June is abloom along the IAT

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Russ Helwig | June 4, 2014

Marvin Herman writes of last Tuesday's short walk:

On a warm and muggy afternoon, three regular Tuesday hikers welcomed Nelda Bergsten, who has been absent from the group for many years and rejoined it for today's walk. Rain threatened in the U.S. 12 parking lot, but the decision was made (albeit an erroneous one) to try to walk around Lake LaGrange before a major rain soaked us. The temperature dropped as the wind shifted north and by the end of the hike it was down about 15 degrees from when we started. As we started out near the south end of the lake, blue-eyed grass and columbine were seen. As we reached the north end of the lake and the point of no return, the skies opened and all four of us were drenched. One of the hikers called for a rendition of "Singin' in the Rain" which your reporter was pleased to briefly give. We made the clockwise circuit in just under an hour. Once back to our cars, we headed home for hot showers and warm dry clothes.

Marvin Herman also writes of  last Wednesday's long walk:
On an overcast morning with temperatures in the 60s 12 long hikers departed the U.S. 12 meeting place. Their first mission was to visit a field on Lowland Drive off of County Highway H near Palmyra where lady slippers had been seen earlier by one of the hikers. Once the site was reached, not only were there great quantities of lady slippers, but there were also seen golden alexanders, columbine, starry Solomon seal, shooting stars, woodland phlox, buttercup, hoary puccoon and large patches of prairie smoke.
Upon leaving Lowland Drive, the group gathered again at the Bald Bluff parking lot and hiked partly up the bluff and continued on the Ice Age Trail and then along a combination of Ice Age bike, horse and connector trails to the place of beginning. Part of this hike was similar to the one taken by the group about a month before which commenced at Nordic Trails and crossed into the bike trails via a connector. The group covered a distance of six miles in total. On the latter part of the hike, the group encountered sarsaparilla, tinkers weed, hawkweed, false Solomon seal, pussy toes, bird's foot violets and goatsbeard.

All felt the day was a great combination of flower walk and hike. Most of the group gathered again at LaGrange General Store, by which time the day was warm and sunny and lent itself to outdoor eating around one of the new umbrella tables at the restaurant.

Ellen Davis writes of last Wednesday's short walk:

For the short hike today, Jake suggested taking the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road, then returning on the horse trail.  This section of trail included the area that had had a controlled burn several weeks ago; those of us who had hiked it shortly thereafter were curious about how the regrowth was coming along.

Five of us – and one very tiny canine -- crossed U.S. 12 and started up the hill. We were soon joined by six more hikers. The trail was slightly soft in places from last night's rain, and there were a few spots where the slick surface urged caution.

In the burn area it appeared that the native plants were thriving. We saw many jack-in-the-pulpits, shooting stars in white and pink, colonies of Mayflowers in bloom, and wild columbine lining the trail.  Daisy fleabane and wild strawberries were also present, but the invasive garlic mustard was nowhere to be seen. 

We passed under the power lines and started up the next hill.  The re-growth was not so obvious in this area.  A little further on it became evident that our celebration for the demise of the garlic mustard was premature. Somehow some of it had survived the fire, and there it was, blooming happily beside the trail. Hoping that this was the only patch, we went on. Unfortunately, it wasn't....

After a brief rest at Esterly Road, we began our return trip on the horse trail. Unable to see our footing in the high grass made us cautious but once in the woods again we picked up speed, slowing only to climb over a downed pine tree across the trail. Three-quarters of the way back, the tiny dog was ready to be carried. We reached the parking lot just after noon; Mark's pedometer reading for this hike was 3.55 miles. We had a quick lunch at the La Grange General Store, and then went our separate ways. One hiker's way was to the doctor to have his leg examined where it had been attacked by the fallen pine tree. All in all, it was another good adventure.

Flower Walk, May 28:

Six of us repeated much of our walk of a week ago, but this time we brought either knee high boots or hip waders so that we could get through water blocking the path to Trillium Island.

On the way we stopped for a brief visit to a small sand and gravel hill which has a nice variety of wildflowers. This week the prairie smoke was smoking with its long seed heads waving in the breeze and a few other flowers in bloom. The blue-eyed grass was still in bud stage and most of the birds-foot violets were past bloom.

Because of the heavy rains the night before the water flowing across the path to Trillium Island was deeper than we found a week ago and we had to choose where to walk to keep the water below our boot tops. The deep water continued for a few hundred feet.

Once on the island we found a beautiful woodland landscape covered with wild geranium in bloom. This occurs about the time the trilliums are on the end of their bloom. After passing most of the geraniums we found trilliums, lots of them, however their blooms were beaten up by the rains. Only a few had somewhat respectable flowers remaining.

A highlight of our walk was seeing a pileatead woodpecker. I spotted this crow-sized woodpecker on a tree directly in front of us. It also saw me and flew a couple hundred feet to our side where we could see it hopping up a tree. Although we often see deep oval excavations in rotting trees made by these birds, the birds themselves are elusive and seldom seen.

It was a great walk adventure and worth the trip through the water. Again we ended up at Pickets in Rome for great food and ice cream before heading home.

Happy Trekking,


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