Wildflowers and puffballs making an appearance

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Russ Helwig | May 8, 2014

Heavy rain had fallen during the last couple days so on Tuesday we decided to walk the Nordic ski trails where paths are wide and most of the trails are sand and gravel. This was a good choice as, even though there was a light rain as we started out, the trails were firm and easy to hike without encountering mud. Eight of us started out on the three and two-tenths mile white trail.  Two of us took a shortcut on the one and seven-tenths mile purple trail while the others completed the white. It was a nice walk and purple trail hikers did not get wet with our rain gear reflecting the fine sprinkles that were intermittent during the hike. Those on the longer hike did get rained on, but they were prepared with adequate rain gear.

Marv Herman writes on last Wednesday's long walk:
On an overcast morning with temperatures in the upper 40s, nine long hikers reassembled at the Nordic Trails parking lot for a hike that many in the group did not recall having taken in the past. We started on the Nordic blue trail and at the 1-1/2 mile mark; we cut off the trail and crossed Bluff Road to a connector trail that led to a horse trail. We followed the horse trail to Confusion Corner where the horse trail intersects with the Ice Age Trail. We then followed the horse trail crossing County Highway H and continued on to another crossing with Bluff Road. There, we took what was marked "Emergency Bike Trail" on a wide avenue of giant pine trees which eventually provided left turns into the John Muir bicycle trails

We chose the turn that was signed "The Beach", which was on the Rainey Dew or Purple Muir trail. We followed that trail towards the John Muir parking lot, pausing about a mile before to walk up a steep hill to an overlook from which could be seen looking west, a broad valley and a small lake in the distance. From the Muir parking lot we continued to cross County Highway. H to the Nordic lot and our cars. The hike covered a distance of about 6-1/2 miles

After the hike all of the hikers reassembled at the LaGrange General Store for soup, sandwiches, some complimentary cheese cake and lots of conversation.

Ellen Davis writes on last Wednesday's short walk:

Only seven short-hikers appeared at our U.S. 12 meeting place on this damp and overcast morning.  We quickly decided on the Nordic trails for the day's hike and departed for the trailhead. 

A much larger group of long-hikers arrived as we were deciding on a route, and as we started down the orange trail, they fell in behind us. The trail was relatively dry with very little mud; Jake set a brisk pace and soon we were comfortably warm.

At the first intersection, the others left us to hike the first blue loop. We continued through the woods on the orange trail to our planned detour on the second blue loop. As the terrain changed from woodland to rolling meadows, we noticed occasional one- to one-and-a-half-inch round dark leathery puffballs on and beside the trail. I squeezed one and it released a little cloud of brownish green spores – a potential promise for a good crop of these edible mushrooms come fall.

We had seen pasqueflowers near the crest of the ridge in previous years and found a few – well camouflaged and slightly wind-tossed – under the bushes. Moving on, we paused to admire the views both left and right, and proceeded along the ridge and into the woods again to re-join the orange trail.

And once again the trail hosted small colonies of puffballs – but no hepaticas, which had been present here and there on the verges in previous years. Though it might have been too cool and wet for the flowers to open, the leaves at least should have been visible. We did not see any. We theorized that perhaps when the trail had been widened to accommodate skate-skiers, the process could have temporarily wiped out the wildflowers at the edges....  It was a mystery.

We paused again at the bench overlooking the kettle pond;  the water level was as high as we had ever seen it. A turkey vulture circled overhead, tilting back and forth in the wind, and we began the last leg of our hike. As we passed through the daylilys left over from a former farmhouse, we noted that the invasive locust trees that had been girdled to die several years ago were being cut down.  Many young trees still remain; removing these invasives promises to be an ongoing chore.

Back at the trailhead, Don's GPS indicated that we had hiked 2.85 miles in one hour, three minutes. We figured that if we had hiked straight through with no stops, our speed would have been at least three miles per hour over hilly terrain. Feeling self-satisfied, we departed for lunch at the La Grange Country Store.

Flower Walk, April 30, 2014:

Four of us decided to repeat the part of the hike from the week before at Prince's Point and added another wet woods to the itinerary. We found all of the beautiful flowers that we had seen the week before and they were further along in their bloom. The Dutchman's Breeches were at full bloom and more of the woods was peppered in white from false rue anemone and toothwort than during the past week.

We found that the red and yellow trilliums were producing stems and buds. Unfortunately some of the larger ones had their leaves and buds bitten off by deer. Several nodding trillium were forming buds also.

We had some problems crossing a small stream in the east woods as there was no board across it as there had been in recent years. We tried three different crossings on fallen limbs with various successes. Fortunately we had waterproof boots so we did not get wet.

We found lots of skunk cabbage that were leafing out and a few marsh marigolds in bloom.

Before heading to the LaGrange General Store for lunch we drove a ways east to a wildflower ditch which faces south that had huge drifts of trout lilies in bloom.

Happy Trekking,


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