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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Contest: Trail Inspired Limericks

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Quarantine Challenge, Limerick Contest
Are you looking for a lighthearted distraction from the pandemic?

Limericks are the answer! These short, silly poems offer a much-needed dash of humor to an otherwise uncertain situation.

Try your hand at writing an Ice Age Trail inspired limerick, (or two, or more) and enter them into our contest (in honor of National Poetry Month).

Your limerick could be an ode to mosquitoes, permethrin, ticks, yellow blazes, eskers, or kettle lakes! (Or wherever else your inspiration is found!)

They’re easy enough to write – get the kids involved!

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Spring’s Woodland Beauties

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Woodland flowers on the IAT, Refuge in uncertain times, COVID-19, pandemic
Hepatica blooms along the Gibraltar Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Nazan Gillie.
It’s a pleasant surprise to find small, dainty wildflowers peeking up through rough, brown leaves scattered across the forest floor. Such delicate beauty after a stark, frozen winter. Their emergence is a less a lesson about timing and patience, than it is of hardiness. They barely wait for a thawing earth before they surface and each year, it seems, their hardiness is tested as they endure one last snowy lashing of winter.

As you turn your face to the sun and head out on a hike, be on the look out for these woodland beauties:

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Hike Responsibly: 13 Things to Know

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice age national Scenic Trail, COVID-19, Hiking Responsibly
Bohn Lake Segment, Washara County. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
The weather is perfect: sunshine, a light breeze, blue sky. It’s ideal hiking conditions. However, our nation is in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. What’s a responsible hiker and Ice Age Trail enthusiast to do?

Help Flatten the Curve:  

  1. Stay Local. Limit travel to within your community (or county). If you do not live near an Ice Age Trail segment, please enjoy your local county or city parks, or your own back yard.
  2. Let Go. Set aside your Thousand-Miler goal, whether it was to section-hike segments, or to begin a long-distance, multi-day thru-hike.

Hike Responsibly, if You Choose to Hike: Continue reading

The IAT & Closing/Reopening of Public Land

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, COVID-19, Closing of Public Land, Impact of Governor Evers' order on the Ice Age Trail.

What to Know Before You Go!

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is open (except where it crosses federally owned land in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest).

As of 5/01/2020, 34 of the 40 state parks, forests, and natural areas, previously closed, will now be reopened.

Reopening does NOT extend to restrooms, campsites, towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, contact stations, and concession buildings. These facilities remain closed until May 26, 2020. Continue reading

We’ve Partnered with Target Circle

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Target Circle, Voting
We are honored and excited to announce that we have been chosen to participate in a special charitable giving campaign, sponsored and funded by Target. And you have the chance to help direct a portion of Target’s donation to us!

Now through June 30, vote for us through the Target Circle program to help determine how Target’s donation will be divvied up. Find out more about Target Circle here: www.target.com/circle

Please note, voting is based on location and the Ice Age Trail Alliance is being featured in the Madison/Southern WI market which means Fitchburg, Janesville, Lake Geneva, Madison, Pleasant Prairie, Racine, and Sun Prairie.  However, if you live outside these urban areas, you can select one of these stores to be your Target store at which point, the Ice Age Trail Alliance becomes one of your voting options.

We’re asking our supporters, especially those of you who live in the urban areas listed above, to help us make the most of this incredible opportunity. Every vote counts to help us receive a portion of the available Target funds as we continue our mission to create, support, and protect the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

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Give Forest Bathing a Try!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Forest Bathing, Shinrin-Yoku, Milwaukee River SEgment
Along the Milwaukee River Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
The term “forest bathing” may bring up some odd images and a few questions, but in Japan, forest bathing, called “Shinrin-yoku” in Japanese, is a leisurely visit to a forest. Shinrin means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. The aim of forest bathing is to slow down and let ourselves become immersed in the natural environment around us. Continue reading

Nature’s Wildness is a Necessity

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Nature's Benefits on the Ice Age Trail, Refuge in Uncertain Times
The Hartman Creek Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Photo by Cameron Gillie.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

~John Muir, environmentalist and author of Our National Parks, 1901

Mountains are hard to come by in Wisconsin. Yet, we have the excellent fortune of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail wending its way through the state. The Ice Age Trail provides us with the necessary wildness and opportunity to come home.  A vigorous hike or leisurely walk on a favorite segment of this thousand-mile footpath lets us, the “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized,” reacquaint ourselves with a vital source of well-being, nature. Continue reading

