We all used either a mosquito net or insect repellent. This evening that was not nearly enough. We walked at a brisk pace and did not stop anywhere along the way. I did stop at one particularly tall seed head of big bluestem grass. I stood next to the grass and put my hand into the air and discovered that the seed head was well above the top of my hand; it was probably over 8 feet tall.
The remainder of the hike was a constant battle with the mosquitoes. At one time I noticed more than 20 of them on the back of Chuck’s shirt and someone said I also had a lot of them on the back of my shirt. I did not get any relief until I got into my truck and put the air conditioner on full blast. This was the worst mosquito problem of the year so far. As soon as the weather gets cool the problem will subside.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: It was obvious to some that something was afoot in the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age Trail parking lot as we gathered for the Wednesday morning hikes. One hiker after another disappeared briefly behind the kiosk and came out smiling. No, drugs were not involved; they were signing a birthday card for hiker Doris and being invited to a surprise party in her honor at lunch. With a great show of nonchalance, we all departed to hike the Nordic Trails.
Leader Jake selected the 3.25-mile white trail, well-drained and featuring a variety of terrain. Off we went, 11 hikers and one dog. The vegetation around us was wet, but no rain was expected until later in the day. Sumac was coloring up nicely. We saw tiny white asters and some goldenrod still in bloom along the trail, and poke weed was sporting its fuchsia, lime green and purple fall colors. Mushrooms and fungi in a variety of shapes and colors appeared along the trail, including puffballs that released clouds of spores when squeezed. The sun peeked out from the clouds from time to time, and the mosquitoes were in a feeding frenzy at all times — though we all were prepared for the onslaught, they were still annoying!
As there wasn’t a lot to see today, this became a very conversational hike. By the time we finished, it seemed that everyone had walked and talked with everyone else at some point. Most of the group went on to lunch at the La Grange Country Store as planned, with Doris none the wiser until her neighbor appeared with her favorite cake. Two more neighbors arrived and the long-hikers began to trickle in. We vacated the tables for them, and the surprise party — phase two — continued. This had been a nice relaxing hike and great fun surprising Doris with a cake, her neighbors, and everyone’s best wishes on her birthday.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: We were hoping that today would mark the end of the scourge of mosquitoes that have plagued the hikers recently. The clouds were heavy though no rain was to fall on our trails and the temperatures were cooler. No luck! The little buggers were feisty as ever as 13 long-hikers regrouped at Nordic Ski Trails. Many had sprayed repellent and others had head nets.
Short-hikers joined us at this venue today, but whereas they turned right to hike the white trail, we headed left to hike the blue trail. Leader Andy set a nice pace and we were soon around the large loop and passing the tall stacks of pine logs harvested this summer. We finished the loop and were 2-1/2 miles in before taking a break for water. We did not stay long before continuing on the blue until it merged with the green trail. Jo quickly passed out fresh, sweet grapes before we continued on our way.
We did stop once more to admire an interesting blue mushroom. It may have been a Lactarius Indigo, an edible mushroom that bleeds a milky sap. None of the hikers were brave enough to taste it.
Back at the parking lot, the consensus distance was six miles. We completed the distance in a rather quick time of 2 hours 15 minutes. Considering the hilly terrain, all felt we had done well on this enjoyable hike.
Most hikers regrouped at La Grange General Store to continue celebrating the birthday of hiker Doris.