We were not bothered by wind and the clear sky was very pretty with the evening colors. We walked fast mainly to keep warm but one long uphill slope left me and at least one other hiker breathing hard. It was a very satisfying hike on a night that did not look so promising at the start.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Weather Underground reported a chill factor of minus 20 degrees for the Palmyra area this morning, rising to minus 17 by noon. I hoped that I would be warm enough for the first seriously cold outing of the season. With long underwear, two pairs of socks, snowmobile pants, a fleece pullover and hat, down parka, two pairs of gloves and handwarmers, I felt like a 1950s preschooler too bundled up to move. I arrived at the Ice Age Trail parking area on U.S. Highway 12 to find four hikers waiting, somewhat similarly dressed but a bit more fashionably. Andy, Marvin and Minnesota Nancy represented the long hikers, with Connie and I from the short hike group. Jake arrived a few minutes later, also dressed in a heavy down parka.
Both groups decided to take the Ice Age Trail partway around Lake La Grange and continue on toward Duffin Road. We set off up the hill behind the kiosk, choosing our footing carefully on the way down the rocky steps on the other side. The sky was bright blue. The trail near the lakeshore is home to many small creatures that left their marks in the snow — rabbits, squirrels, a fox, mice, small birds and vole tunnels under the snow. We reached Russ’ bench and stopped for a photo and a look at the lake. Three ice fishermen were out on the ice looking for a promising location to set up their equipment. We went on across the prairie, thankful that the wind was at our backs.
At the intersection of the Ice Age Trail and the access road back to the parking area, we had a decision to make. We three short-hikers were not ready to go back, so we joined the others in the climb up an endless and relentless hill on the Ice Age Trail. We finally reached the top to find a landscape of picturesque wooded hills. After a quick snack we short-hikers decided to return on the snowmobile trails while the long-hike trio continued on the IAT.
The snowmobile trail showed no evidence of snowmobiles, but there were footprints of a man, a dog, a large number of deer, and possibly a fox. Walking was easier here on the wider trail, offering more opportunities to admire the rugged terrain. At the next intersection we all chose the longer hike option and finally returned to the parking area tired and hungry after a bit more than 3 1/2 miles.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Although the temperature was 8 degrees below zero when I awoke this morning, it had warmed up to minus 1 degree by the time I reached the meeting place.
We had six hikers — three long hikers and three short, including the leaders of each group. We decided to hike the IAT Blackhawk segment toward Duffin Road. That way, the short hikers could turn off on one of the paths to the horse trail while the long hikers could continue to a further path. As we set out in the extreme cold, the pace was swift and all hikers seemed to warm up well before Russ’ bench. From there, we could see the beautiful view of frozen Lake LaGrange upon which stood three ice fishermen about 40 feet from the near shore. They certainly appeared to be enjoying themselves.
When we reached the left turn at the map box, about two miles from the start, we started up the long but gradual hill and soon stopped for refreshments. Soon after, the short hikers turned off and the three long hikers continued on the IAT to the beginning of the pine forest where we turned off onto the horse trail and finally back to the parking lot via old subdivision roads, a total of nearly five miles.
We soon reunited with some of the other hikers at La Grange General Store, where we enjoyed hot soup, sandwiches and a taste of dessert. This was a great hike because all were properly dressed for the frigid conditions.