Hikers encounter autumn colors, fog and mysterious tracks
Undaunted by the threat of rain showers, 16 long hikers crossed the road and hiked the Ice Age Trail from U.S. Highway 12 to the "overlook" of Rice Lake, a distance of about 3.6 miles over what is arguably the most strenuous segment of the Walworth-Jefferson trails. Usually, one can also see Whitewater Lake from this vantage point but on this day, the fog mostly obscured this view. On the return trip, we opted for the horse trail which we entered south of Hwy P and we ended our walk back at the U.S. Highway 12 kiosk for a total distance of about 6.8 miles.
We adjourned to the LaGrange General Store for lunch and conversation which included reminiscences of the previous evenings' potluck supper at Nordic Trails (submitted by Marvin Herman).
Two ambitious long distance hikers, Bonnie Nommensen and Rich Schmechel, opted to hike nine miles of the John Muir trails instead of the regular hike. They started an hour early and finished at roughly the same time as the others.
A contingency of short distance hikers led by Ellen Davis hiked around Lake LaGrange. Here is Ellen's report:
I woke up to heavy fog this Wednesday morning – as the sun came up, visibility was only about 200 feet. It had cleared considerably by the time we started our hike but the remnants were still visible in low-lying areas and in the distance.
Five hikers chose to do the short hike around Lake La Grange. We set off on the horse trail to loop counterclockwise around the lake, saving the ascent of the big steep hill for last.
As we left the horse trail for the access road, the vista ahead looked like the creation of a moody artist. The leaves remaining on the trees arching over the road were largely yellow; those carpeting the ground were a mix of yellow, red, and orange. Fog hung over the lake and obscured the distance. Even the sound of our voices seemed muted.
On reaching the cornfields, Chester the dog identified some hunters but was prevented from running out to assist them. (We're sure they were grateful!)
The trail through the prairie section presented us with a mystery: the tracks of some 3-toed creature. Crane? Too small. Turkey? No – this creature placed one foot directly in front of the other. Pheasant? The tracks looked too deep for a smaller bird... In fact, they strongly resembled the tracks of the small carnivorous upright dinosaurs from “Jurassic Park”!
We continued through the newly-restored prairie and lakeshore sections, noting an area of vegetation that had been beaten down, probably by hunters. At the big steep hill, three of us took the shorter steeper horse trail while the other two chose the winding rocky Ice Age Trail to the top. Then on to the La Grange Country Store for coffee, snacks, or lunch.
In the meantime I led another contingency of short distance hikers on a three and a quarter mile hike on a loop starting from the Oleson Cabin. We went north on the horse trail to the Ice Age Trail on which we returned. This includes crossing Bluff Road and County Highway H two times each and a steep hill east of County Highway H where the woods are open with little underbrush. Between the roads and much of the way to the cabin are pine forests with the rest deciduous.
The hike was accompanied by good conversation and fall color scenery. The scenery was not as spectacular as it usually is at this time of the year, yet it was very enjoyable and the trails were in excellent shape.
This day I left my camera at home but others sent me a few photos that they had taken.