Volunteers “Amp Up” the Lake 11 Project

Ice Age Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Mobile Skills Crew Lake Eleven Project

A project beginning with a small, focused premise, grew quickly as seasoned Trail Eyes broadened the perspective (recognizing additional underlying issues could be addressed with the robust crew on hand). Replacing a footbridge with a 36-foot-long state-of-the-art bridge, designed to last 50 years, was not enough; two critical trail reroutes were added, then a third. Signage upgrades covered a mile and trail maintenance with mowers, weed whackers, and chainsaws extended for an additional three miles of Trail.

A similar expansion occurred with the 88 volunteers at the event. With every tree grubbed, blaze painted, swing of the pick mattock, and sandwich prepared, the individuals completing these tasks became an integral member of this trailbuilding community and helped “amp up” the project. The team went above and beyond, cranking it to 11, Lake 11 that is. Continue reading

Help Open New Trail in Marathon County!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Northland College, Mobile Skills Crew project

Students and their professor from a Northland College summer geology class formed a dynamic team with crew leader Ruth McCann.
Photo by Dave Caliebe.

Fresh spring energy unleased in May wove its way through 2,539 volunteer hours and materialized into recognizable magic in the geologic “Landscape Crossroads” of Marathon County.

Join us as Trail friends continue to shape tread and bring boulders to rest in retaining walls. This renewed August effort will open 1.7 miles of brand new trail. Continue reading

Lake Eleven Bridge Building Project

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mobile Skills Crew Event

The work site where the new 35-foot clear span bridge will be constructed and installed.
Photo by Tim Malzhan

Deep in the velvety silence of the Chequamegon National Forest, gnarled trees remind us of the power nature unleashed 15 years ago when the Gilman tornado touched down and chewed through 4,000 acres of forested land, of which 900 acres were approaching old growth status.

Here is where the Ice Age Trail Lake Eleven Segment crosses a stream via an aged pedestrian bridge, declared “unsafe” four years ago. Now, we’re constructing a new 35-foot clear span bridge designed to last 50 or more years.

Join us for this mid-summer adventure where daytime industry meets campfire conversation and flickering fireflies. Continue reading

There is no IAT-U without … YOU!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail University, IAT-U

Photo by Michael Maziarka

The secret sauce of our wildly successful and award-winning Mobile Skills Crew program?

Well-trained volunteers. Absolutely.

When the Mobile Skills Crew trailer pulls up to a work site, the flurry of activity that follows is nothing short of astounding. Tents are set up, meals are cooked, trails are built and boardwalks constructed. Much of what is accomplished, over the course of a few days, happens, in part, because the Ice Age Trail Alliance staff is able to rely on knowledgeable, capable volunteers. Individuals who have raised their hands and said “YES” to learning new skills or deepening their existing capabilities in service of the Trail. Continue reading

Cross Plains Celebrates the Ice Age Trail

The Cross Plains Segment shows off its best summer look. Photo Credit: Lou Ann Novak

In 2017 the Village of Cross Plains became one of eight Ice Age Trail Communities. This designation is more than a sign on the highway and a ribbon cutting. It is an invitation to use the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to celebrate the local culture, history, landscape, and businesses.

This July 14 and 15 the Village, in collaboration with the Cross Plains Chamber of Commerce, and the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Dane County Chapter, will be taking up the invitation to celebrate! Continue reading

Volunteers Rise to the Challenge

Ice Age Trail, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mobile Skills Crew, Blue Hills Storm CleanupKeeping 15 miles of hard-to-access Ice Age Trail open and passable through rough, rocky terrain is no easy task. It takes a certain amount of grit to volunteer for a project of this magnitude, and 59 volunteers rose to the challenge and committed 1,471 hours to this worthy cause.

The Blue Hills are a gem and, thanks to your service and stewardship, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is in fine condition for enjoyment by visitors from far and wide. Continue reading

Resilient Volunteers

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Mobile Skills Crew event, Ringle Segment

Photo by Allan Henn

Wild, wet weather greeted us Tuesday and made repeated guest appearances all week. Thank you for drawing upon your personal stores of resiliency to make the first “MSC Mammoth” event of the season a success.

