This evening we started off around Lake LaGrange in a counterclockwise direction. The first part of this loop is snowmobile trail and it was well used and relatively easy hiking. When we left the snowmobile trail the hiking became a little more difficult. There had been some people on snowshoes on this trail, so we weren’t going through really deep, loose snow. Still it was very similar to walking on loose sand.
I thought I was setting an aggressive pace; still the hike took an hour and a quarter. I asked if everyone was getting plenty of exercise. It was clear that the conditions were taking a toll on the hikers. When we got to the hill, I was glad that we were going up. At the steps that I had fallen on two weeks ago, going up did not present much of problem. I would not like to go down those steps again until the snow and ice are gone.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: There was much discussion in the parking lot as to whether or not we would need our ice cleats today. The snowmobile trail across U.S. Highway 12 was our destination — a wide trail, probably providing ample room to avoid those icy patches. On the other hand, none of us had hiked it recently, and could not know its condition. Most of the group decided against the ice cleats; that turned out to be the right choice.
We crossed U.S. 12, turned and started up the first hill on the snowmobile trail. The snow here had been beaten down to about 3 inches deep with a few areas of ice and patches of grass and wet mud showing. The snow off the trail was deeper than the tops of my 9-inch-high winter hiking boots.
In the beginning, all was well. The woods and hills were beautiful in the snow, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. As the day warmed up, the top layer of snow warmed up with it and those of us wearing ice cleats noticed that our footwear was now collecting icy snowballs on its spikes. These snowballs built up to the size of tennis balls before they could be knocked off, only to build up again directly under the ball of the foot — making for very uncomfortable hiking. The ice cleats were removed and everyone was happy again.
We took a break at Esterly Road and then started back through the pines with the sun behind us. The snow held tracks of deer, mice, birds, fox and dogs. We heard a woodpecker calling but couldn’t see it. We were spread out on the way back, those of us in the rear stopping often to admire the landscape around us. We reached the trailhead somewhat overheated, tired and ready for lunch. This was an unexpectedly aerobic hike on a warm and sunny winter day.
The Wednesday long hike report by Janet Carriveau: On a mild morning, nine long hikers drove to the Emma Carlin trailhead to begin our hike. We accessed the Ice Age Trail, crossed County Highway Z and proceeded on the Stony Ridge Segment of the trail.
The deep snow was soft and mushy, giving us the feeling of sliding slightly backwards after putting each foot forward. A bright sun reflected off the snow. The terrain was vastly white in every direction. We marched forward in single file through woods, over prairie and across Seasonal Creek.
We decided to walk to the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit Headquarters, where we took a short break before proceeding. When we arrived back at the Ice Age Trail, we took the spur to backpack shelter #2. There’s an elevation lookout of 905 feet adjacent to the shelter. Since it was a clear day, we were able to see quite far. Moving onward, we accessed the Stute Springs Homestead Nature Trail and took that back to County Z and to the trailhead. We accomplished approximately four miles.
We all reconnected at the Main Street Restaurant in Palmyra for lunch and enjoyable conversation.