Weekly Walk: Sunshine and fresh snow

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Ellen Davis | February 14, 2017

The Weekly Walks for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1,  2017

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

As we gathered in the parking lot for our hike, there was some discussion about the need for ice grippers. Some of the group thought that the grippers would collect balls of snow on their spikes, others were not sure.  I decided to wear mine, but most of the hikers did not.  

By 4 p.m., six hikers and two dogs started out counterclockwise around Lake La Grange. The sun made one of its few appearances just as we started the hike, and the effect of the sunlight on the aspen trees was really quite nice.

There was about a quarter inch of snow on the ground, with the temperature just above the freezing mark. From this direction, the frozen lake was clearly visible from the trail. We walked quickly since everyone was there for the exercise and the feel of the outdoors. We made one very brief stop for Andy to take a photo of the lake in the diminishing daylight, then kept up a steady pace all the way back to our starting place.  The sun now sets late enough that we completed the entire circuit before sunset. No one had any difficulty on the trail, though I did get a few balls of snow clinging to my ice grippers. It was a great winter hike!

The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported by Barbara Roeder:

Sunglasses had to be dusted off as we gathered for our weekly Wednesday hike with – yes – the sun shining down upon us. This added to the energy of the group. Thirteen hikers reconvened at the Horse Riders' Campground outside Palmyra for the five-mile hike that Andy had mapped out for today.

We started out on the Ice Age Trail for a very short distance, before turning onto Andy's “secret trail,” which consisted of a lot of steps that led to a bike trail. We followed the bike trail in reverse, crossing the horse trails in four different spots. On both sides of the intersections we had to weave through stiles which had a dual purpose: one was to keep horses off the bike trail and the other was to slow bikers and hikers so that they would not spook the horses.

With sunshine and fresh snow, the hike was invigorating. We saw many animal tracks – deer, squirrel, possum, rabbit, and fox or coyote. We even saw the possum that left its prints in the snow. A bit of pellet-like snow fell on us after we crossed Little Prairie Road. We followed the bike trail to Tamarack Road where we took the Ice Age Trail back to the campground. One hiker took another connector trail back to provide a different landscape, as she had recently hiked the one we planned to take.

Most of the group headed to the Main Street Cafe in Palmyra for lunch, with chili nachos being the popular order of the day.  Everyone really enjoyed this hike with its “secret trail”.  Thank you, Andy!

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

Nineteen brightly-garbed short-hikers, including a newcomer from Kenosha, gathered for another Wednesday morning adventure on the trail. It had snowed again the previous evening, but the day was already comfortably warm (in the low 30s) and patches of blue sky were breaking through the overcast. Jake's suggestion of a combination of Ice Age Trail and horse trail met with approval, and we crossed Highway 12 and started up the big hill on the IAT.  

It was narrow, rocky and covered with an inch or more of new snow hiding whatever icy dangers might be lurking underneath. Most of the group wore ice cleats, but even those without were undeterred. By the time the trail reached the crest of the ridge many were comfortable with the footing and able to pick up speed while others chose a slower pace to admire the surrounding terrain. By the time we reached the half-way point those in front were long out of sight, a small group in the middle appeared now and then as the trail curved and twisted over the hills, and those of us in the rear were simply enjoying the surroundings and talking about owls.

The group reconnected at Esterly Road and Jake allowed even the laggards to take a short break. The journey back to U.S. Highway 12 on the wider horse (and snowmobile) trail encouraged side-by-side and small-group conversations, and better footing provided more opportunities to enjoy is dramatic landscape which was, for at least one vocal hiker, her favorite section of trail.  Another hiker, ahead of the rest of the group, pointed out a “critter” ambling slowly across the trail: a very large possum with a very pink nose, which soon ambled into a pile of dead branches and disappeared from view.  

We arrived back at the trailhead as one rather spread-out group. Most of us went on to lunch at the La Grange General Store, warm, a bit tired, and ready for still more conversation after a very enjoyable winter hike.

Happy trekking.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellen Davis

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