Mobile Skills Crew Event: Join us on the Ringle Segment!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ringle Segment, Marathon County, Mobile Skills Crew Event
The final MSC event of the 2020 trailbuilding season will be taking place on the Ringle Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail on October 5-11. Photo by Dave Caliebe.

Mobile Skills Crew Event

Ringle Segment

Marathon County (Central Wisconsin)

October 5-11, 2020

To say the least, it’s been a weird year. With plans everchanging, we hold on to the normal activities – the ones we can still do – to anchor our lives. A constant on the Mobile Skills Crew event (MSC) calendar since 2017, trailbuilding along the Ringle Segment provides familiarity: the base camp setting, the scenery, the type of work. It’s fitting, in this discombobulated year, that we end with an old friend.

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Boardwalk Construction a Speedy Success!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Southern Kewaskum Segment, Boardwalk, Trailbuilding, MSC, Mobile Skills Crew
Completed boardwalk on the Southern Kewaskum Segment through the efforts of volunteers during the September Mobile Skills Crew event. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Exceeding expectations is easy when ideal weather and the perfect group of volunteers align, as they did for the Washington County Mobile Skills Crew event. This combination generated a momentum that blew ahead of the pre-set schedule.

Each task was sizeable but proved no challenge for the crews. Veteran trailbuilders brought new volunteers up to speed under their careful tutelage. A strong team formed to knock out the work, while wearing masks and following COVID-19 safety protocols.

The final product, a 269-foot-long boardwalk, includes a bump-out designed as a wheel-chair passing zone and look-out platform for hikers wishing to slow down and listen to the springtime chorus of frogs.

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Mobile Skills Crew Event a Success During Pandemic!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Volunteers, Mobile Skills Crew, MSC, Boardwalk, LaBudde Creek Segment
A volunteer works steadily and safely while adding the kick plate, a finishing touch along the 248-foot-long boardwalk on the LaBudde Creek Segment. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
Our first Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) event since February, the LaBudde Creek event brought a kaleidoscope of emotions:

  • anxiety, like when dancing after not having done so in a long while;
  • change, as when seeing with new eyes a way to navigate new norms;
  • gratitude, like when an old friend breaks silence with laughter.

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Enhance Biodiversity Through Seed Collecting!

By Eva Ballering, Land Steward at the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Prairie, Sunset, Summer
A blooming prairie in summer: insects buzz from flower to flower, enriching themselves on sweet nectar. Thick leaves rustle loudly in the hot humid air. Purples and yellows blend together at the horizon. Photo by Eva Ballering.
Following the phenology of the season can be one of life’s greatest pleasures for prairie enthusiasts. With the late summer burst of color, in its final hurrah for the season, the majority of plants start to wind down and prepare for winter. Although this is a notable event, the prairie has been busy all season.  By the time the prairie is in full bloom, many species have already taken their turn to flower, attract pollinators, and produce seed.

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Experiencing John Muir and Wisconsin’s Citizens: The Trail Angel’s Trail

By J.J. King, Ice Age Trail Hiker and Proud Thousand-Miler
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Landscape, Thousand Miler Journal
A glimpse into the landscape that forged John Muir’s love and admiration for Mother Nature. Photo by J.J. King.
My hike along the Ice Age Trail (July 28, 2017 to October 7, 2017) promoted a deep and profound connection with one of America’s most historical citizens as well as remarkable present-day citizens. It provided a link to a champion of the outdoors, John Muir. He kindled the earliest principles of land conservation, preservation and stewardship. Continue reading

Outside Every Day: Kids Spend their Summer on the Trail

By Aberdeen Leary, Ice Age Trail Alliance Outreach, Education, & Engagement Program Intern
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Kennedy Heights, Kennedy Heights Community Center, Outreach and Education
Kennedy Heights elementary schoolers pose after conquering their first hike at Badger County Park in the summer of 2019. Photo by Aberdeen Leary.
When the students at Kennedy Heights Community Center in Madison signed up for summer camp, it’s safe to say not one of them planned on spending every day of their summer outdoors. Yet, as part of the Center’s new initiative, they got to do just that!

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Respecting Ice Age Trail Closures

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Trail Signage
A variety of signage lines the Ice Age National Scenic Trail route. Yellow blazes mark the Ice Age Trail and important trail closure signs and private property notices inform hikers about Trail accessibility. Photo by David Caliebe.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail traverses over 1000 miles of forestlands, prairies, wetlands, and roadways throughout Wisconsin. Many of these paths are made possible by partnerships with private landowners and lands owned and managed by municipal, county, state and federal agencies. As such, hikers must be mindful of a regulations on property types, hunting seasons, and trail signage while hiking the Ice Age Trail, especially when crossing private lands. Guidelines for hiking through private lands are found below.

