A First in the Fourth

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Mike Summers Winter 2017 thru-hike

The all too familiar icicles of winter hiking. Photo by Mike Summers.

by guest writer Mike Summers

I crunched up the snow-covered remnants of the Niagra Escarpment in Wisconsin’s Potowatomi State Park on a sunny, 32-degree December day. My westbound thru-hike of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT) had begun, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Neither did anyone else.

No one had attempted a self-supported thru-hike in the winter months, and many thought it a little strange to try.* But for me, the dreaded “fourth season” of backpacking invoked not fear, but intrigue. This hike would be a test to see if I really enjoyed backpacking, even in the most unforgiving of conditions. Continue reading

A Bold Attempt

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Jonnah Perkins ultrafarmer guest writer

Wet spring trails greeted Annie Weiss as she traveled through the Northwoods.
Photo by Long Nguyen.

by guest writer Jonnah Perkins

When you mention the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, most people picture the civilized, buffed out trails of the southern and eastern segments. These trails are heavily trafficked by runners and hikers, flocking to the beauty of the forest, from Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. Farther up in the northern part of the state, there are wild, remote sections of trail many would not imagine could be found in Wisconsin.

This adventure is exactly what ultrarunner Annie Weiss was after when planning an attempt to break the fastest known time (FKT) on the Ice Age Trail. The personal time-trial-trend is growing in popularity in the ultrarunning community. Setting a new FKT, or even pursuing one, is a coveted notch on the belt of ultrarunners. On May 1st, Annie set out to complete the roughly 1,200 miles of the trail system in 19 days. That’s three days ahead of the current record of 22 days and 6 hours set by Jason Dorgan in 2007. This meant Annie would need to average over 60 miles per day to meet her goal. When I talked with Annie a few weeks ahead of her departure, she was brimming with optimism and a healthy dose of trepidation for completing her plan, especially the northern segments. 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

21 New Boardwalk Builders

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Eagle Segment Boardwalk 2017

The newest class of boardwalk builders looks on as hikers try out their creation.
Photo by Dave Caliebe

The best place to hike through a wetland is…above it!

Piece-by-piece, 21 participants in the boardwalk training built two elevated boardwalks totaling 193 feet. Every measurement taken, every pan placed, every screw installed was an opportunity to learn and hone new skills. Continue reading

Summer Camp for Trail Wizards!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, IAT-U, Ice Age Trail UniversityIce Age Trail University is summer camp …

… for Trail wizards of all ages. Plenty of fresh air, good sunshine, and happy times learning new things.

The best way to learn is by doing, and we’ll be providing lots of hands-on learning!

We’re super excited to partner with the Merrill Area School System and the Friends of the Merrill School Forest to build two boardwalks, and super excited about this year’s Camp Chef course.

North Central Technical College is offering a special training through their Culinary Arts program. It’s an exciting time for those who want to become more involved in the volunteer-support side of our Mobile Skills Crew events. 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

National Trails Day Hikes

National Trails Day is Saturday, June 3rd and there is plenty to celebrate along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Ice age National Scenic Trail, Ice age Trail Alliance, National Trails Day

Photo by Dave Caliebe

Hikes for Kids of All Ages

Guided hikes inspire, energize and rejuvenate!

Chippewa County, Chippewa Moraine Segment: Celebrate National Trail Day (Chippewa Moraine Chapter)

It’s hard to find a more scenic trail with it spectacular overlooks, mature forest, and the long meander along the shore of Picnic Lake, the highlights of this recently rebuilt and rerouted section.

Portage County, Emmons Creek Segment: Wildflower Hike (Portage County Chapter)

The Emmons Creek Segment highlights the charming Emmons Creek State Fishery Area and oak woodland and savanna areas. 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

Save the Date: 2017 Annual Conference

Ice Age Trail Alliance Annual Conference, Ice Age National Scenic Trail

A tamarak bog along the Harwood Lakes Segment, a featured hike at the conference.
Photo credit: Dave Caliebe

You’re invited!

The upcoming Ice Age Trail Alliance Annual Conference is scheduled for Thursday, April 27th – Sunday, April 30th at the Avalon Hotel and Conference Center in Chippewa Falls.

We’ll be celebrating you – the hikers, volunteers, members and donors – and all you do to make the Ice Age Trail the treasure that it is.

If you have never attended an Ice Age Trail Alliance Annual Conference before, it is a fantastic way to meet people who are passionate and committed to the Trail.  It is super energizing to mingle with and hear the stories about the Trail from folks who are dedicated to building, maintaining, and protecting it.

GOOD NEWS! 

The 2017 Annual Conference just got more AFFORDABLE!

