Ellen Davis photo Prairie sunflowers guard the entrance to the dark pine woods.
The Tuesday hike report by Marvin Herman: As the time drew near to depart for today’s hike, all eyes were fixed on the western sky, watching the storm clouds rolling in. That was a total of 18 eyes. While we were on storm watch, it was decided that we would walk counterclockwise around Lake LaGrange so that in the event of a deluge, we could shorten the hike by dashing up the big hill instead of dealing with the slippery, rocky uphill at the end.
Much discussion ensued concerning correct attire for this hike. Would a hiker rather swelter in rain gear or endure a hike in the rain without such protection? Each of us chose for themselves so that there was at least one hiker with an umbrella, several with rain gear of some sort and the rest harboring the delusion that the rain would not fall or just not caring enough to cover up. The rain held off until exactly 4 p.m. and continued to come down from lightly to moderately for almost the whole hike of near three miles. The result was that although we stopped briefly at the map box and at Ruth’s point to drink and breathe, almost all of us finished in under an hour, prodded along by the desire to get out of the rain as soon as we could. The Queen Anne’s lace is much overgrown and reaches out for walkers as they pass. There is still some nice black-eyed Susan at trailside and, of course, green apples are ready to be tasted for those who enjoy their fruit that way.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: This being a cool morning with a good possibility of rain, I didn’t expect much of a showing for our hike. Surprisingly, 21 hikers — including two visiting from Colorado — appeared, ready to take to the trails. As usual in wet or questionable weather, we decided on the Nordic Trails. Twenty minutes later we headed out in the reverse direction through the pines on the white trail.
The trail was damp but firm, the sky at least partly sunny, and the temperature comfortable. We moved along quickly until we came to the first fallen tree — a large pine — lying with its top branches across the trail. We went around it and continued. We soon noticed several more pines in the woods around us with their tops newly broken off and some completely on the ground. Jake’s theory was straight-line winds or micro-bursts associated with recent rainstorms. Another possible explanation was that thinning the pinewoods made the trees still standing more vulnerable to strong winds. As we hiked, we noted that pines were not the only trees affected — several large oaks had been uprooted as well.
Jake called a water break at a wide spot in the trail bordered by sunflowers and Queen Anne’s lace. The next section took us over the hills, into the hardwoods, up a long slope, along a plateau and down a steep sandy hill. We could feel the humidity increase the lower we went. At the lowest point the trail turned to the left — and was blocked by a large fallen oak tree. Previous hikers had worn a nice path over, under, around and through the branches. We followed it and arrived safely on the other side to climb another large hill, pass a small meadow and soon find ourselves once more in the pines. Again we noticed a number of downed trees.
We took another water break beside a cheery patch of prairie sunflowers and continued into the woods again. The final section of the hike was uneventful. Most of the hikers went on to lunch at the La Grange General Store, sharing stories, plans and two pieces of cake supplied by Minnesota Nancy. This turned out to be an exceptionally good hike on a rather iffy day.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: The weather forecast predicted possible rain before the conclusion of our hike. There was plenty of humidity but no rain fell while we were on the trail.
Leader Andy asked the long-hikers to regroup at Nordic Trails in anticipation of the rain so we could have the option of cutting the hike short on one of the many intersecting trails. Fourteen hikers started the hike in the direction that the skiers would travel. We omitted the long first loop of the blue trail and continued on the blue until we came to the junction with the green trail, stopping for a brief rest and refreshment at the overlook. At the green junction, two of our hikers decided to take the shorter route to the parking area while the rest of us carried on over the seven hills of “the Alps” of the blue trail. It was nice to feel our tendons and ligaments stretch as we made our way up the hills. Care needed to be taken on the down-slope since new stones had been placed there, making it easy to slide.
Walking “the Alps,” we encountered several downed trees. In order to get through one such obstruction, some of us (well, two anyway) needed to crawl under a branch on hands and knees. When we reached the purple trail, we chose to take it to the parking area. The consensus distance was nearly six miles.
Most hikers carried on to the La Grange General Store where they enjoyed conversation and delicious food.