Weekly Walk: Adventures on the trail

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Ellen Davis | August 22, 2016

The Weekly Walks for Aug. 9 and Aug. 10,  2016

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

On this warm summer evening 11 people showed up at the Ice Age Trail parking lot on U.S. Highway 12. Two new hikers – Andy and Wyatt – had found us by using the internet; two regular hikers were there but not planning to hike, and Ed disappeared before the first split in the trail. I took the remaining eight up Sherwood Forest Road to the berm, then along the horse trail to the first fork. We then followed the old abandoned subdivision roads to the intersection with the Ice Age Trail.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the IAT had been mowed, making it easy to walk two abreast for easy conversation. Stopping at Russ's bench for a water break, we spotted a person in a kayak fishing on Lake La Grange. We then progressed across a prairie dotted with late summer blooms. When we came to the hill I decided to take everyone directly up the hill on the horse trail instead along the more circuitous Ice Age Trail. Though the direct climb was very steep, no one had any difficulty. Back in the parking lot, one hiker said that we had gone about 3.4 miles; that sounded correct to me. It was another very nice Tuesday evening hike.

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

On a morning with temperatures of 80 degrees and rising, the good-weather news was that there was heavy cloud cover and no chance of rain in the areas near the Highway 12 meeting place. That would cut down on the heat this day. A large crowd of hikers was expected and that expectation was fulfilled. On this mid-summer morning, quite a few hikers were decked out in their newly acquired “Helwig's Hikers” tee shirts. Our leader suggested the Muir bike trails for today's hike and 12 long-hikers regrouped there. Most were prepared with plenty of water in case the hike went longer than planned, since this area is often confusing and the trails are poorly marked.

We started out together on the purple trail known as the Rainy Dew. One hiker announced her desire to finish the hike within two hours and started off at a rapid pace. The hike leader and one other hiker joined her and were soon out of sight of the other nine. When we reached the intersection, we were not certain which trail the others had followed even after calling the three hikers ahead of us. We headed off on one of several options and, after one and a half miles, found ourselves back at the intersection where we started. This time we headed down the orange trail. As we hiked along, we saw a chipmunk, some small toads, and a monarch butterfly, but not much in the way of plant life save some mushrooms and some berries that were harvested by some hungry members of the group. (We had already partaken of some nice watermelon furnished by Jo.)

After a considerable distance, one of the hikers felt light-headed and stopped to rest. Two others remained with her as the others continued on the trail. About two hundred yards later we encountered a volunteer from the Wisconsin Bike Association in a small truck, placing pink flags for redirecting part of the trail. When we explained that our companion was in real distress, he kindly drove her and another hiker back to the trailhead. The rest of us carried on down the trail to the end. In all, those of us who hiked the entire length of trail traveled nearly seven miles. We did encounter several bikers with their fat-tire bikes and we quickly cleared the trail for them as they approached. After the hike, all regrouped at the La Grange General Store for good food, conversation, and fellowship.

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

One of the first to arrive at our Highway 12 meeting place was IAT staffer Bob Lange, visiting from the Alliance offices in Cross Plains, waiting to meet with 1,200-miler Ruth McCann. I enjoyed watching his surprise as more and more hikers appeared, bringing our total for the day to 28 – not a bad number for a hot and humid summer day.

The 14 short-hikers today included one each from Racine and Madison, plus a newcomer from Milwaukee. We regrouped at the Nordic ski trails and set off through the woods in the reverse direction on the white trail. The temperature was warm, the air humid and windless, but still comfortable at that point.  As we left the woods we were briefly set upon by an annoying assortment of tiny “sweat bees” seeking moisture. (No one was stung.) A meadow rich in milkweed beckoned some of us to search for monarch eggs or caterpillars and look for butterflies; after about five minutes the total count stood at zero and we went on.

The percentage of red leaves on the sumac bushes has been increasing every week. Red berries on false Solomon's seal, magenta stems on pokeweed, and dark purple elderberries also foretold the coming of fall. Assorted sunflower varieties, prairie coneflowers, Queen Anne's lace, Canada thistle, and invasive spotted knapweed were the predominant wildflowers, accenting opens spaces in bright golden yellow, white, and shades of purple.

Yellow was also the accent color of choice for the hikers, making it easy to locate IAT mobile skills crew project volunteer Ron and hike leader Jake among our line-up. We stopped for a water break before crossing the largest unshaded section of this trail then plunged into the woodland again, only to pause to admire the woodpecker-sculpted dead tree which now sported an artistic oval window through the thinnest part of its re-shaped trunk. Both the temperature and the humidity seemed to have risen considerably as we began the final mile and there was not a dry t-shirt in sight by the time we finished. GPS accountings of the distance traveled varied, but averaged 3.45 miles. Hot, tired, sweaty, and happy, most of us adjourned to the La Grange General Store for lunch and conversation.

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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