Bringing a Trail to life requires a certain toughness and the capacity to adapt and forge ahead. 107 volunteers, over the course of 2,539 hours, had fun, worked safely, and built great trail. Significant progress was made towards our August goal of opening 1.7 miles of new, sustainable, premier Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Continue reading

The Blue Hills are Calling

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mobile Skills Crew Event, Blue Hills Rusk County

Photo by Tim Malzhan

The regal silence of the Blue Hills, with its lichen-covered logs and rugged beauty brimming with other worldliness, is interrupted only by bird calls and bubbling streams.

This expansive trail stewardship project attempts to tame a sliver of forest to provide hikers with both the rich rewards of a true north woods experience and a good, hike-able Trail as it winds through Rusk County. Join us outside. The Blue Hills (and slapping of beavers’ tails) are calling. Continue reading

A Mammoth Invitation to Reimagine

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Mobile Skills Crew 2017

“The newly re-routed Ice Age Trail segment is designed to be an attractive walk. This initial 1.5 miles of trail will meander across rolling terrain filled with big oaks. These old trees create a dramatic over-story and help highlight impressive glacial features like large erratics and boulder fields,” stated Dave Caliebe, Trail Program Specialist. Photo by Tim Malzhan

Life’s transformative events might stew and brew for years until one day…poof; we turn around and find our very being has expanded in ways we could barely imagine.

The reimagining of the Ringle Segment is one such transformative event for the Ice Age Trail.  Here, spring peepers chorus, wolves roam, trillium bloom, and rock, as all farmers, geologists, and trail builders know, begets rock.

For those who embrace bringing landscape stories to life, Ringle is a legacy event. Continue reading

A Phenomenal Kick Off to the 2017 MSC Season!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Soul Shakedown MSC event, Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Brand new trail under construction on the Walla Hi Segment. Photo by Brad Crary

Whew! That’s one way to kick off the trailbuilding season.  2 days, 3 events, 146 volunteers, and 1,994 hours dedicated to enhancing the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Thank you to everyone who came out for the first Soul Shakedown of the year!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Walla Hi Segment, Soul Shakedown MSC

Ground work has been laid for ongoing tread construction on the Walla Hi Segment.  Photo by Brad Crary

Continue reading

Prestigious Award for Volunteeerism and Service

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Unites States Forest SErvice Easter Region Honor Award for Volunteerism

Students from the Medford School District eagerly engaged in trailbuilding. Photo by Tracy Sewlund

Prestigious United States Forest Service Eastern Region Honor Award for Volunteerism and Service bestowed on the Ice Age Trail Alliance

The United States Forest Service recently recognized the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s commitment to creating and delivering an outstanding volunteer experience as part of its Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) program.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance forges strong relationships with a wide-range of partners as a means to engaging a diverse population with the vision of creating, maintaining and protecting a thousand-mile footpath through Wisconsin. A popular mantra of the Alliance, “Trailbuilding is people building”, ensures quality skill-building and service-learning components go hand-in-hand with the trail work that must be accomplished during an MSC event.

The dedication to these ideals were evidenced in the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Infrastructure Overhaul project. This collaborative, multi-year effort spanning 2012 – 2016, addressed infrastructure upgrades to popular segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail where it traverses the Chequamagon National Forest. Continue reading

Soul Shakedown: The MSC Season Launches!!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mobile Skill Crew Season Launches, triple-header, Ringle Segment, Firth Lake Segment, Wall Hi Segment

A moss covered erratic is one of the treasures waiting to be discovered on the soon-to-be Walla Hi Segment. Photo by Tim Malzhan

Ice Age Trail Supporters!

Dispense with data management and deadlines. The 2017 triple-header season opener is happening at three locations across the State!

