After descending the hill, the path joins the horse trail for a short while before heading off on its own way. At that intersection the person in front turned to see if the rest of us were in sight, and she saw one of our usual hikers hurrying to catch up. Bonnie brought the number of hikers up to 10.
Andy wanted to show the path to the abandoned and decaying kangaroo bridge but none of us could find it from the west side of the lake. Most of us know how to find it from the hill on the east side of the lake. Just after looking for the old walk I noticed a blue heron flying away from us. That is the only time this year that I have seen the heron on Lake La Grange.
At Russ’ bench we took a brief stop for water. We then headed on around the lake with nothing else unusual to report. We arrived back at the parking lot at exactly 5 p.m. There was still plenty of light for hiking.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: On this cold but sunny fall day 15 short-hikers were ready for a challenge. Jake proposed an intimidating section of the Nordic blue ski trail called “The Alps.” We reassembled at the Nordic trailhead and set out on the purple Trail. There were still a few tiny patches of snow and ice and the frost on the grass sparkled in the sun. Several of us admitted that we were at that point in the season change where we had to relearn what to wear in order to be comfortable in colder conditions. Hands are especially vulnerable and heavy gloves (or mittens) over liner gloves were a good choice today, but adding a hand-warmer packet would help in colder temperatures or wind.
We continued on the purple trail, wide and flat at this point. Reaching the intersection with the blue trail, we took it. It was not flat. It went downhill. A lot. Then up. Over and over. These were nice big hills and Don H., an excellent cross-country skier, provided a running commentary on the joys and dangers of this trail. The contrast between bright sunlight and shadowy woods — plus the steep and rocky unfamiliar trail — had many of us looking down much of the time, missing some of the beauty of this terrain but avoiding slips and falls. The view from a hilltop revealed the trail climbing up three or four or more steep hills, then curving out of sight. It was exciting, challenging and energizing. We finally left The Alps about a mile later to reconnect with the green trail for the return journey.
Now we were back in familiar territory again and took a short break. We continued on the green trail and merged with the red trail. Conversations flowed — holiday plans, food, upcoming vacations and more. We reached the trailhead much earlier than usual; the hikers with GPS devices agreed that today’s hike was a very short 2.66 miles. Jake said that he didn’t want to wear us out. Still, it was a great new hike for this group and we look forward to doing it again.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Today’s hike began with seasonably chilly weather, bright sunshine and no wind. At the request of leader Andy, 19 long-hikers drove or carpooled to Oleson Cabin off Duffin Road to commence the activities for the day. The hikers included several new to the group or returning after long absences. All were dressed for the cold weather. But shortly after the hike began, gloves and layers of clothing came off.
The catalyst for these actions was the fast pace of the first mile or so of hiking on the horse trail and the climb up Bald Bluff. Then it was time for snacks.
We walked down the back of the bluff via the Ice Age Trail to the horse trail, crossed Bluff Road, and continued on to the Blue Spring Lake segment of the IAT. Hikers were heard to marvel at how this section, as well as others on the IAT, had been so nicely cleared of invasive plants and trees, leaving mainly white pines rising above a soft carpet of shed pine needles. The dark tree trunks dominated the shades of the landscape in the woods but diehard oak leaves tenaciously clung to their branches and stands of white birch provided interesting contrast. All of this contributed to the hiking experience we all enjoyed.
Keeping to horse trails and the IAT, the time passed quickly and soon we returned to the IAT for our return to the place of commencement. Hikers gathered around a trail sign and some asked where we were. But when their vision was directed slightly to the right, they could see the cabin in the distance. Although at least one hiker had recorded a greater distance, the consensus was 6.5 miles. On this cool and windless day it seemed that we could have hiked several miles longer.
Most of the hikers were heard to say that they enjoyed the hike over varied surfaces, rocky and flat. Although some left the group for personal errands and activities, most regrouped for lunch at La Grange General Store, our usual haunt for post-hike refreshment.