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Thursday, 04 October 2018 09:57

Hikers conquer the hills and marvel at the fungi on fall treks

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig's Hikes
Short hike leader Jake Gerlach of  Whitewater plans to cook this large puffball mushroom for dinner. Short hike leader Jake Gerlach of Whitewater plans to cook this large puffball mushroom for dinner. Ellen Davis photo
The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: When I showed up for the Tuesday hike, I checked the radar and found a line of storms was approaching. In spite the weather, eight stalwart hikers showed up. Of course we did not want to travel so it was another hike around Lake La Grange. This time I elected to travel counterclockwise. I thought any really bad weather would hit fairly quickly and I know a lot of ways to shorten the hike going in that direction. At 4 p.m. we started out just as the rain began. It quickly turned into a light steady rain.

We walked at a relatively quick pace. No one wanted to stand around in the rain, so we did not take any breaks. When we finally got to the big hill, everyone wanted to just go up on the horse trail instead of the longer but less steep Ice Age Trail. Aided by that small shortcut we finished the hike in just under an hour.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The weather was perfect for an early fall hike — cool, sunny, and breezy — and the trails at Bald Bluff were beckoning. We stuffed our 16 hikers into as few cars as possible and set out for County Highway H. Jake asked for a vote on whether to hike the big hill at the beginning or the end of the hike. The majority of the group wanted the hardest climb at the beginning.

We started up the slope on the connector trail. After passing the huge glacial erratic we turned left on the Ice Age Trail to work our way upward on an uneven, rocky surface. Once on top, though, the view was worth it!

Breathing restored to normal, we started down the back side of the bluff, the dramatic height providing an interesting overview of the shape of the land around us. Abandoning the IAT for the horse trail at the next intersection, we could now walk side-by-side for easier conversation. A number of colorful fungi had been noted along the way, but here we found two lovely large fresh puffballs, one of which would be just right to cook for dinner. Leaving the larger one, Jake coddled the head-sized round white mushroom for the rest of the hike.

Soon we were in sand as the trail left the woodlands and bordered a prairie. More fungi appeared — this time odd little dehydrated puffballs called “earth stars” and clusters of poisonous-looking large yellow toadstools. We took a short break at Young Road, where Jake’s puffball was duly examined and recipes exchanged. Then onward, across the road and into the woods. This gave way to another small prairie with a variety of golden fall grasses, then led us to the IAT.

Almost immediately the trail climbed again to parallel County H. There were asters here, plus the berries from earlier blooms of carrion vine, Solomon’s seal and false Solomon’s Seal. Minutes later we recrossed Young Road and soon arrived back at our starting point. We had hiked about 3.5 miles. The hikers agreed this had been one of our best and most varied hikes of the season.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: The long-hikers were greeted by a crisp and sunny fall morning. Sixteen hikers traveled about 20 miles north to the Scuppernong Ski Trails.

We started up the steep, wide and heavily wooded green trail. Hikers observed many mushrooms of various types. After a brief meeting at a map box, we followed the trail we were on into the orange trail and soon we were at an overlook below which was a deep kettle now obscured by foliage. This was at about the 3.5-mile mark. Judy H. brought out some trail mix and Jo offered some sweet cantaloupe which was devoured.

We then found the connection to the IAT and headed down into the kettle and then, via a series of switchbacks, back up to higher ground. Most hikers used at least one hiking pole to help with balance in descending the steep, stony trail. Soon, we reached the cutoff for the parking lot. The IAT would continue on south without us. We had hiked a total of six miles. All hikers I spoke to said this was one of their favorite hikes of the year. Most regrouped at Sunny Side Up Restaurant in Dousman for lunch and conversation about future hikes and activities.

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