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Wednesday, 22 November 2017 08:50

Wet weather, ‘strange’ plant keep hikers on their toes

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance, Helwig's Hikes

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: Ten hikers showed up for the walk this evening. With the early sunset, we just walked around Lake LaGrange. The recent freezing and thawing had made for some mud on the hill.

All of the hikers were experienced, so I set a brisk pace and everyone kept up without any difficulty. We made a brief stop at Russ’ bench. The cornfield had been combined and there were shucks and cobs on the trail. Then it was back on the connector trail. Two of us turned on our headlamps before we finished, but we could have made it without the help. The entire circuit took just one hour.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: It was another one of those fall days when it’s hard to decide whether that wet stuff in the air is actually light rain or just mist. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough to deter the short-hikers; our group numbered 16, including one from Richmond, Illinois, joining us for the first time.

We carpooled back to the Nordic Ski Trails, knowing that they would offer the best footing in damp weather. Jake selected the White Trail this time and off we went, with our two canine hikers sniffing excitedly along the sides of the trail. We separated into speed- and interest-based clusters fairly early in the hike — the fastest in the front, conversationalists in the middle, and those interested in the smaller details of our surroundings in the rear. The scenery today did not attract much attention; frost had killed the few remaining smaller plants, most of the leaves had dropped from the trees and those that remained were brown. It was a study in tans and browns and misty gray, broken by the dark green of the pines and wet black tree trunks. The moisture in the air muffled the sound of our voices.

Several clusters of delicate brown mushrooms caught our attention, as did the discovery of tinker’s weed beside the trail, identified by wildflower guru, Mariette Nowak. This strange plant flowers at the points where the leaves join the stem. At this time of year, the flowers have matured into very distinctive rings of three to six fuzzy, bright orange berries at the leaf axils. (Curious? Check it out at

Those of us who tarried over the tinker’s weed had to hurry to catch up. We regrouped at the parking area, where most of our hikers decided on lunch at the LaGrange General Store.
Various electronic devices recorded our hike at distances ranging from two-point-something to 3.6 miles; the Department of Natural Resources map declares it to be 3.25. And even in wet weather, they were very enjoyable miles indeed.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Today’s temperatures were in line with what one would expect for mid-autumn. However, the skies were overcast and a very light rain was falling at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place. With proper attire, this would be a wonderful day for a hike in the Kettle Moraine. Since there had been wet conditions overnight, our hike leader chose the Nordic Ski Trails, which offer good drainage and wide trails.

Because of the weather, only 10 long hikers regrouped at Nordic. We started out walking toward the first big blue-blazed loop, which is 1.75 miles by itself. For variety’s sake, we opted to do this part in reverse direction from the way it is used for skiing. When we finished that loop, we noted that the distance sign indicated 2.5 miles.

We continued to walk over the slightly muddy surface that was quite hilly in parts. We continued on the green-blazed trail except for a one-mile journey over a smaller loop of the blue.

We warmed up hiking over the steep hills. We stopped at an overlook for a breather and two hikers passed out snacks of nuts including savory macadamia. In all, we covered about 6.5 miles in a little over two hours.

After the hike, most of the group adjourned to the LaGrange General Store for good food and conversation, which included a shared apple pie from Elegant Farmer.

Volunteers with the Walworth/Jefferson County chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance lead hikes on Wednesdays and on Tuesdays when desired. Contact Ellen Davis at 262-740-1113 or


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