Dressed for the weather, hikers take to the trails

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Russ Helwig | November 19, 2013

Eleven eager hikers, including some who we have not seen for a few months, arrived at our U.S. Highway 12 meeting place last Tuesday. It was windy and cold so we decided that the Nordic ski trails would be ideal to hike. It was. We hiked counterclockwise around the green trail adding a blue side loop for a hike totaling between four and five miles.

We were a bit cold for the first part of the hike mainly because we were not used to this weather, but also because we were all experienced hikers and knew that it is easy to over dress for cold weather. It is best to not be too warm before starting and dress in layers so one can remove a layer or two during the walk to stay comfortable, but cool enough that you do not sweat. The temperature cooled in the twenties throughout our hike as we warmed up so we did not need to do much clothing adjustments. In fact we were quite comfy by the time we had walked a mile or two.

We arrived at the overlook just past sunset, but there was not a spectacular sunset this day. The moon was past the first quarter giving us plenty of light to see the trail and cast shadows making this our first moonlight hike of the season. The planet Venus was also very bright in the western sky.

All agreed that it had been a very enjoyable hike.

On Wednesday, Ellen Davis, short walk coordinator, wrote: The temperature was in the low 30s with gusty winds around 15 miles per hour, yet the Ice Age Trail parking lot on U.S. Highway 12 was – surprisingly -- almost full. Jake suggested the Muir Bike Trails for the short hike, as the hilly terrain provides protection from much of the wind and the trails are generally safe from speeding cyclists at this time of year. The short-hike contingent greeted this proposal with enthusiasm and quickly departed for the Muir Trails, leaving the long hikers still in the parking lot discussing possible destinations....

Thirteen hikers (and one dog) set out on the white trail, wide enough near the trailhead to walk two or three abreast and converse easily. The nearly-leafless trees and bright sunshine accentuated the unique and dramatic topography of the Kettle Moraine.

After the orange trail split off, it was back to single file to navigate the twists and turns and roots and rocks of our now-narrow trail. But the footing was good overall, with only one short stretch of slippery mud as we cut across to the red trail to begin our return trip. 

This three-mile hike – Jake's infamous “figure 8-loop” featuring sections of three very scenic trails – is one of our favorites. And this day – the coldest Wednesday of the fall so far – was the perfect day to hike it. The comment heard over and over as we crossed the parking lot to our cars was “That was a really good hike!” It was!

The longer-distance walk was on the bike connector trails which connect the John Muir and Emma Carlin trails. Twenty one of us decided to carpool to the trail crossing on Tamarack Road to hike to the Carlin trails and back, a distance of slightly less than five miles. Because of the cold and windy weather we did not expect bike traffic, and there was none. We did, however, walk opposite to bike traffic as recommended for hikers. This is a beautiful trail with a great scenic overlook over Lower Spring Lake in Palmyra at the Carlin trail.

There were many black walnuts on the ground near the overlook. Norwin Watson and Barb Senft used rocks to crack several so we had a taste of their unique tasting nut. Most liked the flavor, but it was rather strong for some.

It had been another very enjoyable cold weather hike.

In the meantime two other hikers had a much longer hike as reported by Bonnie Nommensen:

Hi Russ,

Rich and I hiked 11 miles today and we both agreed it was a great hike on a glorious fall day! (Three miles around Lake LaGrange, Tamarack Rd to Emma Carlin and back to Tamarack, then from Tamarack to Bald Bluff parking lot).  

When do we start hiking at Lapham Peak due to hunting season starting around here?

The answer to Bonnie's question is Thanksgiving week. That is the main gun hunting season for deer. During that time and during other gun deer seasons our Wednesday hikes are at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, South Unit where deer hunting is not allowed. There are many miles of trails to hike there, even when ski trails are in use so we cannot hike on them. There are several miles of Ice Age Trail and bike trails to enjoy. And if ski trails are not groomed for skiing we can also hike those.

Gun seasons for deer are from November 23 through December 15 and from Dec 34 through Jan 5. During that time we will still meet at the same U.S. Highway 12 meeting place and time to carpool. Those who wish to drive directly to Lapham may meet us at the Evergreen Grove Lodge at about 11:15am.
Happy Trekking,


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