Weekly Walk: Getting spring fever

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Ellen Davis | April 5, 2016

The Weekly Walks for March 29 and 30,  2016

The  4 p.m. Tuesday hike,  reported by Jake Gerlach:

Tuesday evening I was about to leave for the hike when I got a phone call from Norwin asking me to lead the group today as he was on his way to the doctor. I was the first to arrive at the Highway 12 trail crossing, but several others quickly appeared. Sheila, who had hiked with us for the first time on the worst hiking day of the year, was back for a second try – this time in ideal hiking weather. Then a car arrived with Don Meyer, his wife Linda, and their friend Diane. Don's group was just out for a hike and since we were going to do the same trail they intended to hike, they joined us, bringing our total to nine.

We took a short trip up the hill to see the pasqueflowers and found several in full bloom. We then crossed the highway for a lovely spring walk to Esterly Road on the Ice Age Trail, returning on the horse trail. We passed through an area where the Department of Natural Resources had been clearing out the underbrush and the difference in the appearance of the forest between the newly cleared areas and the tangled mess of undergrowth in the others was very stark and startling. I looked for early-blooming hepaticas along the way and found a plant with lovely red and green leaves and one flower that was just beginning to come out. Everyone in our group felt that this had been a great spring hike.

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

It was cloudy with temperatures in the mid-40s as we arrived at the trailhead for the Blackhawk segment of the Ice Age Trail. Spring is here in earnest. The trees surrounding the parking lot appear to be in bud and the big catalpa has long seedpods hanging from its branches.

Sixteen hikers and Moofy the dog crossed Highway 12 to the Whitewater Lake segment of the IAT and hiked to the overlook about a mile or so past County Highway P. After stopping for a breather and some fresh grapes (courtesy of Jo), we took the horse trail back to our starting point, about 7 ½ miles total. The rain held off for the most part, though there was a light sprinkle late in the first mile.  

Throughout the hike it was obvious that heavy equipment had been used to clear dense brush from the areas where pine trees had been planted years ago. In fact we witnessed such clearing in action as we walked back along the horse trail. The pines are marked for harvesting so they will soon be thinned out as well. This forest management gives the trail a completely different look and we will have to get used to seeing open spaces among the trees where once there was greenery – though mostly buckthorn and honeysuckle.

We did not see any other signs of spring other than Siberian squill and glory-of-the-snow, blooming remnants of perennial plantings from an old farm just past the power lines.  Returning to the trailhead, most of us regrouped at the La Grange General Store for soup, sandwiches, and conversation – and to perform a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Bridget W.

The impromptu long-hike hike, reported by Bonnie Nommensen:

Barb L, Janet C, and I decided to hike around Lake La Grange while the rest of the (not-so-long) hikers went to lunch. It was Janet's first time on this trail, so after taking the “new” trail down the hill we walked out onto Kangaroo's boardwalk to show her the view from our “old” trail and look for interesting migrating birds. We stopped at Russ's bench to speak about our well-loved late hike leader whom we all still miss. Going on, we very much enjoyed the beautiful views and were amazed by how much brush had been cleared on the east end of the lake.  The sun came out as we hiked, and the temperature was over sixty degrees by the time we finished. Our additional hike came to about three miles, for a combined total of 10 ½ miles.  

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

Ten short-hikers (including a newcomer from the Milwaukee area training for a trek along the Inca Trail) decided on a hike around Lake La Grange, lengthened to 3.5 miles by the addition of some horse trails. We headed down Sherwood Forest Road, over the berms, and into the woods. The wide trails here were comfortable hiking and the varied topography was interesting despite the lack of color on this drizzly day. Chorus frogs cheered us as we passed a nearby kettle pond and occasional clusters of hepatica leaves could be seen beside the trail, promising tiny pastel blossoms in the coming weeks.  

All too soon we found ourselves back on the access road, then on the Ice Age Trail for the return trip. We passed the cornfields, climbed the first hill, and were surprised by a wide vista—open land, scattered trees, and almost all of Lake La Grange—that was not visible the last time we had done this hike! We had been aware that DNR brush-removal was being done here but the results, I think, went far beyond what any of us expected. The trail, formerly a narrow corridor defined by honeysuckle and other invasives, could in a few years become a picturesque path through another beautiful flowering prairie of native plants and grasses.

The drizzle had stopped, the sky was brightening, and we finished our hike excited by the scope of the work that had been done — and prospect of new vistas making one of our favorite hikes even better.  

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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