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Thursday, 03 January 2019 09:28

Good weather, beautiful views highlight holiday hikes

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
Don Brockman (Lake Geneva) and the hikers on the Clover Valley Bridge built by Ice Age Trail volunteers Don Brockman (Lake Geneva) and the hikers on the Clover Valley Bridge built by Ice Age Trail volunteers Photo by Ellen Davis
The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: This week’s hike was on Christmas Day. Yes, we hike every week of the year. This hike was to be at Natureland County Park just south of Whitewater Lake. I went directly to Natureland as Andy had volunteered to meet anyone going to the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place. I anticipated that there would be about four hikers. When we started there were 17 hikers.

We crossed Territorial Road to hike the southern section. We went in a clockwise direction and took the first path up the hill. The hills on this section of Natureland are the steepest of any hills we ever hike. We do have higher hills but none as steep. About halfway around this first loop I saw Jerome coming to meet us. He had arrived at the starting point just a half minute late and we had already started our hike. We now had 18 hikers.

After descending the hill at the far end of the loop, we took a short level path and then climbed the hill on the other side. By the time we got back to the parking lot it was time to use flashlights or head lamps.

Just over half of the hikers had had enough exercise by this point, but I led the rest on the loop through the prairie. Lights were definitely needed on this part of the hike. I used a flashlight and it was interesting to see dark places coming up that looked like water or mud to become just frozen earth when the light illuminated them. It was a special hike. On New Year’s Day we will again hike the Natureland trails.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: This was truly a great day for a hike. The temperature was in the 40s with sun and calm winds. Today’s plan was to drive to Rice Lake to hike the Ice Age Trail to the Clover Valley Bridge, then retrace our steps but continue on the IAT to the Rice Lake overlook before returning to our starting point. Our 11 hikers agreed with enthusiasm.

The hikers located the Rice Lake parking area with no difficulties. We followed Jake down the road, turning off at a picnic area. He led us down a steep little hill and across a wooden bridge over the narrow mouth of the lagoon on the nature trail. We passed the wildlife viewing platform and continued around the edge of the lagoon, devoid of its usual population of egrets, herons and turtles. Soon a blue-tagged connector trail led us upward, across Kettle Moraine Drive, and into a recently thinned pine woods.

We soon connected with the IAT and followed it up, down and around, through a hardwood forest, another pine woods and finally across a clear stream on a scenic wooden bridge.

The return trip seemed to be entirely uphill. Areas where wildflowers bloom in the spring were deep in brown leaves, and malicious rocks lurked in unexpected places. We persevered. Back at the intersection, we proceeded across Hi-Lo Road, through a scrubby woodland and past the campground. The railroad-tie stairs appeared, curving upward and out of sight. Up we went. The view from the summit was worth it: Rice Lake with Whitewater Lake visible behind it, against a backdrop of glacier-formed hills. When our heart rates returned to normal, we carefully descended that primitive staircase.

As we reached the intersection, Jake turned left to continue around the lagoon on the nature trail. We reached the parking area warm, happy and ready for lunch, having covered about 3.5 miles.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Today’s hikers were treated to exceptional weather with temperatures close to 40 degrees under sunny skies. The hike involved no relocation and the 22 participants needed to only cross U.S. 12 to the Whitewater Lake Segment trailhead.

Once safely across the busy road, we headed up the IAT using the “stairs” built into the trail and soon we were high above the parking area and into the woods. We hiked in single file with the leaders stepping out to a brisk pace, causing the rest of us to be quite spread out behind. But there was a short rest stop just before the power lines and all caught up.

We stopped again briefly at Norwin’s Rock to show some hikers, new to this trail, the nice memorial. Soon we entered the area of the service road where we could hike abreast until Esterly Road, where we again stopped briefly for a water break. Continuing on to County Highway P, hikers enjoyed the beauty of the pine trees along both sides of the trail and the softness of the dried pine needles on the forest floor. Those who had not hiked this segment for some time were impressed by the work done to clean out invasive plants and trees. Absent these plants and the leaves on most trees, we could see to the bottom of the kettles of either side of the trail. Soon we were across County P and into the most difficult part of today’s walk, which was the climb up to the overlook where we could see Rice Lake and Whitewater Lake in the near distance.

At the overlook, refreshments were served. Then we started back, this time using the horse trail rather than the IAT. Once back at U.S. 12, we found that we had logged a distance of seven miles.

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