Weekly Walk: Hikers, bikers take to the winter trails

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Ellen Davis | February 2, 2016

The Weekly Walks for Jan. 26 and 27,  2016

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

The temperature was 25 degrees and a light snow was falling as I drove to the Ice Age Trail parking lot on U.S. Highway 12. Ed and Marv were already there, and Jake and George pulled in a few minutes later. There was a stiff breeze out of the northwest and the snow was still coming down as we put on our ice grippers for another hike around Lake La Grange.  

We set off going clockwise on the Ice Age Trail, really pretty in the new snow. Reaching the lake, three of us decided to hike on the ice and the other two stuck to the trail. We paralleled the shoreline, staying away from open water.  As we neared Russ's bench we could see our other two hikers on the trail. An open fishing hole in the ice invited investigation – nobody had a hiking pole long enough to reach the bottom of the lake, but we estimated it was about six feet deep at that point.  

The others headed for the ice and asked us how the wind was, but didn't trust our answer of “Not bad” and decided to stay on the trail. We continued on the ice, heading south now toward the springs. The snow was still falling, with about two inches covering the ground.  Approaching the spring, we stopped several feet away from the open water to test the thickness of the ice with our hiking sticks. Leaving the lake, we returned to the trailhead to find the others already back. The trail hike was 2.8 miles, the ice hike 2.6.  It had been a very nice adventure!
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:

Temperatures ranged from the mid-twenties when the hikers gathered at the Highway 12 meeting place to the low thirties by the time the group had finished with the activities of the day. The skies were clear and the sun was shining brightly. Nineteen hikers identified themselves as long hikers and followed our leader Norwin to the John Muir bicycle trails, our destination for several weeks running. Several expressed a desire for hikes at various other venues and our leader assured them that this would be the case beginning next week.

After re-assembling at John Muir, we commenced a pleasant hike over the white-, blue-, and green-blazed trails for a total of about five miles. Early on, three hikers who wished to take a different route broke off from the main group. The rest of us, most of whom wore grippers and used one or more poles for greater stability on the hills and icy patches, stayed fairly close together on the narrow trail. We briefly stopped once or twice for water and chocolate along the way and also a couple of times to accommodate “fat tire” bikes we encountered. The bikers politely slowed down as they passed through the “gauntlet” of hikers on either side of the trail.

At the end of the hike there were several estimates of the distance covered and the consensus of five miles was deemed accurate. It certainly felt that long to me, though the time passed quickly with conversations and the beauty of the winter woods. It was time for lunch and most of us repaired to the LaGrange General Store for soup, sandwiches, and even more conversation about the pleasantness of this days hike and other hikes planned (by some of us) for the balance of this week.

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

The short hike today consisted of 18 adults, one toddler, and three canines (on leashes). Today we were finally going to hike the Ice Age Trail segment at Rice Lake – an outing postponed at least three times in the last few months due to bad weather. We arrived at the parking lot, strapped on our ice cleats, grabbed our poles, and started out across the wooden bridge on the Nature Trail around the lagoon. The footing was good – a bit lumpy but manageable. The blue connector trail took us up the hill and across Kettle Moraine Drive to connect with the Ice Age Trail. We headed west, crossed Hilo Road, and soon found ourselves picking our way down a long, steep slope on a narrow, twisting track, one hiker with a large dog leading the way, one with two small ones bringing up the rear, and a grandmother with the youngster on a sled in the middle of the group. We traveled through the pines, across the new bridge over the creek, and as far as Clover Valley Road before turning back.  

At the junction with the connector trail again, three hikers decided to return to the trailhead and the rest of the group continued on the IAT up to the Rice Lake lookout.  Along the way we noted tracks of coyotes and turkeys in addition to the usual evidence of squirrels, rabbits, voles, and mice. We took a break, admired the view, and began the trek back--our youngest hiker having a great time going down the snow-covered steps on his sled (safely anchored by ropes to hikers fore and aft).  Back at the trailhead, Mark's GPS showed 2.84 miles.
Afterward, at the La Grange General Store for lunch, a short-hiker we seldom see arrived and joined my table. She had reached the meeting place after our group had left for Rice Lake, and ended up with the long hike. Two kind hikers offered to take her on a shorter three-mile alternative, she gratefully accepted, and they had a fine time on the Muir trails. It was a wonderful mild sunny day for a winter hike, and it seems that a good time was had by all.

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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