A Successful Winter Habitat Improvement Program (HIP) Season

Dedicated volunteers improved many acres of crucial habitat!

Left: a person chainsaws a done tree while a fire burns in the background. Right: A tree with a painted yellow blaze stands in the forefront of a habitat improvement event.
Photo (1) by Riley Dupee and (2) by Maura Hanley.
Dedicated Ice Age Trail volunteers helped improve crucial plant and wildlife habitats across three Ice Age Trail Alliance-owned preserves: SwampLovers (Dane County), Hartland Marsh (Waukesha County), and Steenbock (Columbia County). A total of 158 volunteers donated 2,136 service hours.

Winter, offering both challenging AND perfect conditions for the Habitat Improvement events, didn’t deter hardy sawyers, swampers, and brush haulers. Invasive trees and shrubs were removed from more than seven acres, allowing for the expansion of native prairie and oak savanna.

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Take the Cornell to Lake Eleven Shortcut While You Can!

Recent property protection: great for the Trail, not so great for shortcut seekers.

A scenic shot of trees with fall colors overlook a lake in the distance.
Otter Lake Preserve contains a creek and high-relief hummocky glacial topography, including several small ice-walled lake plains along the Perkinstown Moraine. Photo by Jared Wildenradt.
For years, hikers have shaved miles off a 40-mile connecting route between the Cornell and Lake Eleven segments by following state highway 64. A recent property protection for the Trail, however, will soon upend this popular shortcut.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance closed on a 76.08-acre property along County Highway H in Chippewa County. Now known as Otter Lake Preserve, the property contains a creek and high-relief hummocky glacial topography, including several small ice-walled lake plains along the Perkinstown Moraine. Continue reading

Thank You for a Successful 2023 Trailbuilding Season

Nearly 15-miles of brand new Ice Age Trail!

Photos by Patrick Gleissner, Dave Caliebe, and Rick Gamble.
Photos by Patrick Gleissner, Dave Caliebe, and Rick Gamble.
Two words – New Trail – describe the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s 2023 Trailbuilding Season!

Nearly 15 miles of brand-new Ice Age National Scenic Trail took shape, creating a banner year.

The season’s true superstars were the 1,031 volunteers who donated 24,725 service hours, an impressive amount!
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A Road Walk Becomes a Walk in the Woods!

The final MSC Trailbuilding project for 2023 in Cross Plains brought a record number of volunteers and service hours.

A group of volunteers gather in a circle at the Cross Plains Segment for a morning meeting prior to the Trailbuilding event.
A record breaking number of volunteers gathered for the final 2023 MSC Trailbuilding Project in Cross Plains. Photo by Amy Lord.
The five-day trailbuilding project from October 18 – October 22 along the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail ticked a lot of boxes: Enthusiastic volunteers, great weather, even better food, vibrant autumn color, an evening watching UW-Madison’s women’s volleyball on the big screen (literally), and pumpkin carving! As a bonus, volunteers built 3.1 miles of tread, including a 0.6-mile white-blazed loop trail.
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A 15-Year Project Receives Finishing Touches

The concluding Rib Lake MSC Trailbuilding Project, a volunteer celebration, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the re-opening of the Rib Lake Segment.

152 volunteers donated 4,388 service hours to the final Rib Lake MSC project, allowing for the grand re-opening of the Rib Lake Segment! Photo by Dave Caliebe.
152 volunteers donated 4,388 service hours to the final Rib Lake MSC project, allowing for the grand re-opening of the Rib Lake Segment! Photo by Dave Caliebe.
“This MSC event was about putting on the finishing touches to a 15-year project,” said Dave Caliebe, Trail Program Manager. “Although Bob Rusch knows more about this than I do, the entire week felt like the final kick runners muster when approaching a marathon’s finish line.”

