I headed out to go around the lake in the normal clockwise direction, but two hikers did not want to tackle the hill, which had some mud and large steps to negotiate. We met them coming the other way and they joined the rest of the group, even though it meant retracing their steps.
At this time of year it is still too early to see any wildflowers, but the ice on the lake was nowhere to be seen, giving me hope that spring was coming. While we did not hurry, we did walk at a good pace and got back to the parking lot just after 5 p.m.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The sun was out, the sky was blue and the temperature was not too hot and not too cold — a perfect day for a hike. Apparently some other people thought so too, as three hikers were joining us for the first time today — bringing our total to 18. Jake proposed a three-plus mile hike on the Ice Age Trail northward from the Oleson Cabin on Duffin Road, crossing Bluff Road and County Highway H to intersect with and return on the horse trail.
We reassembled at the split-rail fence that marks the edge of the property, then took the mowed trail through a small prairie, past the cabin, and down the hill to connect with the IAT where it entered the woods. The trail here was narrow, forming a twisting course through the trees. Much of the underbrush in some areas had been cleared, opening the woods not just to more sunlight but also to some natural features that we had never been able to see before. As we topped a small hill we saw — for the first time — a tiny kettle pond in a hollow below.
Soon we were out of the hardwoods and into the pines. Last summer’s logging also had opened up this area to the light; healthy green ferns, mosses, and small plants were emerging. We crossed Bluff Road. Soon we crossed County H and faced “Aheckofa Hill” — one of the steepest climbs in the Southern Kettle Moraine. Our newer hikers went blithely upward. The rest of us gathered our strength and took a more leisurely pace. The trail then wound through a hilly oak savannah before meeting the horse trail. Jake re-assembled our group at the intersection, then started downhill on the horse trail for the return trip.
This trail was wide and the terrain significantly flatter. We passed through more hardwoods and past a pair of small farm fields. A group in the middle came to a sudden stop to look at something off the trail in a ravine. One of our new hikers had spotted an old dumping place for ancient appliances, defunct farm equipment and broken household goods of perhaps 1960s vintage. But nobody wanted to explore further, so onward we went.
At last the large meadow came into view, and the end of the hike was almost in sight. We walked up the hill to the cabin, read the informative plaque, and wondered what it would be like for two adults and nine children to live in a space that small and remote. This had been an almost-perfect hike on a beautiful spring day. Eight of us regrouped at the La Grange General Store for soup, sandwiches and more conversation.
The Wednesday long hike by Marvin Herman: All the ice is gone from the trails we hike and the mud is sufficiently dried up so that we can consider our hike to be a spring hike. Nevertheless, many of the 20 long-hikers were wearing jackets and gloves. Today’s hike started at Horse Riders Park and Campground in Palmyra. From the campground, we briefly accessed Blue Spring segment of the IAT and then we climbed to the bike trail using what I call the “magic stairs,” a tiered trail cut into a hillside. Once on the bike trail, we followed it in the direction of John Muir trails until we reached the overlook where we stopped to admire the scenery and have a quick drink.
We carried on along the connector trail for bikes, walking in the opposite direction of bike traffic. We did not see even a single bike during our hike. We then walked back toward the Emma Carlin trail on the reverse connector trail until we reached Tamarack Road. We crossed that road and got back on the IAT. Prior to that, we had stopped for a refreshment break of cranberries, grapes, chocolate and nuts and all were energized to complete the hike.
We hiked the IAT then toward the Emma Carlin trails until we reached the horse riders camp and took the short trail into the parking area. The consensus distance was at least six miles.
This was a wonderful walk over rocky and hilly terrain, the latter part, past Tamarack Road, on trails that we don’t usually hike except on Trails Day each June. All reported that they enjoyed the hike and especially the mild weather. Most hikers regrouped for lunch and conversation at La Grange General Store.