Hand warmers, layers make cold, snowy hikes enjoyable

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Russ Helwig | December 17, 2013

It was a cold but beautiful night for our Tuesday walk. Only four of us met for hiking and decided to hike between four and five miles of Muir bike trails. This proved to be a good choice because the density of trees is large there which protected us from the strong wind.

The moon was about a quarter full which is bright enough to form good shadows and to light up the snow covered trail. Venus was also very bright in the western sky. It was a delightful moonlight hike.

Bicycles were allowed on the trail this day but none were seen. We did meet a couple runners who were also enjoying the trail.

With the temperature dropping from sixteen to less than twelve degrees during our hike I decided to use hand warmers. This and my four layers of clothing, including a windbreaker, were about right for the first part of the hike. Then unzipping the outer two layers kept me comfortable for the rest of the walk. A face mask to keep any wind from freezing my face when facing any wind did help at times.

Ellen Davis writes on the short hike:          

The wind chill wasn't quite as bad as anticipated, but only three appropriately-dressed short hikers (and one canine) were brave enough to appear this morning. We were soon joined by two others who usually hiked the longer distances but opted to join us for a quick three-mile trek around frozen Lake La Grange. We set off counter-clockwise on the horse trail, still adjusting gloves, hoods, hand-warmers, and other paraphernalia as we walked.

An inch or two of snow covered the ground, camouflaging the occasional patch of ice as we entered the woods. Though we were somewhat sheltered in the trees and well-dressed for the weather, hands and feet can become painfully cold at the beginning of a hike; today was no exception. Ten minutes later we were warm and comfortable again. Twenty minutes after that, hoods were removed and jackets partly unzipped as we climbed the narrow trail into the prairie section. 

We paused for a look at the lake. Several sets of boot prints formed meandering trails on the ice, but there was no indication of any ice-fishing activity. At the far end of the lake mist rose from the open water over the spring. The wind picked up and we moved along.

Chester the dog was finding much to investigate, and eventually flushed a squawking pheasant – which he ignored. Of somewhat more interest to him was the well-delineated trail of a small five-toed beastie that paralleled the Ice Age Trail for several hundred feet before disappearing into the underbrush. 

The last hill was a challenge. The snow cover only hinted at the rocks and roots hiding beneath, but we made it – slowly – to the plateau with no mishaps and were rewarded with a bright sunlit vista clothed in fresh snow. Energized and hungry, we adjourned to the La Grange General Store for coffee and homemade soup.

Russ writes, three of us carpooled to Lapham Peak where we were met by two others. There we hiked about four miles of trail including Ice Age Trail, paved trail, and road.

The temperature was lower than the night before but similar in that it was falling, and ended up in the single digits by the end of our adventure. The wind was bitter but not as strong. The same clothing was used as for the evening before with similar success. The sun shining on the face was a warm welcome that overcame some of the wind chill.

Midway on our walk two deer crossed the trail in front of us and then lopped effortlessly over the hill past the Nature Center.

We watched the snowmaking operation and some skiers who were enjoying the trail that was groomed. We talked to one skier who had been on some of the other trails that were not groomed with no artificial snow, but found some bad spots and she was happy that she had her old skis.

After the walk some of us bought park passes and a trail pass at the ranger station before we all regrouped at the Oconomowoc Depot Restaurant for a tasty lunch.  A train went by as we ate and a stop a couple blocks away at the Brownberry Ovens Outlet store culminated our adventure.

Norwin, Andy, Barb R. and Barb L. took a long walk on the southwest blue loop of the Muir trails. This is one of my favorite, but one has to hike quite a distance on other trails to get there and back totalling nearly seven miles total for the entire hike.

Norwin reported seeing tons of animal tracks of all kinds, but no animals. They walked on the ice on the pond at the far south end of the loop, and in general had a great hike. They also met the same runners that we had met the evening before.

Happy Trekking,



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