Budding flowers, bird calls sure signs of spring

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Russ Helwig
Monday, April 29, 2013

A prior commitment kept me from the Tuesday walk this week, so Norwin Watson volunteered to lead the hike in spite of a cold rain. The three adventurers this day drove from our meeting place to the Nordic Trails and hiked a combination of trail amounting to three miles. Norwin insisted that they had a nice hike. I believe him because I have had positive experiences in inclement weather when dressed appropriately.

Ellen Davis reported the following about the Wednesday hike:

The short hike today turned out to be a combination of short and long hikers, involving three different distances with the same starting point.

We began our hike on the Ice Age Trail heading southwest from the Highway 12 trail crossing. Our group of around twenty was so spread out in the hilly terrain that those at the front were seldom in sight of those of us in the rear. And since we had heard rumors that hepaticas had been seen recently, some of us fell further and further behind searching for these early spring wildflowers – with no luck.

At the intersection of the Ice Age Trail with the horse trail, we joined the rest of the group who had already begun the trip back. By now the group was noticeably smaller, since the long hikers had continued on to County Road P and points beyond....

Our favorite bird expert was with us today, so several of us took the opportunity to ask her help in identifying bird calls and mystery birds encountered recently. And soon, at a wide sunny area beside the trail, we saw our first hepaticas – still in the bud, but there they were. It was a much-needed sign that spring had finally come at last!

Norwin was leading those who to Hwy P and beyond. They were the long distance hikers who, after two turned around to hike back at Hwy P, continued on to the scenic overlook of Whitewater and Rice Lakes before returning. They saw a nice display of flowers just west of Hwy P. However, they were not wildflowers but rather had been planted there by those who owned the land many years in the past. There were a few signs of wildflower plants which will bring future blooms, but this is the latest any of our hikers have seen hepatica begin to bloom.

In the meantime Andy Whitney and Lynn Larson rode with me to Riverside Park in Janesville where we met Janet Bryant. The four of us will be leading a hike for employees of the Uline Company on May 4. We wanted to hike the entire eight mile route which includes the beautiful Devil’s Staircase and Arbor Ridge segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. This is an out and back hike from the south park pavilion to the pioneer cabin on the southwest side of the arboretum. We planned to inspect the trail and to agree on which return routes to take through the Cook Arboretum and Riverside Park.

Riverside Park is partially under water due to high water on the Rock River so the road is closed on the north mile of the park. We parked near the south pavilion and walked from there to the far end of the arboretum and back. Along the way we picked up four or five plastic grocery bags of litter. In the meantime we came up with alternate routes for the return part of the hike through the park and arboretum to add more variety to the hike.

We found hepatica sprinkled all over some of the north slopes near the river. A few bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches were just coming up as were other spring wildflowers that should be blooming for our big hike.

We stopped at the cabin which is halfway through the hike for trail snacks and to rehydrate before returning.

For your information the Rock River has recently been designated as a National Scenic Riverway and nearly half of our hike is along it. It is indeed scenic there with one hundred foot sandstone cliffs along it on the Devil’s Staircase segment and on the west side of the park.

Happy trekking,



Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m., Uline Hike in Janesville: Eight mile hike for 85 Uline Company employees from the south shelter at Riverside Park on the Ice Age Trail to the pioneer cabin in the Cook Arboretum and back. Volunteer to walk with a small group of the hikers to lead them and be a reference for the trail, point out wildflowers, etc. Volunteers to meet at the south shelter at 8:30am. Contact: Russ Helwig, (262) 473-2187.

Saturday, May 11, 9 a.m,, Hike on the Rock river Trail, picnic at Beckman Mill County Park, hike Big Hill Park: Carpool from Converses at 9 a.m. Contact: Barb Converse, (262) 473-7304.

Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m., Monthly Meeting of the Walworth/Jefferson Chapter of the IATA: Meet at US Bank, Elkhorn. Gerhard and Theresa Stegemann will have a presentation on growing native plants from seed. Contact: Carol Prchal, (262) 495-8502.

Sunday, May 26, 9 a.m., Trail Work: Meet at the U.S. Highway 12 kiosk, five miles east of Whitewater for trail maintenance. Final prep for the 100 mile ultra-marathon and NTD hike on June 1. Contact: Bill Kangaroo (508) 883-2825.

Saturday, June 1, 8 a.m., National Trails Day Hike: Meet at the Rice Lake parking lot near Whitewater to hike three, five, 10, 15, or 20 miles on the Ice Age Trail toward the Emma Carlin trails on County Highway Z. Pack your own food and water. Stop half way for lunch at the Oleson Cabin. Contact: Russ Helwig, (262) 473-2187.

Weekly Walks: We meet each Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at the U.S. Highway 12 Ice Age National Scenic Trail crossing, located about four miles east of Whitewater, about a quarter mile east of the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 with Sweno Road. The parking lot is at the west end of Sherwood Forest Road, which is a short road that intersects U.S. Highway 12 at each end. We include 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 daily or yearly pass may be purchased at the meeting place provided correct change is available. Trail passes are available also, and may be purchased at the forest headquarters between Palmyra and Eagle on Wisconsin Highway 59. A park pass is not required to park at the forest headquarters.

Last updated: 8:46 am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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