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.
This was a sprawling project spread out over the bucolic sounding, Blue Hills region. However, don’t be taken in by the sweetness of a name. Mother Nature turned this already remote and wild area to pure jungle – growing abundant, lush, and verdant. Biting black flies and swarms of mosquitos showed no mercy. A rousing rainstorm swooped in, sending tents rolling, and added to the challenge with soggy gear.
As Dave Caliebe, Trail Program Specialist points out, “’Crooked, Rough, and Muddy’ were the words used to describe the Chippewa River & Menomonie railroad bed that transported the virgin white pine and hemlock logs out of the rugged Blue Hills over a century ago.” This description is clearly appropriate today, as it was then, where the Trail travels through this region.
This step back in time echoed primordial. Volunteers pushed 300 pound mowers, cut chest high brush, dug 3’ deep postholes in stony ground, and lugged chainsaws as they cleared obstructions over the same terrain that gave the railroad its nickname. Crews worked tirelessly even as the heat index rose to 95 degrees, creating muggy afternoons that matched the muddy conditions they encountered as they replaced rotten, disintegrating boards in over 200’of boardwalk.
Yet, there was opportunity, time, and energy for a project captivated by a spirit of whimsy – an art installation fabricated with imagination and cast-off irrigation equipment. Truly, one person’s junk pile is the whisper of inspiration for another.
Mobile Skills Crew events like this one in the Blue Hills, attract those with a spirit of fun and adventure; folks willing to bond together in laughter and friendship as they immerse themselves in this unique Trail experience. As a volunteer, Laura wrote in an email, “I wanted to thank you again for making my first time volunteering such a wonderful experience. I had a great time building with you and everyone else. I already have August in my schedule.”
This week-long effort was indeed a labor of love and dedication to Trail stewardship which helps keep our 1,000-mile footpath clearly signed and open for hikers. The Trail may still be crooked, but it’s a little less muddy and a lot less rough! It is now cleared, signed, and passable.
Check out more photos here on Facebook.
- Fred and Marilynn Nash for work before and during the event from contacting legislators to helming the Crew Leader Manager position
- Bob and Audrey Held for providing chapter support & equipment
- Paul Teska and Mike Zimmer for providing base camp and support for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through the Rusk County Forest
- Thelma Johnson and the support crew for cooking up a storm
- Callahan Krivanek, aide to Congressman Sean Duffy, for joining us to and learn about the Trail and for lending a hand on a tough trail reroute
- The Czekalski, Fortuna and Wanie families for hosting the Trail on their property
- Gene Kain and Peter Tolly for their artistry along the trail
- Valkyrie Brewing for donating two cases of beer
Get your State-Fair-like spirit energized for grilling brats, burgers and other local fare at Farm Technology Days near Lake Geneva to raise money and provide outreach for the Trail. Email mailto:[email protected]to express your interest and availability.