Blackberry bushes make for a delicious hike

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Russ Helwig | July 16, 2014

It seems that our Tuesday walks are a bit monotonous since we usually walk around Lake LaGrange. Last week Tuesday was no different, but we were reminded why we love this trail so much. The lake is beautiful with a variety of waterfowl, and the trail goes through a great tall grass prairie which changes weekly as the season progresses. Butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects are plentiful. We are continuously finding different plants in bloom than those we saw a week earlier. This is also a great birding trail. In addition this trail is accessed from our meeting place making it very handy.

The butterfly milkweed is plentiful and we actually saw a monarch butterfly land on one. Other butterfly species were abundant. The yellow coneflower (gray-headed coneflower) was just beginning to bloom, wild bergamot is starting to pepper the landscape with color, and the heads on purple prairie clover are near bloom. Some of the sumac buds are beginning to turn red.

A great white egret sat in a tree on the other side of the lake as swallows zipped to and fro over the water and blackbirds looked on from perches on the near shore.

Marvin Herman reports on Wednesday's long walk:
Under a blue sky with some puffy white clouds, 12 long hikers departed the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place and regrouped at the Emma Carlin Trails south of Wisconsin Highway 59 last Wednesday. The weather was cool and breezy with temperatures in the low 70s. The group started off on the Ice Age Trail northeasterly towards Department of Natural Resources headquarters.

After a short pause for water and other necessities, we continued on the Nature Trail to the railroad tracks where we had another rest stop and enjoyed Jo Steadter's contribution of very delectable cantaloupe. From there, we backtracked to the Ice Age Trail and then took the path through the woods to the shelter. While the less adventurous waited at the top, most of the group walked down the deep ravine to the water below the shelter. We then carried on to Stute Springs and back to our point of origin, a total of six miles.

The mosquitoes were moderate in intensity, especially in the woods. Wildflowers of many varieties were thick in the prairie sections of this hike. Most of the group then drove to Palmyra for lunch at the restaurant next to the Family restaurant where outdoor seating was available and very enjoyable given the beauty of the day.

Ellen Davis writes on Wednesday's short walk:

Four visitors, including two grandchildren, joined the short hike group today for an adventure on the Nordic Trails. With Jake in the lead, our group of eleven set off on the orange trail. 

One of our visitors was seeing the Midwest for the first time, and she wanted to photograph as many details of our landscape as possible to share with her grandmother back home. It was becoming evident that this short hike was about to become two short hikes – the faster one and the slower one. The photographer and I lagged further and further behind as we examined wild flowers and admired the vistas. We were soon joined by Master Gardener Barb – and encountered our first wild black raspberry bush.  It was necessary to stop for a taste, of course. 

As we turned on to the blue trail we could see the rest of the group disappearing up the hill far ahead of us. But the prairie was blooming and bees and butterflies and birds abounded. By the time we had crossed the ridge and reached the junction with the orange trail we were looking forward to the cool shade of the woods. And more wild black raspberries! We were no longer tasting – we were now actively snacking. 

We snacked our way back to the trailhead. Arriving at the La Grange General Store for lunch, we discovered that the sight of a large patch of bushes spangled with ripe berries had proven too much of a temptation for two other hikers and they too had succumbed to the lure of the berries.   To sum up today's hike:  it was delicious!

In what was supposed to be the shortest walk four of us, including flower expert Mariette Nowak, we hiked half way around Lake LaGrange to observe the beautiful prairie flowers that we had seen the evening before.

We observed all of the flowers we had seen the night before and Mariette identified some that I either did not know or had forgotten the name of. One such flower was New Jersey Tea, which is somewhat rare in these parts and white avens was also identified.  Another Mariette sent me an e-mail about with the following detail: The yellow flower that I first called simply ox-eye is often called false or ox-eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides).  It is called "false" because both ray & disk flowers are fertile unlike true sunflowers (Helianthus sp.). We stopped to admire some giant mushrooms observed near the trail.

The egret was standing in the water when we went out and when we returned it flew low over the water to a new location farther north on the lake.

It was a beautiful day with a cool breeze so that the pesky mosquitoes were not as pesky as they could have been. We were pleased to see a couple monarchs as well as several other varieties of butterflies checking out the various milkweeds in the prairie.

According to my trusty pedometer he distance that we hiked was three miles, a mile more than I had estimated, but no one objected as we had a great leisurely walk 

Independence Day Celebration:

This year our Ice Age Trail chapter decided to make a float for the Whitewater July 4 parade.  Several of us met a few days at the home of our coordinator Andy Whitney to convert his Kubota into a glacier. The Wisconsin Glacier formed the Kettle Moraine and other glacial formations in the state through which the Ice Age National Scenic Trail traverses.

The mascot for the trail is Monty, the wooly mammoth. Mammoths were in Wisconsin more than ten thousand years ago when the mile high glacier was leveling off the hills, filling in the valleys, leaving behind our several thousand lakes, and forming many other glacial features near the terminus, which includes our Kettle Moraine.

Monty took center stage on this unique float “Flying High Over the 4th of July” above the glacier holding an American flag in his trunk. He was accompanied by Uncle Sam in a coaster wagon and several Ice Age Trail volunteers. If you were a latecomer to the parade you may have missed us as we were ushered into the parade at the very beginning behind the band and separated by some distance from the other float participants.

Thank you to the many volunteers who participated in constructing the float and to those who marched along with Monty and the glacier on the “parade trail.”

Happy Trekking,


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