Weekly Walk: Tackling windblown trees and 'The Alps'
The Weekly Walks for March 8 and 9, 2016
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Norwin Watson:
The rain had finally stopped and the sun was peeking out from the clouds as I drove to the Highway 12 Ice Age Trail crossing. By 4 p.m. the clouds were back with the sun breaking though once in a while, a temperature of 49 degrees, and a brisk wind blowing. Three other hikers arrived by 4 p.m. and we headed for the Nordic ski trails on County Highway H. Considering the somewhat threatening weather, we decided to hike the short orange trail. One of the best features of this trail is a bench on a hill overlooking a large pond, and a view of another bench on a higher hill on the opposite side. We paused to watch the ducks on the pond, and then began the final mile.
I noted that the invasive honeysuckle is beginning to bud. We can hear the wind whistling through the pines, but can hardly feel it on the trail. As we approached the parking lot, Ed and I began finding money on the trail: in the end, it came to a total of forty-seven cents. The threatened rain did not come through, and it was another very nice two-and-a-half-mile early spring hike.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
It wasn't just another dreary late winter's day, though the temperatures were in the mid-40s and the skies were cloudy. What made this different was the 25-mph winds with gusts around 40 mph that swirled around the trailhead of the Blackhawk segment of the Ice Age Trail. Arriving at the meeting place a bit early, I was greeted by Ellen with a slimy six-inch night crawler rescued from a nearby puddle.
We expected any trail to be muddy today, so our leader selected a combination of ski trails at Nordic, bike trails at Muir, and connector trails that would allow the 11 long-hikers to finish with dry feet. As we started the first blue loop, I noticed trees with budding branches swaying in the wind. A loud “crack” sound was heard and as we prepared to take the first connector to the bicycle trails, and we noted that a huge pine tree had fallen across County Highway H blocking vehicular traffic. Andy promptly called the Walworth County Sheriff to advise them of this situation and the hikers spent some time counseling perplexed motorists on alternate routes to the various places they were traveling to before their journeys were interrupted.
Resuming the trail, all of us felt a bit skittish as the heavy winds reminded us that the large trees surrounding us could very well blow down just as had the downed tree we had seen. Nevertheless, the intrepid group completed the hike to the Muir parking lot in good shape though a bit short of our five mile goal, so we crossed the road and added the brown ski trail to finish with 5.2 miles. Most of the hikers regrouped at the LaGrange General Store for pre-St. Patrick's Day fare, supplemented by Nancy's Girl Scout cookies – for which all gave thanks.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
I suspected that we would hike the well-drained Nordic ski trails today, but Jake's suggestion of “The Alps” – the steepest hills on the trails – came as a surprise. Still, there were only six of us, all strong hikers, so why not?
We set out in the reverse direction on the green trail, fighting a strong wind. The new grass was emerging, showing a stronger hint of spring along the trail but still outdone by the verdant greens of mosses on stones and trees, and the swelling buds of honeysuckle. The wind had a harder time finding us in the hills. By the time we reached “The Alps” we were warmed up and ready for the challenge: a few long steep slopes and a great many shorter very steep ones, well peppered with twists and turns. It was great. The sun came out. Jackets were unzipped and heavy gloves removed. Manfred's dog Melinda struck a classic pointer pose – aimed at a chipmunk. Returning via the purple trail, we reached the trailhead ready for lunch. The hikers were polled on the distance they thought we had hiked; the answers ranged from 3 to a tongue-in-cheek guess of 38 miles. In truth, it was only 2.75 but felt like a lot more. Still, I think we may have a new favorite short hike.