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Thursday, 05 September 2019 12:43

Cool temperatures provide backdrop for adventurous hikers

Written by  Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig's Hikes
Hikers descend a trail bordered by patches of white and gold. Hikers descend a trail bordered by patches of white and gold. Photo by Ellen davis
The Tuesday hike report by Marvin Herman: Eleven regular Tuesday hikers did a quick walk around Lake La Grange in the reverse direction of that which we usually do, starting at the gate and ending at the Ice Age Trail toward the trailhead of the Blackhawk Segment. The weather grew gradually warmer as we walked, but we finished in just over an hour. The distance is just under three miles. No one seemed to notice any particular flowers but I did see lots of goldenrod turning from green to bright yellow and some rough blazing star in flower growing among the long grasses.
We stopped for a short rest at Ruth’s Point, which is what Jake usually does when he leads us. In his absence this day, Andy led the hike. Also present was Harold, a late arrival, starting to get in shape for his cross-country ski season. There was good conversation going on throughout the hike, old friends and new, some having hiked this trail hundreds of times together and others maybe dozens of times. Yet ours is a great community of friendship and respect that we all hold dear. No matter what path we walk together, all seem to enjoy the experience each and every week.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The day was cool and overcast — perfect for a hike. Others thought so too — two hikers joined us for the first time, and two more reappeared after absences of varying lengths, bringing our total to 19. Jake was absent today, so we decided on the well-marked Nordic Ski Trails with a variety of options in length and difficulty. Today would be an experiment — a hike of many choices.

We started off on the main trail heading north. The footing was good; goldenrod, assorted sunflowers and tiny white asters added color along the way. I noticed a spiny bush with bright red berries — prickly ash, a member of the citrus family — and pointed it out to John, my hiking companion of the moment. He asked if the berries were edible. I didn’t know. He put one in his mouth and said that it tasted citrusy. I tried one too — without even breaking the skin, it did have a citrus taste. He spit his out. My tongue started to tingle and I spit mine out. It was a very strange sensation — not pleasant but not awful either. The citrus-flavored numbness and tingling lasted about 10 minutes. I would not recommend it!

We regrouped at the first signpost and took the trail to the right, avoiding the first blue loop. The first decision came at the next intersection, where the second blue loop begins. Five hikers left us for the red trail — a short hike of 1.97 miles. The rest of us started down the blue trail through a field of tall grasses, colorful dogwood and sumac bushes — and gloriously yellow goldenrod. Then up a long steep hill and through a rather bland meadow. At the far end, a few lavender spikes of rough liatris provided a pop of color.

With the next intersection came another choice: the green trail (advanced) or the orange (intermediate). Seven chose the green and went on their way. Eight of us proceeded on the orange. We admired a kettle lake and climbed on a bench for a better view of another one. We soon spotted another prickly ash bush with clumps of those pretty red berries. Everyone was given a berry or two to smell, not to taste.

Soon we were back at the trailhead and ready for lunch. My blue/orange trail group had hiked about 3.5 miles. The red trail group, leaving the La Grange General Store as I arrived, said that they had enjoyed their hike. The green trail group arrived as I was leaving. They too had a positive report. The lesson learned today was one everyone should have learned by age 4: Don’t put strange berries in your mouth! Still, all in all, a very good series of hikes.

(On arriving home, I Googled “prickly ash” and learned that Native Americans used it — especially the bark— for a wide assortment of ailments and conditions.)

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Today was cool and mostly cloudy, perfect for a hike in the woods. Fourteen long-hikers were directed by leader Andy to regroup at John Muir Bike Trails off County Highway H for today’s activities. After consulting the maps, using the restrooms, etc. we were ready to go. We started on the blue trail, the long trail that would take us far away from the parking area. We hoped that we would not run into too many bikers. As it turned out, during the entire hike of over two hours, we encountered two single bikers. One had his two dogs following him.

We enjoyed a great hike over undulating trail curving in every direction with rocks, roots and hazards equal to the challenge of the IAT.

We took the blue to the crossroads, about two miles out, and stopped for rest and refreshments. Rested, hydrated and fortified, we continued on the blue trail until some of the hikers noticed a blaze on a distant tree. It was too far away to determine whether the blaze was yellow and signified a connection to IAT. We bushwhacked a bit and moved closer until we could see that the light mark on the tree was just some moss or missing bark.

We backtracked to our original path and continued our hike along the blue and purple bike trails until we arrived back at the parking area. We were just short of six miles but made that shortage up on the bicycle training course nearby to finish with a consensus of six miles.

Some hikers departed to attend to other activities. Others stopped for lunch and conversation at La Grange General Store, which provides outdoor picnic tables under shelters at which to enjoy their delicious food and ice cream treats. All of the hikers seemed to enjoy the nice hike in the cool weather.



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