Expert Assistance Spruces Up Beloved Polk County Segments

A small maintenance crew in Polk County resulted in big accomplishments!

At the first 2024 Maintenance Sweep event, 30 volunteers donated 677 service hours to sprucing up Polk County Segments. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
At the first 2024 Maintenance Sweep event, 30 volunteers donated 677 service hours to sprucing up Polk County Segments. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
The first Maintenance Sweep event in 2024 crossed many items off the Indianhead Chapter’s to-do list, assisted by 30 volunteers who donated 677 service hours.

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2023 Ice Age Trail and Ice Age Trail Alliance Volunteer Recognition

National Park Service Volunteer-in-Parks (VIP) Recognition. 

In 2023, a total of 220 volunteers for the Ice Age Trail earned recognition for the National Park Service’s VIP program. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
In 2023, a total of 220 volunteers for the Ice Age Trail earned recognition for the National Park Service’s VIP program. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
In 2023, a total of 220 volunteers for the Ice Age Trail earned recognition for the National Park Service’s  VIP program.  VIP volunteers receive recognition when they attain certain volunteer hour milestones (as long as their volunteer form is current!) Hours accrue, year over year.

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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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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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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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Intense Heat Fails to Wilt Good Spirits

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Storrs Lake MSC, Rock County, Rock County Chapter, MSC event 2023
A team of MSC volunteers build an 856-foot boardwalk in blistering heat. Photo by Riley Dupee.

Storrs Lake Segment MSC
June 21-25, 2023

To combat the intense 90-plus-degree heat, project hosts – the Rock County Chapter – provided buckets of iced beverages and handed out cooling towels to each participant. Small pop-up tents offered important (but minimal!) shade during lunch breaks. And crews guzzled gallons of Gatorade.

Nonetheless, 51 stalwart volunteers donated 1,181 service hours to build an 856-foot boardwalk during the 5-day MSC project.

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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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Volunteers Braved Winter in Wisconsin to Help with Land Restoration

Volunteers smile and wave at the camera during lunch.
Volunteers smile and wave during the Steenbock Preserve HIP event. Photo by Bob Leedle.
More than 130 volunteers braved winter in Wisconsin—the frigid temperatures, icy terrain, and blustery wind—and volunteered at one (or multiple) of the Alliance’s Habitat Improvement Program (HIP) events.

Winter is the ideal time for controlling woody invasives. Snow cover offers relatively safe conditions for burning brush piles, and the cold temps prevent folks from overheating.

The goals of the HIP events include:

  • Enhancing hikers’ experiences along the Ice Age Trail.
  • Advancing the process of restoring native habitats by removing invasive species.
  • Creating space for a variety of native plant species and wildlife to use these habitats.

We couldn’t preserve, restore, and maintain the land’s beauty without the help of so many dedicated volunteers.

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Two Events Complete a Successful Season

Ice Age trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, MSC Season, trailbuilding, MSC
Two MSC events bring the successful trailbuilding season to a close. Photo L: Dave Caliebe. Photo R: Patrick Gleissner.

Firth Lake Segment: October 17 – 21

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, MSC, trailbuilding, boardwalk, firth lake segment, chippewa moraine chapter
The new 736-foot boardwalk rises above the mud along the Firth Lake Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Cold, blustery conditions did not deter the 37 hardy volunteers who framed up half of the 736-foot-long boardwalk on the first day. By the fifth day (or 1,081.5 service hours later), a new structure stood proudly along the route, and the old one had been dismantled and carted away.

How’s that for a wildcard project? It muscled its way onto the calendar a few months ago when funding from the National Park Service came through. Typically, projects of this magnitude are planned out a year or two in advance. Continue reading

A Popular Segment Made Safer!

Volunteers work together building a 330-foot boardwalk along the Lapham Peak Segment. Photo by: Patrick Gleissner.
Volunteers work together building a 330-foot boardwalk along the Lapham Peak Segment. Photo by: Patrick Gleissner.
Is it possible to complete four days’ worth of work in a three-day project? It sure is! Volunteers – 187 – from across the state (and even Illinois) donated 3,048 service hours as they tackled 3 project areas to:

  • Craft 2 reroutes totaling 2,200 feet of new tread.
  • Build a 330-foot boardwalk.
  • Construct 3 stone staircases (for a total of 15 steps).
  • Frame and fill 14 box steps.
  • Install enough check dams to stop a small river.

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One Step Closer to Reopening the Rib Lake Segment!

Autumn was off to a beautiful start in the Northwoods during the recent Rib Lake MSC Event. Photo by: Patrick Gleissner.
Autumn was off to a beautiful start in the Northwoods during the recent Rib Lake MSC Event. Photo by: Patrick Gleissner.
Like Autumn marching into the Northwoods, volunteers steadily moved forward on the rebuild of the Rib Lake Segment. In total, 102 volunteers donated 2,625 hours for the latest effort: clearing brush, crafting tread, and constructing stone steps and retaining walls.
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Nearly a Mile of Brand-New Trail!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, LaBudde Creek Segment, MSC 2022
A smiling volunteer team stands by their work: posts firmly planted and trailhead signage affixed. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
The push to complete the Ice Age Trail took a step forward during the LaBudde Creek MSC event. Thanks to 101 volunteers who, over 2,030 hours, opened a brand-new ¾-mile extension. This effort was a worthy feat in itself. Still, crews also upgraded two boardwalks, maintained a half-mile of existing Trail, built a new boardwalk, and scouted out another mile of potential new Trail. Continue reading

Explore Marathon County’s Newest Gem!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Rice Lake Preserve, Rice Lake MSC, White Cedar Segment
A happy crew worked together to fasten deck boards along an 873-foot-long boardwalk. Photo by Holly Lorentz.
Part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail’s beauty is its ability to shepherd hikers through the varied landscape of Wisconsin, including hard-to-get-to or otherwise inaccessible places. Thanks to 88 volunteers donating 2,185 service hours, a new segment winds through the Ice Age Trail Alliance-owned Rice Lake Preserve. Continue reading

Tremendous Progress on Trail Reroute!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Route, New Hope Iola Ski Hill MSC
A volunteer displays great pride and delight with the new boardwalk and viewing platform built during the project. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
Iola Winter Sports Club property acquisitions and a renegotiated easement created an opportunity to reroute the Ice Age Trail from ski trails onto a dedicated hiking path. Over 5 days, 117 volunteers worked 2,962 hours to construct 4,000 feet (a little more than ¾ mile) of new Trail along breathtaking kettles and a wonderful wetland. Continue reading

Fresh Tread in a Storybook Setting

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Rib Lake Segment MSC, Taylor County
Volunteers work together to maneuver a boulder into place for what will become a set of stone steps. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
The Ice Age Trail brings all sorts of folks together, and this MSC event was no exception. First-time volunteers, New Vision Wilderness students, a pair of TikTok celebrities (their Instagram handle is “thruhikers”), and a long-distance hiker passing through joined seasoned trailbuilders as they cut fresh tread on the Rib Lake Segment. This confluence of novelty and experience resulted in more than 3,000 feet of completed trail, with a generous head start on another 1,000 feet!

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