This time of year there are only a few flowers blooming. I did see the remains from where large clusters of shooting stars had bloomed. But only sporadic flower sightings were made along the trail.
The Wednesday short hike report by Ellen Davis: Some of our usual short-hikers elected to go with the long-hike group today and others were on vacation, so we were left with only eight friendly hikers. The weather was perfect and off we went to Wisconsin Highway 67 north of Eagle to hike Brady’s Rocks on the Eagle Segment of the Ice Age Trail.
Well coated with sunscreen and bug spray, we set off through the woods, over three boardwalks, through the marsh and into the prairie. Dogwood was plentiful and blooming profusely, though some did not care for the scent. Sweet-smelling invasive multiflora rose sported clusters of blossoms in white and occasionally in pink. Yellow clover and purple vetch added a touch of color, aided by a few bright blue spiderworts that were just beginning to bloom. Milkweed sported balls of buds. Orange hawkweed and ox-eye daisies occasionally made their presence known as well, and the large leaves of prairie dock promised a nice crop of tall yellow flowers later in the season.
At the top of the ridge we turned for a look at the long band of hills along the horizon, accented by a white water tower. Genesee? North Prairie? Maybe even Wales? No one knew. We went on through a small meadow, into another woods and across a stream. Wild black raspberries were progressing nicely. At last the trail sloped downward and we soon found ourselves facing a beautifully done flight of stone steps (crafted by the IAT Mobile Skills Crew last fall) leading up into the rocks.
The temperature dropped as we entered Brady’s Rocks. We were on a narrow rocky trail surrounded by green — green ferns on the giant rocks around us and at our feet, green leaves on the trees towering over our heads. We took the loop trail past, around and through huge slabs of dolomite that sported ferns and. Jake pointed out the rare cliffbrake fern amid the more common ones.
After that green adventure, the trip back to the trailhead was uneventful. But the sun was bright, the breeze was cool, and it was a glorious day for a hike. Ours was about 3.25 miles long. Most of the group reassembled at the La Grange General Store for salads, sandwiches, beverages — and, of course — more conversation.
The Wednesday long hike report by Peg Oettinger: “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” Twenty-two hikers who cannot live without wild things gathered at the Nordic Trail off County Highway H to hike seven miles of ski and connector trails. Among the wild things were bright orange and sunny yellow hawk weed. Also attractive to the butterflies were milkweed. Purple and white clover seemed to be the du jour of the day for the small orange butterfly, thought to be a fiery skipper with a one-inch wingspan.
While the butterflies dined on clover, the hikers dreamed of dining on asparagus as they spied two bushy specimen of asparagus that had gone to seed. One very astute hiker was able to tell the difference between the bindweed and the prairie rose. Of course, the to-be-avoided poison ivy was noticed here and there.
There was much debate over large bird feathers found alongside the trail. Someone thought that they were the under feathers of a wild turkey. Hikers passed an attractive mulberry bush and black raspberry bushes lush with blossoms, foreshadowing a future of delicious snacks on summer hikes.
Along the prairie portion were fields of grasses with a tinge of burnt orange — hardy grasses and plants that have evolved to grow in the poor soil conditions of the clay and sand counties of Wisconsin. Seven miles later as the group entered life outside the forest and prairie, it was time for fuel and humor for their bodies and minds.