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Thursday, 04 April 2019 10:17

Hikers side-step ice to spot cranes, observe nature along the trails

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes
Glen Stoll of Burlington passes a cattail-filled kettle marsh on a hike at Lulu Lake. Glen Stoll of Burlington passes a cattail-filled kettle marsh on a hike at Lulu Lake. Ellen Davis photo

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: On a sunny spring evening 13 people showed up for our hike. I had talked with Nancy earlier in the day and she suggested going counterclockwise instead of our usual clockwise trip around Lake La Grange.

At 4 p.m. we set off down the snowmobile trail. This part of the trail is mostly gravel and was easy walking. Unlike last week there was very little ice or snow to be seen, other than the lake, which was still covered in ice.

After the intersection with the Ice Age Trail we got to the path around the cornfield, and that was very muddy for about 50 yards. The rest of the trail was in either fair or good shape.

We did stop at the new benches while Andy took a picture. As we headed up the path, the prairie section is still just brown with no signs of spring, even though the air felt like spring. At the hill we took the IAT up with its big steps. There was some mud on that part of the trail but it was not too bad. We got back to the parking lot just after 5 p.m., so it had been a great hike.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: In celebration of warmer weather and the return of the sandhill cranes, the plan for today’s hike featured a choice of an excursion to Lulu Lake or a shorter hike around Lake La Grange. Twelve of us, supplied with photocopied maps of the route, piled into four cars and headed off down U.S. Highway 12, while Ruth and her group of seven adults and three children started off on the IAT around little Lake La Grange.

Our group finally reassembled in the tiny Lulu Lake parking lot, where Mariette (our local bird and nature goddess) joined us. The first stop was the old railroad bed leading through the marsh. We hiked until we could see well in both directions; soon we were spotted by a pair of cranes that loudly sounded the alarm from back in the reeds. Other cranes appeared and disappeared in the cattails, well camouflaged by their coloring. More squawking ensued. Still more pairs were spotted flying overhead. It was delightfully noisy!

We left the large marsh for the trail, passing through wetlands, an oak savannah and finally a grassy area near the lake. We still could see and hear occasional cranes in the distance. At the lake we saw two dozen assorted ducks paddling and a variety of sparrows in the nearby bushes.

Backtracking a bit, we took the trail up a long hill beside another small marshy area, reconnecting with the old railroad bed at the top. A sharp left turn led us along the old rail line to a high point overlooking the meandering Mukwonago River. Retracing our steps back down, we took the main trail to and across this busy stream then back up to the continuation of the railroad-bed trail.

We hiked until this trail grew narrow and brushy, then retraced our steps over the bridge and back to the main trail — which we soon left in favor of an access road running through the woods. After a short pause to examine the remains of a possum skull, we arrived back at the trailhead. Most of the group stopped to read the informative signage about Lulu Lake, a Nature Conservancy property. This was an unusual outing for us — a nature hike in the beginning, with some good exercise on the railroad-bed at the end. Would we do it again? Definitely!
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Shredded pine cones at the base of a tree. A big tuft of white fur off to the side of the trail. Huge criss-cross trees lying at the bottom of a kettle like humongous pick-up-sticks. These are some of the mysteries encountered by the 16 long-hikers who departed the U.S. 12 meeting place to regroup at Scuppernong Ski Trails to hike these wide trails.

We started on the green blazed trail. This is where we found the white fur believed to be part of a deer tail. It was respectfully hung from a twig. Although there were large swaths of ice encountered as we walked along and no one had ice grippers, we were able to avoid the ice by keeping to the sides of the trail. I would estimate that this part was 85 percent ice free. We followed this for about three miles until we found ourselves at an intersection of the IAT, Scuppernong Segment. There we stopped for a refreshment break. We turned left on the IAT, hoping that this was the correct direction; Ron assured us it was.

On either side of the trail, we could see huge trees that had fallen lying upon each other as if giants were playing a game. On the IAT there was a greater percentage of ice and soft snow, mostly on the many uphill portions. All were able to avoid potential disaster by stepping off the trail and onto leaves and other debris to get good footing.

As we got to within a half-mile of the parking area, some hikers noticed shredded pine cones seemingly pushed with care up to the base of a tall pine tree. No one had an answer for this phenomenon. Based on an internet search, I can report that the only mammal that eats large amounts of pine cones is Sasquatch!

Although the patches of tricky ice on the IAT made for an adventurous outing, all enjoyed the hike, which was about six miles. Most of the hikers adjourned to Sunny Side Up Restaurant in Dousman for lunch and more conversation.

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