Weekly Walk: Wet weather hikes
The Tuesday Hike, reported by Jake Gerlach
On a beautiful cool summer evening 12 hikers showed up for our hike. Emily even talked her husband Daniel into joining us. Since several of us had not seen the rock that was dedicated to Norwin Watson, we went across U.S. Highway 12 to hike out the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road and then back on the snowmobile/horse trail. While most of the spring flowers are gone, there were still plenty of flowers blooming along the trail as well as a few early ripe black raspberries. This part of the Ice Age Trail has lots of rocks and a lot of steep up and down slopes. At one point it became obvious that we were on top of an esker and the drop off just off the trail was very steep and deep. After going under the power lines and climbing the next hill just before we got to the wide section, we came upon a rock with a nice plaque dedicated to Norwin.
At Esterly Road we took a water break and then it was back on the horse trail. There was a lot of evidence that they are thinning out the red pine trees. We saw one big machine that was cutting down the trees and then sawing the trunks to length for paper-wood. We also saw another crew that were picking up the cut logs and loading them. It was a great hike.
The Wednesday Short Hike, reported by Ellen Davis
The weather report this morning predicted rain. (It was right: light rain fell from the time I left home almost until the end of the hike.) Nevertheless, the hikers congregating at the IAT kiosk on Highway 12 were well prepared -- some in head-to-toe rain outfits, others in rain jackets or big colorful plastic ponchos.
As usual in wet weather, the short-hike group decided on the well-drained Nordic white ski trail. We had only four participants -- a newer hiker from Lake Geneva and her neighbor, plus Jake and me. Luckily all four of us were interested in the details of the flowers, trees, and grasses around us. We crushed and sniffed the aromatic leaves of yarrow, Queen Anne's lace, sweet Cecily, and the citrusy berries of prickly ash -- and tasted the three small ripe black raspberries that Jake found. We each partook of at least a few juicy berries from every mulberry tree we passed.
Though many think that yarrow and Queen Anne's lace are the same plant, it was easy to differentiate between the two when seen side by side. We also examined spiderwort, St. John's wort, yellow hawkweed, bladderwort, daisy fleabane, meadow rue, jack-in-the-pulpit berries, pokeweed, monarda, and many more -- plus invasive wild parsnip, garlic mustard, buckthorn and honeysuckle. The woodpecker-sculpted tree was duly admired, and it was noted that the birds are apparently beginning to sculpt another tree nearby.
With a half mile left to go the rain was negligible, though the trees still dripped convincingly. The temperature had risen and jackets were unzipped and ponchos removed. The air smelled clean. We reached the trailhead ready for lunch, having hiked 3.25 somewhat damp but very satisfying miles.
The Wednesday Long Hike, reported by Marvin Herman
Today was forecasted to be rainy all through the period when we would be hiking. All 11 long hikers, including one that would meet up with us in the city of Whitewater were attired in at least one article of rain gear. Some were totally covered in it. A light drizzle was falling as we awaited the order to regroup. Finally, we were told that we would meet at the parking lot in Whitewater opposite the municipal building on Whitewater Street to reprise the hike we have done more or less annually for some time along the paths and in the beautiful parks of the city.
Once we were all together, we set off across Cravath Park and onto a nice asphalt trail through a park system. We then accessed a prairie which, I was told, was financed by a family in memory of a former student of the University that passed away. Black-eyed Susan and a nice compass plant were pointed out amongst other vegetation in the prairie. Soon, we came upon a housing subdivision in which one of the hikers was constructing a new home. Of course, many hikers wanted to go through the construction site while others waited outside to admire the neighborhood.
Next, the group hiked toward the university athletic campus, and on the way there, it became necessary to jump over a muddy irrigation ditch. One short-legged old guy didn't make it over the ditch and fell in the mud. Yes, it was your reporter. After the rest of the hikers urged me out of the ditch, the hike continued. Into the woods we went, and soon it was time for me to depart the group. Based on the past hikes here, I assume the group carried on to the Warhawk Stadium and then to the Frisbee course. The hike covered at least 5 miles.
The group went to lunch at a nice little taco restaurant on the Main Street in Whitewater where, no doubt, conversation continued about future activities of the group. Judy W. guided me back to my vehicle so I could make my appointment in Illinois, and I thank her very much, because if not for this kindness, I would still be walking around the town in my mud-stained hiking pants.