Ripe fruit, blooming flowers make for enjoyable hikes

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Russ Helwig | August 14, 2013

There was a light rain when 11 of us arrived at our U.S. Highway 12 meeting place for our Tuesday walk, so some of us took rain gear, just in case we might need it. We did not. The rain held off as we walked around Lake LaGrange via the Ice Age Trail and horse trail.

Near the beginning of the walk we stopped to snack on some ripe chokecherries. These delicious cherries ripen earlier than the common black cherry, which is often mistaken for them. Black cherries often grow to be large trees and have longer and narrower leaves than the chokecherries. Chokecherries are usually found as bushes but can become small trees. Both have delicious small black berries with large pits. Chokecherries are a bit astringent if not fully ripe, hence their name.

The walk was pleasant and many prairie plants were in bloom. On my way home I had to use my windshield wipers again.

The forecast was better for Wednesday with temperatures in the 70s and did not have rain in it until later in the day, but the humidity was high. Twenty-seven of us split into two groups, but all of us hiked at the Nordic trails north of LaGrange on County Highway H.

I was on the longer five-mile hike, which included much of the blue and green trail.  We found a variety of butterflies and prairie plants along the path. We enjoyed a few black raspberries although most of them already were over the hill.

As we were near the end of the hike, Norwin Watson turned around. He had left his raincoat on a bench a mile and a half back, so he had a very long walk. After retrieving his jacket, he caught up with us as we were finishing our lunch.

In the meantime, Ellen Davis was with the shorter-distance hikers. She reports:

After considering our options following a night of rain, the short-hike group favored the wide and mowed Nordic trails.  Though the rain had stopped, mist still hung in the air and was visible in low areas.

Our group of nine had one returning hiker and one visiting grandchild from Palatine. With Jake in the lead, we set off on the orange trail. The gravelly trail was slightly soft but not muddy, and we were able to maintain a brisk pace.

In the woods the trail was edged with areas of Queen Anne's lace, purple bee-balm and heal-all. Unfortunately we also saw the invasive spotted knapweed. This led to discussion and identification of two other bad invasives, Japanese hedge parsley and wild parsnip. 

As we began to cross the meadow, prairie coneflowers appeared amid the spotted knapweed, along with occasional milkweed (both whorled and common varieties), more purple bee-balm, Saint John's wort, daisy fleabane, and in the distance, what appeared to be compass plants. After one more wooded hill, we took the second loop of the blue trail across the meadow and up the ridge, where we were passed by the long-distance hikers.

It was back to the orange trail at the next intersection and back into the woods. We were now seeing a few black raspberry bushes that still held ripe fruit. The mist had cleared by now, and the temperature was beginning to rise. We paused briefly at the bench to admire the kettle lake far down the slope, then headed back to the trailhead and lunch.


                     Happy trekking, Russ


Russ Helwig is a volunteer with the Walworth/ Jefferson County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. (262) 473-2187,



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