Weekly Walk: Scenic and snow-covered trails
The Weekly Walks for Dec. 20 and 21
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Jake Gerlach:
On Tuesday the weather was much warmer than it had been over the weekend. I arrived to find the U.S. Highway 12 parking lot plowed and in great shape. Shortly after I got there Ed arrived. I thought that the snow might be deep so I put on my snowshoes. Ed just wore his hiking boots. By 4 p.m. no one else had shown up, so we headed off clockwise around Lake La Grange. The trail was well-traveled and made for easy walking. When the lake came into view we could see the last of the sunlight on the trees on the far shore. When we finally got to Russ's bench, it had a full load of snow. Clearly no one sat there since the last snow storm.
When we got to the area that had been cleared, things changed abruptly. Suddenly there were large snowdrifts and in places the trail had disappeared because of blowing snow. I was very glad I had worn my snowshoes, but I still struggled. Ed managed to keep up but I am not sure how he managed. When we finally reached the connector trail and the shelter of the trees, I was breathing quite hard. I told Ed of a saying my father had used in such circumstances: “I'm not short of wind, I just have more wind than I can blow.” When we finally got to the snowmobile trail, the snow was packed down and the rest of the hike was nearly normal.
Back at the parking lot I was struggling with the bindings on my snowshoes when Ed pulled his truck around so that I could see with the help of his headlights. That made things much easier! We both thought that this hike had been a real workout!
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
In the wake of heavy snow just a few days ago, the turnout for today's long hike was in doubt. But a combination of warmer temperatures (mid-20s) and the need to take off weight gained at a recent potluck brought the hikers out to the Ice Age Trail kiosk off Highway 12. Ten long-hikers took the IAT south on the Whitewater Lake segment. Deep, partially broken snow was encountered and snowshoes would have helped but no one opted to wear them (mine were safely in my car). Many of the group wore ice grippers and used hiking poles. I found them most helpful in keeping my balance on the uneven trail. We encountered dog-walkers on snowshoes and they took credit for breaking some of the trail that we had walked.
Just after the power lines we stopped to gather energy through delicious chocolate balls provided by Bridget. Thus energized, we all made it to Esterly Road. At that point, half the group decided the going was too tough and they returned to the parking lot via the horse trail had been partially groomed for snowmobiles. The rest of us carried on to the map stand above County Highway P via the snowmobile trail, which was much easier to walk on. From there, we got back on the Ice Age Trail and returned to Esterly Road where we switched to the groomed trail and returned to the parking lot for a total of five miles.
The woods were beautiful today. The bare trees were nicely covered with snow and the stillness of winter hung above us. The mild temperatures kept us quite toasty in our layered clothing. The five hikers who completed the entire distance all agreed that it was a fine walk in spite of the rugged terrain—a great way to spend the winter solstice.
Most of the hikers regrouped at the La Grange General Store for exotically-named soup and sandwiches and conversation about plans for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Some of our regular group who had opted to ski at the Nordic Trails joined us for lunch, as did Norwin, who was in the area and stopped in to spread good cheer.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
We had heard about the Tuesday hikers' adventure in the snowdrifts, but somehow thought that for us—on the snowmobile trail—it could be a pleasant stroll through a winter wonderland....
Eleven short-hikers, most of us equipped with ice grippers and hiking poles, safely crossed Highway 12 accompanied by three snowmobiles which soon sped up the first hill with a loud roar. We slogged up the hill through the ankle-deep chunks they left their wake or the deep powder at the edges of the trail, accompanied by our own heavy breathing from this naively unexpected exertion. By the time we reached the top of the ridge, past memories of hiking in several inches of fresh snow had returned and we recognized the extra effort required as normal.
Manfred's dog Melinda, a pointer, was having a lovely time thrusting her nose into virgin snow and either snuffling loudly, flinging snow in the air, or forging ahead several feet with her head almost completely covered by snow. The hikers were again at ease on the trail, bright jackets a colorful contrast with the surrounding black-and-white landscape. Two more snowmobiles passed us as we reached the pines; the second returned our waves, the first did not. As we relaxed a few minutes at Esterly Road, Melinda decided to wrap as many hikers as possible in her leash, to the amusement of her victims.
The return trip was both comfortable and a bit challenging. Our snow-hiking muscles had gotten a workout on the many hills, but the sun was bright, the temperature was reasonable, the scenery was dramatic, and we were in good company. We had hiked three miles and were more than ready for lunch.