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Richard Smith Receives Cherished Spirit Stick Award

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Spirit Stick Award, Richard Smith, Cornell
The 2020 Spirit Stick award was presented to Richard Smith for his long-term dedication and service to the Trail. Photo by Ice Age Trail Alliance staff.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Spirit Stick award symbolizes long-term dedication and service to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and is presented to only one recipient per year. The Spirit Stick nominees must exhibit a passion for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that has become a way of life; lead by example and inspire those around them; and carry out their service in a spirit of cooperation, optimism, and enthusiasm.

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Historic House Vote Secures Funds for Public Lands

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Table Bluff Segment, Dane County
The Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers a stunning example of a restored native prairie. Prairie restoration on Table Bluff has been funded in part by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Photo by Paul Eastwood.

The U.S. House of Representatives took a historic vote on July 22 when it approved the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that will invest in priority repairs at National Park Service (NPS) sites in Wisconsin and across the country. From the Ice Age Trail National Scenic Trail to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, needed repairs in Wisconsin’s NPS sites total $21.9 million, just part of the multi-billion maintenance backlog threatening park resources and local economies.

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Support the Great American Outdoors Act!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mammoth Steps, Mammoth Steps 2020, Devil's Lake Segment
Wisconsinites enjoy access to public lands across the state, including along the Devil's Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Hikers approach the east bluff of Devil's Lake from the south by traveling through Roznos Meadow. Photo by Megan Diermeier.

The historic Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was passed by the senate earlier this year, and it will be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives this Wednesday, July 22.

Please reach out to your state representatives to support the

Great American Outdoors Act!

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2020 Ray Zillmer Award Recipients

The Ray Zillmer Award

The Ray Zillmer Award is named after Raymond T. Zillmer, founder of Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation (now the Ice Age Trail Alliance). The award recognizes individuals whose work exemplifies the ideals that inspired the establishment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Nominees shall have performed at least two of the following:

• Served the Ice Age Trail for at least 20 years.

• Markedly elevated public awareness of the Trail.

• Secured significant funding.

• Significantly advanced the IATA’s mission in some other way.

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Ray Zillmer Award: David Phillips

By Sevie Kenyon, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
David Phillips (pictured above) is a recipient of the prestigious Ray Zillmer Award. Photo by Elena Mederas.
David Phillips (pictured above) is a recipient of the prestigious Ray Zillmer Award. Photo by Elena Mederas.
The Ray Zillmer Award recognizes individuals whose work exemplifies the ideals that inspired the establishment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. This year, the award recipients are David Phillips and David Kinnamon, both of whom have steered the course of the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s history.

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Adventure Is Better When Shared

By Dad & Daughter Duo, Mike & Emily Hoffmann
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Father and Daughter, Hiking, Eastern Terminus
Father and daughter duo Mike and Emily Hoffmann began their Ice Age Trail journey on March 31, 2020, starting from the Eastern Terminus in Potawatomi State Park. Photo courtesy of Mike and Emily Hoffmann.

“Do you want to keep hiking, tomorrow?” I asked my dad.

At first, we weren’t even sure that we would make it the whole 1,200 miles. Each evening, for the first few weeks, with sore muscles and tight tendons, one of us would ask the other about getting back on the Ice Age Trail the next day. Luckily, the answer was always “yes,” and after a while, the questioning faded, and to hike onwards became our unwavering mission. Our determination to walk the Trail together led us to make many great memories.

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Passage of ‘Great American Outdoors Act’ Bolsters the Alliance

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Table Bluff Segment, Rudbeckia, Black-eyed Susasn, Bloom, Summer
Black-eyed Susans in full bloom along the Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The Land and Water Conservation Fund contributes to native prairie restoration projects, such as the prairie pictured above. Photo by Gary Hegeman.

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the United States Senate voted 73-25 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make a substantial investment in addressing the deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands.

The passage of this bill will help address priority repairs in our national parks and on other public lands by directing up to $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance needs within the National Park System and other public land agencies. It will also fully and permanently dedicate $900 million per year already being deposited into the LWCF, our nation’s most important conservation program for land, water, and recreation areas for all Americans.

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Critical Connection Complete!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Trail Easement, Mammoth's Back Preserve
Overlooking the land between County Highway P and Mammoth's Back Preserve where two recently acquired trail easements will extend the Ice Age Trail to Mammoth's Back Preserve. Photo by Kevin Thusius.
Just outside of Cross Plains is a newly minted 81 acre preserve with with an iconic shape. The distinct ridge-line on the property is reminiscent of the double-mounded back of a woolly mammoth, which inspired its name: “Mammoth’s Back Preserve.” See Celebrating Mammoth’s Back Preserve!

Mammoth’s Back Preserve was previously unattached to the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to its west. However, this past May, the Alliance acquired two trail easements that will eventually connect the southern extent of the Cross Plains Segment to the existing Preserve.

