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Thursday, 27 June 2019 08:16

Trails lead hikers to plentiful wildflowers and amazing wildlife

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig's Hikes
Blue spiderwort Blue spiderwort Ellen Davis photo
The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: Eleven experienced hikers showed up for our hike on a warm evening. I had been thinking of several trails to hike but considering the heat and reluctance of some (me) to travel very far, we just went around Lake La Grange. At the top of the hill, I noticed that the dogwood was in bloom. When we got to the steps after the first switchback there was a turtle in the trail. We all got a good look and made sure that we did not step on it.
When we got near the lake we could hear the bull frogs singing — or whatever you call the racket they were making. At one point I saw a large patch of crown vetch. I have been watching that patch spread for at least five years. The patch is now more than 50 feet in diameter. The flowers are a pretty pink. It is a legume which means it enriches the soil and it is very invasive.

This evening I decided to go past Russ’ bench, which was in the sun, and stop at the benches on Ruth’s Point. We took a path down by the lake to get to the point only to discover that there is no longer a path along the lake to the point.

When we finally got back to the parking lot, Ed insisted that we all try some of the delicious strawberry cheesecake that he had. It had been a great hike on a warm evening.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: This was yet another drizzly Wednesday. Jake suggested a 2.8-mile hike around Lake La Grange for a change of perspective after many weeks on the Nordic Ski Trails. We readily agreed.

Nineteen short-hikers set out on the access road bordered with daisies, yarrow and hawkweed.

The path was dry enough to be comfortable, though the greenery we hiked through was definitely wet. Wild strawberries and daisy fleabane appeared, then a long stretch of poison ivy and wild grape. We turned left at the first intersection and the access road was now part of the horse trail system. The gigantic puddle was still present, but its reach no longer extended into the brush on both sides of the trail. We squished through the mud along the sides with no issues. Though the drizzle continued on and off, conversations, observations and overall good cheer abounded.

We reached the intersection with the Ice Age Trail and turned left again, passing the cornfield with its young plants looking fine. At the far end a tall-grass area held scores of gangly spiderwort plants topped with brilliant blue three-petal flowers, intermixed with yellow hawkweed, white yarrow and pale purple clover. I got out my camera. It wouldn’t focus far or close or anywhere in between — the Nikon version of a temper tantrum over the humidity.

The hikers passed by and started up a large hill, many pausing to admire the wildflowers. The large hill was topped with a nice prairie featuring all the aforementioned wildflowers plus lead plant, assorted clovers in various colors and sweet-smelling pink wild roses. The lake below was calm and peaceful; we reached Ruth’s Point and noted a pair of fisher-women trying their luck.

Then on through a damp woodland and out into another scenic prairie that extended all the way to the lakeshore. Odd twisted cream-colored leathery shells on the trail turned out to be turtle eggs, dug up and eaten by raccoons or other varmints. Our course now led us closer to the lake, paralleling the shore. The rain started again.

As we reached the marsh, giant cottonwoods sheltered the trail. We opted for the horse trail at that point and discovered that the heel of Julia’s hiking boot had come apart. Katie supplied a velcro band as a temporary fix and on we went up the final hill, pausing only to examine a patch of wild parsnip — a noxious photo-sensitizing plant with sap that can burn skin when exposed to sunlight.

Back on the Ice Age Trail once more, in two minutes we arrived back at the kiosk to find a group of hikers was waiting for us, ready to go to lunch. The rain had stopped. This had been a very good hike indeed!

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Last week I was presented with a book called “Listening to Nature” by Joseph Cornell.

As a preface to one of the chapters is a quote from Luther Burbank: “Folks wonder how I’ve kept so young. I’m almost 77 and I can still go over a gate or run a footrace or kick the chandelier.

“That’s because my body is no older than my mind — and my mind is adolescent. It has never grown up. It never will. I hope I’m as inquisitive as I was at 8.”

On an overcast morning with rain likely during our hike, our leader selected a walk around Lake La Grange to see the flowers that had bloomed after recent rains.

Eleven long-hikers entered the trailhead behind the kiosk and accessed the Ice Age Trail. When we reached the lake, we did see many colorful flowers in bloom along the trail, including a field of spiderwort and many prairie roses. As we walked near the submerged Kangaroo Bridge, frogs could be heard croaking loudly to our left. Also, broken turtle eggs were observed just off the trail, which told us that we should be on the lookout for mother turtles laying eggs. When we reached Ruth’s Point, we were met by a large contingent of short-hikers who were walking counter-clockwise and we exchanged smiles and greetings.

At the map post, we continued on the IAT toward Duffin Road and at the 3.6-mile point in our hike, we took a right turn into the woods for a bush-whack of about 50 yards to the horse trail. There we paused for refreshments of fresh pineapple, trail mix and other treats furnished by the hikers.

We followed the horse trail back toward the U.S. 12 parking area through muddy areas. We departed the horse trail for the familiar subdivision road leading to Sherwood Forest Road.

At the foot of the berm near the roadside, we saw a large turtle in the process of laying her eggs, about half the size of ping-pong balls, into a deep depression in the ground beneath her. Each time she lifted her back leg, an egg was deposited. Suffice to say, this was an interesting observation for those of us who had never witnessed this miracle of life.

At the end of the hike, the consensus distance was 6.2 miles. Many of the hikers regrouped at La Grange General Store for good food and further conversation.

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