Jo Staedter of Elkhorn smiles as she makes her way through the long grasses of the Ice Age Trail.
Andy Whitney photo
The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: Eleven hikers showed up for our Tuesday hike. We headed across U.S. Highway 12 to walk the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road. At Esterly Road we took a break for water. Even the two dogs got water.
We returned to the parking lot using the horse trail. There were quite a few tall weeds and tall grass on the horse trail but that route is about half a mile shorter than the Ice Age Trail. Fall flowers are now in bloom but this hike was in the woods without an abundance of flowers. It was a nice hike on a muggy summer day.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Although rain had been forecast for this morning, the predicted time of the onslaught had been moved back. It seemed that some hikers were not aware of this change, as our short-hike group numbered only nine brave souls. Well equipped with anti-tick and mosquito potions and water, we reassembled on Duffin Road, near the Oleson pioneer cabin.
We took the connector trail past the historic cabin, knowing that there would be plenty of time to examine it on the way back. At the bottom of the hill we took the Ice Age Trail northward through the woods. Mushrooms and fungi in many colors and shapes abounded; none of us recognized any as edible. The kettle pond glinted through the trees as we passed and soon we entered another pine “plantation” that had been thinned out earlier this year. It was bright and airy with so many of the trees gone, and the forest floor was beginning to come back to life with a few new green leaves and ferns.
At Bluff Road it is easy for a tired hiker to walk down the road to the left and return to the starting point via the wider, smoother horse trail. However, we crossed the road and went on, through another woodland and another pine “plantation.”
At County Highway H, Jake called for a water break in preparation for a steep climb ahead. Looking across the road, all we could see was the trail disappearing into bushes. Once through the bushes, the trail angled upward. We climbed. Looking ahead, the hikers in front of me were heading left, those higher up headed right, and those at the front were going to the left at a steep angle as the trail zig-zagged up.
We reached the summit, some more winded than others. This area is oak savannah — lightly wooded but open, with large oaks protecting intermittent areas of wildflowers. It was a nice change from the denser hardwood forests more common in this area and offered a welcome breeze at the top.
We soon left the Ice Age Trail for the horse trail, traveling almost straight downhill, then back across County H and Bluff Road. Conversations abounded and snacks were shared. When we reached the cabin, four of us stopped to examine it and speculate on how 11 people could live in such a small space. Times certainly have changed!
We went our separate ways, some to lunch, others to errands or back home. We had traveled a bit over 3.5 miles.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Sixteen long-hikers endured a hot, humid and hilly walk starting at the Emma Carlin Trails off County Highway Z in Jefferson County. We started with a road walk on County Z of at least a half mile to the horse trail.
Though no actual horses were seen this day, piles of evidence on the trail signified that they had been there recently. We walked some miles on the purple-blazed horse trail over sandy and lumpy surfaces and over substantial hills until we reached Horse Riders Park near Palmyra. There, we refilled our water bottles and picked purple wild plums from the bushes near the picnic benches. The plums were ripe and sweet.
We left Horse Riders via the Ice Age Trail with its hills and stumps and carried on that path until we reached the exit trail for the Emma Carlin parking area. During this portion of the hike, two deer were seen by some hikers through the vegetation. Flying insects intensified their attack around my head and after being stung above my eye, I put on my head net. Two plants of interest were seen on the trail. One was dotted mint, which we sniffed and tasted. The other was prickly ash, which is a citrus plant and smells lemony. In the area of these plants we saw some monarch butterflies and also giant swallowtails. Theresa explained how the giant swallowtails lay their eggs on citrus plants, including prickly ash.
At the end of the hike, various measurement devices settled on a distance of near seven miles for today’s rather strenuous hike.