Snow, cold make for brisk but beautiful hikes

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Russ Helwig | December 3, 2013

No headlamps were needed for the walk last Tuesday even though the walk extended past twilight. There was a half inch of snow on the ground, enough to reflect any light so we could see the trail well.

Eight of us arrived in light snow flurries which usually make for a pleasant walk but the snow stopped before we started our hike. It remained cloudy with a wind that chilled us for the first part of the walk and after sunset the sky cleared from the west.

We hiked across the road from our meeting place on a loop consisting of two miles of Ice Age Trail and a mile and a half of horse/snowmobile trail. We do hike this often on Tuesdays and the walk was exceptionally nice this day because of the snow which accented the steep rolling hills which we could now see with the leaves eliminated from the trees. The invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle which choke much of the woodland in southeast Wisconsin has been removed from some of the woods through which we walked resulting in almost nonexistent underbrush and vastly enhanced scenery.

Ellen Davis wrote about the short walk last Wednesday:

When I left my house for the hike the temperature was in the teens, with a brisk wind from the northwest   By 9:25 a.m. our U.S. Highway 12 meeting place was half full of cars with heaters running -- hikers waiting until the last possible minute to face the cold.

Jake, in his orange coat, caught our attention and we quickly agreed that Natureland County Park on Territorial Road would be today's destination for the short hike. By 10:33 a.m we were on our way.

Natureland has four short hiking trails, each with a different type of terrain. Jake's first choice – the trail across the road – is the longest and most difficult. Following final adjustments to hoods, hats, boots, ice cleats, poles, hand-warmers, and mittens, we five set out on what proved to be the only level section we encountered for at least the next half hour.

The numerous short steep hills were a challenge. These trails were designed without switchbacks to reduce the pitch of the slopes; traversing the frozen leaf-covered rocky ground required care and concentration. We met two orange-vested hikers (one visiting from Florida) and their dogs, also picking their way very carefully down the trail. 

Our next trail was flat, passing through the pines, past the prairie section and the spring pond.  Then over the bridge, along the creek, up and along the top of the ridge, down through more pines and over the new bridge, a short detour for a peek at the lake, then back to the trailhead. 

This two and a half miles felt like a lot more than that in terms of exercise. Three of our little group called it a day; the remaining two hiked the remaining “big hill” trail for a total of three bracing miles before departing for their own pre-holiday errands.

Russ writes about the long hike:

As what has become an annual event the remaining sixteen hikers either carpooled to or met us at the Evergreen Grove lodge in the Lapham Peak Unit of the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest.  As we drove to the parking lot we noticed that snowmaking was in full swing on the shorter trails. Piles of snow were being distributed along most of the trail waiting to be distributed and groomed for cross country skiing.

After our regrouping at the lodge we set out on the Ice Age Trail to the tower which some our hikers climbed for a great view. From there one can see the surrounding countryside. On a haze-free day like this day Holy Hill and the Milwaukee skyline is visible.

After hiking down the steep steps southeast of the tower we turned left to the Plantation Path which we took to the Homestead. From there we took a short rest break and returned on the Kame Trace and Kettle View ski trails to the second Ice Age Trail intersection. Then we took the Ice Age Trail back to the lodge where we started.

There are some very dedicated volunteers at Lapham Peak who are in the process of removing the invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle from the wood making for great scenery. In one area we found the woods full of piles of buckthorn which were recently cut waiting to be burned.

The trails were snow covered but it was not quite deep enough to be groomed for skiing. Once the trails are being groomed for skiing hiking on them is not allowed. When they are groomed we will hike the Ice Age Trail and the bike and horse paths; and maybe some of us will bring our cross country skis.

We had hiked more than five miles of steep hilly terrain and were ready for a tasty lunch at Revere's Wells Street Tavern in Delafield before departing.
Happy Trekking,


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