152 volunteers donated 4,388 service hours to reach the home stretch: The Ribbon Cutting ceremony on the morning of Sunday, October 1st, followed by a hike along the rerouted and reopened Rib Lake Segment
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The Rejuvenation of the Eastern Terminus

Volunteers work together to move a large dolomite slab. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
Volunteers work together to move a large dolomite slab. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
“I love working on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail because what we do today will live on after we are gone,” said Cheryl Gorsuch, Lakeshore Chapter Coordinator. “It will provide our children and grandchildren with a legacy of connecting with nature and preserving the land for future generations.”

And since the Eastern Terminus is either the start or end of a 1,200-mile adventure, it’s fitting that seasoned volunteers worked alongside children with many years ahead of them. Together, the generations revitalized an important stretch of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
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Meet the Wisconsin Conservation Corps Crew Who Spent their Summer on the Trail

Three Wisconsin Conservation Corps members help with trail maintenance.
Wisconsin Conservation Corps crew members help with trail maintenance on Ice Age Trail segments in Taylor County. Photo by Mark Ormsby.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail and its volunteers got an assist this summer from five Wisconsin Conservation Corps crew members, who helped build and maintain the Trail:

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A Charmed Event: The Final Iola Ski Hill Segment MSC

A group of volunteers sit and stand by a brand new stone staircase on the Ice Age Trail.
Volunteers proudly pose by a brand new stone staircase at the MSC Iola Ski Hill Trailbuilding event. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Some MSC events occur beneath a charmed star like the third and final project of the Iola Ski Hill Segment’s reroute. It started with an outstanding and fun group of people coming together – 101 volunteers donated 2,237 service hours. This number included several volunteers from the June 2023 Crew Leader Training class.
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The Hiking Adventures of “Duckbill” and “Chicken Fat”

Two men on a long distance hike pose and smile together next to a metal mammoth statue with their hiking gear.
Thru-hiker Darrell Beauchamp, left, and long-distance hiker Chris "Chicken Fat" LeBlanc, right. Photo by IATA Staff.
Darrell Beauchamp started his thru-hike on June 18, 2023 from the Western Terminus. Chris “Chicken Fat” LeBlanc began his long-distance hike on July 4, 2023 from the same location.

Chicken Fat, named for the enormous amounts of fried chicken he ate while hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2014, caught up to Beauchamp on July 25. They walked 30 miles together and camped in the Dispersed Camping Area along the Table Bluff Segment. They were talking and laughing like long-time friends when they reached the Ice Age Trail Alliance headquarters.

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Second Seasonal Maintenance Event Spruces Up Taylor County Segments

Pilot program proves successful.

A scenic shot of a forest with a tree featuring a painted yellow blaze.
Ice Age Trail Segments in Taylor County received some much needed summer maintenance following winter storm damage. Photo by Lisa Szela.
Taylor County has more blazed Ice Age Trail than any other county in the state. It also has one of the smallest volunteer chapters (High Point Chapter) to support it. It’s for reasons like this, the Ice Age Trail Alliance formed a maintenance crew, comprised of volunteers across the state, to lend extra hands to local volunteers.
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Thousand-Miler Turned Ice Age Trail Volunteer: Priscilla Matthews

A woman celebrates during a fall hike.
Volunteer Spotlight: Priscilla Matthews celebrates her Thousand-Miler journey.
We’re highlighting Priscilla Matthews for a Volunteer Spotlight! Priscilla is a Thousand-Miler turned volunteer who wants to help other hikers enjoy the Trail and their hiking adventures.

At the Alliance’s recent IAT-U: Trail Skills event at John Muir Park in Marquette Co., an Alliance staff member chatted with Priscilla about what inspires her, her Thousand-Miler journey, and why she volunteers.

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IAT-U Provides In-Depth Learning Opportunities

Hands-on classes spruce up an iconic segment.

