Weekly Walk: A 'good friend and fearless leader' along the Ice Age Trail

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Russ Helwig | July 30, 2014

Eight of us started out walking around beautiful Lake LaGrange on a hot and humid afternoon last week Tuesday. We were happy to hear that the original weather forecast of possible severe weather during our walk had recently been changed to later in the evening.

We enjoyed the walk along the lake and prairie as we observed butterflies, bees, and other insects inspecting the wildflowers. The switch grass was beginning to head out and the compass plant flower buds were swelling on their long stems.

As we approached the north end of the lake we saw a large number of people grouped on the side of the trail where there is a spectacular view of the lake and the prairie to the west. Upon arriving I finally recognized many hikers who have hiked with me over the years. In the middle of the group I was surprised to see my wife Karen, whom I had left at home, sitting on a stunning new bench overlooking the lake.

It turned out that the Ice Age Trail hikers had been planning to build the bench and have a surprise party for me for a couple of months. Even Karen was in on the surprise and I had no clue about the event until arriving at the bench. Marv Herman read a flattering statement on behalf of the hikers about things they have learned and appreciated on my weekly walks.  Theresa Stegemann read the inscription on the bench and Lynn Larson presented me with confirmation that the hikers had purchased a gold leaf in my honor for the “giving tree” at the Ice Age Trail Alliance headquarters in Cross Plains. This was followed by a grand pizza party at the Nordic shelter that included beverages and cookies. A decorated cake was presented to me by Janet Bryant which we all enjoyed. In addition, Barry Wescott, accompanied by his guitar, sang personal ballads to the hikers.

I am flattered, humbled, honored, and appreciative of this honor bestowed on me by the entire group of wonderful friends who have hiked and continue to hike with me. On the other hand I have learned much from each of them. Some also lead hikes and assist with photography and report writing. They continue to learn and teach others about our wonderful outdoors and especially to appreciate and support Wisconsin's Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making this a special and wonderful day.

Marvin Herman writes:
Eleven long hikers arrived at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place on a cool sunny and pleasant morning, last week Wednesday, still full of the spirit of the presentation and tribute party held in Russ's honor the previous evening.

The group opted to travel to the hunter's parking lot north of Wisconsin Highway 59 and again walk the beautiful prairie. Rather than carpool to the Wisconsin Highway 67 trailhead, the group decided to do an "in-and-out" hike of three miles each way or a total of six miles.

This day the prairie yielded views of not only the notorious purple loosestrife but also prairie-dock, wild rose, blazing star, Michigan (Turk's-cap) lily, gray-headed cone flower, water hemlock, compass plant and pink and yellow tick-trefoil.

Along the way, we encountered a large contingency of hikers from a nearby girls camp bound for one of the shelters for an overnight stay.
After the hike, the entire group met at Main Street Cafe in Palmyra for food and conversation, mostly about (you guessed it) the party the night before.

Lynn Larson writes:

Ten of us went for a short hike around Lake LaGrange on a beautiful summer day last week Wednesday under blue skies filled with puffy white clouds.

We were accompanied the whole way by a gorgeous fall-like breeze, numerous dragonflies and butterflies and a few mosquitoes in the wooded areas.

The smell of sweet grasses and wildflowers, which were blooming in great profusion and seemed to look especially pretty today, greeted us around most every bend.

The highlight of our hike was arriving at the newly installed bench dedicated to our good friend and fearless leader, Russ Helwig. Here we took a leisurely break, admiring the beautiful bench and checking out its comfort as we looked out over Lake LaGrange glistening in the sunlight.

After arriving back at the parking lot several of us went to LaGrange General store for an enjoyable lunch.

Happy Trekking,


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