Signs of a slow spring on the trail

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Russ Helwig | April 9, 2014

Although a bit breezy last Tuesday was a very nice afternoon for a walk. Six of us hiked a short distance east on Sherwood Forest Rd to a berm on the left which we crossed. After hiking a bit farther we connected with the horse trail which we took to the right. At the next intersection there was a fork in the trail. Three of us took a left for a short walk while the others continued about a half mile farther before returning and taking the trail the rest of us did at the fork.  They took a couple extra side trails to get a full four and two tenths miles in.  The short walk was only two miles.

There was a large excavation in a dead tree which had recently been worked on by pileated woodpeckers evidenced by the oval size and large wood chips around the tree.

At another place there was a tree with a large hole in it. We did see some hepatica leaves but no flowers.

Ellen Davis writes:

The day was sunny with a light breeze, with the temperature in the upper 30s – great weather for a brisk hike. Jake proposed a three-mile route near Lake La Grange, utilizing the horse trail, access roads, and a section of the Ice Age Trail. The wider trails would provide a better choice of footing and a faster pace, so of course we agreed.

Our group today consisted of seven weekly hikers, plus four from the Elkhorn adventure group, two experienced new-comers, and Lynn's visiting daughter Mary. The horse trail was in good condition; sharp-edged hoof-prints indicated recent use. The permanent mud puddle, with a skin of ice on its surface, had not yet expanded to the edges of the trail. Chickadees and nuthatches were plentiful, turkey vultures circled overhead, and more green leaves were emerging every week.

We took the Ice Age Trail in single file up a very long slope, carefully avoiding the slippery areas. When we reached the tiny connecter trail, Lynn and Mary decided to continue a little further on the IAT before returning to the trailhead. The rest of us pushed through the underbrush and were soon moving quickly on the horse trail again. 

Our new-comers asked about wildflowers, which provided an opportunity to promote Russ' wildflower hikes later in the spring. We keep an eye out for hepatica leaves and eventually found a plant beside the trail, though no sign of buds could be seen yet, even on close examination. 

At the next intersection, Jake offered us a choice:  take the left fork for a two-and-a-half mile hike or the right for three-plus miles. We turned right for a longer hike, of course, and reached the trailhead just before noon approximately fifteen minutes earlier than usual. We adjourned, energized, for lunch at the La Grange General Store. 

I did not hike this day but Norwin sent some photos including a few from the Tuesday walk and gave a verbal report to me by phone.

This group of fifteen adventurers carpooled to the Emma Carlin trailhead. They took the Ice Age Trail to the state forest headquarters.  After a brief visit at the museum they hiked the Stoney Ridge Nature Trail and then continued on the Ice Age Trail to Hwy S. They returned to near the headquarters where they took the path to the shelter.

At the shelter a couple hikers took the steep steps down to the springs below and small stream running north from there. They were looking for signs of marsh marigold but found none.  I could have told them that there would not be any this early as the mash marigold blooms after the hepatica. None of the hepatica have buds yet in this colder than normal spring.  Last year was an exception. Furthermore this was on the north side of a steep hill which would thaw out later than most areas. It still was a pleasant extension to their hike.

At Stute Springs there were spring wildflowers. Several skunk cabbage blooms were observed.  This is the first wildflower to bloom in the spring, sometimes as early as in February, but usually in March. But this is April! We have a late spring bloom, but yet the early crocuses in my back yard are in full bloom on a south facing slope.

Then it was a walk around the Stute Springs Nature Trail and back to the parking lot after a full six and two tenths mile of walking.

A trip to the Main Street Café in Palmyra for lunch culminated the activities for ten of these adventurers. Marv Herman who usually joins this group for lunch did not this day as he had just returned from an extended trip and was in need of rest and work at unpacking. I will be looking forward to an account of his adventures when I see him again.

Happy Trekking,


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