Weekly Walk: Seeking a spot in the shade
The Weekly Walks for July 26 and 27, 2016
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
It was 87 degrees and sunny at the trailhead of the Blackhawk segment of the Ice Age Trail as I finished off the last of the single-scoop turtle flavor ice cream cone that I had picked up at the La Grange General Store just before my arrival at our meeting place. The seed pods on the giant catalpa trees swayed only slightly, signifying the feeblest of breezes. I waited alone for several minutes, thinking about what hike would come close to burning off my recently ingested calories.
Soon Ed and Minnesota Nancy arrived and although we waited several minutes after the scheduled departure time, no other hikers arrived. (Most of them were doubtless lured away by other cooler and/or familial pursuits common in late July.) The three of us crossed U.S. Highway 12 and proceeded toward Esterly Road on the Whitewater Lake segment. The heat was heavy and the flying insects were plentiful. All expressed some regret that head-nets were forgotten at home, but we kept up a good pace in spite of the ubiquitous rocks and roots and reached Esterly at a rate of 20-minutes-per-mile. I felt that the horse trail was not a good choice for the return trip since the grass was quite long, so we returned the way that we came. It is a completely different hike when you walk it from the other direction. All felt that the nearly four mile hike provided good exercise and an altogether relaxing experience in the shade of the heavily wooded trail.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
Another blistering day once again dictated that the long-hikers should be kept in the woods, shielded from the burning sun. It was at least 82 degrees when I arrived at the Highway 12 meeting place and thoughts of a walk on the prairie would be put aside until we had more hospitable weather. A total of 12 long-hikers re-grouped at the Nordic trails and fell in step behind the short-hike group who had arrived there first. We continued to follow them until they turned off on the orange trail while we proceeded on the green. After a couple of miles we stopped for a breather and Jo and Bridget treated us to delicious grapes and cherries, respectively. We followed the green for a short distance then turned off on the blue to hike the hilly “Alps.” We avoided the longer flat unshaded white trail option, finishing on the purple trail for a total of 4.6 miles. Applying a reasonable “heat factor” adjustment would result in the equivalent of over six miles.
This was an especially enjoyable hike due to the return of several regular hikers who had been absent for some weeks. Interrupted contacts were re-established during the hike and also at the lunch which followed at the La Grange General Store. The flying critters were much less bothersome than they had been on the previous day and all finished the hike in good condition.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
Though Mariette and Dave bravely decided on a wildflower hike on a nearby wet prairie, the remaining eight short-hikers re-assembled at the Nordic Trails and set out on the 2.6-mile mostly-shaded orange trail. It was cooler in the woods, and the mosquito population on these wide trails seemed noticeably lower – as long as we didn't stop.
Prairie coneflowers, resembling black-eyed Susans but with larger centers and petals that hang downward, were in their prime on the short stretch of prairie. Queen Anne's lace was rampant, accented by early sunflowers. The color scheme today was white and gold with touches of lavender and magenta from spotted knapweed and assorted thistles, all against the dark green border of trees under a bright blue sky.
The long hikers were just behind us and we continued together until they left us for the green trail. Continuing at a comfortable pace, we paused for water as needed, looked for the occasional edible wild berry, and enjoyed each other's company and conversation. The bench overlooking the kettle pond – usually a magnet for this group – was ignored in favor of a spot in the shade for a short break.
Another open stretch of trail put us in the sun again. Butterflies flitted above the wildflowers along the edge — yellow sulphurs and cabbage butterflies, a trio of monarchs, a large number of giant swallowtails, and one busy fritillary. The heat was becoming oppressive and the final leg of our journey — through the woods again — came as a relief. We completed our hike in about an hour and adjourned to the nearby La Grange Country Store for cold drinks, ice cream, and other seasonal delights.