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Thursday, 15 February 2018 10:32

Fluffy snow presents a beautiful challenge to hikers

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
Mark Weinzimmer of Richmond township and Henry Hertl of Lake Geneva find hiking more difficult in several inches of fresh snow. Mark Weinzimmer of Richmond township and Henry Hertl of Lake Geneva find hiking more difficult in several inches of fresh snow. Photo submitted

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: When I arrived at the parking lot I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lot had been plowed. The other hikers began to arrive shortly and I talked to Kathleen from Palmyra who had just come out for a hike and decided to join our group.

There were six of us hearty souls on the hike this evening. I knew that walking would be difficult in the snow, so I chose a route on the old abandoned subdivision trails. I was a bit surprised to see that the snowmobile trails had been groomed; it sure did make walking easier. When we got to the third intersection we headed up a long, uphill old subdivision road. That road was not groomed so we had a tough time. When we finally got back on the snowmobile trail, the walking was much easier.
When we got to the berms I headed back to the parking lot. The 2.5-mile hike in the snow took over an hour and took a lot out of me and some other walkers.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Jake decided that this would be the perfect day to try out a new hike on the Muir bike trails that he had scouted recently. We re-grouped at the Muir trailhead, strapped on our ice cleats, inserted our hand-warmers, grabbed our hiking poles and set off down the main trail after Jake — nine guys and me.

Snow had been falling on and off for the last few days, leaving the ice on the trails covered by 2 inches to 6 inches of the fluffy white stuff — and accentuating the drama of the dark trees against the pristine white of the rolling glacial topography. It was better hiking than anticipated. The snow was deep enough in most places to cushion us from the ice beneath. It was beautiful in the woods.

A few intersections later nothing looked familiar. Jake soon left the trail, explaining that we would now be bush-whacking our way over the hills and down to another trail. We followed. Eventually we arrived at the old lime kiln near the Olesen Cabin on Duffin Road. We pondered the granite-boulder-lined pit where early settlers had burned limestone to create the lime used on the fields and in mortar — particularly impressive for those hikers who had spent at least part of their lives farming.

The spur trail down from the lime kiln was rugged and steep — and clogged by a large fallen tree. Jake coached us over it safely and we arrived at last on a wide access road. The only sounds were our voices and footsteps. The world looked very large, cold and white. One access road led to another, and eventually we arrived at an intersection I recognized — the Muir orange trail. We took it, meandering and zig-zagging up a seemingly endless slope through oaks and pines, around rocks, through more pines and finally arriving at the top — and the trail back to the trailhead.

Jake said we’d traveled 2 1/2 miles. One GPS measured it as three. I thought it felt like seven. Whatever it was, it took us an hour and 45 minutes of very careful hiking. This was a tiring hike though soft snow, but very beautiful.
The Wednesday long hike report by Janet Carriveau: Eleven long hikers started their trek by crossing U.S. Highway 12 to hike a portion of the Whitewater Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail. All were well prepared for the abundant, fluffy snow and some icy conditions by wearing ice cleats and using hiking poles.

This part of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest was especially scenic with heavy snow sticking to the branches and limbs of every tree. It’s a particularly lovely segment at any time of the year, offering views of dense forest, rocky terrain and vistas overlooking miles of farmland below. We successfully made our way up the winding, rocky trail.

By the time we arrived at Esterly Road, we had walked about 2 1/2 miles. Six of our hikers decided that was enough for the morning and turned back to make their total hike of about five miles. The other five of us pushed onward to the next intersection at County Highway P. Near County P we connected to the horse trail and took that back to U.S. 12. There was a lot of ice hidden under the snow on the horse trail, making us particularly grateful for our cleats. When we arrived back at the parking lot, we clocked our distance at about 6.7 miles.

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