All great ideas need a canvas upon which to rest. Inspired trail experiences owe their origin to clearing and cutting brush to rough in a “corridor of opportunity”.  And, it’s fun! Corridor clearing is a great way to see positive results in a hurry and a wide-range of ages and skills can get a thrill wielding a handsaw or clippers.

What We’re Doing:

We’re starting the season early to get ahead of seasonal restrictions on cutting or pruning oak trees, and to avoid disturbance to bird nesting seasons. The triple-header events will help chapters in Marathon, Chippewa, and Manitowoc counties manage their respective trail maintenance needs. Each is preparing their trails for blockbuster tread construction events to follow later in the season.

Tools will be provided, but Certified Sawyers are encouraged to bring their own gear. Continue reading

Voulez-vous Rendezvous?

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Winter Rendezvous 2017

Enjoying a winter wonderland during the Winter Rendezvous.
[Photo by David Caliebe]

It’s time for the Ice Age Trail Alliance Mobile Skills Crew Winter Rendezvous – a social gathering for anyone interested in volunteering for, hiking on, or learning more about  the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

The 2017 trailbuilding season starter’s whistle is ready to blow; all that’s missing is you.

Please join us and choose from expanded Rendezvous options at beautiful Treehaven, a UW-Stevens Point facility near Tomahawk. Continue reading

Save the Date! 2017 Mobile Skills Crew Events

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, 2017 Mobil Skills Crew Events

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail meanders through the woods.
Photo credit: Tim Malzhan

The promise of friendship and laughter. The smell of fresh-cut dirt. The sound of iron on rock. The hum and conversations of multi-generational volunteers working arm-in-arm. The satisfaction that comes when contributing to something that’s bigger than us and, when looking back at the end of the day, seeing a job well done.  

Excitingly, miles of new Trail and newly imagined Trail experiences pull us through the cold towards a new season of trailbuilding. The Ice Age Trail doesn’t just happen. The Trail needs your special brand of magic to flourish and take root in the hearts and minds and imagination of Wisconsinites. Chippewa, Manitowoc, Marathon, and Kewaunee counties await construction of spectacular tread meandering up and over ice-walled, lake plains and through hiker-friendly towns alike. High-quality trail experiences will be maintained through ambitious stewardship projects, like the ones planned for Rusk, Waukesha, Lincoln, Walworth, and Taylor counties. Whether it’s crafting boardwalks and bridges, learning and sharing new skills, or meeting new people and seeing new places, the season ahead is representative of our steadfast commitment to creating, supporting, and protecting the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Continue reading

Phenomenal Trailbuilding Accomplished at Dueling Mobile Skills Crew Projects

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Mobile Skills Crew Event 2016

Perfect fall weather created ideal working conditions for #TeamMerrimac and #TeamRibLake. Photo by Joanne Ellarson.

The 2016 Mobile Skills Crew “Stones and Ripples” tour ended in triumph at two project sites. Thanks to the combined efforts of 180 volunteers and a whopping 3,222 volunteer hours, a phenomenal amount of work was accomplished – and finished ahead of schedule.

A sense of community and collaboration formed between the two projects through a good-natured social media duel featuring each team’s creativity and trailbuilding skills. Continue reading

Mobile Skills Crew Season Finale

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mobile Skills Crew Season Finale

Photo credit: Dave Caliebe

What to do when the best laid plans hit a snag? As all seasoned volunteers know…with eyes forward, you shift on a dime and give it all you’ve got!

The planned Storrs Lake project in Rock County is on hold for 2016, regrettably. This change of plans, therefore, enables us to finish what we’ve started, which we strive to do. This mindset led us to organize two Mobile Skills Crew events which will run concurrently from Thursday, October 20 through Sunday, October 23.