We are excited to announce we’ve been able to REDUCE the cost of the conference attendance by 30%. Continue reading

First Day Hikes

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, First Day Hike

Photo credit: Fred Paasch

Welcome 2017 with a dose of fresh air. Say good-bye to the holiday cookies and chocolates. Burn a few calories with a fun, relaxed-paced, yet blood-pumping hike on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Best of all, a walk in the woods, all serene and blanketed with snow, is a perfect way to connect with yourself. Nature, like you, is a white canvas, ready for a fresh set of possibilities. Take a few moments and consider your path forward into this brand new year. Continue reading

Online Shopping and the Ice Age Trail Alliance

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, AmazonSmile, Online ShoppingThe Holiday season is in full swing…

…and there are TWO ways to benefit the Ice Age Trail Alliance AND get your holiday shopping done!

FIRST:

For those of you who like to do your shopping online, from the comfort of your recliner, and from Amazon.com then you may want to take advantage of AmazonSmile where Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. Continue reading

Nine Black Friday Hikes: #OptOutside

#OptOutside. Get a dose of fresh air and hike off that extra slice of pumpkin pie. Photo by Dave Caliebe

#OptOutside. Get a dose of fresh air and hike off that extra slice of pumpkin pie.
Photo by Dave Caliebe

The Ice Age Trail Alliance is proud to participate in #OptOutside with our partner REI, Inc. In its second year, #OptOutside takes place on Black Friday and encourages people to take a hike! Here in Wisconsin, the day after Thanksgiving is also the heart of deer-gun hunting season. Keeping this in mind, we have set up nine hikes where deer hunting is not allowed.

All of the following suggested hikes take place in Ice Age Trail Communities. These hikes represent a perfect blend of natural surroundings and urban amenities. Continue reading

A 100 Years Worth Celebrating!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, NPS Centenniel Celebration, John Muir County Park, Ennis Lake

Photo credit: L. Unruh
Ennis Lake glitters in the distance, surrounded by clouds and prairie.

The spirit of John Muir floated on clouds reflected in his favorite kettle lake. It danced with the Milkweed swaying in the prairie. It whistled while sauntering along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail which now loops through land he dearly loved.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the NPS centenniel

Photo credit: L. Unruh
Yes, there are a 100 candles on that cake!

It was felt in the breeze which kicked up and helped blow out the 100 candles on the National Park Service Centennial Celebration birthday cake. Continue reading

Explore the Kettle Moraine

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Parnell Segment Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest

Photo credit: B. Bednarek, Parnell Segment, view from Parnell Tower

Did you know, world famous glacial landscape features are within an easy drive from your front door?

This might not seem like such a big deal until you consider that walking across the high ridge of an esker, or peering down into a kettle lake is a bit like time travel, giving you a peek into how the landscape of Wisconsin was formed.

Conveniently, the almost 30,000 acres of the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest contains some of the most stellar glacial remnants of the last Ice Age. In fact, this region was formed as two tongue-shaped ice sheets collided, creating a valley of ice some 10,000 years ago. As these huge sheets of ice melted, the meltwater cascaded into crevasses carrying sand, gravel, and boulders, depositing them along the way. This is what shaped the rolling ridges and deep kettles – large crater-like depressions – that make up the topography of this beautiful forest. Continue reading

Calling All Creatives! IATA Photo Contest

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Jerry Lake Segment Taylor County Chippewa Moraine

A glimpse of boardwalk along the Jerry Lake Segment of the Chippewa Moraine in Taylor County.
Photo credit: D. Caliebe

Have you ever, while hiking along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, found yourself standing in awe, exhaling a huge sigh, your heart filled, and knowing there were simply no words for the beauty you were witness to?

Perhaps, in the next moment, you whipped out your phone, or dug around in your day pack for a camera, sincerely hoping the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” was true and you could adequately capture the way the sun slants golden across the field; the way the trillium spreads across the forest floor, a delicate white carpet fit for a fairy queen. Perhaps you sought to hold on to the expression of sheer happiness on your hiking partner’s face and his or her wind-tousled hair.

Maybe, you too, have felt the truth of Ansel Adams’ statement, “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

For you, your love affair with life is reflected in the photographs you take while immersed in nature. If you are the one with camera in hand on a hike, then we would love to partner with you. Continue reading

Full Moon Hikes

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the Ice Age Trail Alliance, Full Moon Hikes

Photo credit: R. Roberts. A full moon rising above a fine Wisconsin prairie.

Fireflies rising from prairie grasses – little flickers of earth-side starlight; soft, velvety nighttime air freed from the heat of the day; a glowing moon on the rise – a pendant hanging from a chain of stars.

