Weekly Walk: Dragonflies, turtles, and the promise of wild blackberries

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Ellen Davis | June 8, 2016

The Weekly Walks for May 31 and June 1

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

It had started raining at about noon and was still raining at 4 p.m. hike time. Five people showed up; Norwin got everyone signed in but could not hike today and Andy arrived with printed materials for the kiosk but had hiked enough for one day already. That left us with only three for the hike itself. We started around Lake La Grange in a clockwise direction. The hill had plenty of water and mud, but being experienced hikers we had no mishaps. When the lake came into view we saw an egret just past the spring and cattails. All attempts at photographs were to no avail: the egret stayed too close to the far shore. We did find a small turtle in the path, however. Then, as we were leaving the last sighting of the egret, we came upon a large turtle laying eggs in a nest she had dug in the sand of the trail.

Most of the rest of the hike was just mildly uncomfortable as the rain gear that kept off the rain also kept in the perspiration. Late in the hike I actually took off the rain poncho I was using.  The light rain had almost stopped and the cooling breeze was very welcome. We then saw a third large turtle; Ed took off his hat and put it beside the turtle so that a photo could show its size in perspective. When we got back to the starting point we could finally see breaks in the clouds in the west. It had been another great 2.8-mile hike.

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

The rain that was forecast the previous day was nowhere in sight.  Temperatures were near seventy degrees and the skies were just a bit cloudy.  Humidity was high and if the sun got through the clouds, hikers would have to fight through the discomfort of perspiration rolling down their bodies as they hiked the hills.

I counted over fifteen long-hikers at the Highway 12 meeting place but noticed some of them crossing the highway to hike toward County P. The remaining ten set off for the Pinewoods Campground area and the Scuppernong Trails off Highway ZZ. The plan was to hike the green-blazed ski trail until it intersects the Ice Age Trail, then take the IAT back to the trailhead for a distance of five and a half miles.

We did not see any new flowers on this hike, but there were plenty of wild geraniums, shooting stars, columbine, and Solomon's seal (both false and true). There are 63 forms of Solomon's seal; one explanation for the derivation of the name of this plant is that the roots bear depressions which resemble royal seals. Another is that the cut roots resemble Hebrew characters. Lest any reader of this report conclude that I actually know a lot about these plants, let it be known that I found out these facts on a Google search.

As we neared completion of the IAT portion of the day's hike, a few of us slower walkers were left well behind. I received a call on my cell phone from a hiker that was almost a quarter mile in the rear. His voice sounded weak and then the call cut off. I tried to call him back but could only reach voicemail. Concerned, I reversed direction and headed back in the direction from which I came. After a short walk, I still didn't see him but knew he was not alone. If he cut off on the service road to the highway I would miss him and his companions entirely, so I turned again and walked the IAT back to the parking lot. Soon the three “lost” hikers emerged after a short walk down the road, all in good condition. His phone call had been to announce that they were taking the service road.

Seven of the ten hikers met for lunch at the Sunny Side Up Restaurant in Dousman for good Mexican food and conversation, some about the National Trails Day Hike on June 4.

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

As usual following a wet spell, the short-hikers decided to hike the well-drained Nordic Ski Trails on County Highway H. Eleven of us set out through the damp grass on the three-mile White Trail. Within the first quarter mile we found ourselves briefly infiltrated by a hoard of large dragonflies with black markings on their wings, and a middle-sized toad that casually plopped its way into the brush. Bushes decorated with clusters of white flowers appeared frequently – wild blackberries promising juicy snacks in a few weeks for hikes to come.

The six of us in the rear—Judy, Judy, Carol, Carol, Sandy and me—found much to pause and examine along our route: a tree with pairs of bracket fungi arranged like steps up the trunk, a tall twisted tree-sculpture shaped by woodpeckers, and a single giant jack-in-the-pulpit. The trail dipped into a hollow and we could feel the humidity rise—and the temperature as well as we climbed up the next hill toward the meadow. Brilliant blue spiderwort blooms greeted us at the top of the slope, contrasting nicely with bright yellow goatsbeard. We located waist-high stalks of green pokeweed, almost unrecognizable without their fall colors of magenta, purple, and chartreuse.  

Many of the wild geraniums are done blooming now, and vetch is beginning to take their place in the “purple” category on the last section of this trail. Dave Nowak, a gentleman with greater knowledge of flora than ours, joined us in examining two somewhat unusual-looking specimens; the first remains a mystery, and the second was identified as a type of bellflower featuring smooth alternating leaves strung onto the a stem ending with a large triangular bud. (I want to revisit that one when it blooms!) We ended our hike laughing over the clingy velcro-like properties of bedstraw before heading down the road for lunch.

Happy trekking.

Ellen Davis

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