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While Our Volunteers Serve Others, The Trail Gives Back

By Tricia Baker, Volunteer Writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Volunteers, COVID Response
We were curious about the many Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers who have professions directly serving those who have been affected by COVID-19. While the Safer-At-Home order suspended maintenance along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail until June, our hard-working volunteers certainly didn’t stop working on behalf of others. Whether working directly with COVID-19 patients in an Intensive Care Unit, or working indirectly, by making and delivering meals through the Meals on Wheels program, our Trail volunteers and “frontline” professionals have made us very proud.

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The Rusch Preserve: Where Five Trails Meet

By Bob Rusch, volunteer writer and long-time supporter of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Rusch Preserve, Rib Lake Segment, Land Donation, Land Conservation
Bob and Ann Rusch, all smiles after their donation of 120 acres in 2019. Photo by Kevin Thusius.

It all began with an unexpected phone call.

In 1983, a stranger telephoned Bob Rusch on behalf of the Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation (which eventually became the Ice Age Trail Alliance). He said he had heard Bob was an environmentalist and described the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. After several minutes, the caller asked two questions and got quick answers:

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Tending the Trail: Volunteers Lead the Way

By Christi Lee Ehler, Volunteer Writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Reconnect, Mobile Skills Crew events
Volunteers building new trail on the Ringle Segment of the Ice Age Trail near Wausau. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail users are human — and unfortunately our ingrained negativity bias ensures a particular kind of reactivity to trail conditions: This sock-snagging span of brambles sure is annoying! Yet maybe you’re inclined to take for granted the previous and subsequent miles of bramble-free trail?

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Preventing Tick-borne Illnesses

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month!

With warm weather enticing hikers into Wisconsin’s wild spaces, it’s a good time to consider how to prevent tick-borne illnesses while recreating outdoors. Tick-borne illnesses typically first cause flu-like symptoms and usually can be treated with antibiotics if caught early. Untreated, they may cause serious health problems, including death in rare cases. Information on tick-borne illnesses and tips to prevent tick exposure can be found below.

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Bringing Together Landowners and Butterflies

By Kevin Thusius, Director of Land Conservation
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Karner Blue Butterfly
An Endangered Female Karner Blue Butterfly, Waushara County, Wisconsin. Photo by Steve Apps Photography.
One-inch wing-span. Brilliant blue on top. Orange dots under wings. Size of a nickel.

This description is of a rather rare insect that resides in central Wisconsin – the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). Its existence is so threatened it was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1992.

Its tiny size makes it easy to miss as it flits between grasses and wildflowers, and because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention, it’s disappearance from our Midwest landscape might not seem like such a big deal. Yet, each and every species, like the Karner blue butterfly, plays a valuable ecological role in nature. Each loss destabilizes this fragile balance. As the folks at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service point out, “experience has proven that many plants and animals have properties which will prove beneficial to humans as sources of food and medicine. With the loss of each species, we lose a potential resource for improving the quality of life for all humanity.”

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Where Ecology Meets People’s Experience

By Christi Lee Ehler, Volunteer Writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Trail Corridor, Prairie, Land Conservation
With White Penstemon in full bloom along the Trail corridor, Gary Werner (left) emphasizes the magnitude of the conservation work that’s been done on the Holmes Preserve as he and Tom Wise (right) walk-and-talk with Christi Ehler (center). Photo by Kevin Thusius.
“The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is where ecology meets people’s experience,” says Kevin Thusius, the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s (IATA) Director of Land Conservation. Managing Ice Age Trail lands for plant and wildlife habitat and managing them for aesthetics go hand-in-hand, because the more biodiverse a landscape is, the more it contains what people go into nature to see, hear, and feel.

A growing number of people, it seems, are particularly drawn to places where they might witness evidence of our ability to repair past environmental damage and create a healthier future for the earth. Ice Age Trail (IAT) segments where there are ongoing, large-scale efforts to rebuild ecological diversity are becoming some of the Trail’s most popular hikes.

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Ice Age Trail Inspired Limerick Sequence by The Portly Bard

Try the trail of the Ice Age today,
nature’s glacial destruction display.
Hike the terminal path
of the cold weather wrath
where Wisconsin held fast in the way.

From the Sturgeon Bay calm of its shore
to the Falls of St. Croix and their roar,
it’s history’s trail
through nature’s travail
that would alter forever earth’s lore.

It’s adventure that fits to a “tee”
spirits yearning for splendor to see
— whether done end to end,
or by segment, or bend —
time remembered as all it can be…

…amid features of rock to exalt
in the bluffs and the cliffs by default
now natural beauty
derived from the duty
of becoming a mineral vault.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, hiker in the fall
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