These are summer evenings in their full grandeur. A perfect way to extend them, luxuriously past dusk, is to head out for a full moon hike. Several Chapters of the Ice Age Trail Alliance are honoring July’s full moon in this manner – happily leading hikes along various segments of the Ice Age Trail. Continue reading

Redefine Beauty: 2016 Photo Contest

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Ice Age Trail Alliance Photo Contest 2016

Photo credit: K. Thusius

There are segments along the Trail that could do with a little more attention – they feel a tad lonely, neglected, forgotten; sidelined by the paparazzi’s rush to photograph the more glamorous segments of the Trail, like the handsome Devil’s Lake Segment, the statuesque Gibraltar Segment, or the elegant Dells of the Eau Claire Segment.

Beauty Redefined:

We’re urging Trail aficionados to go beyond the traditional definition of beauty – go bold, get radical; give some camera love to wild, rugged, asymmetrical, quirky, distinctly unique segments like these: Continue reading

Explore a Trail Segment Near You!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail John Muir County Park

A trail flows through a sea of wildflowers in the John Muir County Park.
Photo credit: K. Mcgwin

Trails do not just magically appear in the woods or along a ridgeline for our hiking pleasure. It might seem like it as we take a stroll down a long, shaded path, with a glimpse of it unfolding ahead of us. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how a trail is constructed or the dedicated hours of design and layout (about a 100 hours) involved for every mile of trail, not counting the hours dedicated to the actual building, mile per mile, of trail.

In fact, most of us have a limited knowledge of exactly how many miles of trails exist in our country, not thinking perhaps beyond the trails in our own county or state parks, or the few mountain trails we’ve hiked, in Colorado, perhaps. It turns out, according to the American Hiking Society, there are 200,000 miles of trail throughout the United States. Continue reading

No Sense of Direction?

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Mammoth Tracks App

Do you lack a reliable sense of direction? 

It can be a seriously annoying trait when you’re driving, trying to get somewhere on time. It can induce a panicky feeling when you are out in the woods and there’s only a few hours of daylight left to locate a camp site and pitch your tent.

If you can relate to the cartoon above, then hopefully, you and Siri, are good friends by now and she’s helped you navigate, turn-by-turn, to your various destinations.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance has you covered while you are out and about on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail with our new app, Mammoth Tracks. Continue reading

Twilight Trail Run: Headlamp Hustle

Headlamp Hustle Fontana Sports

If your idea of a good time is a twilight trail run with a headlamp, then we have the race for you!

Fontana Sports Headlamp Hustle

Not your average trail race, the Headlamp Hustle will take place on Friday, May 20th. Runners line for a 7:30 p.m. start and the race features 5K and 10K distances over beautiful and challenging terrain. The post-race celebration with music, a bonfire, food and Lake Louie beer is well worth the effort. Continue reading

Honor Your Mother

Photo credit: J. Wildermuth, IAT volunteer

Photo credit: J. Wildermuth, IAT volunteer

Mother’s Day is Sunday. Honor Mother Earth. Honor Mother Nature.

Honor your ever-lovin’ mama who brought you into this world.

Just like your mother, Mother Nature has the power to soothe and comfort, to nurture your soul. She just may be a reserve of enduring, quiet strength. She might also get all whipped up in a thunderous fury. Celebrate that glorious, mercurial wonder that is motherhood with a day immersed in nature.

There are some simply stunning opportunities to move your body, still your mind, and have a quality conversation with your mother along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a unique footpath which winds its way through Wisconsin. Continue reading

New Crew Leaders Prepare for Launch

The Ice Age Trail Alliance repeats the mantra “Trailbuilding is People Building” from the top of kames to the bottom of kettles. The acts of creating, supporting and protecting a 1000 mile footpath tracing glacial formations come in many forms and all lead back to this familiar phrase. Perhaps the best example of Trailbuilding is People Building is found in the cultivation and creation of the next generation of crew leaders.

It is no small feat to positively and safely guide fellow volunteers on and off-trail to create a world class hiking experience. Yet, since 2002, Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers have been doing just that. Through rigorous training, high expectations, collaboration and a heavy dose of flat out fun, crew leaders are the front-line of the Trail. This is not done through smoke and mirrors but through the Alliance’s semiannual Crew Leadership and Skills Training.

April 27 through May 1, a new class of crew leader trainees will begin to hone their “Trailbuilding is People Building” skills. We welcome these hearty volunteers and thank each of them for joining the adventure.

Make Mammoth Tracks With Our New App

The Ice Age Trail Alliance is excited to announce the newest additions to the growing list of trail user resources, the Mammoth Tracks app. Available for Apple and Android devices alike, Mammoth Tracks is designed to work with ‘offline’ maps. This digital tool will not only guide you and keep you on the Trail, it will also provide important waypoints including parking, camping, water resources, ColdCache sites, and many other opportunities for enjoying the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Download today!