Coronavirus/COVID-19 and the Ice Age Trail

A hiker admires an early spring bloomer along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
A hiker admires an early spring bloomer along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Updated 3/26/2020 in light of the Safer-At-Home order [PDF] issued by Governor Evers on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s highest priority is the health and well-being of our staff, volunteers, and hiking community during the rapidly evolving health concern of the Coronavirus/COVID-19. Continue reading

Celebrating Mammoth’s Back Preserve!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Land Protection Success, Dane County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, Dane County Conservation Fund
The double hump, unglaciated bedrock hills of the newly acquired Mammoth's Back Preserve. Photo by Kevin Thusius.
We are super excited to announce that on Monday the Ice Age Trail Alliance purchased 46 acres of land in Dane County at the edge of the Driftless region near the Village of Cross Plains.

This success is thanks to YOU! Along with the help of conservation-minded donors in the Dane County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance and local business owner, Mary Devitt, of the Crossroads Coffeehouse, we were able to raise private funds to supplement funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the Dane County Conservation Fund.

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Trailbuilding & Stewardship Event

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Trailbuilding and Stewardship Event, Gibraltar Rock, Mobile Skills Crew Season
A crew burns brush piles to restore a remnant prairie along the Gibraltar Rock Segment in Columbia County. Photo by Kevin Thusius.

For the fourth year running, we plan to torch eastern red cedar and other undesirable woody plants to restore a wonderful remnant prairie along the Gibraltar Rock Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Already, many pockets of native prairie species are thriving where trees have been removed and seeds are exposed to sunlight. With every push to restore native prairie we also push to revitalize the beautiful views of Wisconsin’s unique topography and waterways.

This special Leap Day event is a twice-in-a-decade type of experience, don’t miss out!
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Ice and Stalwart Volunteers!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Boardwalk construction, Mobile Skills Crew events 2020
We’re befriending ice to set 22 bridge abutments beneath 8 inches of ice and through 30 inches of cold, dark water to support what will become a 577-foot-long boardwalk elevated 6 feet. Photo by Kevin Kuhlmann.

Wednesday, February 5th, through Saturday, February 8th, we embark on the most complex boardwalk construction project in Alliance history.
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Thank You!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Year-End Thank You, $50,000 Challenge Match

A father-daughter duo hike the Jerry Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Photo by Jessica Featherstone

We are humbled and inspired by the 500+ donors who helped us surpass our $50,000 Challenge Match. Your collective generosity ranged from $5 to $5,000 and came from 17 different states showing the impact the Ice Age National Scenic Trail has on communities close by and those far afield.

Your support inspires us, underpinning all we do, as we work to create, support, and protect the Ice Age Trail. We look forward to doing justice to your donations by improving the Trail, foot-by-foot and acre-by-acre. Continue reading

Online Shopping Benefits The Trail!

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

For those of you who like to do your shopping from the comfort of your living room, there are THREE ways to benefit the Ice Age Trail Alliance AND get your holiday shopping done!

FIRST:

For those of you who want to spend your money locally, then consider heading over to the Ice Age Trail Alliance store.

Grab a plush Monty the Mammoth for the littlest hiker in your life.

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Fourteen 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. #OptOutside takes place on Black Friday (November 29th) and encourages people to take a hike!

Here in Wisconsin, the day after Thanksgiving is also the heart of the nine-day gun deer-hunting season. Keeping this in mind, we have set up 14 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

Hunting Season and Hiking the Ice Age Trail

A woman and her dog wear blaze orange on the Ice Age Trail in fall.

Photo by Paulette Walker Smith

There can be a lot of details to navigate when you hike the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin’s fall and winter seasons: hunting season dates, trail closures on private property, and public lands where the Trail is open and hunting is also allowed.

Visit our Hunting Seasons and the Ice Age Trail page to get a full breakdown of all the things to consider. Here are the main things you’ll want to remember: Continue reading

Wildcard Season! Join us!

It’s wildcard season with not one, but two wildcards! The main event will take place in Marathon County to continue work on the Ringle Segment. A second, smaller event will take place in Langlade County along the Summit Moraine Segment (formerly Old Railroad) to continue storm damage cleanup.

Help us end the “Building for the 23rd Century” tour on a high note by signing up for one (or both) of the events! Please register by Sunday, October 13th.

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