Weekly Walk: Signs of fall
The Weekly Walks for Aug. 29-30, 2017
The Tuesday hike, reported by Jacob Gerlach:
Mike brought a new hiker, Bobbie, so we had a total of nine for our trip around Lake LaGrange. The first thing I noticed is that the leaves on the Virginia creeper are now red or turning red. The sumac is mostly a deep maroon and there are a lot of other signs of fall. In particular the prairies are yellow with the various varieties of goldenrod and some of the maple trees are starting to turn color.
We took a brief water stop at Russ's bench and then it was on around the lake. In the reclaimed area where they planted new trees this spring there are lots of big weeds, but some of the planted trees are growing. I will look in the spring to see how many survive their first year. The corn in the corn field is starting to ripen. Some of the leaves are already brown and dry. Crops finish ripening very quickly this time of year.
On the connector trail all of the puddles had water in them from the recent rain. Mike caught a toad which I thought Bobbie was going to take home (she did release it). It was another great hike on a great late summer evening.
The Wednesday short hike, reported by Ellen Davis:
I had heard a rumor that Jake wanted to hike the Clover Valley section of the Ice Age Trail to check out the recent mobile skills crew project: a new 330-foot boardwalk installed by IAT volunteers at the end of last week. To be on the safe side, I photocopied maps and marked the route from our U.S. Highway 12 meeting place to the tiny parking lot on Island Road. The rumor turned out to be true. Seventeen short-hikers and two dogs appeared for the hike, received their maps, and re-arranged themselves to fit into six cars.
The vehicle I was in was the last to arrive, filling the Clover Valley parking area. We were still missing two hikers and a dog. We waited. They did not appear, so off we went down a corridor lined with various types of sunflowers and goldenrods. The trail took us across a bridge over a small stream, and then followed the stream through patches of jewelweed, wild cucumber vines, and more goldenrods and sunflowers. Leaving the stream behind, the heat increased as we crossed another flowery meadow—this one sporting a clump of turtlehead in bloom.
The mosquitoes attacked in force as we entered the damp woods. Bright red jack-in-the-pulpit seed heads pointed to an early fall, but most hikers did not want to stop long enough to admire them. The new raised boardwalk appeared none too soon, curving through an open wooded area newly cleared of invasives, dead trees, and the shrubby understory that had impeded the air circulation necessary to dry it out. The mosquitoes, having no place to lurk with the underbrush gone, had left only a small force to annoy us. The rest of the mosquito population were waiting at the end of the boardwalk and harassed us all the way across the next stream, into Rock County and most of the way to County Line Road, where they gave up temporarily.
We started back along the trail after a short break. The temperature had risen and the mosquitoes waged another attack. Two familiar figures (and a dog) appeared coming toward us on the trail—our missing hikers had finally found us and we continued back the trailhead together.
Those of us without protective head-nets made mental notes to purchase some ASAP. Brave Parker, 14 months old, was getting hot and restless. The curves of the new boardwalk were even more appealing coming from this direction. As usual, those at the end of the line were distracted by interesting plant life — a high-bush cranberry and a carrion vine this time. We reached the parking lot hot and sticky but pleased with our hike and impressed by the planning and work involved in creating that wonderful boardwalk—with much credit going to Jerome and Andy from our own Ice Age Trail Alliance chapter, who spear-headed the effort here in Walworth County.
The Wednesday long hike, reported by Marvin Herman:
On a beautiful day for a hike in late August, the Highway 12 meeting place was nearly full. The temperatures were in the mid 70's and the skies were clear. Andy decided that we would hike up at the Scuppernong ski trails near Dousman in the southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. Seventeen long hikers regrouped in the large parking area off County Highway ZZ. We gathered around the map to determine what our hike would be for the day.
We started on the five mile Green ski trail in reverse to maximize the mileage we could achieve.
Our plan was to intersect with the Ice Age Trail and take it back to our point of origin. We hiked along the broad Green trail for about four miles. Some hikers reported that a pigeon took up leadership of the group for a short distance.
We easily walked up the high slopes of the ski trail and the leading group kindly stopped to wait for those of us in sweep position a couple of times. Kevin made sure that the trailing group did not get lost. One of the stops to catch our collective breath included a sample of cold melon to restore our energy. At mile four we intersected with the IAT and the hiking formation changed to single file. All of us were familiar with the new terrain of rocks and stumps with numerous switchbacks as we climbed steep eskers where we could see the leaders far below us.
When we reached a blue sign for the parking lot, we knew the end of the hike was near. There, along that exit trail, we saw a nest built by paper wasps.The paper wasps gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems which they mix with saliva and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. One hiker with knowledge of these interesting insects thought that these wasps abandon their nests each year and construct a new home from new material allowing the old one to fall apart in the winter. In the fall these wasps raise a new queen from unfertilized eggs.The queen spends the winter hiding under tree bark or rocks and in spring the cycle begins anew.
At the conclusion of the hike, it was reported that it covered near 6 miles. Most of the participants regrouped at Sunny Side Up Restaurant in Dousman for good Mexican food and conversation.