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Weekly Walk: Blooming wildflowers attracting plenty of butterflies

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Russ Helwig | September 3, 2014

After a few days of hot and muggy weather and some heavy rain, a cold front went through last week Tuesday afternoon. This brought out the sun and lowered the temperature and humidity and made for a very enjoyable short hike.

We decided to hike at the Nordic trails. The yellow trail with the second blue loop would make it a hike of a bit over three miles with a variety of scenery. The butterflies were out in force, especially the swallowtail and fritillary. There were also a few admirals and a monarch, and others that we didn't get close enough to identify.

A couple stops to munch on wild black cherries and plums were enjoyed by some. A variety of flowers were observed along the trail including white aster and lily.

Marvin Herman writes:
 
Fourteen long hikers departed the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place on the Ice Age Trail towards the Rice Lake/Whitewater Lake overlook, about a 7 mile round trip last week Wednesday. The sky was sunny with temperatures in the mid 70s.

We quickly caught up with the short group that had left before us in the same direction and some of us stayed behind them knowing they would be turning off at the horse trail to return to the U.S. Highway 12 trailhead. However, about a mile before Esterly Road, four of our hikers took the option to go bushwhacking down to the headwaters of Bluff Creek in search of Gentians. Those were not in evidence but the wetland yielded sightings of the following native plants: grass of Parnassas, blue lobellia, lady tresses orchids, white turtlehead, Indian pipe and native thistle. Also, before returning to the Ice Age Trail, the bushwhackers sighted several species of butterfly: great spangled fritillary, eastern tiger swallowtail and giant swallowtail.

At the Ice Age Trail they turned right to pursue the other10 hikers in whose company they began the hike. By the time the majority of the hikers reached the overlook, the four bushwhackers had already crossed County Highway P. After admiring the view, astonishing to the few that had never been to the overlook, we headed down the hill toward County Highway P and met our pursuers who joined us for the walk back, passing the jack-in-the-pulpit we had seen on the way out. Most walked back via the Ice Age Trail but a few took the slightly shorter horse trail.
 
Ten of the hikers regrouped at LaGrange General Store for food and conversation at which there was some discussion of Hiking at Lapham Peak next Wednesday.


Ellen Davis writes:

Nine frequent hikers and one very occasional hiker crossed U.S. Highway 12 to take the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road and return on the horse trail last week Wednesday for the short walk. By the time we reached the top of the first hill, it seemed that our occasional hiker would be traveling more slowly. The rest of the group went on ahead and we proceeded at a more leisurely pace. Soon we heard – and recognized – voices behind us, and stepped off the trail (avoiding the poison ivy) to allow the long hike to pass.

We noted a pair of apple trees whose small deformed fruit littered the ground. The bright red berries of jack-in-the-pulpit were a spot of color in an otherwise green landscape; tiny white asters and goldenrod decorated the trail in sunny spots.  I noticed a dried-up kettle pond in a low area where we had often heard frogs in the spring – the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' burn last spring had eradicated enough underbrush to make the pond visible from the trail.

By the time we reached the power lines it was time for a break. We rested on the bench, drank our water, and recuperated. The others were far ahead. Our best option was to take a shortcut under the power lines to the horse trail to try to meet up with the rest of the group. There was no trail, but the tracks of an ATV or similar vehicle were easy to follow and make the big hill a bit easier. This open sunny area was a sea of blooming goldenrod accented by Queen Anne's lace and a variety of butterflies.  

Looking back as we neared the horse trail, we saw Jake behind us, coming to make sure that everything was okay. It was. The hikers who had gone all the way to Esterly soon caught up with us and we continued on the trail together.  Another apple tree offered better-looking fruit.  Several of our group gave in, and reported that the apples were sweet and crisp.  

This was a three-and-a-half mile short hike, with a three-mile shorter hike for some of us. We adjourned to the La Grange General Store for lunch and more conversation.


Seven of us desired to go on leisurely flower walks last week Wednesday.  I had suggested Natureland County Park and Mariette and Dave Nowak mentioned that we might see some rare eared false foxglove in the prairie near Bluff Creek. Bonnie Nommensen, who is a regular hiker and knows the trails well, with her two-year-old granddaughter Selah decided to go to Natureland while the rest of us carpooled to Hi-Lo Rd to hike in the wet prairie near Bluff Creek in search of wildflowers.

Bonnie reported that she and Selah hiked eight tenths of a mile. Selah had a great time investigating the springs, prairie flowers, and log forts along the trails. Afterwards Selah who “usually doesn't even take a nap!” fell asleep.

Meanwhile the rest of us hiked the unmaintained path down to Bluff Creek where we spoke briefly with a fisherman who was attempting to get a trout to bite, but with the cold front that had gone through the evening before the fish were not cooperating.

Most of the walk to the creek was through wet prairie and we took some side trails for farther exploring the many wildflowers in bloom. The prairie is a mass of yellow flowers, and if you look you will find other colors on the shorter plants amongst the tall yellow flowers of giant sunflower, prairie dock, compass plant, and gray-headed coneflower.

We did find the rare eared false foxglove along with turtlehead, swamp lousewort, small-flowered false foxglove, swamp thistle, azure aster, and other wildflowers among the sea of yellow. It had been another great wildflower walk.

Afterwards three of us had a tasty lunch at The Fuzzy Pig.

Happy Trekking,

Russ



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