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Monday, 13 November 2017 12:10

Hikers by the dozen take in plants, wildlife along the trails

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig's Hikes
Wednesday short-hike participants make their way along the Nordic Red Ski Trail. Wednesday short-hike participants make their way along the Nordic Red Ski Trail. Photo submitted

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: I had been thinking of where I would like to hike when I arrived at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place. When Ed came, he reminded me that the hikers were having a potluck. By tradition we always hike the white ski trail when we have a special hike with food. 

The ski trails are wide so it is easy to travel two or three abreast for easy conversation. The weather was cool and everyone seemed eager to get back for the food, so it was a brisk walk. It was a 3.2-mile loop.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Much to my surprise, 21 people arrived for the short hike this morning, including eight who were here for the first time: one from Beloit, two from northern Illinois and a group of five from the Lake Geneva area.

We regrouped at the Nordic Trails map. Jake traced out the route we would follow and we set off on the northbound combination of trails through the forest. The rocks underfoot were a little damp but the ground was dry and the light wind was blocked by the hills and trees. The air was fresh and crisp, the trails wide — all in all a great day for a hike.

By the first intersection the group was beginning to spread out. We took the first blue loop to the left, down the hill and into the pines. Those of us toward the end of the line particularly enjoyed — and photographed — the perspective created by the tiny hikers at the front of the group dwarfed by the very tall pines on either side. Others examined nearby pokeweed, whose neon colors looked much too bright for the tans and browns and greens of the pine woods. Titmice beeped merrily in the trees.

We climbed out of the pines into a hardwood forest, then arrived at a small meadow. The hikers ahead had stopped. When we reached them, we saw a recently dead coyote nearby in the tall grass. A few of the group had never seen one before. We went on, turning onto the Red Trail, then stopping at the next intersection to wait for the rest of the group.

We would stay on the Red Trail for the rest of the hike, and once again the group spread out. Lucy, one of our best hikers, was finally back after a lengthy period of recuperation. Pokeweed was still an interesting distraction for some. Some of the newest hikers were introduced to garlic mustard. And there was talk of trails and art and winter footwear and soup.

We reached the trailhead at 12:15 p.m. Mark’s device measured the hike at 3.9 miles. Most of the group went on to the La Grange Country Store for soup, coffee, sandwiches and more conversation. All in all, this was one of the best hikes of the fall.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Several hikers mentioned to me before we started out that the day felt cold and damp and that they were not accustomed to being out in weather like this. But the 14 hikers who regrouped at John Muir Bike Trails were eager to get going because they knew that after a few minutes of brisk walking up and down the many hills, they would be warm and energized.

Our leader selected the Purple Trail which is also known as the Rainy Dew. It was marked as being difficult for bikers and being five miles in length. Since the trail was open to bikers, we hiked in the reverse direction. During our hike we saw three bikers; we yielded the trail as they came toward us. After a few miles, we stopped and had a bit of dark chocolate. Thus refreshed, we carried on to the trail which seemed, at that point, to have merged with the Green Trail.

After five miles, we had not reached the end. Our leader consulted a map and used his best judgment to get us back to the Muir parking lot. This took a couple miles more and we finished with a distance of near seven miles. We later determined that the biking group that sets and marks the bike trails made a change which was not communicated to the general non-biking public. We are often baffled on these bike trails but our adventurous spirit always brings us home in good shape.

After the hike, almost all hikers adjourned to the LaGrange General Store for soups, salads and good conversation on a variety of topics, including kayaking, political correctness and lyrics to old songs.

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