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Thursday, 08 March 2018 10:18

Hikers skirt muddy trails, venture around Whitewater

Written by Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: Tuesday evening was beautiful with the temperature near 58 degrees and sunshine. We were happy to see Hannah return after several years absent as well as Bob, a new hiker.

Considering the problems of ice, mud and water, I asked several hikers for ideas about where to walk. The eight of us finally started out on the connector trail around Lake LaGrange. When we got to the Ice Age Trail we turned right and went up the slope that never seems to end. We found that we could get around the puddles and a lot of the trail was ice covered with edges that were just leaves. If the ground under the leaves was still frozen, that went well. When the ground under the leaves had thawed, it made for slippery conditions and several of us chose to walk on the decaying ice for better footing.

At the first cut-off there had been major work done. Many of the fallen trees and the brush had been cleared to make the cut-off into a trail instead of the usual brush-beating struggle. Once on the horse trail we headed back with a lot more ice and mud. Those who are familiar with the trails felt our choice was as good as it was possible to make. We arrived back at the trailhead just a few minutes after 5 p.m., making it just over an hour of walking.

The Wednesday short hike report by Jake Gerlach: After fighting the ice, mud and water on Tuesday, I proposed a Whitewater hike on walks and paths. Nine of us regrouped at the parking lot by Cravath Lake. We went down to the path by the lake, crossed the boardwalk and went under the railroad. When we got to Whitewater Creek we took the path along the creek up to and then over the dam. We then made a quick stop at the restrooms before following the path along the lake, through the woods and finally exiting onto the roads in the Waters Edge South neighborhood.

It then was along the sidewalk by Wisconsin Street, and after climbing that hill, it was on to Coburn Lane and climbing another hill. We then returned to the path by the lake. We enjoyed the view of the dam and the mill race from the top before going out onto Clay Street. At Dann Street we took a left and after crossing Milwaukee Street, we went over the footbridge over the railroad. It was then back to the parking lot.

Several of the hikers had not been on these trails in the city. All seemed to be glad that they were not having to fight mud and ice.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: With temperatures near 50 degrees under clear and sunny skies on the last day of February, it was predictable that the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place would be loaded with cars. Spring is approaching but trails are muddy and there was a covering of ice in patches on the trails and along its edges. No one wore ice grippers because they would just catch in the mud. Yet, hikers needed to be careful to make their way safely along the trail in those spots where the sun had not melted the ice.

Andy chose Rainbow Springs off County Highway LO in Walworth and Waukesha counties and it turned out to be a great hike for the 21 people and a few dogs who walked with us. One of those hikers was Ruth McCann, who regularly walks her dogs in this area and knows the trails well. Since 2006, Rainbow Springs has been owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and is part of Kettle Moraine State Forest. Originally developed as an upscale golf resort, it consists of about 1,300 acres divided between the two counties. After the development failed, some of the structures were demolished and the golf course was no longer used. Today the dilapidated clubhouse is still standing but most of the buildings have been razed.

After we entered the area and parked our vehicles, we walked down a wide asphalt road crossing a bridge over the Mukwonago River; we were delighted to see it flowing swiftly. The area is home to 55 species of fish and 15 kinds of mussels. The restoration of the area to wetland and prairie is complete and represents a great use of $3 million from the Stewardship Fund. Though most of us have visited this area in the past, Ruth led us over trails and prairies we had never seen before.

In all, we covered 6 1/2 miles. All enjoyed the hike and the balmy weather.



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