Weekly Walk: New hikers, a new crop of wildflowers and a few pesky bugs
Nine of us carpooled to the Nordic trailhead on County Highway H last Tuesday to hike the orange trail. We added the second blue loop to the walk to make the hike more than three miles. This also added some scenic views from the ridge on the blue loop.
After rejoining the orange trail and going through the first dip a couple of us stopped to pull a few small patches of Japanese hedge parsley, an invasive. A bit farther along the parsley was in patches on either side of the trail that were too large to pull while hiking so we left them and met the others who were waiting at the bench overlooking the small lake.
We saw lots of butterflies including many yellow swallowtails, and a variety of wildflowers were in bloom.
Marvin Herman writes:
On a sunny day with temps in the mid 70's last Wednesday, 12 long hikers traveled from the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place to Emma Carlin Trails near Palmyra. We hiked the blue-blazed access trail to the Ice Age Trail and followed the hilly IAT in a southerly direction to Horseriders Park. On that leg of the hike, the mosquitoes were moderate to heavy.
We stopped at the barn which, until two months ago housed a furniture re-finishing business where we talked to the owner. He has discontinued that business and the barn now houses his vintage hubcap collection
On the trail this day we observed dotted mint, dolls eyes, flowering spurge, tick foil and some orange colored mushrooms, the name of which were not known to any hiker. Also false Solomon Seal and a plant identified tentatively as Heal-All (small purple flowers).
We took a break at Horseriders, refilled our water containers and partook of fresh cherries furnished by one of the hikers before heading back to the Emma Carlin parking lot: a total distance of about 6-1/2 miles.
All 12 hikers regrouped at the Main Street Family Restaurant in Palmyra for lunch and conversation.
Jake suggested a prairie hike in the sunshine and the Short Hike group readily agreed. In the mood for a different locale, we car-pooled to the Ice Age Trail crossing on Wisconsin Highway 67 for a hike across the Scuppernong Prairie to Brady's Rocks.
Our group of ten included one new (but experienced) hiker, one very articulate visiting teenaged grand-daughter, and a well-behaved dog. The first section of trail led through woods, with a boardwalk over low-lying damp areas. The mosquitoes were hungry and we set a brisk pace.
Once on the prairie, we discovered that it was between seasons with regard to wildflowers – and that even in the sunshine we were not entirely bug-free. Queen Anne's Lace bloomed everywhere. There was also an assortment of clovers, and both common and swamp milkweeds, much spotted knapweed, prairie dock and compass plant (not blooming), feverfew, thistles, evening primrose, mullein, only one spike of liatris, and a few – very few at this point – goldenrods. The monarch butterflies were more numerous than the swallowtails here, thanks to the abundance of milkweed.
Our original plan was to bypass the Rocks themselves and to continue on through the next prairie section. But the lure of the giant chunks of stone proved too much; we braved the bugs and marched boldly into the picturesque – though damp – dell. Jake identified the rare walking fern and several other fern varieties; we noted jewelweed and a bright orange fungus, as well as the berry clusters of Jack-in-the-Pulpit and both false and true Solomon's' Seal. Don found and ate a few ripe red raspberries, remnants of a former homestead nearby.
We returned on the Ice Age Trail. Those at the end of the line were distracted by the sight of a very large tree-frog on a leaf of a very small oak tree. He did not object to having his picture taken. Back at the trailhead, we too posed for a picture before adjourning to the La Grange General Store for lunch.
A few days ago I had been contacted by Jenny M. Wehmeier from UW Extension, Walworth County, informing me that the Walworth County “Get Moving” group would like to hike with me. This group has been hiking with me once a year for the past few years. Usually it has been on a Tuesday hike, but this time it would be on Wednesday. I was delighted to lead this group which includes enthusiastic hikers of all ages.
I had asked Janet Bryant, a regular weekly walker, to come along and act as sweep, i.e. walk with the slowest hikers and make sure that no one gets lost.
We agreed that a leisurely two and three quarter mile walk around Lake La Grange would be a nice hike for the group. After a few brief words about the Ice Age and the trail we were about to hike and applying some bug repellant we started out on the Ice Age Trail.
The highlights of the walk were the lake, the prairie, and rest stops at the benches. We identified prairie plants, a few birds, saw lots of butterflies, and those who ventured down to the lake on the north end saw small bass and bluegill swimming in the clear water.
There was some invasive Japanese Hedge Parsley along the trail on the north end of our route and along the horse trail. The parsley was in bloom but many of the petals had already fallen and the green seed heads were beginning to enlarge.
While we hiked the horse trail during the last third of our walk we identified poison ivy and some saw some toads. By this time we had broken up into two groups, I was with the lead group and Janet was with the trailing group. Part way into the hike some late comers had caught up with the slower hikers and they were ready to slow down a bit to enjoy the rest of the hike. Unfortunately they had left their mosquito repellant in their car so they were bothered by those pesky critters.
Upon arriving at our starting point the walkers made favorable comments about the hike as they tackled some trail snacks and drank water. It was a good hike!