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Friday, 04 May 2018 08:12

Hikers enjoy spotting the first blooms of spring

Written by Ice Age Trail Alliance Helwig’s hikes

The Tuesday hike report by Marvin Herman: Hooray, hooray the first of May! Winter is well in our rear view mirrors as we drive into another warm weather hiking season. Today we have nine hikers and we decide to walk the nearly three miles clockwise around beautiful Lake LaGrange. The warm wind is blowing pretty hard and the hikers at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place are looking for hats that will tie tight to their heads and not blow into the wild blue yonder.

When we get to the top of the hill, we don’t have to search long for the pasque flowers. They are large, plentiful and easily seen from the trail.

At Russ’s bench we take an extended stop for hydration, remembering that it is so necessary for warm weather hikes. We carried on past the cornfield. Off in the distance, we saw a large machine in the process of planting oak seedlings in a cleared area to the south and east of the lake.

All finished the hike in good condition. Betsy broke out a bottle of cold bubbly wine and tiny cups for all to join her in a toast to her recent successful completion of an advanced nursing course. Hummus and crackers materialized as well and the group departed well fed and in good spirits.

The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: The frequently changing weather forecast now predicted rain for 2 p.m. and later, leaving us ample time to appreciate the warmth-starved early spring wildflowers that had finally burst into bloom only a few days earlier. Nineteen hikers — including one first-timer and two out-of-state visitors — safely crossed U.S. 12 and headed up the first hill on the horse trail. First flower spotted: one blue violet. Next: a dandelion. Onward and upward we went, pausing to admire the view from the meadow before heading into the steep scenic hills.

For quite a while there were no flowers to admire, then someone saw a blood-root in bloom. Then another and another, and a patch of pink wood anemones.

Mayflowers still looked like slightly open umbrellas. The delicate hepaticas took center stage; their colors ranged from white through pink and rose to blues shading into dark purple, all centered with a circle of tiny white stamens.
The flowers disappeared as the trail turned to the right and a few minutes later passed under the power lines. Soon we were in the pine woods, then taking a break at Esterly Road. All the hikers but one chose the Ice Age Trail for the return trip.

Back into the pines, garlic mustard abounded, as did tiny wild strawberry plants. A few hepatica plants were seen.

We took frequent breaks today — to look at the flowers, take photos, drink water, eat a snack or just to sit down for a few minutes. When the last two of us came up the final hill into the meadow, we found the rest of the group relaxing, talking and waiting for us at the bench. We returned to the parking lot together, rather hot and tired but refreshed by the flowering proof that spring was finally here at last. We had hiked 3.5 miles and it was time for lunch.

The Wednesday long hike report by Marvin Herman: On this warm and sunny day, 21 long-hikers assembled.

The plan for today is one that we have often followed and enjoyed in the past. We regroup at the Emma Carlin parking area and take the connector trail, which is extremely muddy at this time of year, out to the Department of Natural Resources Headquarters and follow the Nature Trail to the IAT.

As we trek through the mud we reach a footbridge across a small stream and stop to watch large trout swimming happily by. From there, we cross the prairie and cross the railroad tracks to County Highway S. At the tracks, we enjoy fresh fruit, nuts and chocolate. At some point in today’s hike, we could hear sandhill cranes in the distance and as we walked along the wetland, we were serenaded by spring peepers. We pick up the horse trail which led us to McMiller Ski Trails.
We observed May apples in an early form, some growing in the middle of the trail, and Prairie Smoke, which was quite small.

We got a bit spread out at this point and some of us took some extra ski hills and missed the spring house. But everyone finished in good shape after our hike of about 6.8 miles.

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