For most, an Ice Age Trail thru-hike is the event of the season. But, for Chandler “Star-Lord” Cole and Stephanie “Sunshine” Lorenz, it’s the perfect way to wind down after becoming Triple Crowners—a titled given to those who hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
Fresh off completing the PCT, it was Cole’s idea to tackle the Ice Age Trail (IAT). His one goal: to be finished in time to help harvest corn on his parents’ Minnesota farm.
It didn’t take much convincing to get Lorenz to join him. Although she did no research about the Trail, she said yes to the thru-hike. “I knew I was in good shape thanks to hiking in the Mountains,” she says.
The pair are having a ton of fun on their hike, and especially enjoy hitting all the towns and all the bars. So much so, they’ve dubbed this the Pub Crawl Thru Hike (a term fellow thru-hiker Collin “Wild Turkey” Britton borrowed from them).
“You don’t find this on other trails,” says Cole. The first day, they came across three bars.
Most bartenders they’ve met know the Trail, he says. And so do locals, he says, but usually not the details of it. When they tell people they’re hiking 1,200 miles, the pair says they usually get looks of disbelief from bar patrons, who quickly go back to drinking their beers.
“If this Trail is your first-ever thru-hike, it will be difficult,” says Lorenz. And if the only other Trail you’ve hiked is the AT, you’ll be shell-shocked, she says.
Lorenz, who has a dog named Monty, found out about thru-hiking from a friend. It was a way she could “eat all the pizza, drink all the beer,” she says.
So, she hopped on the AT in 2018. She had never even tried camping before her thru hike, and admits she didn’t really know what she was doing. But, the hiker community is such that she quickly learned the ropes.
Lorenz loved the idea of falling asleep in a new location every night and never knowing who she’d meet next. She loved the feeling of accomplishment, which is what took her to the CDT the following year. Since then, she’s just wanted to hike.
Cole was first introduced to do long distance hiking while a student in Duluth. The Superior Hiking Trail was just a half mile from his house.
“I always knew backpacking was a thing, didn’t know about thru-hiking,” he says. Then one day, he realized he could just hop on that path and walk to Canada.
“I used to think working was so much better than school, then I discovered hiking is better than work,” Cole says.
“I used to think working was so much better than school, then I discovered hiking is better than work.”
The logistics of this hike are easy, Cole says, thanks to the fact the Trail runs through or near so many communities. The hiking duo meets up to camp in the same location at night, but sometimes hike at different paces during the day.
They don’t have to plan too far in advance for food, and have mainly subsisted on bar food this hike (with Kwik Trip chocolate milk and snickers thrown in for fun.) However, they have found themselves going without water for a bit longer than they wanted. But at this time of year, it’s been manageable. “September is an absolutely awesome month to hike,” says Cole, who’s lived in California the past few years and is no longer acclimated to the cold.
When compared to other trails, Cole finds the Ice Age Trail very well blazed. And, he enjoys the connector routes. “I love a good road walk,” he says noting he typically gets return waves from cars that pass by. Plus, it’s a bit of a nostalgic trip for him walking in the rural countryside.
Lorenz’s highlights of the Trail have been Devil’s Lake and the “townie” atmosphere of the Trail. In the off-season, Lorenz works at her family’s bar in West Virginia, where she waitresses. “I like the hustle of it and being on my feet,” she says.
The hiking duo finished their Ice Age Trail thru-hike on October 9, 2022. Now it’s harvest time for Cole and a new mammoth tattoo for Lorenz.