Weekly Walks: Rainy days and some unfamiliar surroundings
The Weekly Walks for March 22 and 23, 2016
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Norwin Watson:
This turned out to be an overcast day, 58 degrees, with not much wind. As usual, Ed was waiting as I pulled into the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age Trail parking lot a few minutes before 4 p.m. Three more hikers arrived, and we decided to begin our hike around Lake La Grange by checking on the delicate lavender pasqueflowers that traditionally bloom around Easter time. The stony hillside looked bleak and barren, but we did find five or six nice specimens. Hopefully there will be more by next week.
The trail down the hill was a bit slippery; on more level surfaces, it was fine. After a brief stop at Russ's bench, we went on to Ruth's Point. Significant work had been done there recently, greatly improving the view of the lake by clearing out honeysuckle and other underbrush. In fact, much of the underbrush had been cleared all the way to the cornfields, leaving the big trees and creating broader vistas – and more light for the native prairie plants. It looked great!
We took the connector and horse trails back to the trailhead, pleased with the positive changes we had observed on our hike today. It was another very nice hike of 2.85 miles.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
Now that spring is officially upon us, I expected better than the thirty-five degrees and light rain that greeted the hikers at the IAT Blackhawk Segment trailhead. Ruth McCann's proposed “dog hike” sounded so alluring that even the dog-less long-hikers decided to join in, and thirteen humans and five dogs set off, undaunted, through the continuing rain. The destination was the Mukwonago River Unit of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest – formerly the Rainbow Springs Golf Course off County Highway LO – where Ruth regularly walks her dogs. Many hikers had been to this area before, but not for many years.
We began our hike on an old road through moderate rain which later turned to a heavier sleet storm as we crossed a bridge over the Mukwonago River. We approached an open metal gate and passed through. This lead to a wide trail and soon we were hiking along a small lake on our left. We were told that a trip around the lake would be about four miles but that we could extend our hike to at least eight miles if we took another cut-off to the right – which we agreed to do. The dogs got no vote on this, but they seemed to accept their fate. As the rain continued and the temperature did not rise much, we came to a dead end after about a mile and headed back to the place where we departed what we thought was the main trail. Continuing around the lake, we found our way back to the parking lot. There were various opinions about the length of the hike and the consensus was that it was nearly five miles.
I learned from Ruth that this area was developed as a golf course and was to be further developed as a residential subdivision. The developers ran out of money and the state of Wisconsin acquired the entire parcel in 1998. There has been little if any development of the parcel as a recreational area: there are no formal areas for putting boats in the water, the trails are unmarked, and there are no benches or shelters. Someone mentioned that interested citizens are meeting with officials from the Department of Natural Resources to discuss improvements.
At the end of the hike, many of us were glad to get into our vehicles and turn up our heaters. Most hikers (the ones without dogs) agreed to follow Bridget to Gus's Drive-In in East Troy for a lunch with a 1950s flavor. We were joined there by a regular Wednesday hiker who chose not to hike because of the inclement weather but still wanted to join her friends for lunch. Of course, we ungrudgingly made room for her at the crowded table. We all agreed that, weather aside, it was a great hike, enhanced by the aura of adventure in unfamiliar surroundings.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
The short hike today was relatively uneventful. Five hikers and one canine started out in a misty rain on the combined Nordic white and purple trails. Jake offered us a choice at the intersection, and we unanimously chose the longer 3.25 white trail. Over the next few minutes, the rain slowly became heavier until suddenly we were peppered with ice pellets that sounded louder than expected as they hit our rain hats and hoods. Less than an eighth of a mile later, it was back to moderate then light rain again.
There was no dramatic change in the woods: the green mosses were a bit greener and a few more tiny new leaves were emerging from the forest floor. Smaller branches of trees and bushes were decorated with large hanging drops of water. The trail was still good – solid and seldom slippery. One of us discovered than her rainwear was not exactly waterproof and Melinda, the pointer, showed us where another rodent was hiding. Passing through one more round of ice pellets as we returned to the trailhead, we were ready for lunch. It had been an unusual and oddly enjoyable hike!