The trail was a little muddy from the freezing and thawing. Most of the lake was still covered with ice. The ice did look honeycombed and weak. When we got to the connector trail, we found the big tree that we had to climb over the last two weeks had been cleared. From the obvious number of cuts that had to be made it was probably quite a task getting the trail clear.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Snow was in the forecast within the next few days, and Jake wanted one more hike on the Nordic Ski Trails before they were groomed for skiing and therefore off-limits to hikers and snowshoers. We re-assembled at the map post there to begin our hike traveling clockwise on the Orange Trail. I counted 27 hikers in our group — including a guest from the Dane County chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance — a record number for a short hike at this time of year.
The air was crisp and cold and the footing good — no ice or slippery spots. The sky was gray but our energy level was high. We conquered the first set of hills, crossed the meadow and headed downhill and onto the second loop of the Blue Trail. We passed a rather large woodchuck-sized hole, freshly dug, tunneling out of sight into the hillside.
The trail took us up a long, steep slope then along the top of the ridge. We paused briefly to admire the view first on the left, and later on the right. Soon we were headed downward again, through planted pines and then the hardwood forest. At the next intersection, six of our group decided to take the Green Trail, adding a few additional miles of hills to their hike. The rest of us continued on the Orange Trail, stopping to admire the frozen kettle pond.
This hike was the first this winter where many hikers needed to make clothing adjustments to remain comfortable. Within the first five minutes I realized that I needed to add a pair of chemical hand-warmers to my mittens; five minutes later my hands were warm again. During the hike others in the group put up or took down hoods, zipped and unzipped and even removed jackets to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
By the time we reached the trailhead we were warm, energized and ready for lunch at the La Grange Country Store. The Green Trail hikers arrived in good form not too long after we did. All in all, it was a nice refreshing hike on a crisp early winter day.
The Wednesday long hike report by Janet Carriveau: The Dec. 20 long hike took place at the John Muir Trails off County Highway H near La Grange. Typically our hikes at John Muir present us with the adventure of finding our way back to the parking lot after changing trails several times. This hike was no exception. We decided to start by taking the Blue Loop and enjoyed the relatively smooth and windy nature of it. After several miles we decided to leave the blue and take the Orange Loop.
The air was quite cold and biting through our gloves, but we proceeded merrily along, enjoying the wind protection that the surrounding trees afforded us. As we arrived at a fork of trails, we decided to take the path that led toward an area called the Lime Kiln. That trail ended at the Pilgrim Lime Kiln and a couple benches overlooking it. After a brief stop to rest and enjoy the beauty of the area, we walked a short distance off-trail through some woods to pick up the main trail once again.
We experienced a bit more confusion with which direction to take, but were soon approached by a cyclist on a fat-tire bike. He kindly directed us as to how to get to County H on the connector trail, which would then take us back to the parking lot. We followed his advice and only had to walk an additional mile to complete the hike. Our total hiking distance was about 8.25 miles.
We find that our John Muir trail adventures are well worth the intermittent confusion, as they are truly beautiful paths surrounded by plush forest and dipping kettles with lovely views all around.