Weekly Walk: A little history and a Gothic pose

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Janet Carriveau | August 9, 2017

The Tuesday Hike, reported by Marvin Herman
The fine weather brought 10 hikers out to the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place. Seven elected to follow Leader Andy across the road to the Whitewater Lake segment of the Ice Age Trail to Esterly Road with a return on the horse trail. The other three opted for a gentler walk around Lake LaGrange. We finished our nearly four-mile hike in about an hour and 20 minutes.
The mosquitoes were out in force and many of the hikers broke out head nets to ward off the critters. A good spray of DEET based repellant would not have hurt today. The trail was overgrown and the footing was not the best. When we reached Norwin's Rock, a few hikers unintentionally walked right past it without stopping This is proof of how well it blends in with the surrounding wooded area.
There was a huge pile of pine logs near the Esterly parking area and we stopped there for a photo. One hiker wanted to climb to the top of the pile but was warned off by other hikers who voiced safety concerns. We saw a monarch and also another orange butterfly that was not. This is a hike that we do not do very often on Tuesdays, and all were pleased with the variety on the hilly hike.
A Tuesday Impromptu Wildflower Hike, reported by Ellen Davis
As Andy and the other hikers headed off to hike the hills across Highway 12, we three short-hikers decided to take our time examining and appreciating the prairie wildflowers on a hike around Lake La Grange. The first surprise was a pair of extremely large fat mushrooms encountered on our way down the big hill. Queen Anne's lace, spotted knapweed (an invasive), both white and yellow clovers, heal-all, tick trefoil, and the occasional monarda lined the trail bordered by tall honeysuckle bushes. As we reached the old prairie stretching down toward the lake, we were greeted by switchgrass, big bluestem and many other grasses along with compass plant, a variety of coneflowers and sunflowers, liatris, ox-eye daisies, Joe Pye weed, more monarda, and -- further on -- butterfly weed and prairie clovers. The wealth of rain over the last few weeks had filled the prairies with waves of white and pale purple, with
spots of yellow, blue, and orange. For those who like wildflowers, it was quite glorious.

We speculated on the current height of the corn as we approached the field. It was well over our heads and far exceeded our speculations. Mary and Jim struck a “Cornfield Gothic” pose for a photo, and we started back to the trailhead.This hike was a bouquet of unanticipated color. We completed our one-hour hike in about one hour and 45 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Wednesday Short Hike, reported by Ellen Davis
Our group of 12 this morning included Caralee, visiting from Traverse City, Michigan, and section hiker, Jane, from West Bend, ready to do eight more miles of Walworth County Ice Age Trail. To accompany Jane on at least part of her journey we decided to hike around Lake La Grange again -- also exposing today's group to the rich tapestry of the prairie wildflowers.

We reached the lake uneventfully. The heron was absent. So was the egret. We could feel the temperature and humidity rise as we made our way to Russ's bench for a short break, where Don's dog, Oakley, developed a strong interest in Bob's candy bar, to the amusement of all. (Oakley did not get what she wanted....)  At Ruth's Point we stopped to look at the water. Don and Oakley saw a snake -- probably a northern water snake -- in the reeds. Two of us went to look for it and found something the snake had missed: a shiny green frog.

The new oak savannah area was a wealth of color. Two egrets passed overhead and goldfinches flitted among the trees. Looking back as we crossed the old prairie, the grasses, flowers, and scattered oaks made a dramatic picture with the lake, woods, and hills in the background.  

We passed the cornfield and entered the woods. Almost immediately one of our newer hikers had to sit down, feeling weak and dizzy. As a first resort we added the contents of an electrolyte-and-vitamin packet to her water -- then added more water. She drank it and soon began to feel a bit better. Jane went on her way up the Ice Age Trail accompanied by Jerry G, a section-hiker from our Walworth County Chapter. More water was donated to our dehydrated hiker, along with a vitamin C cough drop with two grams of sugar -- another quick fix that is often surprisingly effective. When she felt steady enough we continued back to the trailhead at a slower pace, ready to stop again as needed. Stopping wasn't needed, though, as she felt increasingly better as we went on; in fact, she was singing as we hiked the final quarter mile to our cars -- to be followed by lunch at the La Grange General Store.

Post note: Jane and Jerry, hot, tired, thirsty, and covered with burrs, were picked up as agreed at Young Road then returned to their cars. Jane joined me for lunch at the General Store, looking forward to her next section of trail:  Bald Bluff.

The Wednesday Long Hike, reported by Marvin Herman
Temperatures were in the high 70's at the Highway 12 meeting place with high, wispy clouds. A fresh breeze was blowing pleasantly through the little valley where we park our vehicles in preparation for the hiking day. Over many years, we have learned that the weather at that Blackhawk trailhead, is usually not the weather in the woods and prairies through which we hike. Our leader announced that today we would be traveling to the Bald Bluff parking area and hiking to Tamarack Road via the Ice Age Trail. The return trip would possibly be a back-track on the IAT but most probably on the horse trail.

Twenty-one long hikers started the hike up Bald Bluff. It is always nice to get that part out of the way so we could stand, breathless, looking out over the bluff where we could see (it is said) the site involved in one of the famous wars our Wisconsin State Militia fought against Chief Black Hawk's tribe in May of 1832, called the Battle of Stillman's Run. After that battle in Illinois, the Chief, after claiming a resounding victory over the militia, retreated to this area. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying that he was close to this battlefield.

After our rest, we headed down the other side of the bluff following the very hilly trail through the woods to Tamarack. There, we paused once more for refreshments of cherries and nuts furnished by Jo and George. At that point, it was reported that two of our hikers had turned back leaving 19 hikers ready to take on the next section of the hike which was the horse trail.

The return is along a mostly sandy trail which, although wide, is quite hilly and difficult to walk on unless you walk on the strip of weeds growing along the center of the trail. There was little botanizing on this hike so I don't have any flowers to report on. But we did see an orange butterfly which may have been a monarch. Most likely it was a type of milkweed butterfly called a queen but its identification was not certain. As we reached the trail's end, and turned towards the parking area, several hikers stopped on the road to talk to a lady who appeared to be chasing a pig with a broom. She was trying to enlist sympathy for her plight of losing her home to the DNR who were taking it and the adjacent woodlands by eminent domain. She said the house was 200 years old and it certainly looked it.

On return to the parking area, the temperature on my vehicle's thermometer was 87 degrees. We had hiked 5-1/2 miles. Most regrouped at LaGrange General Store for good food and conversation about not only future activities but also about this most interesting hike.

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