2015

Hunting seaon alert: Don't forget your blaze orange or brightly colored hats, scarves, jackets, or vests!

2016 State Parks stickers are available now. For more information, see: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/admission.html

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

The temperature was 43 degrees—an overcast day with a lot of clouds, a little wind, but no more rain. We had about two inches of rain in the last few days and I was wondering about the condition of the trail as I pulled into the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age Trail parking lot. There was not much standing water visible, which was a good sign. Three guys were already there, and another arrived a few minutes later. Then two women showed up, bringing our number to seven.

Marvin needed to leave by five, so we agreed to a brisk hike around Lake LaGrange. We headed out going clockwise on the Ice Age Trail and were surprised by what good shape it was in.  There is not much to look at, this time of year, but we did see a couple sets of fresh deer tracks. We took a short break at Russ's bench, and then went on past the very still lake on our way to the turn-off. We avoided a couple of potholes on the connector trail only to find our path blocked by a large fallen tree near the metal gate. We turned on our headlamps, climbed over the tree, and reached the trailhead again in a record 58 minutes. (It would have been 57 minutes if it weren't for that tree....) Marvin was back with two minutes to spare. It was a nice fast 2.8 mile hike!

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

As I departed for the Highway 12 meeting place there was no sign of the sun, though it had to be somewhere up there above the steely grey of the sky. There had been heavy rains the night before and into the early morning hours, so whatever trails we walked were going to be muddy. A good number of hikers were present this morning, 15 of which chose the long hike starting at the Nordic Ski trails. The short hike also began there and started out first. Both groups commenced hiking in the reverse direction, and it took several minutes for us to overtake them on the white trail.

When the groups separated, the long-hikers gathered at the top of a hill for a sip of water and some chocolate provided by Jo. We continued our hike at a fairly brisk pace over the blue, green, and orange trails for a total distance of 5.7 miles. We covered that distance in just about two hours. Though the trails were muddy as expected, it was easy to circumvent most of the puddles and keep our feet dry.

An additional reward toward the end of the hike was the appearance of the sun, which eventually shone out of a clear blue sky. Most of the hikers stopped at the LaGrange General Store for soup, sandwiches, and conversation covering a wide range of subjects including holiday plans and facts about Emma Carlin, a teacher who, in the mid-19th century, donated large pieces of land to the state of Wisconsin for purposes of conservancy. We often hike this very land, so it was interesting to learn something of how it came to be public property—thanks to Norwin and Mary for the history lesson.

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

Following several days of rain, the Nordic Ski trails are always our best bet. They're wide, well-drained, smooth, and – of all our choices -- least likely to be muddy. Our group of 13 (plus three canines) arrived at the trailhead to find the long-hikers hot on our heels. We were ready to go with minimal fuss, and set off in the reverse direction on the white trail at a comfortable pace.  

I must disagree with Marvin here—though we could see the long-hikers behind us before the end of the first mile, they did not infiltrate and pass our group until sometime in the middle of the second mile. It was enjoyable to be able to share a trail (for a while, at least) with these hikers we usually see only briefly before and after the hikes. A high point for one short-hiker was meeting and conversing with long-hiker Bridget W., a birder generous with her knowledge—and a special interest in cranes.  

The wind in the pines provided a steady soundtrack for much of our hike and muted the sound of our voices. The most noticeable color today was the pale grey-green of lichens and the brighter green spots of moss that dotted the trunks of many of the pines, and the moss and pale tan bracket fungi on trees and logs. We stopped to admire an unexpected piece of woodland art:  a dead tree sculpted by woodpeckers that resembled a tall angular sculpture by Modigliani. As the trailhead came into view, the sun finally broke through the clouds. It had been a very enjoyable 3.4-mile hike, and now we were ready for lunch.

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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