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Weekly Walk: Cool, comfortable temps and plenty of wildflowers along the trails

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Russ Helwig | August 6, 2014

Marvin Herman writes:

On a balmy Tuesday afternoon last week, eight hikers braved the mosquito-ridden trail for a hike around Lake LaGrange. Two of the hikers were spouses of regular hikers and walked at a slightly slower pace, being unaccustomed to the trail.

I saw a red-winged blackbird and several wild flowers were observed but there was no consensus as to the identities thereof.

The highlight of the hike was getting a closer examination of the beautiful workmanship of the bench presented in honor of Russ last week. Gerhard didn't hike this day but his labors were certainly admired in his absence.  The view of the lake from the bench is just fabulous.

Marvin Herman again writes:
 
Nine hikers walked the long hike last week Wednesday on a cool, partly sunny day with mosquitoes in evidence but not too bothersome. We regrouped at the Wisconsin Highway 67 trailhead north of Eagle and did the reverse of last week's hike on the segment of the Milwaukee-Waukesha Ice Age Trail that features long swaths of prairie. We walked in three miles and back for a total of about six miles. Along the way there were great profusions of wild flowers.

On the way back, most of the group opted to do the short Brady's Rocks trail, but not your reporter who had to leave for home after the hike. I assume some of the other hikers went to lunch, perhaps in Eagle.

Ellen Davis writes:

Seven hikers and two dogs re-grouped at the Nordic trailhead for a short three-mile outing last week Wednesday on the white trail. With Jake in the lead, we started up the slope on a wide grassy trail lined with blooming clovers, daisy fleabane, monarda, assorted varies of sunflower, hawkweed, occasional prairie coneflowers, and (unfortunately) invasive spotted knapweed. This wealth of wildflowers supported a wealth of butterflies – yellow tiger and giant swallowtails, monarchs, fritillaries and skippers, as well as some we couldn't identify.  

We were hiking counterclockwise – the reverse of the normal direction of trail traffic. This presented a whole new aspect of the trail: from this direction, the first half (at least) is almost flat. Around each turn is more of the same, bordered by the same selection of wildflowers in a slightly different arrangement. But the temperature was comfortable and the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place.

At the top of a rise we now found ourselves in a meadow bordered by pines. Beside the trail stood a tall plant with blade-shaped leaves and pretty yellow flowers that none of us could identify. Further down the trail were several more. We stopped so Manfred could look it up in his wildflower book: it was an evening primrose. Thus edified, we moved on.

Leaving the meadow, we found ourselves on a sandy slope leading into a dark and hilly section of woods, and ending with a very long uphill grade leading to another open meadow at the top.  The remainder of the hike was less flowery than the beginning, with just enough hills to add variety. Back at the trailhead, the GPS reading for today's hike was 3.2 miles. Just right. We adjourned to the La Grange General Store for lunch.


Five of us walked the section of the Scuppernong Prairie from Wisconsin Highway 59 to County Highway N and back on this Wednesday flower walk. This has a nice variety of native prairie plants along with birds and a trout stream. The weather was relatively cool which made this day a great one for hiking the prairie. The skies clouded up which also kept the sun from us. A gentle breeze kept most of the mosquitoes away, but we had to put on some DEET when we slowed down in protected areas.

It was a pleasure having Mariette and Dave Nowak hiking with us as they are experts in plant identification as well as seasoned birders. Mariette pointed out a very tall grass that I had not seen before, prairie cordgrass. Some of it was in bloom as it heads reached above the surrounding vegetation.

The gayfeather, or prairie blazing star, was beginning to bloom. This plant blooms from the top down whereas most plants flower on the bottom of their flower head first. Evening primrose was especially nice. Mariette also pointed out some ironweed which has a very pretty purple flower.  Whorled milkweed was abundant. Some very pretty patches of purple loosestrife were observed near the trail. It is an invasive plant, but today the native prairie tick trefoil appeared to dominate much of the prairie.

A bobolink was perched on a small woody plant a short distance from the trail as we entered the prairie. Farther on a sandhill crane flew close overhead so we got to see a great view of this majestic bird. Field sparrows, towhee, goldfinch, blackbirds, and many other feathered friends serenaded us as we ambled along the trail.

The hike progressed slowly and the two and a quarter mile hike lasted for nearly an hour and a half while we examined a multitude of plant life along the trail.
 
Afterwards most of us regrouped at the LaGrange General Store for lunch and friendly conversation.


Happy Trekking,

Russ



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