Weekly Walk: Rain doesn't dampen hikers' spirits

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Ellen Davis | September 19, 2016

The Weekly Walks for Sept. 6 and 7, 2016

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

September is noted for some very warm days early in the month and some very cold days later on. Tuesday was one of those warm days. The temperature was in the upper 80s when nine hikers appeared for the hike. Everyone just wanted to get the hike over with, so we decided to go around Lake La Grange in the counter-clockwise direction. When we left the parking lot and got into the shade I noticed that the temperature had dropped and the constant breeze made things more tolerable.  

The blazing-star is getting near the end of its season in the open areas, but there are some lovely clusters of small white asters starting to bloom. We took a very short break at Russ's bench, and then proceeded through the tall grass prairie. The grass now has feathery seed heads and stands over six feet tall. I kept looking for the egret but did not see it. At the last opportunity I stopped to take a good look at the lake in hopes of seeing the bird, but still no luck. Then Andy said something and the great blue heron flew up from the far shore and went on to land quite a way further down the lake. The climb up the big hill left everyone hot and exhausted, but all in all it was another nice hike.

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

At the start, I could see that this would be one of those days that weather would play a major role in our hiking activities. It was raining steadily up until the 10:30 a.m. meeting time at Highway 12, and all trails would be muddy. When it was time for Andy to decide where to hike, the sky had lightened somewhat but one could still smell the rain in the air and in the freshness of the breeze.

It was finally decided that we would hike at the Nordic ski trails, which provide options to cut a hike short should the weather become chaotic. Eight long-hikers started out on the first blue-blazed loop and then the skies opened. All of us (except Andy, who thought that it wouldn't rain) put on our raingear and wore it though the downpour. When it was over and the heat of the raingear compelled us to remove it, we were just as wet as Andy!

We decided to finish the hike on the green trail so we could get in five and a half miles. It rained on and off throughout the balance of the hike. We were able to stop for a short rest at the top of a hill, where Jo fed us sweet watermelon bits. Walking on, we split into two or three conversational groups. A good chat makes the hike seem to go faster and reduces the tendency to concentrate on our collective aches and pains. Planned trips, visits with children, and yellow watermelon were among the topics covered. Along the way we saw a nice-sized toad and various mushroom species through the raindrops, along with vegetation just beginning to die back. Most of the hikers regrouped at the LaGrange General Store for lunch outdoors under the canopy, which included – for two of us – Funky Monkey Cake. All agreed that it was a great hike in spite of the rainy weather.

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

The eight short-hikers also chose the Nordic ski trails for exactly the same reasons, and decided on the varied terrain of the white trail for our 3.25-mile hike. Soon it began to drizzle. Our raingear ranged from none (Jake's t-shirt and shorts) to my giant purple poncho, with a range of more traditional coverings in between. The grass on the trail was wet but had been recently mowed and the footing was surprisingly good. The light rain soon stopped and the morning turned muggy as the temperature rose.  

Goldenrod, white asters, and a few miscellaneous sunflowers in open areas along the trail provided spots of color; several clusters of Jack-in-the-pulpit berries were a jolt of bright reddish-orange in the woods. Toward the end of the hike we passed a stand of bright yellow wild primroses. We saw many varieties of fungus that had emerged as a result of our recent damp weather: large bracket fungi on tree trunks, two giant puffballs past their prime, a white coral fungus, cup mushrooms, and several colorful assortments of bright yellow toadstools highlighted by an occasional orange one.  

The rain hit again before the end of the hike – not heavily enough to force us to head for cover, but still a bit of a nuisance as we re-garbed ourselves in our rainwear. We arrived back at the trailhead wet but in good cheer and departed for coffee, lunch, and conversation at the La Grange General Store. Rain or shine, there are always things to see and enjoy along the trails.

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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