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 Kinnamon

By Sevie Kenyon, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ray Zillmer Award, David Kinnamon
David Kinnamon is a recipient of the Ray Zillmer Award, which honors those whose work exemplifies the long-range, big-picture ideals that inspired the establishment of the Ice Age Trail. Photo courtesy of David Kinnamon.
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 Kinnamon and David Phillips, both of whom have steered the course of the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s history.

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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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Trail Steward of the Year Award: Gail Piotrowski

By Bill Polacheck, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Trail Steward of the Year, Gail Piotrowski
Gail Piotrowski affixes a temporary blaze to help mark a newly opened section of Trail. Photo by Rachel Roberts.

While we feel like explorers as we hike the Ice Age Trail National Scenic Trail, it is important to remember the people whose footsteps we follow. The dedicated and inspiring volunteers of the Ice Age Trail Alliance make the Ice Age Trail the national gem that it is. Each year, we recognize our most esteemed volunteers. One award, the Trail Steward of the Year, recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to trail management and development.

Bill Polacheck spoke with this year’s winner, Gail Piotrowski. Gail is a Co-Coordinator for the Central Moraines Chapter.

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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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Our Commitment to Justice and Equality

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Statement of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Alliance is committed to making the Ice Age Trail and our community of supporters a safe and inclusive experience. Photo by IATA staff.

Outdoor spaces are everyone’s right to enjoy without being subjected to danger, suspicion, and violence. The tragic events in recent weeks, resulting in the senseless deaths of black Americans, exposes a challenge to our mission that goes well beyond the Trail.

Simply, we are appalled.

The Alliance is wholly committed to making the Ice Age Trail and our community of supporters a safe and inclusive experience for all people. Continue reading

Hiking Responsibly During a COVID-19 Pandemic

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Hiking Responsibly, COVID-19, coronavirus

Note: Updated 5/27/2020

A hike on a favorite segment of Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers mood-boosting fresh air and sunshine and provides a respite from the uncertainty around us. The Ice Age Trail is a perfect place for slowing down, gathering your internal resources, and gaining clarity.

It’s also important, while we are out exploring the Trail, that we remain respectful of the fact COVID-19 is still in our midst. It’s important to help stop the spread of the virus and help flatten the curve with considerate and responsible behavior.

Is Hiking Still Allowed?

Yes! It’s allowed and good for you, too! However, best practices call for thoughtful social distancing.

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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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Mammoth Steps to Reconnect

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mammoth Steps, National Trails Day, Straight Lake Segment, Polk County
Overjoyed to Reconnect with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Photo by Mary Johnson.

National Trails Day, Saturday, June 6, 2020

A Day to Reconnect, Refresh, and Assess.

Some days feel like they take FOREVER to get here. This year, Saturday, June 6, National Trails Day, is one of those. We’re marking its arrival by joining together and taking Mammoth Steps on behalf of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

This day will be among the first opportunities for Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers to get back to doing what they love best: creating, supporting, and protecting the Ice Age Trail.

It’s a day to reconnect with the Trail from which they’ve been apart during the last few months.

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Mammoth Beauty Celebration!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mammoth Steps, National Trails Day, Lodi Marsh Segment, Dane County
A mother and son enjoy a spring saunter on the Lodi Marsh Segment in Dane County. Photo by Joshua Fager.
Imaginehikers safely sauntering along the entire Ice Age National Scenic Trail from end to end in a single day!

Imagineif they photographed the best features of the Ice Age Trail along the way: the expansive views, tread unfurling ahead, and ephemerals peeking up from the forest floor.

Imaginea snapshot of the Ice Age Trail, in its entirety, as it looks on a single day!

This vision could become a reality with your help.

We have 120 Ice Age Trail segments waiting for you to enjoy, camera in hand and eyes finely-tuned for beauty, as part of our National Trails Day celebration on Saturday, June 6.

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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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