Meet Arlette Laan, the woman hiking all 11 National Scenic Trails

Arlette Laan posing on enormous erratics along the Trade River Segment. Photo by Roberta Smith.
Arlette Laan posing on enormous erratics along the Trade River Segment. Photo by Roberta Smith.
Once Arlette completes the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, she will be the first known woman to have hiked all 11 National Scenic Trails. She is working towards that goal as we speak! We are excited for the Ice Age Trail to provide the backdrop for this incredible achievement.

Arlette graciously took some time from her busy hiking schedule to answer our questions. Read on to hear from this inspiring long-distance hiker and dollmaker from the Netherlands.

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The Case for Connector Routes

By Mary Cieslewicz, Thousand-Miler
Hiking with a buddy will ensure those connector miles fly by. Photo by Mary Cieslewicz.
Hiking with a buddy will ensure those connector miles fly by. Photo by Mary Cieslewicz.
Anyone who hikes the Ice Age National Scenic Trail speaks enthusiastically about its fauna, flora, and geological features. Each hike offers lessons on myriad topics: beavers, butterflies, derechos, erratics, fossils, flowers, and ticks. In addition to traversing natural spaces, the Ice Age Trail is also composed of connector routes. These rural roads link off-road sections of Trail together, and in many cases, they bring hikers into cities and towns. The designers of the Ice Age Trail intentionally placed the Trail near populated areas, hoping close and easy access would increase its usage.

Knowing many aspiring Thousand-Milers merely tolerate road miles and other hikers eschew them entirely, I devote this essay to the joy of hiking connectors, hoping to inspire an appreciation for the miles marked not by yellow blazes but by white stripes.

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What I learned Backpacking the Ice Age Trail

By Cameron Gillie, Thousand-Miler and Contract and Volunteer Photographer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Cameron Gillie celebrating the completion of his thousand-mile journey at the western terminus of the Ice Age Trail. Self-portrait by Cameron Gillie.
Cameron Gillie celebrating the completion of his thousand-mile journey at the western terminus of the Ice Age Trail. Self-portrait by Cameron Gillie.
Hiking an entire National Scenic Trail is bound to change you in some ways. You have a whole lot of time to think about things as you walk alone with only your thoughts for 1,200 miles. I’m a photojournalist, and I set out to tell the story of Wisconsin’s landscapes, communities, and people for a photography book. Here’s what I learned on a personal level.

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Trail Magic

By Yolanda Deloach, Thousand-Miler
Yolanda Deloach on the Ice Age Trail. All images in this article were taken by Deloach on her thousand-mile journey,
Yolanda Deloach on the Ice Age Trail. All images in this article were taken by Deloach on her thousand-mile journey,
The human experience allows for growth and change if we are open to it. During our life experience, we may find ourselves lost. Lost in a situation we could not have imagined we would ever encounter. Ultimately, it is our choice to stay on the wrong path or seek a new one.

My year on the Ice Age Trail helped me to leave a spirit crushing path. During my newbie trail days, someone had told me that there was magic on the trail. I was intrigued, but I also thought it was cliche–something cool to say about trail hiking. But as my miles added up, this magic began to reveal itself.

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The History We Make: From Newbie to Thousand-Miler

By Lou Ann Novak, Guest Writer and Thousand-Miler
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Thousand-Miler Journal, Thousand Miler, Thru-hike
Lou Ann Novak, clearly in her happy place, while on her journey towards becoming a Thousand-Miler. Photo by Lou Ann Novak.
My Ice Age National Scenic Trail experience began in April 2016. I knew nothing about the Ice Age Trail then. I had seen the yellow blazes, but didn’t know what they meant. One day out of curiosity, I searched for ‘Ice Age Trail’ on the Internet.

From the first, I was amazed at how each step seemed to leave the urban world behind. I thought how pleasant it would be to explore a few segments, but I really wasn’t hooked (yet). I bought the IAT Guidebook and Atlas. I enjoyed the mental exercise of planning my hikes. I would review the Guidebook and then map out my route. Since I was a solo hiker, I parked the car, biked one way on public roads and then walked the Trail back to my car.

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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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Thousand-Miler Journals: 3 Weeks or 30 Minutes

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Thousand-Miler Journals, Thru-hiker, thru-hike on the Ice Age Trail, IAT,

This captivating section of the Firth Lake Segment in Chippewa County evoked fond memories of the time spend building it. Photo by Ryan Jansen.

Article by thru-hiker, Ryan Jansen

Three weeks or 30 minutes. Both are amounts of time, separated by a year, I spent on the Firth Lake Segment. The two experiences were very different. One occurred while I was a crew member with Wisconsin Conservation Corps (WisCorps) and the other while on my 2018 thru-hike.

Both had the similarity of being experienced through the lens of a unique perception of time. Trail-Time. A meditative, obligation-free state of mind. The senses peak to the point of almost combining. My thoughts felt 3D and immersive, to the point where I struggle to say if I was fully in my head (my brain often was occupied with thoughts to the point of blocking out my surroundings) or out of my mind (my thoughts felt like they left my skull and were in plain sight). Continue reading