Weekly Walk: More hikers along the trail

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Ellen Davis | May 11, 2016

The Weekly Walks for May 3 and 4,  2016

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

This was a nice warm day: 67degrees and partly cloudy, with a bit of wind. When I arrived at the trailhead, eleven hikers and two dogs were already waiting there. That's an unusually large number for a Tuesday hike. Jake suggested hiking the white ski trail and off we went to the Nordic trails on County Highway H.

By the time we started our hike, the clouds had increased and the temperature dropped to 65 degrees. Going counterclockwise through the woods on the white trail, we were sheltered from the wind. White, blue, and purple violets, pussy toes, woodland and rue anemones, buttercups, and wild strawberries bloomed along the trail; the buds of the wild geraniums were just beginning to open.  

We reached the parking lot to find around 25 bike riders gathered there. It had been a very nice 3.1-mile hike, but the wind was picking up and it was time to head for home.

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

On this blustery cloudy morning with temperatures only in the 40s, a surprisingly large number of hikers presented themselves at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place (the trailhead of the Blackhawk segment of the Ice Age Trail). It had rained the evening before, so we knew that the trails would not be entirely dry.

Jerome Converse, a first-class trail builder and maintainer, joined us for the hike and indicated that he wouldn't mind a hike on the IAT so that he might assess any problems in advance of the upcoming races and hikes on these trails during the next month or so.  We accommodated him with a hike from Tamerack Road to the Emma Carlin trails parking lot, accomplished with a bit of carpooling between these two points. Seventeen long-hikers participated in the hike, including two who chose an in-and-out hike from Emma Carlin to the Old Barn and met us half way.  

Along the way Jerome and Andy, assisted by Kevin and Gerhardt, cleared the trail of some large fallen limbs. Jerome employed his sharp little trail saw to cut a large branch at yet another locale on the trail near Horseriders Park. As we walked along, mostly as a tight group, I heard hikers' exclamations of “Solomon's seal!” “Bellwort!” and “Wild lily of the valley!”

 As we left the Horseriders area, we noticed that the re-route that had been done last year to avoid erosion had been covered with large pebbles. All felt that it was a substantial improvement. During the entire hike, we enjoyed being able to see though foliage just beginning to leaf out – and noted high water in the nameless ponds below the eskers. Following our return to the Emma Carlin lot and delivery of the shuttle drivers to their vehicles, most of us reassembled at the Main Street Family Restaurant for good food and conversation.  Our hike covered about four and a half miles.

The 9:30 a.m. Wednesday longer hike, reported by Bonnie Nommensen:

Barb L (and her very large canine, Mufy), Rich, and I met at the Highway 12 IAT kiosk and carpooled to the Storr's Lake parking lot in Milton. We walked the beautiful Storr's Lake Ice Age Trail segment to the Bower's Road lot and back, with a detour on a snowmobile trail at one point to avoid some noisy cranes in a marshy area. Including the detour, we covered at least five miles.

Our next stop was the Devil's Staircase in Janesville. We decided to park at the Arbor Ridge segment parking lot and hike around the edge of the golf course to the Staircase.  Barb was a little concerned that Mufy might pull her down the first treacherous flight of steps above the Rock River, but Mufy behaved well and we all made it down safely. It was a beautiful walk, with the river on our left and the bluffs and rock outcroppings on our right. We enjoyed a variety of wildflowers: violets, rue, wood and meadowland anemones, bellwort, wild geranium, ginger, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wood phlox, and Dutchman's breeches. After a brief break at Riverside Park, we began the return trip to our cars. Once there, we decided to continue on the Ice Age Trail to the Janesville Schools Outdoor Laboratory and back.  On the return trip we stopped to speak at length with a man who was backpacking the entire Ice Age Trail, finally returning to our cars at around 3:30 p.m. All in all, we walked a total of more than ten miles. It was another very beautiful hike – just one of many in the abundant trail system through Arbor Ridge that would be fun to explore in the future.  

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

Seven new hikers (from Elkhorn, Lake Geneva, Silver Lake, Whitewater, and visitors from Chicago) appeared this cold spring morning, properly outfitted and ready to go. This brought our total number to 23, ranging in age from 4 years to the early 80s.  Jake's plan for the day involved a fairly level hike, out of the wind, with one steep scenic hill.  

We drove to the Oleson Cabin on Duffin Road, parked on the verge, and headed north single file on the Ice Age Trail. Patches of pussytoes beside the trail did not look much like a wild-flower, but did indeed look like the fuzzy bottom of a cat's foot. Rue anemones and blue, purple, and yellow violets were also present, becoming sparser as we passed the kettle pond and entered the pines. A large number of turkey feathers lay across the path, with another grouping a bit further on. (Jake thought that the turkey had been attacked at site number one by a coyote that had later dropped the bird at site number two to reposition it in its jaws.) Our 4-year-old wanted a handsome iridescent wing feather for his collection.

We crossed Bluff Road to more pines, these harboring a fine assortment of fiddleheads. Across Highway H at Oak Openings Savannah, we hiked up the steep slope on a series of well-planned switchbacks where previous controlled burns had eliminated most of the non-native plants and bushes. Bellwort and violets were blooming, along with the first of the wild geraniums. The climb and the view were refreshing, but we soon started downhill again – this time on the horse trail, which we followed back to Oleson Cabin.  A wild-food forager in our group pointed out purslane (rather bland) and another salad herb (strong flavored) which some of us were brave enough to sample.  It was a very pleasant 3.2-mile hike.  Most of the group adjourned to the LaGrange General Store where at least a few ordered the spinach and nettle cream soup.  It was wonderful!

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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