Winter slowly receding on the Ice Age Trail
Seven adventurers decided to walk counterclockwise around Lake LaGrange last Tuesday. The week before, this trail was difficult due to deep snow and ice or slush. This week we found that the snow had settled and that there was less slush so that hiking was easier. We did use our gripping footgear as most of the trail was softening ice and a little extra traction was a good thing. In a few spots thee was bare trail which was muddy.
There were a couple geese near the spring hole at the south end of the lake and some small flocks of sandhill cranes flew over. The largest flock that we saw was ten.
Ellen Davis writes:
The four tallest short hikers – plus one not-so-tall – car-pooled to the Muir Trails for another adventure on Jake's favorite figure-8 loop last Wednesday. The early morning drizzle turned to light snow as we arrived at the parking lot. The borders of the lot and the beginning of the trail were still ice-covered, and those of us who had brought ice cleats put them on.
We set off at a comfortably quick pace. I stayed with the one hiker without ice cleats, moving more gingerly at the end of the line. We noted the first tiny new leaves on the lowest branches of a few trailside bushes as we searched for the safest footing. Jake and the others waited for us at intersections; once we were off the main trail onto less-traveled paths, walking became easier.
There was no birdsong in the woods, and we saw no other living creatures. The moss on the trees and rocks was a brighter green, however, and the first garlic mustard leaves had made their appearance. Virginia waterleaf was also identified, and we found one large hepatica leaf – one of the earliest spring wildflowers; though no buds were visible yet, it was a definite sign that spring was actually on its way.
The snow had stopped by the time we returned to the trailhead. Our hike was completed with no mishaps and we adjourned to the La Grange County Store for lunch and conversation.
When we arrived at the U.S. 12 parking lot on Wednesday, it was raining lightly. Then it turned into a light snow.
We decided to hike across the road from our meeting place on the Ice Age Trail and return on the horse trail. Shortly after beginning our walk the precipitation stopped and we had a great hike.
Most of us put on Yak Trax or other anti-slip devices on our boots. I thought that based on the experience the day before that one would be OK without the extra footwear, but there may be places where it would be useful. It turned out that the trails had lots of melting and slushy ice making those with ice grippers surefooted and left those without doing some sliding. Those of us with the lighter Yak Trax and similar footwear were at a slight advantage over heavier and often more secure devices as none of us slipped when wearing any of the boot attachments.
Much of the snow had melted so there was little left on the trail and the layer of snow in the wood was becoming thin, especially on the south slopes.
At Esterly Road four of us decided to return via the snowmobile trail. This trail was icy with a thin layer of slush on top, but all of us had good traction with our grippers.
The others continued onto County Highway P before returning on the snowmobile trail. We all reassembled at the LaGrange Country Store for lunch.