Weekly Walk: Many more mushrooms

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Ellen Davis | October 17, 2016

The Weekly Walks for Oct. 4 and 5, 2016

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

Nine hikers showed up on this beautiful warm October 4 for our Tuesday hike. We went to the Nordic ski trails and hiked the white trail, which I often hike when it is wet and rainy. The trail does look different on a nice day. The pine trees are shedding needles, which makes for a lovely soft carpet when we walk through them. The needles on pine trees have a year-and-a-half life span, so the needles that are falling now were new in the spring of last year.

About a mile and a quarter into the hike (after the purple trail had split from the white and blue) we found a dead tree lying across the trail. It was about eight inches in diameter and we were able to climb over it easily. The sumac is now red but most of the trees still have green leaves with a few yellow leaves occasionally showing up. I expect the leaf colors to change dramatically in the next three weeks. This was a lovely hike where the participants had plenty of opportunities for conversation.

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

With temperatures in the low 70s and cloudy skies, there were plenty of hikers at the Blackhawk trailhead meeting place. I took a quick survey of what various hikers believed was the accurate weather forecast for the day. Most thought there would be rain. Since in my experience such forecasts are generally wrong, I decided to forgo rain gear. Leader Andy directed twelve long-hikers to carpool to Clover Valley Road to take the five-mile hike back to the parking lot. I was surprised to learn that several in the group had never hiked this part of the Whitewater Lake segment in this direction. I think it is the most interesting and challenging part of the Ice Age Trail in Walworth County.

The rain commenced as we started the hike. It was light at first, then increased in intensity.  Fortunately, we were safely in the woods, under a heavy canopy of trees still possessing enough leaves that we were nicely protected from the hardest rain. At the overlook, we stopped over briefly while Jo distributed sweet honeydew melon. After a while the rain began to subside and then finally stopped. The sun came out and dried my clothes soon after. At the end of the hike we were pretty much as dry as we would have been had it not rained at all.

Observations on the trail included dead and dying leaves and vegetation, and several varieties of mushrooms including Chicken and Hen-of-the-Woods, shelf mushrooms, and classic, perfectly-shaped, long-stemmed mushrooms with caps the texture of cantaloupe rind. Some mushrooms looked like tables and chairs. We also noticed that the sumac was turning that special shade of dark red which it will carry into the winter.

After returning the carpool drivers to their vehicles, we regrouped at the La Grange General Store, pleased to be able to sit outdoors at the picnic tables to have our lunch. A major activity there was watching a video on Andy's laptop that he had taken on a recent kayak group trip.  All said that they had enjoyed this day's hike in spite of the wet weather.

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

Fourteen short-hikers agreed to brave the scenic but potentially slippery John Muir bicycle trails this morning, reasonably sure that the rain would hold off at least until lunch time despite the threatening clouds building overhead. We started out on the main trail traveling counterclockwise facing bike traffic, with Jake and the “exercise” hikers in front and those of us who must admire every colored leaf and mushroom lagging behind. The trail was damp but generally firm, with some softer areas and a few serious mud puddles. Most of the group used hiking poles to help with balance – a wise precaution on these steep slopes.

The rain started about twenty minutes into the hike, and the scattered droplets soon coalesced into a fine drizzle. I tried to photograph the hikers along the narrow trail struggling into their raingear, only to discover that my camera – well protected by both a waterproof case and a Ziplock plastic bag – was too damp to be operational. At the next intersection Jake offered a choice of returning to the trailhead or continuing with the hike. Only one hiker opted to retreat.

The topography of the Muir trails is dramatic in any season. The outstanding feature of today's hike was the abundance and variety of mushrooms and other fungi. Colors ranged from pearly white to beige, bright yellows and reds, tans and browns and greyish blue, with shapes from the standard “toad stool” to globular, tubular, cone, bracket, and free-form sculptural. Of special interest was one complete “fairy ring” about twenty feet in diameter, a smaller partial ring, and a lone pale mushroom that looked very much like a morel. (We left it alone.)

The rain stopped as we were on our way back to the parking lot. The trail was quite slick in spots by now, but there were no mishaps. Most of the group went on to lunch at the LaGrange General Store to discuss politics and news of the day (at table A),  hiking the whole Ice Age Trail (at table B), and an upcoming camping and paddling trip (at table C). Hot coffee and home-made soup were just right after a hike in the rain.  Despite the weather, it was a very nice hike.

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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