The Sauk County event (Merrimac Segment) will build 3,600 feet of tread that was corridor cleared at the August event. The Taylor County event (Rib Lake Segment) will focus on finishing up work began in May on the Timm’s Hill Trail Connector. (The Sauk County project will be the larger of the two events.) Continue reading

IAT Volunteers Exemplify Passion, Enthusiasm, and Excellence!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Polk County 2016 Mobile Skills Crew event

Joanne Ellarson and Steve Brandt work as a team on a boardwalk retrofit project.
Photo credit: John Helling

The goal of every Mobile Skills Crew event and local Trail improvement effort is to create and maintain a sustainable footpath that fosters new discoveries and broadens our collective connection to the outdoors. Over the course of five rainy, and sometimes stormy days, at last week’s Polk County MSC event, we did that, and more.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Polk County Mobile Skills Crew project 2016

Wendell Holl (left) and Jerry Pfeiffer dive into muddy boardwalk work.
Photo credit: Joanne Ellarson

Thanks to the efforts of 119 volunteers, over the course of 3,268 hours, an amazing amount got accomplished:

  • 630 feet of technically demanding wood structures were either built or refurbished;
  • four new Dispersed Camping Areas were opened for use;
  • two trail reroutes were completed;
  • two miles of trail signage were refreshed; a trailhead kiosk was installed; and,
  • numerous hazard trees were cleared.

The cook shanty was kept warm by the efforts of the crew who prepared three square meals a day. In addition, 11 sawyers attended a chainsaw certification course.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Polk County Mobile Skills Crew project 2016, boardwalks on the Trail

Randy Kalal capably hauls a board, to be used to construct a new 20-foot-long bridge, to the work site.
Photo credit: Tracy Menchaca

Perhaps, what best exemplifies the impassioned enthusiasm, of those striving for Trail excellence, is this snapshot. Picture a thousand feet of wide, muddy, rutted forest road, beat up after many trips moving materials and tools with an ATV and UTV. Now picture six tired volunteers, at the end of a very long week, mustering the energy to wield McLeod’s, with the purpose of reshaping the holes and ruts, in order to return the road to a like-new condition.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Polk County Mobile Skills Crew event, Barron High School

Barron High School Conservation Club makes work look fun as they help clear brush from the trailhead.
Photo credit: Stephanie Eastwood

Special Thanks to:

  • Dean Dversdall for providing an idyllic base camp location;
  • The Frederic Lions Club for providing picnic tables;
  • Herb and Cork Lundberg for use of their shed and UTV to store and haul materials, and for the bevy of brownies;
  • The Imperial Lion Troupe and Mark Lutz, direct from the Twin Cities, for delightful entertainment celebrating not only this event but the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, a major Vietnamese and Chinese holiday celebrating the rice harvest.

To gain a larger sense of the work accomplished during the MSC project, you may click here for more photos.

To gain a better sense of the areas where the numerous projects took place last weekend, click here for a map.

Thank you, volunteers!

We appreciate you!

A Little TLC – and Voila! – Beauty Revealed: Help Build the Ice Age Trail

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Polk County Mobile Skills Crew Projec

Sunset on Straight Lake
Photo Credit: Rita Fox

Huge volumes of molten lava gushed through a split in the earth’s crust a billion years ago, forming the exposed basalt rock outcroppings we see along the Straight Lake and Trade River segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Toss in a continent-sized glacier 10,000 years ago, four Mobile Skills Crew events five years ago, steady love from local trail maintainers and — voila! — a signature section of the Ice Age Trail, the gift we and countless others enjoy today. Continue reading

Hands-on Learning on the Merrimac Segment and at IAT-U

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mobile Skills Crew Event Sauk County, Merrimac Segment

Photo credit: Dave Caliebe
The Baraboo Bluffs are beckoning…this is the view the Trail reroute will provide.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keep learning stays young.”

~ Henry Ford

Educating and Empowering volunteers to build maintain and steward the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is the cornerstone of the Ice Age Trail Alliance Mobile Skills Crew Program. In the words of Henry Ford, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” If this is true, then our end-of-summer MSC event in Sauk County is a veritable fountain of youth.

