Cool but comfortable hiking weather
A couple of us had a short walk around Lake LaGrange last Tuesday while the rest continued on the Ice Age Trail to the second cut-over to the horse trail on which they returned. We had a nice sunset, a very pleasant walk, and those of us on the short hike did not need flashlights or headlamps.
Twenty of us long distance hikers walked on the John Muir bike/hiking trails. We took the purple “Rainy Dew” trail which made for a very scenic five mile hike. Normally hikers are to walk opposite the bike traffic, but this day bikes were not allowed so we walked with the nonexistent traffic for variety.
Ken Lempe, our savvy mushroom expert on this hike, pointed out and named some of those we saw and talked about edible ones he has sampled this year.
We found a couple trees across the trail, one a fairly large one that we barely could step across.
There were a few rest stops, some with trail treats, at major trail intersections where we stopped to rest a few minutes and regroup.
It was a great day for a walk. The temperature was around forty degrees so only a couple layers of clothing and a windbreaker were necessary to be comfortable.
Lunch at the LaGrange General Store culminated the adventure for most of us this day.
Ellen Davis sent the following summary of the short distance walk:
It was another cold and breezy Wednesday, overcast and threatening rain. It was also our last opportunity (for a few weeks) to hike the Ice Age Trail without the possibility of deer hunters nearby. Given these conditions, the choice for the short hike was unanimous: we would take the Ice Age Trail from Highway 12 to Esterly Road and return via the horse trail for a total of 3 ˝ miles.
Fourteen of us, wearing many variations of high-visibility colors ranging from traditional blaze orange to fuchsia, purple, and lime green, safely traversed the highway and started up the first hill. Melting frost and patches of damp leaves – plus the usual rocks and roots – created unexpectedly slippery areas, to the dismay of at least one hiker.
Our group was well spread out as we carefully picked our way along the trail. Jake and the fastest hikers in front, a space, then groups of two and three followed by a large gap and, finally, the rest of us. The view from the rear was a study in patterns and contrasts as the touches of bright color worn by the hikers in the distance moved along the twisting trail and up and over the ridges.
The breeze picked up as we crossed the Pipeline corridor, but we lost it again as we re-entered the trees. The ground here was so evenly carpeted with leaves that an inexperienced hiker might have a little difficulty in distinguishing the trail. We continued through the leaves, into the pines, and along the muddy access road to join the rest of the group at Esterly Road for a brief rest before starting the return trip.
The horse trail is wide and relatively smooth, providing a greater opportunity to appreciate the smaller details of the forest around us. We saw a variety of bracket fungi, tiny semi-transparent flower-like mushrooms, trees showing evidence of pileated woodpeckers at work, the dark red liverish leaves of hepaticas, an ancient apple tree with only five mummified fruits remaining – and red rose hips and orange bittersweet berries and dark green mosses.
Our newest hiker survived his first adventure on the Ice Age Trail, and declared that he was ready for more. We ended the hike warm and comfortable, pleasantly tired – and ready for lunch.