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Thursday, 07 December 2017 13:03

Hikers get a workout out through hilly terrain

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
During hunting season, many hikers choose the steep trails at Natureland County Park on Territorial Road​. During hunting season, many hikers choose the steep trails at Natureland County Park on Territorial Road​. Photo submitted

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: This week there were seven people on the hike, including a new hiker, Amy. Amy had heard about the hike on Facebook. Because it gets dark so early, we just went around Lake LaGrange. That way we could start at exactly 4 p.m., preserving as much daylight as possible for the hike.

The footing on the hill was damp but not muddy. By the time we got to Russ’ bench, the sky had turned to a brilliant red, orange and yellow. The colors persisted until we got to the connector trail.

About 10 minutes after starting down the connector trail, I turned on my headlamp. I noticed one other person also turned on their headlamp. We finished just after 5 p.m. It turned out to be a great hike on a beautiful evening.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: We had an unusually large group for the short hike this week — 24, including three new hikers (one from Kenosha!) and two returnees who have been section-hiking the far northern reaches of the Ice Age Trail. As planned last week, we carpooled to Natureland County Park on Territorial Road for a hunter-free hike on the four short trails there.

Jake picked the hilly trail on the south side of the road for our warm-up. It started out innocently enough, wide and flat, paralleling the road, then turned sharply south. A few minutes later we saw the hill — not just a hill, but a huge, steep hill. The trail, which seemed to consist mostly of sharp rocks and gnarly roots covered with leaves, went almost straight up the face of this hill. We progressed slowly, arriving at the top to find that the climb down was even steeper and somewhat slippery. Nevertheless, we mastered it with no mishaps.

That hill turned out to be just the warmup for what was to come: several scenic slopes presenting little challenge followed by two more monster hills in a row. Once more we persevered.

The next trail passed through a pine forest, around a little prairie, past a spring-fed pond and back to the trail-head. Mostly flat, it was a nice contrast to the hills. We crossed a wooden bridge to the next trail, leading us beside a watercress-filled stream then up the spine of a sharp esker, along the ridge and down into another pine plantation.

We took the boardwalk away from the pines to parallel the lakeshore. Several hikers walked down to the lake to look at the island where the egrets and great blue herons nest.

At the end of this trail, several hikers decided that it was time for lunch. The remainder went on to climb yet another hill.

We arrived at our cars warm, energized and hungry. Those who finished all four trails logged in 3.6 miles. There were several options for lunch, but most chose the La Grange General Store for soup, coffee, companionship and conversation.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: On a sunny, crisp November morning what better activity could be imagined than a vigorous walk on the John Muir bike trails? Fifteen long hikers regrouped in the John Muir parking area to hike in what we felt would be a remote area where we would not interfere with cyclists. The trail surface was mostly hard-packed with a covering of dead leaves. It was strewn with rocks of various size and roots were an additional hazard. In a few spots, there was a bit of mud but the hikers all came through the journey without a fall.

We had a great day of hiking, logging in nearly 7.5 miles on the orange-, blue- and white-blazed trails and the Rainy Dew trail. We encountered a total of three bikers.

As we walked along, some of the hikers noticed a shiny metal formation in the woods, about 50 feet off the trail. It looked like R2D2 from the “Star Wars” movies. Two hikers went off-trail to investigate. It turned out to be a pile of scrap junk. Yet there was a bit of excitement and lots of laughter ensued.

Later, we broke for a snack and a sip of water. As we continued to hike, we encountered a rather large kettle lake. One of the hikers proposed that it be named Holiday Lake and that the group would henceforth visit this lake each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A vote was taken and the proposal was adopted. This activity will be added to the many traditions that the hikers have adopted and we hope that we have the presence to keep track of them all.

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