Two purple coneflowers in a green prairie capture the focus of a camera lense.
Over four days, volunteers dedicated time to learn the ins and outs of Trailbuilding and maintenance. Photo by Jeff Frazer.
The boyhood land of John Muir, eminent naturalist and conservationist, provided inspiration and a scenic backdrop for Ice Age Trail University (IAT-U) activities on July 12-16, 2023. And the Ice Age National Scenic Trail’s John Muir Park Segment offered an ideal setting for IAT-U’s outdoor classrooms, along with good weather: blue sky, plenty of sunshine, and the occasional breeze.
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Make Some Noise for the Trail, Comment on the DNR’s Trail Network Plan

Comment period open through August 7.

Hikers are a pretty quiet bunch. No loud gear. No noisy equipment. Most times, people don’t know when hikers are around. And, that’s usually a good thing. Hikers don’t negatively impact their surroundings.

Sometimes, hikers need to get loud. Especially when it comes to voicing their opinion on the trails they use and love—including the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

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Incredible Progress Made for October’s Grand Opening

Volunteers work to move a large rock in the mud, while one dog looks on and another naps.
Volunteers work together on a stonework project, while one "volunteer" takes a quick snooze. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Clouds of Northwoods gnats swarmed volunteers, encouraging a run to Walmart for head nets! But, despite this springtime challenge, 101 volunteers donated 2,773 service hours, making incredible progress toward the October 1st Grand Opening.
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A Mighty Group Tackled Winter Storm Clean-Up in Northern Wisconsin

Three certified sawyers walk along down trees and branches from winter storm damage.
The Alliance's newly formed "roving crew" helped clear winter storm damage on the Ice Age Trail in Northern Wisconsin. Photo by Rick Gamble.
A winter of ice and snow did quite the number on the Ice Age Trail in Northern Wisconsin, making the Trail impassable in places from downed trees and brush. It took considerable effort from segment maintainers to even open parts of the Trail this spring. To help with the efforts, a hardy group of 46 volunteers spent 1,035 hours clearing the Trail where progress was measured in feet, not miles.
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Volunteer Spotlight: Alice Weinert!

Interview conducted by: Miranda Murphy, Operations Assistant.
Article written by: Maura Hanley, AmeriCorps VISTA Communications Support Specialist.
An Alliance volunteer sits on newly constructed stone steps at a Trailbuilding event.
Alice Weinert, Ice Age Trail Alliance Volunteer. Photo by Michelle McArdle.
Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers are the living breathing soul of the Ice Age Trail. They build, support, and maintain it. They donate thousands of hours of their time every year to care for the Trail.

One of these dedicated volunteers is Chicago resident Alice Weinert.

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Impressive Outcomes in Unpredictable Weather

Two images of a "Welcome Volunteers!" sign. One (on the left) with early spring weather and one (on the right) covered in snow.
The "Welcome Volunteers!" sign looks very different on the first day of the MSC Rib Lake project versus the last. Photo by Alice Weinert.
A guarantee for April MSC events: Unpredictable weather. Yet, the promise of cloudy, 40-degree days and chilly, rain-soaked nights didn’t deter 73 volunteers who donated 1,995 service hours. They remained undaunted even after waking to half a foot of snow on Sunday morning.
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The “Hottest” Land Restoration Tool: Prescribed Burns

By Steve Pence, Land Restoration Specialist for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
An Alliance staff member wears safety gear and watches a fire during a prescribed burn.
Steve Pence, Land Restoration Specialist, during a prescribed burn at the Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Jo Ellarson.

Prescribed Fire Season: Late March through Mid-May

Fire, a useful tool in land restoration efforts, promotes healthy ecosystems. Prescribed burns – intentionally lit fires under controlled conditions – help create healthy, native-species-filled plant and wildlife habitats, meeting land management goals.

As a certified land trust, the Ice Age Trail Alliance utilizes fire in several southern Wisconsin preserves, benefiting plant and wildlife communities and improving the hiker experience along the Trail. As a result, from late March through mid-May, sections of the Ice Age Trail will be closed for prescribed burns, often for only a few hours.

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