The snow sticking to the branches of the honeysuckle bushes and trees made for a beautiful winter wonderland. The wet snow was balling up into the ice grippers that we wore with our hiking boots. The trail was muddy under the snow which made it a little slippery, but the beauty of the hike made up for the little discomfort we endured.
The Wednesday short hike report by Jake Gerlach: This had been a tough week on hike leaders. Ellen called me to say she had the flu. I had been fighting a cold since Saturday. I called Andy and he took the Tuesday hike. On Wednesday I felt a little better and decided to at least show up for the hike. I had decided to go around Lake LaGrange as that did not take any thinking, and if I had to turn back almost anybody could lead around the lake.
The long hikers decided to take the Ice Age Trail to Duffin Road, which meant we would be sharing the same trail to start out. We had a combined 19 hikers to start the hike. About half of the hikers had on ice grippers and the other half just went in hiking boots. There were some rough spots where previous hikers had walked through slush and the slush had frozen solid overnight. The trail was often packed down by previous hikers, which is typical for winter hiking.
When we got to the connector trail six of us headed back for the parking lot. We found one place where the snow had bent a couple of small cedar trees over the trail. The snow had been a heavy, wet one that stuck to all of the tree branches. We all noticed that walking in the heavy snow took more time and energy. We arrived back at the parking lot in good spirits and all thought it had been a good hike.
The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: When I arrived at the meeting place, I could predict that this day of hiking would be special. Looking across U.S. Highway 12 toward the Whitewater Lake Ice Age Trail segment trailhead, the black trunks and branches of the trees were offset by stark, white snow clinging to limbs, branches and undergrowth. New snow on the ground was punctuated by small, dark plants, barren of leaves. In the forest, these scenes would be magnified and would totally surround us, lending a surreal feeling to the places where we would walk.
Thirteen long hikers joined the short hikers as we started our trip along Lake LaGrange. The plan was to continue on the Ice Age Trail in the direction of Duffin Road and then cut through the woods to find the horse trail which would lead us back to the parking lot.
Much thought was devoted to whether ice-gripping devices would be a benefit. I opted to attach my grippers and for the early part of the hike I found them valuable. But later on, during the horse trail portion, the snow clumped onto the bottom of my grippers and turned to ice and I was forced to remove them. Most hikers anticipated this and didn’t use ice grippers at all.
At the map box we said goodbye to the short hikers and we continued up the IAT on the long, long hill. When we reached the first cut-off, no one wanted to leave the trail so we stopped for refreshments. At the second cut-off two hikers chose to leave the group. Finally, at the third and final cut-off, we bush-whacked through to the horse trail. Most of us noticed a musky odor and concluded that there was a fox nearby. On the way back to the parking lot, there was general agreement that, aesthetically, this was truly one of the most beautiful hikes of the winter.
The pleasantness of the hike this day was enhanced by the presence of the Miller family, parents and a young daughter living in Kenosha, who joined our hike for the first time. They joined most of the group for lunch after our 6 1/2 mile trek. Also joining us at LaGrange General Store were a few of the regular long hikers who opted for the ski trails instead of the hike. Lively, pleasant conversation ensued on a variety of topics.