Bring your youthful back-to-school spirit, because the best way to learn is by doing, and we’ve got a substantial, hands-on Trail improvement project in the works. This section of Trail meanders through the beautiful Riverland Conservancy owned Merrimac Preserve, near Devil’s Lake State Park. A dilapidated bridge and boardwalk will be replaced, ready for their own infusion of youthfulness. Continue reading

Working Together, Impressive Results

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Taylor County MSC 2016

Photo credit: Dave Caliebe – Wood Lake graced by a Bald Eagle and two Trumpeter swans.

Taylor County, sculpted by the powerful forces of glacial ice, is known for its undulating, hummocky terrain and smooth-as-glass kettle lakes reflecting sky and clouds, is already beautiful, and last week, it just got more attractive.

A 104 volunteers with a shared vision of making the Ice Age Trail the best it can be, accomplished a phenomenal amount of Trail improvements on three of the seven Trail segments in Taylor County over the course of 7 days and 3,100 hours of effort. Continue reading

Taylor County Trailbuilding Event

Ice Age Trail Alliance Ice Age National Scenic Trail Mobile Skills Crew Event July 2016

Photo Credit: D. Caliebe – morning mist rising on Wood Lake

July is a month of celebrations. Picture puttering around the garden in the early hours of the day, or gathering with friends around a grill while enjoying the flicker of fireflies in the dusky hours of a long summer evening. On weekends, a great migration occurs as folks shuffle routines and voyage north to forests and picturesque lakes for peace of mind and adventure.

We hope you’ll join us for a mid-summer adventure of your own! Head North with us for our second Mobile Skills Crew project in Taylor County this year and fifth in the last 15 months; we’re tackling a whole lot of lumber, rock, and dirt across 50 miles of Taylor County. Continue reading

Welcome to Wisconsin’s Jungle!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Ice Age Trail Alliance Blue Hills Mobile Skills Crew

Photo credit: D. Caliebe

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail inspires an intensity of passion and purpose that is pure and rare.  If you could bottle it up, you could sell it for a fortune.

This enthusiastic dedication was unleashed in a whirlwind of focused activity when 77 volunteers pitched in for 2,794 hours to maintain and upgrade an astonishing 20+ miles of Trail, spanning three counties, and five Ice Age Trail segments. Continue reading

A Texas-Sized Project in the Blue Hills – Join Us!

Ice Age Trail Alliance Mobile Skills Crew Ice Age National Scenic Trail

MSC volunteers Gail Piotrowski and Kevin Welton paint a fresh set of blazes to mark the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Photo credit: D.Caliebe

Think of a Texas-sized project spread out along 30 miles of trail with outsized brush, brambles, beaver dams, hoodoos and swamp-like-terrain.  This area is remote and Mother-Nature is law-less and overgrown.

Please join us in the Blue Hills to help care for and steward the Trail by reinvigorating and keeping existing Trail segments clearly signed and open for hikers. This MSC project is full-on, straight-up trail maintenance. Continue reading

How to Build a Cathedral in 2016

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Trailbuilding at Rusch Preserve

Photo credit: R. Roberts

The great cathedrals of Europe were years in the making. Like the Ice Age Trail, the wonders of Notre-Dame, Saint-Denis and Chartres demonstrate how solutions evolve and the work of one generation leads to and builds on the work of another.

The Ice Age Trail, entering its 36th year as a National Scenic Trail, also continues to evolve and improve from the lessons learned and hard work of successive years. Thank You to all 171 volunteers who pitched in for 3,672 hours to help build a cathedral of the ages for the current generation, and those well into the future, along the Rib Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Continue reading

Team Building: Hard Hats Not Hard Heads

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Mobile Skills Crew Leadership Training

Emerging leaders from the Spring 2016 Crew Leadership Skills class.
Photo credit: D. Caliebe

Did you know a trail, as it winds through the woods or across a grassy field, has an “anatomy”?

The “body parts” of a trail include aspects like a corridor, the bench or tread, drainage features, structures, anchors, edges, and gateways, just to name a few.

This glossary of terms, along with the why and how of sustainable trail design, were the nuanced details of trail building learned by the most recent participants of the Ice Age Trail Alliance Crew Leadership and Skills training. Continue reading