Weekly Walk: A good hiker is always prepared

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Ellen Davis | September 21, 2016

The Weekly Walks for Sept. 13 and 14,  2016

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

On Tuesday evening we crossed Highway 12 to walk the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road and back. It was obvious that there had been one or more horses on the trail; they had left some calling cards. There are rules for the use of the trails. For example, in the winter when snow is on the ground and the Nordic trails are groomed for skiing, foot traffic is not allowed. The Ice Age Trail, maintained entirely by volunteers, is well marked with signage indicating that it is to be used exclusively for hiking, but there are always some people who think that the rules do not apply to them.  

The section of the Ice Age Trail that we walked has a lot of rocks, roots, and steep hills. There had been rain in the morning and some of the rocks were a little slick as well as some places where the packed dirt was a bit slippery. This Tuesday I did not hear of any falls or mishaps.  We did see some false Solomon's seals with their dull red berries at the end of the stalk. There were also some Jack-in-the-pulpits with their bright orange/red berries. We found a small tree down across the trail and then, just before the power lines, a dead tree had fallen leaving a lot of branches across the trail. We had a bit of difficulty climbing over.  Andy said he would return with a saw and clean it up.

At Esterly Road we took a water break. We considered returning via the horse trail, but as it had high grass and weeds we took the Ice Age Trail again for a very invigorating four-mile hike.

The 10:30 am Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:

As the autumn season is almost here, the morning temperatures are getting gradually cooler.  Today we were in the mid to upper 60s. The sun was peeking out of the clouds on occasion, but not enough to totally dry up the rain that fell last night. As hikers drove into the Highway 12 parking area they could see that many already there are wearing their bright yellow “Helwig's Hikers” t-shirts. Norwin was present, and although his health precludes his joining us, he hopes to rejoin the hikes soon. Meanwhile, he agreed to meet us for lunch later in the day.  

Andy tossed out suggestions for today's adventure and Mariette agreed to lead a wildflower hike at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve. Since that can easily be combined with a visit to the marl pits and the campground, all 14 long-hikers were in agreement — with the knowledge that we would probably hike less than five miles but we would be carrying forth a hiking tradition established by our former leader and mentor, Russ Helwig.

We regrouped in the nature preserve parking lot where a DNR employee promptly tagged our vehicles with survey forms under our wipers. (This SCORP survey asks about our use of the trails and our preferences for improvement of facilities.) Mariette led us across the road where we saw that the field was heavy with blue gentians of the fringe, bottle, and French varieties. I had rarely seen such a collection. We again crossed the road, taking the nature trail to visit the Scuppernong Springs and Indian Springs areas. Mariette identified more gentians, many varieties of goldenrod (including Ohio goldenrod) being visited by bees, plus hawkweed, lions-foot, and two varieties of asters. Of special interest to the hikers was obedient plant, the petals of which remained in the positions in which my hand placed them. The carrion plant was also interesting with its cluster of dark seeds; it has the smell of dead meat and attracts flies.  

During this period of the hike, we separated into two groups. The group that walked ahead proceeded into the area of the marl pits and was leaving as we entered. We were warned of slippery areas as we passed. Although I heeded this warning and took special care, I could not help but slip on the wet marl and land on my posterior. Though I went down slowly, Theresa, right behind me, could not stop my fall. I also learned, about that time, that Jo had been stung on the lower leg by a hornet and had to leave the group. These are not uncommon mishaps on the trail.

After our tour of the pits and the adjacent waterway we made our way back to the parking lot, crossed the road, and headed into the campground. There were few campers in attendance but it was nice to amble along the road and put on a couple of miles. We walked to the Ottawa Lake beach where a kayak class seemed to be in progress. We had seen some mothers with their young children on the nature trail and it was gratifying to see the area well utilized this day by those that my some day hike the trails of the Kettle Moraine as we do each week of the year.  

As we returned to the parking area I called Norwin to inform him that we would be lunching at the Main Street Family Restaurant in Palmyra, and he met us there. We ate and conversed about future plans and trips. All seemed to enjoy this brief but interesting hiking adventure.

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

Two Ice Age Trail segment-hikers joined the short-hikers for a while this morning in order to hike one more section of the 1,208-mile Ice Age Trail. Our group of twenty filled the tiny Bald Bluff parking lot and set off up the slope on the connector to the Ice Age Trail, then southward, crossing Young Road and through the oak savannah to the horse trail. The segment-hikers left us there, proceeding on the IAT to Oleson Cabin on Duffin Road. The rest of us continued on the horse trail through one of the most dramatically hilly areas of the Kettle Moraine. The surface of the trail alternated between rocks, deep sand, and hard mud. It was a good workout and it was not over yet. We took a short break after re-crossing Young Road in the opposite direction. Many of the group took this opportunity to remove the burrs we had accumulated   (mostly tick-seed and sand burrs), then onward through more sand, more rocks, and more mud to finally rejoin the Ice Age Trail heading toward the long slope up the back of Bald Bluff.  

By the time we reached the slope a lot of us were tired from the extra effort required to hike through the sand earlier in the hike. The slope was a comfortable incline at the beginning, the trail narrow with the usual rocks and roots. It became gradually steeper as we progressed — and never seemed to end. One hiker began to feel weak and dizzy about 4/5 of the way up.  She had no water with her, so we shared ours and rested with her until she felt better, then proceeded very slowly — with frequent stops — to the top where a convenient bench awaited.  After another rest (and more water) we started down, meeting her husband who was coming up to find out where she had disappeared to. After another drink of water we continued slowly and safely down the front of the bluff to the parking lot to find another hiker waiting there to make sure everyone was safe. Thankfully, everyone was, and we adjourned to the La Grange General Store for lunch.

This rather difficult hike required more exertion than anticipated for many of the group, and several hikers had brought too little or no water. Our shaky hiker was becoming dehydrated and a potentially serious situation was averted by people who recognized the symptoms, shared their water supply and took the time to help. The lesson: always bring water and snacks — more than you think you will need!

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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