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Weekly Walk: Summer flowers, berries--even a turtle--brighten hikes

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Russ Helwig | July 24, 2014

Last week Tuesday's walk was a short walk around Lake LaGrange by ten eager hikers. We admired the wildflowers in the prairie and snacked on a few chokecherries which were growing along the trail. Those who sampled well ripened berries found them tasty. Those who sampled berries that were not completely black found them a bit astringent, hence the name. These were growing on low bushes which can become small tees and should not be confused with wild black cherries. The berries look alike but the black cherries are not as astringent and they grow on trees which can become very large. The leaves of the black cherry are longer and thinner and often have a bit of yellow or orange fuzz on the underside.

Marvin Herman writes:
 
After the short hike on the amazing Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail last week Wednesday, 11 hikers who wished for a longer day on the trails went across the road to the Scuppernong Trails off of County Highway ZZ and hiked the hilly, 2-1/2 mile red-blazed trail which allowed them to log 5 miles on the day.
 
Most of the hikers then regrouped at the LaGrange General Store for food and conversation.
 
Ellen Davis writes:

After much parking lot discussion, seven short hikers (including one first-timer) car-pooled to the Emma Carlin Trails last week Wednesday for a three-mile hike through a variety of terrains. With Jake in the lead, we set off at a brisk pace to the Ice Age Trail. That didn't last long; as soon as we entered the woods we found ripe black raspberries bordering the trail and our brisk pace disintegrated.  

Once we had crossed the road, the trail through the woods became damp, and we were happy to see the wide expanse of the prairie ahead. The predominant colors were pale purple and gold – wild bergamot (monarda) and prairie coneflowers, sunflowers and rudbeckia. A variety of tall clovers in white, yellow, and pink bordered the trail, accented here and there with groupings of tiny wild pinks. 

From the footbridge we could see watercress blooming in the creek. We began to see echinacea in bloom, along with the occasional blue vervain, butterfly weed, and spiderwort. Jake found a tall bushy sagey green mystery plant with plumes of flowers resembling shells. Spotted orange Turk's cap lilies appeared here and there in the distance as we approached the end of the prairie and re-entered the woods.

We stopped briefly at forest headquarters where Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staffer Amanda identified our mystery plant as cream wild indigo, then proceeded around the pond and onto the Ridge Trail. And into the mosquitoes. Jake pulled his mosquito net down over his head. I flapped my arms a lot. Most of the others were stoic. Coming down from the ridge we bush-whacked our way to the nearby McMiller ski trail – wide, sandy, and comparatively bug-free. 

At the Stute Homestead three of us sampled the watercress growing next to the springhouse and found it tasty. The berries at the edge of the clearing, however, were past their prime. After a quick glance at the stone chicken-house, we started back to the trailhead and lunch, agreeing that this was an excellent hike for this unusually cool sunny summer day.

We started out last week Wednesday with the long walk for the “amazing” first part of their flower hike on the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, which included the marl pits and some short side trips to springs. We ambled slowly and stopped more often than the others to admire the numerous wildflowers while I took more than thirty photos, too many to attach all of them in the report. There were still several species that I did not take a photo of and some that I could not identify. I mostly concentrated on those I had not photographed yet this year.

At the marl pits we admired a soft-shelled turtle with a shell about a foot across as it swam over to us and looked at us with its head barely under the water. As we moved it followed under the protection of the water.  Some hikers saw a couple large northern water snakes which slithered into the water and then back toward shore to stick their heads out of the water and observe them.  This is typical behavior for these interesting reptiles.

We admired the springs and afterwards went to the Sunnyside-Up restaurant in Dousman for tasty Mexican food.


Happy Trekking,

Russ



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