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Thursday, 26 April 2018 09:49

Finally! Hikers bask in spring weather, blooming wildflowers

Written by Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes

The Tuesday hike report by Jake Gerlach: Nine hikers showed up for our hike on an absolutely gorgeous spring evening. We went across U.S. Highway 12 to hike out the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road and then back on the horse trail. 

Nancy commented that this was the hepatica hike. We saw those lovely little flowers all along our walk. We saw single plants and clusters of plants, mostly purple, but some were pink and some were almost white.

There had been a flower hike on Sunday and most of these little gems were still hiding from winter, but the intervening warm days were enough to encourage them to appear. In the coming weeks there will be ever more spring flowers, so take a hike and you are likely to see a lot of flowers.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and rumors were spreading among the hikers that one of the earliest spring wildflowers — the hepatica — was finally blooming. Jake’s choice of Bald Bluff for today’s hike met with approval and, for some of the newer hikers, concern over the fabled number and steepness of hills on this route.

Seventeen hikers, two dogs and a baby in a backpack carrier started up the trail. The two glacial erratics (stones brought down from Canada by the last glacier) — one almost the size of a VW beetle — drew comments. As the trail grew steeper, we needed all our breath to climb our way to the top. The long-range view from the top was refreshing and a brief rest was appreciated.

We started down the long sloping back of Bald Bluff. There were no wildflowers to be seen here, but the woods was definitely beginning to green up. At the intersection with the horse trail, we turned right to conquer several small rocky hills. The trail turned to deep sand as it left the forest and led us along the edge of a prairie. Baby Mark was still happy and alert in his carrier. Small birds flitted and twittered in the brush and the sun was warm enough to encourage some of us to remove our jackets.

Jake called a break at Young Road. We broke out the snacks and water bottles, and Baby Mark was transferred from Grandma Connie’s back to that of the gallant Missouri Mike for the remainder of the hike. On the trail again, we saw the line of long-hikers coming toward us. We exchanged greetings and took photos of each other as we passed. Shortly after, climbing yet another long steep hill, someone spotted a blooming hepatica. Then we saw another — deep blue — and another and another, somewhat hidden behind the oaks just off the trail. That sighting finally made spring official, regardless of the date!

We continued on the horse trail, turned right onto the Ice Age Trail and were soon paralleling a peaceful ridge-top view of the countryside. Then more woods, a few more hepaticas, Young Road, and the final leg of our journey.
It had been a wonderfully varied 3.5-mile hike on the nicest spring day so far this year.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: With weather conditions now more appropriate to the season, hiking friends who disappeared from the trail during the winter have started to join us once again. Nineteen long-hikers regroup at Oleson Cabin off Duffin Road.

Andy leads us to the bike trail heading in the direction of the John Muir Trails near County Highway H. Early in the hike and then, much later near the end of the hike, we pass by kettle ponds or wetlands and are entertained by a chorus of spring peepers, a species of toads that emit a shrill sound from their damp habitats. We continue on these bike trails and connector segments where we encounter the short hiking group walking towards us on the sandy trail somewhere near the end of their hike. Soon, we switch to the horse trail where we finally start to see hepatica growing along the trailside, a certain sign of spring.

Finally, moving over to the IAT, we labor up the backside of Bald Bluff, where we stop for a short rest. Fully refreshed, we continue down the bluff following the IAT. After we cross County H again, we stop to watch the heavy machinery working to clear out invasive plants near the now-cleared area of pines.
Following the IAT back to the area of the cabin, we found that we have hiked 7.2 miles.

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