The sky grew dark and threatening, but no snow fell.
Ellen Davis photo
The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: This Tuesday evening there was a hazard warning out for high winds. I got to the parking lot on U.S. Highway 12 early to check out the footing on the hill. The ground was a little soft and what hikers call greasy. It became obvious that we should take a different route this evening.
Eight regular hikers showed up for our hike and we started out on the connector trail as if we were going to go around the lake in a counterclockwise direction. When we got to the Ice Age Trail, we turned right. That decision kept us in the woods and offered some protection from the wind.
After climbing the hill that seems to go forever we arrived at the first cut-off point. We took the cut-off so we could get back before dark. We soon got on the horse/snowmobile trail and returned to the parking lot.
We arrived back at the parking lot at 5:02 and we did not need any of our flashlights or head lamps. The evenings are quickly gaining additional daylight, so in a few more weeks we will be able to start taking different trails or slightly longer hikes.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The question of where to hike this chilly morning was easily resolved: the heavily wooded Nordic Ski Trails on County Highway H ought to be relatively wind-free. Eleven short-hikers departed our extremely windy meeting place, re-assembled in the Nordic Trails picnic area and set off on the white trail. It was not quite as windless as we had hoped, but it was relatively ice-free.
The trail meandered through the woods, up and down easy grades and past a meadow. As we neared the pine woods, we could hear the growling and crunching of heavy machinery grinding up the underbrush prior to cutting the red-marked trees.
With a ninety-degree bend to the right, we were once more in a hardwood forest on a gentle plateau with a drop-off on the left. Our trail soon merged with the blue trail and we were once again enjoying a more dramatic topography. It grew even more so as we traveled down a long hill, along a valley, and finally up again. We arrived at last at another plateau where the wind blew free. Our hikers were quite spread out in small conversational groups by this time, and we waited at a bench until they all rejoined the group.
The trail soon turned right, and we were now in the hills on one of the most scenic sections of the challenging blue ski trail. No wind here — just twists and turns as the trail rose and dropped and we hiked and talked.
The hills eventually grew smaller and we found ourselves in another opened-up pine woods. We could see County H through the tree trunks as we headed south. The sky had turned gray and hazy, with the sun barely visible through lurking dark clouds. The trail soon took us away from the highway, making a large loop that finally closely paralleled the road again, this time heading north. (A few of us pinpointed the location of last winter’s giant puddle and shared some not-so-fond memories of bushwhacking endlessly through the brambles to avoid it.)
At the site of another smaller-but-deeper future puddle, the purple trail merged with the white and blue. It was an easy hike from here. Our hike was 3.25 miles — a good one on the first cold day of the new year. Most of the group went on for soup, sandwiches and still more conversation at the La Grange Country Store.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Anyone who would leave their warm, cozy bed to go out and walk in the woods in 14-degree wind chill with 17 mph winds and 31 mph gusts must be crazy. Right? Well, 19 long-hikers did just that. The skies were gray, the trees bare of leaves and no critters were in evidence as we left the meeting place and traveled to the Emma Carlin Bike Trails in Jefferson County. A sign noted that the bike trails were closed to bikers. This was because recent rains had left the trails muddy. But now, with this deep freeze, the mud had become rutted and frozen.
We started out on the bike trails, which are always a special adventure since they are not well marked. Leader Andy, consulting with Ron N., led us at a brisk pace. Even though we were somewhat protected by the woods, it was still pretty chilly. Hoods were up and scarves covered faces as we hurried along. Soon the group was spread out widely and the leaders stopped to allow the rest of us to catch up. At that point we had gone just about one mile. This “catch-up” process was repeated at three miles and at 3-1/2 miles we had climbed to the beautiful overlook, where all hikers got to wipe their noses, drink their waters and enjoy treats that were passed.
Now, we headed down the hilly trail and the leaders stopped to consult one a trail map. We diverted to a wide emergency road for what seemed like just a couple hundred yards and then we were back on the bike trail. We came to a sign signaling the brown trail. That usually is a color assigned to a short loop, and we took it. In time, it led us back to the parking area and a call was made to Edge of Town Restaurant to let them know that most of us would be arriving for lunch.