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Thursday, 01 March 2018 14:06

Hikers bush-whack their way around water hazards

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes

The Tuesday Hike report by Jake Gerlach: It had been raining most of the day and a lot of snow had been melting, so I was not sure anyone would show up for the hike. When I arrived at the parking lot, Ed already was there. At 4 p.m. the two of us headed out to go around Lake LaGrange in a counterclockwise direction.

Our first major hurdle was at the first low spot. Snow melt and rain had come down the hill, filled the hillside of the path with lots of water and the water was running over the lake edge in a 2- to 3-inch deep and several-yard-wide stream. We both waded the stream on the highest edge. There were some problems with the brush, but we both got through.

Most of the trail was a sheet of ice, but both of us had on our ice-gripping footwear. The second challenge came at the low spot just beyond the cornfield. Again there was a stream crossing the trail. The water was only about 2 inches deep and we waded through.

The third challenge was much tougher. There was a large pond. The water started out about 2 inches deep but I could tell that it was more than 8 inches deep at the middle. My hiking shoes are only 6 inches to the top. Ed had on boots and might have made it, but he went with me as we tried to find a way around the puddle. We went through some weeds. When we got to the end of the puddle, the way forward was blocked by thick brush. So we skirted around the brush and followed a lot of deer trails.

After what I thought was an enormous amount of time in the brush, we finally got back on the Ice Age Trail. There were no more water hazards.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: A dozen fearless short-hikers, well prepared with ice cleats and hiking poles, arrived at the Nordic Trails filled with anticipation of a pleasant hike. The reality was a sea of ice that hinted of things to come. On the trail, things were better — sort of. Rain on top of snow packed down by skiers had turned to ice in many areas with large puddles in others.

Ice covered almost the whole width of the white trail as we carefully picked our way downhill. When we finally looked ahead, we discovered that the trail disappeared into an ice-covered puddle that extended into the brush on either side. We took to the brush, bush-whacking through the buckthorn until we could get back on the trail.

The next section was pleasant — icy but acceptable. All was well until we came to a large semi-frozen puddle that forced us off the trail again. That was soon followed by major puddle No. 3 — and another bush-whacking trek.

We were getting close to the end of the hike when we finally met our match with the fourth puddle. It stretched across the trail and into the underbrush on either side. Eleven of us went off-trail to the left, fighting honeysuckle and sumac and trying to avoid boggy areas. Bob N. backtracked and paralleled the trail on the right. Our group of five stayed fairly close to the trail, occasionally having to backtrack when a thicket was too thick. We came out on the far side of the puddle to find Bob waiting there, looking smug. His route had been the easiest and most direct. The remaining six were still thrashing through the brush behind us. We hiked parallel to each other until they found a good place to break through and rejoin the group.

The remainder of the hike was refreshingly uneventful. We regarded it as an unexpected adventure and were pleased to have survived unscathed.

The Wednesday long hike report by Janet Carriveau: The Feb. 21 long-hikers congregated at the Nordic parking lot and proceeded to the blue trail.

The recent melting of the snow combined with two days of rain had turned the ski trails into solid, icy pathways. Everyone wore ice grippers, and they were needed if one wished to remain upright. Many of us attempted to escape the ice by walking alongside the trail in some of the more snowy or bare areas, but with the trailside trees and brush, it wasn’t always possible.

Walking up and down the icy Nordic hills kept our eyes alert and our feet stealthy. We traversed at various speeds, usually keeping together in small groups. At one point we walked over ice that was so thin it looked and sounded like glass breaking under our feet. Two other areas were completely flooded with pond-like conditions, making it necessary for us to exit the trail and hike through thick brush until we detoured the impassible waterways.

Most of us considered this six-mile hike to be a real adventure.

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