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Thursday, 12 April 2018 08:49

Another snowy trek: Hikers take wintry conditions in stride

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
Judy Hanlon of Milton, Mary Nevicosi of Richmond Township and Don Brockman of Lake Geneva lead the hikers onto the first loop of the Nordic Blue Trail. Judy Hanlon of Milton, Mary Nevicosi of Richmond Township and Don Brockman of Lake Geneva lead the hikers onto the first loop of the Nordic Blue Trail. Ellen Davis photo

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: On an evening where it had been raining on and off all day, five veteran hikers showed up for our hike. At exactly 4 p.m. we started out to go around Lake La Grange. The mist and drizzle abated a little after we were underway.

This group seemed interested in getting their exercise done and then getting out of the weather so we walked very quickly and did not take any breaks. We finished the 2.8 miles in one hour. Since the weather was fog and drizzle, there was not much to see — several ducks on the lake, but that was it.  It was still a great hike and a good workout.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The weather report predicted little snow for the southern area of the state, but a glance out the window showed about 1 1/2 inches of wet, heavy snow punctuated by a few clumps of determined-looking daffodil leaves. Still, this promised to be a perfect day for a hike in pristine snow.

We were not expecting a large turn-out, but more and more hikers pulled into the parking lot, all unexpectedly enthusiastic about another snowy adventure. Jake and I agreed on the first blue loop of the Nordic Trails with two different options to return to the trailhead.

We reassembled at the Nordic Trails map and Jake described our route.  We set out heading northward, rejoicing that we would be the first to hike the new snow. The sun made it sparkle and occasional flakes drifted down from snow-topped branches. The wind didn’t reach us here in the hills. Everything was fresh and new and white, with a bright blue sky above.

Jake led us onto the first blue loop, down a long rolling hill and into the pines. The Department of Natural Resources had been at work here, clearing out underbrush. The absence of that understory made the pines seem even taller, and us even smaller.

Another long slope upward led us back to the signpost. Three hikers decided to return to the trailhead directly, and the rest of us headed off on the hilly red trail to complete the hike. It was now warm enough to unzip jackets and remove gloves; although short while later the trail changed direction and we found ourselves walking into the wind. The hike had been quite free of ice until we reached the traditional huge frozen puddle just before the final trail junction. Despite a few slips and slides, we all survived and arrived at the trailhead hungry — and filled with appreciation for this beautiful hike on a crisp, sunny spring day.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Today we took a winter hike. Yes, in April. The trails were a few inches deep in flaky snow.  It was well below freezing when we met at the U.S. Highway 12 kiosk. We reasoned that since the snow fell and didn’t melt, there would be no ice beneath it on the trail. We could leave our ice cleats and grippers behind.

Our leader presented a plan pursuant to which we would regroup at Horse Riders Campground near Palmyra. Most of the hikers were quite familiar with the trails in that area but many were unsure of how to reach the campground since we had not started a hike there in several years. After a few moments of confusion, we all were able to successfully reach the starting point of the hike.

First, we took the Ice Age Trail toward Tamarack Road. To access the IAT, we climbed the steep “secret staircase” from near the campground. We crossed Little Prairie Road and headed toward Tamarack.

At Tamarack, we accessed the connector bike trail heading south toward the John Muir trails and eventually headed back on the northbound connector trail. After a short rest and something to drink, we continued on to the overlook. On the way back to the staircase, two hikers slipped and fell. The fall I witnessed involved a hiker slipping over the edge of the trail and landing in a soft pillow of snow just off the trail. I didn’t witness the other mishap but neither hiker exhibited signs of injury.

Back at the parking area, there were various mileage readings — all right around 6.25 miles. Most of the hikers continued on to Edge of Town Restaurant in Palmyra. The food was good and the conversation was plentiful. All enjoyed a snow hike in spring and the chance to hike in snow one more time before the warm weather settles in upon us in earnest.

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