2022 Spirit Stick Caretaker: Debbie Krogwold

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Spirit Stick Award, Debboe Krogwold
Debbie Krogwold, Portage/Waupaca County Chapter Coordinator, receives the cherished Spirit Stick award; one of the highest honors bestowed by the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Photo by Cameron Gillie.

Debbie Krogwold inspires the entire Ice Age Trail Alliance community with her passion for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Her long-time dedication has encompassed a wide range of activities: Trail maintenance and promotion as well as the nitty-gritty details of chapter administration.

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.

As Mike Wollmer, Executive Director, stated during the unveiling of this year’s Spirit Stick winner…

“As usual, we’ve been able to keep the new caretaker’s identity a secret.  Another constant is that our new caretaker, along with the other nominees this year, is so deserving of this recognition.

This year’s recipient is one of the most welcoming, warm, and dedicated volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. With a tenure of well over 20 years of service, this person has embodied the role of chapter leadership and the critical value of chapters at the local and statewide levels throughout the Alliance.

On behalf of our entire staff, I invite Debbie Krogwold to join me as we welcome her as our newest Spirit Stick Caretaker.”

Carousel images: 1. Debbie surprised by the announcement. 2. Mike welcomes Debbie to the podium. 3. Debbie greeted by past Spirit Stick winners: Dolly McNulty, Dean Dversdall, Bill Welch, Luke Kloberdanz, Sharon Dziengel, Dave Phillips, and Pat Witkowski. 4. Overcome by emotion, Debbie receives a hug from Dolly. 5. Debbie examines the Spirit Stick as Bill, Luke, and Dave look on. 6. Debbie flanked by Luke, Pat, and Sharon. All photos by Cameron Gillie, AroundWisco.com.

From the nomination letter authored by Sharon Dziengel.

Over the years, Debbie Krogwold’s commitment quietly garnered accolades, beginning in 2002 with an “In the Mud” award. Chapter members recognized her willingness to roll up her sleeves, show up at trail improvement days, and dive into the dirty work of creating and maintaining the Ice Age Trail. In subsequent years, the Ice Age Trail Alliance acknowledged her bedrock volunteer spirit with a ‘Ten Years of Service’ award in 2007 and a ‘Twenty Years of Service’ award in 2016.

However, the spotlight shone particularly bright in 2022. Krogwold stepped up to the podium twice. First, she received her 3,000 Hours of Service award from the National Park Service. Then the Alliance invited her up, bestowing its highest honor, the cherished Spirit Stick award.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, National Park Service, Volunteers in the Park, Debbie Krogwold, 3,000 Hours of Service Award
Eric Gabriel, National Park Service Superintendent-Ice Age National Scenic Trail, recognizes Debbie's 3,000 hours of service with an NPS jacket. Photo by Cameron Gillie.

Debbie Krogwold embodies the spirit of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through her welcoming enthusiasm and warmth to all involved. These qualities and her commitment to the Ice Age Trail Alliance have contributed to her successful leadership.”  ~Sharon Dziengel

As chapter coordinator, Krogwold capably led the Waupaca County Chapter for more than 20 years, balancing the high-demand duties with a full-time job until her recent retirement. Then, Krogwold smoothly shepherded the neighboring Portage County Chapter’s merger to become the new Portage/Waupaca County Chapter. And she became its first coordinator. Prior to the union, she encouraged collaboration – community events and trail maintenance – between the two chapters.

As the public face of the Chapter, Debbie has always been thoughtful in her words and actions. Her positive energy, creativity, and organizational qualities complement her leadership style. Under her watch, the newly formed chapter has thrived. They’ve hosted successful events such as its annual Fall Hike-A-Thon, and well-organized trail improvement projects at the chapter and statewide levels.

Debbie leads by example. She is a trail maintainer, monitoring a section just north of Highway 10. Although countless times, if another trail maintainer or I am out checking on or working on our Trail sections if Debbie is aware of it and available, she will join us. This hands-on leadership style encourages others to step up and help out.” ~ Darrel Ruechel



I don’t think we’ve ever had a workday when Debbie hasn’t baked cookies or made sure we had some snack bars. She’s also provided entire meals for chapter meetings. Her dedication is inspiring and exemplary.”       ~ Jennifer Vandiver

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Debbie Krogwold, Spirit Stick Award
A beaming Debbie Krogwold holds the cherished Spirit Stick. Photo by Cameron Gillie.

Krogwold has also been vitally involved in maintaining good neighbor relationships related to handshake agreements and DNR property partnerships. Not surprisingly, Krogwold is known for efficiently communicating organization-wide information and supporting Alliance initiatives, especially MSC events the chapter hosted over the years. As Chapter Liaison, she managed pre-project preparations and logistics required to put on a successful event. In addition, as a certified Project Support Crew Member, she’s traveled statewide to participate as Camp Chef in MSC events.

We worked together as a team, many times. Sometimes as Co-Crew Leaders (we both worked the entire project) and as Tag-team Crew Leaders (split the project dates). Both methods required collaboration to plan the menu, put together a shopping list, and consider how we could use leftovers for meals later in the project. Debbie shared her experience and knowledge freely in a way that I couldn’t help but learn some tricks to make the process easier.” ~ Dolly McNulty

In addition, Krogwold answers phone calls from hikers looking for assistance, helping them coordinate with local Trail Angels or driving them herself.

We were hiking near the Hartman Creek area when we missed a road along a connecting route. When we realized our error, we called Debbie. She was working in project support for the Hartman Creek MSC event. She drove to our location, redirected us, and brought water and banana bread. A good example of the spirit of helping others and being a true trail angel.” ~ Cheryl Gorsuch and Ann Vogl 

It’s clear: Krogwold’s love for the Trail has undoubtedly become a way of life. As a result, she is an ideal ambassador of the Ice Age Trail and the Alliance.

Congratulations, Debbie!

Krogwold was nominated by:

  • Sharon Dziengel, Thousand-Miler and Spirit Stick Caretaker 2013
  • Jennifer Vandiver, Portage/Waupaca County Chapter member
  • Darrel Ruechel, Portage/Waupaca County Chapter member
  • Dolly McNulty, MSC Project Support Crew Member, Camp Chef, and Spirit Stick Caretaker 2018
  • Patty Dreier, Alliance Board President 2021-present
  • Cheryl Gorsuch, Thousand-Miler and Lakeshore Chapter Coordinator
  • Ann Vogl, Thousand-Miler and Lakeshore Chapter member