The Ice Age Trail in this section has some serious hills and lots of rocks and roots. Everyone had to keep a close watch on the footing. As we progressed there were more hepatica in bloom. When we got to the power lines, I offered a half-mile shortcut to anyone who wanted it. One hiker took the shortcut with me and the rest went with Andy to Esterly Road. The two of us followed the trail by the power lines till it intersected the horse trail and then came back on the horse trail.
The view of the terrain in the woods is good this time of year. As soon as the leaves come out, you cannot see much because of the undergrowth. The two of us arrived back at the parking lot about two minutes before the rest of the group got there. Andy told me that we had cut out almost three-quarters of a mile.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Today was the day our two hikes would be somewhat rearranged to participate in a surprise birthday celebration for one of our loyal long-time hikers and volunteers, Dave Nowak. Both hikes would take place at the Nordic Trails, the short hike to end at 12:30 p.m. and the long hike around 1 p.m. Wife Mariette would create a reason to lure Dave into the shelter house where he would (hopefully) be surprised by the arrival of the hikers — and a huge chocolatey birthday cake.
We assembled as usual at the U.S. 12 IAT crossing, added more signatures and best wishes to the birthday cards, and waited. Although the weather was iffy, we had hoped for more hikers to show up. At 10:30 a.m. we left for the Nordic Trails, where we discovered that many of our group had skipped meeting at U.S. 12 and had come directly to the Nordic trailhead instead. Jake collected 13 short-hikers and set off on the blue trail heading north.
Cold and gray as it was, this was still a great day for a hike. The trail was firm and dry, buds were swelling on the bushes and mosquitoes had yet to make an appearance. We climbed the hills, appreciative of the ever-changing terrain. As we crossed the plateau, a triangular stand of aspens stood out above the tan prairie grasses, whitish against a background of brown trees and olive green bushes. Jake motioned us to the left, onto the first blue loop. After a peaceful downhill journey through the hardwoods, we reached the pines. They had been thinned within the past year, and the new openness of this area — previously crowded with trees, low-hanging branches and under-story plants — felt a bit strange.
On completion of the loop, we were once more at the signpost on the plateau. Jake looked at his watch and chose the orange trail. Down the hill and up the next to the red trail. Jake checked his watch again and again chose the orange. We were happy; it’s a beautiful scenic trail. We stopped briefly at a bench overlooking the pond at the bottom of a deep kettle, then continued on our way. A few minutes later we heard voices and saw the long-hikers approaching from the opposite direction. Greetings were exchanged, and both groups moved on.
Jake checked his watch again and was pleased, predicting our arrival at the shelter house very close to 12:30. We completed the hike without getting rained on, despite the weather forecast. Stashing our gear in our cars, we entered the shelter house. Dave had probably seen our arrival through the windows, but generously allowed himself to be surprised anyway. The cake was huge, rich and delicious, the cards and good wishes heartwarming. With the well-timed arrival of the long-hikers, most of our group headed for home. This had been a laid-back and relaxing 3.5-mile hike followed by special time spent with one of our most knowledgeable — and favorite — hikers.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: After a promising advance toward spring, today Mother Nature lurched back toward winter with near-freezing temperatures and forecasts of snow later in the day. The long-hikers were undaunted. Ten hikers participated in the official long hike commencing at Nordic Ski Trails. Several more of the folks who usually hike with us wanted a shorter program today and did a separate walk. Today was the 84th birthday of longtime hiker and trail maintainer Dave Nowak. His wife, Mariette, threw him a party at the Nordic Shelter with a big chocolate birthday cake and most of us were on hand to wish Dave a happy day after our hike.
We started on the blue-white trail in reverse direction to that which the skiers would travel if there had been sufficient snow. At the convergence of that trail, we turned right and entered the gateway to the Alps, which is what we call the extremely hilly portion of the blue trail. Someone suggested that we stop for a snack there but we decided to wait until after the last hill was climbed and we joined the green trail. All the hikers, even though they were spread out over a quarter mile, made the Alpine trek in good shape. At the green trail, we enjoyed a snack and water. The consensus was that we should head back to the shelter via the green trail and not prolong the hike so as not to miss the birthday. We met the short-hikers coming up that section and each group headed their own way.
Back at the parking area, we found that we had hiked a brisk 5.7 miles. We joined the party and consumed a good deal of the cake before we left. All had enjoyed the fine hiking day. On the way home, the snow fell more heavily but there was almost no accumulation.