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Thursday, 07 March 2019 09:03

Despite slick trails, hikers enjoy sunshine and frosty winter beauty

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
In the front, Bob Nold of Burlington and Bernie Igl of Elkhorn and in the back, Don Howell of  Burlington and Don Brockman of Lake Geneva, hike a snowmobile trail on a sunny winter day. In the front, Bob Nold of Burlington and Bernie Igl of Elkhorn and in the back, Don Howell of Burlington and Don Brockman of Lake Geneva, hike a snowmobile trail on a sunny winter day. Ellen Davis photo
The Tuesday hike report by Andy Whitney: On my way to the Ice Age Trail trailhead on U.S. Highway 12, it was snowing big flakes. I was thinking that the snow would keep hikers from coming out, however we are a hardy group and three hikers showed up for a 2.8-mile hike around Lake La Grange. We discussed wearing snowshoes or ice cleats, settled on ice cleats, and started out around the lake.
The snow had stopped and it was not too cold. We walked clockwise around the lake, starting out by taking the snowmobile trail to avoid the slippery steps of the Ice Age trail. The snowmobile trail was icy, and we were glad we had our ice cleats on. When we turned onto the Ice Age Trail, it was a little rough from the footprints in the snow.

I took a selfie of the four of us when we arrived at Russ’ bench, using the lake for the background. The rest of the hike was very pleasant with good conversation — so good that when we got to the parking lot, we stood around for a few more minutes to talk.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Last night’s dreaded ice storm never quite materialized in our area, leaving just a half inch of snow topped with a delicate frozen crust. The sky was bright, the temperature in the low 20s, and the wind minimal. By 10:30, six short-hikers (equipped with ice cleats) and one dog were ready to go.

We headed up the Ice Age Trail behind the kiosk. It was a challenge because frozen footprints of varying depths created a dangerously uneven and slippery surface. We stopped at the horse trail, reconsidered our options and opted for the snowmobile trails instead, passing through the upper parking lot and down to the access road. A grooming machine had been at work here. The snow was compacted and easier to walk on — our footprints were hardly visible. And the deepest frozen prints had been somewhat compressed and leveled too.

This was turning out to be a very nice hike. We were the only creatures moving in the woods, our voices the only sounds. At the first intersection we turned left; the groomed trail went to the right. It was a bit harder hiking now, but this section of trail paralleling the lake was still in good condition for this time of year. We decided to take the third snowmobile trail, but managed to miss it and arrived at the Ice Age Trail intersection instead, in spite of having a map. That was not a bad thing, as we could take the IAT up the never-ending hill and eventually cut through to the snowmobile trail that we had wanted in the first place. After a short break, we started up the hill.
It was tough going. This section of trail had not seen much use, and showed only two sets of half-drifted-over footprints. We stayed in the old footprints as much as possible, and, with several brief rest stops, made it to the top and finally onto the horse trail. We were rewarded with fresh orange sections (from Bernie) and another nice break before heading back.

At the second intersection there was some confusion as to where exactly we were relative to Sherwood Forest Road. We knew from the start that this would be more of a play-it-by-ear adventure than usual. Choices were offered at intersections and the majority chose which way to go. It worked out well. Don B wanted to simply head back toward the lake, so we did, choosing the longer way back to the trailhead. The sun was out; we were comfortably warm and not too tired in spite of all the hills.

Our group had turned out to be compatible as well as conversational. We reached the trailhead at 12:17 p.m., warm and happy, and estimated that we had hiked at least three miles — or perhaps three and a quarter. We went our separate ways very well-satisfied with today’s adventure.

The Wednesday long hike report by Barbara Roeder: The dozen long-hikers reconvened at the first parking lot at Rice Lake for this week’s hike of more than 5.5 miles. Even the skiers joined us as the ski trails were too icy.

We began the hike on the Nature Trail that follows the edge of a pond. After crossing Kettle Moraine Drive, we took the snowmobile trail to Esterly Road, crossing HiLo Road in between. The snowmobile trail proved to be a good choice even though there was a layer of ice under the snow. However, we were prepared for these conditions and everyone wore their grips over their hiking boots. In spite of the precaution, one hiker did slip and slide, ending on her posterior on a steep downgrade —fortunately, no harm done.

The sun was shining on the way out and hoarfrost could be seen on some of the trees, making for a beautiful hiking day. The remnants of the foresters was very evident with lots of pine cones peppering the trail.

We turned around at Esterly Road, retracing our steps. We always comment on how different the trail looks going in the opposite direction. We took a side hike along the Ice Age Trail to the bridge that crosses Whitewater Creek. It was flowing merrily along but no fish were seen. We did see a tree covered with snow that resembled a very convincing stick man.

Once again we retraced our steps back to the snowmobile trail, crossed Kettle Moraine Drive and took the Nature Trail on the opposite side of the pond from where we had started.

Most everyone met at the La Grange General Store for soup or a sandwich and a lively discussion “solving all the world’s problems.”

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