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Thursday, 05 July 2018 11:55

Hikers work up a sweat, bask in blooms on holiday-week walks

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
Art Krumley, a visiting hiker from Chicago, admires the wild bergamot in bloom. Wildflowers were plentiful along this week’s hikes — as were mosquitoes. Art Krumley, a visiting hiker from Chicago, admires the wild bergamot in bloom. Wildflowers were plentiful along this week’s hikes — as were mosquitoes. Submitted photo by Ellen Davis

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: On a very warm Tuesday evening six people showed up for our hike. There were five regulars and Beck, a first-time hiker. Beck is a Whitewater resident who found out about our group from the internet.

At 4 p.m. the group headed out across U.S. Highway 12 to walk the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road. A lot of the summer flowers are now in bloom plus the raspberries are starting to get ripe. There was one major difficulty — mosquitoes. They were so bad that two hikers turned back at the power lines. The rest of us went on to Esterly Road. There we had a short stop while I drank water and put on mosquito repellent.

We were concerned about how high the weeds and grass would be on the horse trail, but there had been enough traffic on the trail that there were one or two tracks that we could walk in. It was a brisk walk on a hot evening, but we felt good for the workout.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The weather report was iffy, the humidity high, and many of the long hikers were hiking in the Fourth of July Parade in Whitewater. We didn’t really know what to expect as we waited in the Ice Age Trail parking lot to see who — if anyone — would show up for our regular Wednesday morning hike.

When I arrived, Manfred and his dog, Melinda, already were out on the trail, while Katie and Betsy waited in the shelter with Jake. Melinda returned alone, with a smear of blood on her cheek, so I went to the top of the hill and called for Manfred; he answered and said he was OK.

A car with Illinois license plates pulled in — Art and Cinda, all the way from Chicago. Art had hiked with us in spring; this would be the first time for Cinda. A few minutes later Manfred appeared, examined and watered Melinda, but the bit of blood was a mystery. Bridget and then Peggy arrived, both from the long-hike group, bringing our total to nine. Off we went for a quick hike around Lake La Grange.

Summer wildflowers bordered the trail as we reached the hilltop — dark blue heal-all, bright pinks (in shades of pink, of course) and tiny pale blue lobelia. At the base of the hill we reached the juncture with the horse trail to find rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans), occasional wild bergamot, ox-eye daisies, yarrow, assorted vetches and clovers providing spots of color.

The trail had been recently mowed, providing a wider-than-usual path that encouraged conversation. By the time we reached the lake, it had been determined that five of today’s nine hikers either lived in Chicago or had lived there in the past. The day was growing hotter, and we welcomed the coolness of the shade as we entered the woods again — then longed for the breeze on the prairies.

We stopped at Russ’ bench for a brief break, then went on to Ruth’s point to look at the lake. Melinda went in the water up to her belly as a picturesque single-file line of geese paddled across the bay. The beach area, unfortunately, was now thick with goose droppings, and we moved on across the new prairie.

By this time, the heat was oppressive, but prairie clover, tall lobelia, butterfly weed, mullein, spotted knapweed, two varieties of thistles and the last spiderwort blooms brightened the landscape — and served as an excellent distraction.

The woods were mosquito heaven. They were voracious. We were glad to arrive back at our starting point and enjoyed the hike — except for the mosquitoes. Most of the group adjourned to the La Grange Country Store for lunch and more conversation in air-conditioned comfort.

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