Weekly Walk: Wild things
The Weekly Walks for Aug. 30 and 31, 2016
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Jake Gerlach:
After a rather heavy afternoon rain shower eleven people showed up for the Tuesday evening hike. We headed out to go around Lake La Grange. At the top of the hill the berries on the dogwoods were already white, and the blazing star (liatris) were also plentiful and pretty.
When the lake came into view, several of us noticed that the egret was on the far shore about halfway down the lake. We did get a better view of the egret a little later on but never on our side of the lake. When we stopped at Russ's bench I had two people ask if I had seen the patch of Indian pipe fungus. I did know that they come up at this time of year, but I had missed them. I had seen some brown puffball mushrooms about the size of baseballs; I do not know much about mushrooms and had no idea whether they were edible or not, so we just left them. A little later in the hike we came across a patch of very vivid orange fungus.
When we left the Ice Age Trail on the connector trail, we found that some nice person had mowed a path. I heard several hikers express their appreciation. The woods had a few pesky insects today – I will probably recommend insect repellent for our next Tuesday hike.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
What a beautiful day for a hike – 70 degrees and sunny with a nice breeze wafting through the woods just when you need it. I arrived at the Blackhawk segment trailhead almost half an hour early to find that many hikers were already gathering. Although today's plan was to do something a bit more exotic, Dorothy and her friend from Verona said that they had driven one and a half hours to hike the Ice Age Trail and was led to believe that all of our hikes were on the IAT. Without objection from any of the 22 long-hikers, we easily changed the plan. Instead of stomping around the marl pits (which we will save for another day), we carpooled to the Oleson Cabin on Duffin Road and hiked back to our meeting place, a distance of about five and a half miles, almost all on the Ice Age Trail.
As we walked along, we saw many kinds of mushrooms, most unidentified. We did, however, identify a patch of hen-of-the-woods, an edible species. (To my knowledge, no one partook.) We had a discussion about whether this was the same as chicken-of-the-woods. One of our experts instructed that the latter was indeed a different kind of mushroom, more orange in color, which we had seen on the trail as well. Continuing along the narrow trail, tickfoil seeds adhered to most of us as we were vigilant for poison ivy lurking near the edge of the trail. Some of the plants pointed out today were stiff and Canada goldenrod, rough blazing star, Indian grass, and both big and little bluestem.
At the trail map intersection with two miles to go, the leaders waited for those who lagged behind. When we arrived, we shared the remains of the wonderful melon furnished by Jo and nuts courtesy of George. As we proceeded toward Russ's bench, the resident blue heron was spotted from Ruth's Point, flying over Lake La Grange. Later, past the bench, we saw the ubiquitous white egret on the far shore.
Once back at the U.S. Highway 12 parking lot, the carpool drivers were returned to their vehicles. Many hikers met at the La Grange General Store for lunch and further conversation – including identification of a long wasp that a customer had trapped in a plastic storage box. Norwin joined us for this part of the day, and it was good to see his friendly face. With September soon upon us, we will be starting to say good-bye to our hiking friends who depart for other and perhaps warmer climes. But, as we have learned, there are always new friends to join us as they learn of the existence of the IAT and fulfill their wishes to hike it often and completely.
The 10:30 am Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
The short hike today included two visitors from Kenosha and one former IAT hiker now living near Traverse City, Michigan. It was a perfect day for a prairie hike, and our group of 14 set off on the Ice Age Trail from Wisconsin Highway 59 toward Wilton Road. The trail was wide and recently mowed; the prairie, predominantly tan, brown, and green, was topped by a bright yellow assortment of sunflowers, goldenrods, and tall prairie dock accented by an occasional purple thistle. Asters in white, pink, blue, and rose were just beginning to bloom. The sky was picture-postcard blue with perfect white clouds.
We passed a family exploring the creek—two in the water laughingly trying to retain their balance on the slippery rocks while the younger children watched from the bridge. The pair of cranes, frequently seen on this hillside, was absent today but had left a few feathers on the trail as proof of their existence. At the top of the hill a rough wall of field rocks and a line of ancient oaks marked an old boundary. It was cooler here in the shade, and we could see much of the 3,500 acres of the prairie in all directions, the size and color of vegetation denoting the type of soil and the presence or absence of water.
After a short break at the bench at County Highway N, we went on into the woods. The Kenosha hikers stopped to admire the “nurse tree” – a giant oak with a small cedar growing in a crevice between two branches. At the end of a short prairie section, we hiked a boardwalk through a marsh and into the woods again. Anticipating mosquitoes, Jake and most of the group turned back. Those of us who went on to the road soon discovered the great variety of oddly-shaped and colorful mushrooms and other fungi that had emerged with the recent rains. Some started back, but three of us were very distracted by these somewhat ephemeral fungi: cameras came out and many photos were taken. And there were no mosquitoes to speak of....
The hike back to the trailhead was a slow one as we examined and photographed many flowers — and a very patient leopard frog. We reached our cars about 45 minutes after the rest of the group, warm and tired but invigorated. It was an exceptionally nice hike on a beautiful late-summer day.