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Thursday, 29 August 2019 13:54

Fall-like weather accompanies hikers as they conquer the hills

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig's Hikes
Hikers found dried earthstar fungi (related to puffballs) in the sand while hiking the Bald Bluff horse trail last week. Hikers found dried earthstar fungi (related to puffballs) in the sand while hiking the Bald Bluff horse trail last week. Ellen Davis photo
The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: This week 13 showed up for our hike. Marvin requested that we just go around the lake and I quickly agreed. Fall flowers are in bloom. There are several different goldenrod species; I recognize that they are different, but I just call all of them goldenrod.
Near the end of the hike on the connector trail there are rough blazing star in bloom and there are lots of things to see in the prairie. We walked steadily from the start, down the hill and all the way through the prairie, finally stopping at the benches on Ruth’s point for a break and water. After everyone had finished with their water, we went on.

I noticed that the corn in the cornfield had ears that were filling out; if frost holds off till the middle of October, the farmer should get corn. When we entered the woods on the connector trail, I noticed that it was cooler, which meant a much nicer walk. This was a good hike on a great early fall evening.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: This was a perfect day for a hike — cool and sunny, with a nice brisk breeze — just the right kind of day to hike Bald Bluff. I pulled into the Ice Age Trail parking lot around 10 o’clock and parked next to Jake. His suggestion for today’s hike: Bald Bluff. Forty minutes later 23 short-hikers were beginning their climb up the bluff — a first for several of them.

This section of trail is a connector trail to the Ice Age Trail. It is a victim of wash-out, rife with gullies, with gravel that has been added in several areas to improve the situation. As the trail turned to the right, across the slope, we admired a nearby VW-bug-sized granite boulder brought from Canada by the last glacier. Soon we reached the IAT, turning left to continue our climb on a wider gravel pathway followed by a flight of primitive stairs. At last — the plateau with its cool breezes and long-range view. It was worth it! We took a well-deserved break and started down the backside of Bald Bluff.

The trek downward seemed to go on forever. The topography is interesting, providing views of deep kettles and nearby eskers. (When the leaves turn, it can be spectacular!) At the first intersection, we took the horse trail to the right and followed it through the woods, along the edge of a sandy meadow and across Young Road. The edge of the woods was bright with sunflowers as the trail led us past more deep kettles rimmed by steep rocky eskers. Once again we climbed upward, took a brief break and headed down the other side.

We turned right, zig-zagging upward until we reached a plateau that paralleled County Highway H. The view — when we could see it through the trees — extended for miles. We soon turned away from the view to circumnavigate a particularly steep rock-strewn hill and descend to almost-level ground. The IAT took us back across Young Road, around the base of Bald Bluff, and back to the original connector trail. We returned to the parking lot happy, tired, hungry and full of burrs. We removed as many burrs as possible, then went our separate ways — some to lunch or errands, others back home. The general consensus: This was one of the best hikes yet!

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: As the hikers waited to hear where we were going to hike today, some were finding jackets. The wind and temperatures in the high 60s made this seem like an early fall day. We were instructed to regroup at the IAT parking area off of County Highway ZZ in Waukesha County.

Nineteen long-hikers parked their vehicles and Andy led us onto the IAT in the direction of Wisconsin Highway 67. Starting out on the lower part of the Scuppernong Segment, we were protected from the wind by the forest lining the hilly trail. Soon the trail flattened and we crossed some nice boardwalk over wet areas, crossing Piper Road. Again through the forest, across Wisconsin 67 and finally the trail opens onto the beautiful Scuppernong Prairie, with flat, narrow trail that signifies the beginning of the IAT Eagle Segment. Soon, we reached our outbound destination — Brady’s Rocks, over three miles from the starting point. There, we paused for refreshments.

Entering the Brady’s Rocks area always is exciting since the terrain changes suddenly from the flatness of the prairie to the rocky, wet trail bed lined with ferns, mosses and, at one point, huge boulders that require a tricky step to manage. Some hikers, doing this area for the first time, remarked on its beauty.

As we headed back along the same trail, hikers were heard to exclaim that this hike had not been attempted for many years by our group and that it made for a great experience. Views of the prairie were spectacular and if one stopped to look out over the landscape to the horizon, it could be imagined what this Wisconsin land looked like centuries ago, before development changed it forever. Crickets provided a musical accompaniment to our steps along the trail.

Now weary from the hike, the brisk breeze was refreshing. Finally, a sign signified the direction of the parking area. We had hiked 7-1/2 miles.

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