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Weekly Walk: Wildlflowers, wild raspberries and a couple of green herons

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Russ Helwig | August 27, 2014

Marvin Herman writes:

Fourteen hikers, a huge number for a Tuesday hike, met at the U.S. Highway 12 meeting place last week Tuesday, on a day which followed substantial rain in the area the night before. Five of the hikers were a family from Illinois that were visiting the area and wanted to hike the IAT and we were pleased to accommodate them with a nice walk around Lake LaGrange in reverse, a distance of just under three miles.

We stopped at Russ's bench with which the visitors were duly impressed. There we met a man with an English Bulldog and he walked the rest of the way with us, the cute dog snorting heavily all the way as dogs of that breed tend to do.

There were no pesky flying things to contend with and all enjoyed the hike very much.
    
Marvin Herman writes again:
 
Norwin Watson led 13 hikers on the Nordic trails last week Tuesday, a combination of blue and green blazed trails resulting in a hike of 5-1/2 miles. The weather was quite warm but the mosquitoes were not much in evidence.

After the hike, the group reassembled at LaGrange General Store for food and conversation.

Jake Gerlach writes:

Four people and a dog went to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources headquarters last week Wednesday. From there we started clockwise around the nature trail. When we got to the ice age trail we turned left toward highway S. We found many juicy ripe blackberries which we had to sample. We also saw quite a few wildflowers; we particularly liked the sunflowers and the purple of the rough blazing star.

When we got to the railroad tracks, we were all wet with perspiration so we decided to return.  The total distance was just over 2.5 miles.

Ellen Davis writes:

Due to a time constraint, I opted for a short fast hike around Lake La Grange last week Wednesday. Accompanied by master gardener Barb, we started with the biggest hill. At the summit, we noted a scattering of rough blazing star beginning to bloom, and, of course, invasive spotted knapweed.  The leaves of the grey dogwood bushes were already turning red – a striking contrast to the white berries.

The new trail through the woods was aging nicely, accumulating moss along the uphill side along with lichens and bracket fungus and an assortment of young understory plants.

Neither the great blue heron nor the resident pair of egrets were present at the end of the lake.  Goldenrod was coming into bloom, and I learned that the flowering plant I'd identified as swamp milkweed was actually a shorter version of joe-pye weed – and the one with tiny white flowers that looked like baby's breath was in the spurge family.  

Barb's mission on this hike was to locate a “small” patch of phragmites along the lakeshore.  These tall tasseled reeds were easy to spot, adjacent to a bed of cat-tails. Another invasive, phragmites spreads via underground tubers, crowding out other more desirable native species.  And this was a substantial invasion worthy of DNR action.

Big blue stem grass was abundant in the prairie sections, along with more rough blazing star, goldenrod, a few prairie coneflowers, and asters in bud. Sumac sported the occasional orange or red leaf. We moved quickly along the trail, distracted only at the cornfield where we found an ear of corn on the ground, stripped of husks, with one bite missing. Those tooth marks looked human...

We continued through the woods, energized and pleased with nature's colorful progression toward fall as we returned to our cars and prior commitments.


Four of us started our adventure for the day by visiting the Whitewater Effigy Mounds Preserve for a flower walk last week Wednesday. It had been a couple years since I had hiked there. We enjoyed the wildflower garden at the sign near Mound Parkway.

Upon entering the preserve we found it to be in need of maintenance. The path to the mounds was mowed but the signs are deteriorating and one sign was missing from its post. It was difficult to imagine what the mounds looked like as they were covered by tall weeds. In the middle of the preserve there was a large oak which had split in two and one half was lying on the ground.  It did not fall on any mounds.

It was nice to see the prairie west of the preserve where we observed a great selection of prairie grasses and flowers.

We then drove to the parking lot off Freemont Street north of town by Whitewater Creek. After checking out the creek we walked across the road to walk around the Prairie. We found some patches of sweet clover, which is invasive and it was displacing the prairie plants.

A couple green herons were spotted near the pond. Other wildlife we saw included a snake which quickly slithered across the path, and a few leopard frogs. A variety of bees and other insects were enjoying the wildflowers. We were excited to find cream gentians near the path along with compass plant, stiff goldenrod, rosinweed, and many other blooming prairie plants.

There was a breeze which helped with the warm weather. On this muggy day our total hiking distance was a bit over two miles although we were on the trails for more than two hours, a great pace for stopping along the way to observe the plants and wildlife.


Happy Trekking,

Russ



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