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Thursday, 26 October 2017 13:51

'Glorious weather', good company accompany fall hikers

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Hedwig's Hikes
Long hikers head down one of the steeper hills on the five-mile hike from Clover Valley Road to U.S. Highway 12. Long hikers head down one of the steeper hills on the five-mile hike from Clover Valley Road to U.S. Highway 12. Lynn Larson photo

Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: We took the familiar trail around Lake LaGrange. Early on I had to take some quick steps to keep from stepping on a garter snake. Later in the hike the rest of the hikers saw a red-bellied snake.

The day was perfect for hiking, with a temperature of about 70 and a clear blue sky. The leaves were just starting to turn and most of the flowers had finished blooming. So the hike was just for the sheer joy of being outside, enjoying the fresh air and getting exercise. We all enjoyed it.

Wednesday short hike, report by Ellen Davis: The Tuesday hikers had hiked Bald Bluff only a few weeks ago. The Wednesday hikers were ready to hike it today, especially after viewing photos of the new fence on the summit. We managed to fit our cars into the small parking area with little room to spare and started up the connector trail. The trail angled to the right past giant erratic (boulder) to end shortly thereafter at the intersection with the Ice Age Trail. Jake suggested that we hike it in the reverse of our usual route, so we turned left onto the IAT. It became steeper as we climbed upward across the face of the bluff, then steeper still as it took a more direct course.

The view from the top was wonderful — as was the new fence. Designed and built as an Eagle Scout project by Nich Gilson, it complements the setting while protecting the sensitive slope. Nich also built a new bench to replace one that had collapsed. Good work!

The trip down the never-ending hill on the back side of Bald Bluff was a pleasure — our usual routine featured that endless upward climb at the end of the hike. The hikers agreed that it was much easier this way. At the intersection with the horse trail we turned right, following it over the hills, through the forest, along the edge of a prairie, across Young Road, through deep sand and more hills and forest, finally reconnecting with the Ice Age Trail again at Confusion Corner. Most of the hikers had shed jackets by this time, and a few were shedding the next layer of clothing as well as we headed into the dramatic landscape of the Oak Openings area.

This was a very good hike on a perfect day for hiking. The temperature was just right and we were safe from the wind in the hills, the colors were muted but the sun was bright and the sky was blue. We completed our 3 1/2 mile hike in record time. About half the group adjourned to the La Grange Country Store for soup, egg bakes, sandwiches, dark chocolate cake with white frosting, and — of course — more conversation.

Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: A warm and sunny day in mid-October is a perfect formula for bringing out hikers for a day in the woods. In addition to our group, there was a gathering of hikers from another organization just preparing to cross U.S. Highway 12, bound for Clover Valley Road. Leader Andy was inspired by this and suggested that we carpool to Clover Valley Road and hike back to the U.S. 12 meeting place, a distance of five miles over one of the more rigorous parts of the IAT in the area (lots of big hills). It took three cars to transport the 14 hikers to the start of the hike. Drivers of those cars would later be returned to their vehicles by their passengers.

Our first break was at the top of the big hill near Russ’ old bench where we took a breath and some water before heading onward. Wildflowers were just about done in this area, and only a small dark bushy caterpillar was seen to cross the trail. Another hiker said he saw a garter snake.

At our next break at Esterly Road, we partook of sweet melon and continued on to Norwin’s Rock. Most of the group hurried down the trail but a few of us stopped to read the inscription and say some silent words to our old friend. We did meet yet another group of walkers coming toward us as we neared the end of the hike but soon we came to the end of our adventure.

Everyone was hungry so the plan was to regroup at the country store, where we feasted on soup, sandwiches and, courtesy of Nancy C., some chocolate chip cake with fluffy white topping. All enjoyed the hike in glorious weather conditions and wondered how long it would last. In reality, we know in our hearts that the cold weather is soon to come. Yet there was much discussion of a kayak trip in the near future. This could be a good example of using every precious minute of time to make the most of life.

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