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Thursday, 11 January 2018 10:07

Hikers take steep, snowy hills and single-digit cold in stride

Written by Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: Six brave hikers showed up for the Tuesday hike. The temperature was in the single digits and there was a strong west wind. Because of the wind I decided to try to walk in the woods. That worked well except for one short section at the finish.

We started out on the connector trail and then turned right when that trail intersected the Ice Age Trail. I noticed a lot of animal tracks, especially deer tracks. There also were a lot of dog and/or coyote tracks, a distinct set of turkey tracks and squirrel tracks everywhere. There were a couple of places under oak trees where the snow was gone and the leaves were all stirred up. My best guess was that the disturbance was caused by deer looking for acorns.

After going uphill on what seemed to be a long trail that only went uphill, we arrived at the cutoff. A short time of brush whacking and we were on the horse trail and headed back. This time when we got to the junction, we went right and then right again and finally left on the connector trail and back to the parking lot. I never got very warm on the hike, and the one place the wind hit us in the face was a bit unpleasant. It was still a good winter hike, and Andy said we had traveled 2.8 miles, which is about normal for a Tuesday hike.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: I arrived at the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age Trail parking area to find that I was the only short-hiker present. Eventually more hikers arrived and an enthusiastic group of 10 crossed U.S. 12 for a scenic wintery hike on the Ice Age Trail.

This was not a cold day — 10 above zero or so was a great improvement over recent sub-zero windchills. The first hill — with its steep, rocky, snow-covered trail — was a bit of a challenge. Once we reached more level terrain we acclimated quickly to hiking in snow and were able to look around and appreciate the pristine beauty of the woods in winter.

The trail led us up and down a long series of hills, roughly parallel to those of the snowmobile trail on the far side of a deep valley. A rocky section of trail with an abrupt downhill slope made us pick our way carefully. Even though there was no ice, ice cleats would have been very helpful to secure good footing.

We passed under the power lines, up another hill, through more woods and into the pines. Several stopped for a moment at Norwin’s rock. At the intersection with the snowmobile trail we re-grouped and then started back on this wider, flatter trail, now able to walk side by side and carry on conversations.

The sun was now bright and the sky growing ever bluer. And we were now back in the hills again — they seemed steeper at this point in the hike. There were a few tracks on the trail — two pairs of big boots and one pair of small ones, plus miscellaneous deer and rabbits and at least one dog. We reached the trailhead more tired than expected, but warm and energized and ready for lunch at the La Grange Country Store. This was an enjoyable hike on a crisp winter’s day.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: Nine long hikers braved the near-zero temperatures dressed in many layers.

To stay out of the wind, leader Andy chose a near reprise of our walk last week. We started out on the Ice Age Trail toward Duffin Road. We stopped at Russ’ Bench for a photo and hikers were heard to remark how quiet and peaceful the area around Lake LaGrange is at this time of year. It certainly is beautiful to behold.

At the map box, we turned left up the long hill and at the first cross-trail to the horse path we stopped for refreshment, mostly chocolate and nuts brought by several in the group.

We carried on to the edge of the pine forest and went to the final opportunity to access the horse trail before Duffin Road. We took a right turn into the woods to face about 100 feet of easy bushwhacking. At the horse trail, we turned right again and carried on through to the subdivision road and over the berms to Sherwood Forest Road until we reached the parking lot, a total distance of at least 6.5 miles. As we walked down Sherwood Forest Road, we felt the full blast of the icy breeze that we had successfully avoided in the woods.

All hikers regrouped at LaGrange General Store for more conversation. All said they enjoyed today’s adventure in the winter woods.

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