Weekly walk: Bounty of wildflowers, swallowtails and scenery along the trail

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Russ Helwig | August 20, 2014

Eight adventurers hiked a combination of horse trail and Ice Age Trail in a counterclockwise route around Lake LaGrange last week Tuesday. Part way on the horse trails we split up with Norwin and others taking one path while I took the remainder on another which connected with the normal route around the lake before meeting up with Norwin. We would have arrived at the same time had I not had to climb through the top of a large oak which had recently fallen and completely blocked the trail.

One of our hikers had not seen the new bench so we all stopped to admire it and to enjoy the beautiful view over the lake.

The prairie was beautiful with many wildflowers including rough blazing star nearly ready to bloom and prairie blazing star at its end of its show of color. Some varieties of goldenrod were at the beginning of their bud opening and should add more color in a view days.

At one point a half grown rabbit hopped along the trail ahead of us and stopped as we stopped.  After we started up again it ran off the trail.

Norwin Watson reported that eleven adventurers joined the long walk last week Wednesday which went from the Bale Bluff parking lot to the horse trail near Tamarack Road. They returned on the horse trail with the group splitting up near the Ice Age Trail intersection. Eight continued on the horse trail to the road north of Bald Bluff and took the roads back to the parking lot while three took the Ice Age Trail back over the bluff. Both groups arrive within a minute of one another.

They did not see many wildflowers but did see a few butterflies. They did not enjoy the sand they had to walk in on part of the horse tail. A tree with a large excavation which had been made by a pileated woodpecker was observed near the path. Along the way a short side trip was made to the Stone Elephant, a large erratic near the Ice Age Trail, which one of the group had not seen before.

They found that the Ice Age Trail from the Stone Elephant to Tamarack Road was in need of maintenance as tall vegetation was invading the path. There were no downed trees.

After the six plus mile walk nine of them regrouped at the LaGrange General Store for lunch and fruitful conversation.

Ellen Davis writes:

The short hike this morning consisted of six guys, one very small canine, and me. We car-pooled to the Nordic Trails for another adventure on the 3-plus mile white trail.  

We soon noticed that many of the wildflowers we had admired a few weeks ago had gone to seed – the thistles were looking particularly scruffy. Still blooming at trailside were aster, spotted knapweed, and Queen Anne's lace, with an understory of prunella (heal-all). Woodland sunflowers were also evidence, along with the occasional evening primrose, mullein, hawk's eye, and prairie coneflower.

After talking about monarch butterflies early in the hike, we paid special attention to the butterfly species we were seeing. Giant swallowtails were definitely predominant. There were also cabbage butterflies, an assortment of fast-moving fritillaries, and one black tiger swallowtail. Total monarchs seen: only three.

This was a fast-paced hike filled with high energy and good conversations. Most of us chose to continue those conversations over lunch at the La Grange Country Store.

Five of us who wished a leisurely flower walk carpooled to the Nature Conservancy nature trails at Lulu Lake off Nature Road last week Wednesday. We ended up walking a bit more than three miles covering all of the trails plus a side trip to a savanna on top of a beautiful ridge at the south end of the trail system.

The south end of the trail beyond the bridge over the river had poison ivy all along the trail and in spots also in the trail. We were glad that we did not wear shorts. Most of the trails had been recently mowed. This helped us to avoid much, but not all, of the tick trefoil which lines the trails and its seeds which would stick to our clothing.

We had a large garter snake slither across the trail in front of us; saw a leopard frog which allowed us to take a photo of it before leaping off the trail, a boat with fishermen on the lake, and some smaller watercraft on the Mukwonago River near the outlet. The scenery from the trails was fantastic, including beautiful views of wildflowers peppering the forest floor, of the lake, and of the Mukwonago River.

I was pleased to have Mariette and Dave Nowak with us as Mariette is the top flower expert of all our walkers and Dave is also very good at plant identification.  Mariette sent me the following list of wildflowers that she was able to remember seeing on our adventure:

“Purple prairie clover, dotted horsemint, fern-leaved false foxglove, goldenrod, a few showy tick trefoil (although most were in seed), pointed tick-trefoil (the woodland one—all were in seed), forked aster, groundnut, flowering spurge, nodding wild onion, round-headed bush-clover, rough blazing-star, woodland sunflowers, false sunflower or oxeye.”

We arrived at the LaGrange General Store about fifteen minutes after the long distance hikers who had hiked twice as far as we did. We indeed had a leisurely and enjoyable flower walk.

Happy Trekking,


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