Weekly Walk: April showers bring pasqueflowers
The Weekly Walks for April 4 and 5, 2017
The 4 p.m. Tuesday hike, reported by Andy Whitney:
It was raining on Thursday morning and cloudy in the afternoon, but the sun finally came out just as I arrived at the U.S. Highway 12 parking lot. None of our regular female Tuesday hikers appeared, so our group of six men crossed the highway to hike the Ice Age Trail to the south. It was not long before we found hepaticas blooming. After I paused to snap a picture we continued to Esterly Road. We decided to take the Horse Trail on our return trip, taking Marvin's suggestion of a brief side trip to view the fragile endangered pasqueflowers. It was an excellent early-spring all-male outing.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday long hike, reported Marvin Herman:
Temperatures were in the low 40s and falling. Also, it was raining and the rain would continue unabated into the early afternoon. Since we are a hearty bunch, I was not surprised to see 13 long-hikers waiting at the Highway 12 meeting place for instruction from leader Andy as to where we would be hiking this day. Since there would be less mud and better drainage on the Nordic ski trails, he asked us to regroup there.
We started out on the white trail in the reverse direction were soon on the blue, hiking six (or is it seven?) hills of "The Alps." At the intersection with the green trail, we took it for a bit. But then, because there was a discussion of pasqueflowers seen the day before, someone recalled that if we took the next loop of the blue trail we might find the spot where the pasqueflowers grow in the Nordic trail system. Heading in the direction of this area would also lengthen our hike by one mile so we'd be sure to hit our five mile distance goal. When the area of the flowers was reached, many hikers scampered up the steep slope to find them. All this happened as the rain started to appear slightly white as it fell heavily from above. The flower-seekers soon caught up with the rest of the group and we hiked together to the finish.
The importance of proper rain gear cannot be overstated on a day like this. Footwear should be able to keep the feet dry and outerwear should be waterproof. One hiker carried an umbrella. We did finish five miles and as we regrouped at the La Grange General Store for lunch, the rain stopped. Over hot coffee, soups, hot chocolate and more, most of the hikers enjoyed conversation on a variety of topics. All agreed that it was a great day for a hike in spite of the foul weather.
The 10:30 a.m. Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
We waited for our groups to assemble in the cold damp shelter of the parking lot kiosk. Mark arrived ready to hike, but changed his mind after experiencing 15 minutes of today's weather. We were left with two fairly recent additions to our group, two long-time Wednesday hikers, two canines, and one newcomer from Chicago up for a wet adventure on the trails.
We also decided to hike the Nordic trails. After a look at the map, we decided on the second loop of the blue trail and the return trip on the orange. The footing was good and the light rain tolerable. We noted opening buds showing tiny leaves on many bushes beside the trail -- and dandelion, garlic mustard, and other early-spring plants making themselves known at ground level. No wildflowers blooming yet, however....
We stopped briefly at the bench on the crest of the ridge. Water droplets hung from the branches of nearby trees and the view across the kettle was subdued and misty. Our Chicago hiker spotted owl pellets on the trail; we teased some apart and found tiny bones and hair -- the undigested end product of a recent owl-y meal.
The trail across the plateau showed tiny spears of new green grasses poking up through the tan tangle of last year's crop. We passed the red trail and tackled the next hilly section of the orange, stopping to admire the kettle lake. Looking across to the opposite ridge, I saw a group of brightly dressed hikers that looked familiar. They were. It was the long-hikers also taking a break. I took a photo -- and found out later that Andy took one of us, too.
We went on through pines and hardwoods, sumac and honeysuckle and meadows. The remains of a former farmhouse garden featured a patch of daylily leaves about six inches high, accompanied by a lone clump of daffodils -- these unexpected flowers will come as a surprise to new hikers on this trail. We soon reached the trailhead. Energized and refreshed by our rainy hike, three of us headed for the La Grange General Store for lunch. Almost immediately the nice rain turned into wet blobs that hit my windshield with a plop and spread to about a half inch in diameter before melting and running down. It was a good time to be indoors. Forty-five minutes later the sun was beginning to break through the clouds. This was a very nice hike with great companions -- all in all, a very interesting day.