Janesville43.6°

Warmer temps, cranes make for great spring hike

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Russ Helwig
April 9, 2013

Our Tuesday was a hike on horse trails and Ice Age Trail around Lake LaGrange. We took a longer loop than usual to get in closer to four miles rather than slightly less than three for the normal route.

It was a nice evening as we were joined by two small canine companions. The lake had open water near the much of the shoreline. Several geese were on the lake near the old Kangaroo Walk. We decided to take that old wooden walk over the south end of the lake rather than use the current Ice Age Trail. The Ice Age Trail had been on the Kangaroo Walk before recent wet seasons had caused the lake to rise a foot above the walk.

The high water level remained for a few years before receding to the old level last year. During the wet seasons the Ice Age Trail was rerouted to bypass the flooded Kangaroo Walk.

All along the west and northwest shoreline the underbrush had been recently shredded by a forestry mower. This made for a view of the lake from much more of the trail than previously. The underbrush was practically all honeysuckle and buckthorn which are not native and clog the forests in this part of the state.

The next day was warmer and sunny. We had 37 hikers showing up for our adventures.

I led more than twenty longer distance hikers on the bike connector trail from Tamarack Rd to Young Rd and back. This part if the trail system is mostly level but scenic. Much of it goes through pine plantations. We heard the forestry mower in the distance and there was evidence of extensive shredding of the underbrush throughout this area.

Ellen Davis reported the following about the Wednesday short hike:

The Ice Age Trail between Wisconsin Highway 59 and Wilton Road was the destination for the short hike today. Most of us followed Jake's truck down U.S. Highway 12 to Wisconsin Highway 67, then north to County Highway S and across 59 to the Dog Trail Grounds. It was a large group today, including two new hikers from Delavan, and our vehicles occupied all of one parking area and half of the other.

After traversing a patch of thick ice we set off across the prairie. The trail was good - a little soft with occasional muddy spots, but very easy hiking on the whole. The gentle terrain and distant vistas were a nice contrast to the hills and woods of previous weeks. Branches of red and yellow dogwood offered a subtle hint of color and the bright sun reminded us that spring might arrive after all.

We stopped to re-group at County Highway N. Usually some of our hikers choose to go back at this point for a hike of almost three miles, but today everyone elected to continue onward at least for another half mile. The Ice Age Trail marker at the edge of the meadow was our next stopping point. We noted that a burn had been done here fairly recently and fresh green shoots were beginning to emerge here and there. We could hear sandhill cranes, but none were visible. After a brief rest, most of the group started the hike back.

Six of us continued on to Wilton Road. This is a nicely varied section of trail with woods, prairie, marsh, sections of boardwalk, and more woods. At Wilton Road we looked toward the next section of trail with anticipation: it features Brady's Rocks, one of our favorite spring hikes.

On the way back we stopped to watch a pair of cranes feeding in the burn area. It was rewarding to actually see them after hearing them throughout much of the hike! (Our newer hikers were surprised to learn that some cranes are almost five feet tall.) Approaching the parking area, we were rewarded again with the sight of a second pair in the distance.

It had been an excellent spring hike - not too cold, not too muddy, and not too hilly, the sun was shining, and there were cranes!

Happy trekking,

Russ

Events

April 11-14, IATA Annual Conference: Held at Trollhaugen Ski Resort, Dresser, Wisconsin near St. Croix Falls. Details may be found in Mammoth Tales and at www.iceagetrail.org. Contact Carol Prchal, (262) 495-8502 for potential carpooling.

Sunday, April 14, 8:00/10:00am, Horicon Hike/Bird watch: Meet at 8 a.m. at the Park & Ride lot north of Elkhorn on U.S. Highway 12/Wisconsin Highway 67 to receive maps and information packets and arrange car-pooling. For more information, contact Ellen Davis at (262) 740-1113.

Tuesday, April 16, 7:00pm, IATA Chapter monthly meeting: Meet at the US Bank in Elkhorn. Contact Carol Prchal at (262) 495-8502.

Saturday, April 20, Trail Work: Meet at the U.S. Highway 12 kiosk five miles east of Whitewater to start getting our trail in shape for the Kettle Moraine 50 mile run. Contact Jerome Converse at (262) 473-7304.

Sunday, April 21, Trail Work: Meet at the U.S. Highway 12 kiosk 5 miles east of Whitewater to get our trail in shape for the Kettle Moraine 50 mile run. Contact Andy Whitney at (262) 949-0286.

April 24-28, IAT-U session 1: Contact IATA staff or go online for an application and more information.

Weekly Walks: Meet each Tuesday at 4:00pm and Wednesday at 10:30am at the Wisconsin Highway 12 Ice Age National Scenic Trail crossing located about four miles east of Whitewater, about a quarter mile east of the intersection of Hwy 12 with Sweno Rd. The parking lot is at the west end of Sherwood Forest Road, which is a short road that intersects Hwy 12 at each end. Two or more walks of different distances on Wednesdays and also do this on Tuesdays when desired. All ages are welcome. Note that a current state park pass is required to park a car at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place. A daily or yearly pass may be purchased at the meeting place provided correct change is available. Trail passes are available also so if you plan to cross country ski you should pick up one of these also. You may also purchase passes at the forest headquarters between Palmyra and Eagle on Wisconsin Highway 59. A park pass is not required to park at the forest headquarters.



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