Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail
Sometimes I have to ask myself why I’ve failed to appreciate some of the things found closer to home.
Last week my wife and I were thinking about taking a walk. As is the case every other time we talk about taking a walk, there is indecision about where to go. We’ve done many of the places nearby time after time and I wanted to change things up a little. The thought of hiking portions of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail came to mind and I went with it.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a 1,000 mile footpath roughly tracing the extent of the last glacier to cover Wisconsin. Meandering through field and forest and over hills and through valleys the trail begins in the northeast part of the state, works its way to the south-central part of the state and then shoots back north until it hits the northwest border with Minnesota. I couldn’t help but wonder what scenic and natural treasures it must hold!
With the autumn season upon us, there is much less to see than there had been weeks ago. Insect numbers are on the decline, the herps are moving toward their winter den sites and many species of birds have migrated out of state. Yet, I thought it be fun to take on many portions of the trail and creating a cumulative list of what can be seen.
We headed west towards Whitewater where the Ice Age Trail crosses Hwy. 12. For the first run at the trail we headed north. We encountered a few grasshoppers on the edge of the forest and in an occasional sunny spot we saw some Autumn Meadowhawks and a couple Comma butterflies. To be honest, with the lack of a frost so far this late in the year, the most popular insect along the trail remained the mosquito!
We encountered a number of species of mushrooms. That’s one of those huge groups of natural things I’ve yet to embrace and learn. We did see a group of Giant Puffballs a little past their prime. I’ve heard they can be delicious if prepared properly but our single effort to do so turned out rather disappointing. Perhaps it was a little old.
As we got deeper into the woods, more mushrooms were encountered and they turned into the one thing I spent some time taking pictures of.
All in all, we walked a little over 4 miles. It was a good walk on a beautiful fall day.
Through the course of the walk we encountered 15 species of birds. Not a big number but considering the time of year and the lack of habitat diversity, it was a decent start. The birds included Dark-eyed Junco, Blue Jay, Cedar Waxwing, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Winter Wren, White-throated Sparrow, American Crow and a substantial flock of Common Grackles (100+). The most commonly heard animal was the nearly constant whistles and chucks of the Eastern Chipmunk.
Over time, the list of subjects we’ll encounter will grow. I’ll keep you updated!