2020 reawakened a love of the outdoors in many Wisconsinites. A perfect distillation of this excitement came from our Waterville Gap Campaign to help get the Trail off of a dangerous road walk in Waukesha County. The call to action went out in July of 2020, and by September we had exceeded our fundraising goal. In an astonishing show of grassroots philanthropy, the project was funded and purchased in under five months, and the new Trail opened in just over a year.
The less-than-stellar weather, coupled with a record hatch of mosquitos, attempted to slow down the 78 dedicated volunteers at the Ringle Trailbuilding event. Over four and a half days, and through rain, mud, and clouds of bug spray, volunteers contributed 1,972 hours to open a beautiful new half-mile section of Trail. Volunteers cut and hauled lumber, built bridges, constructed rock walls, drafted blazes, crafted tread and slung rotten granite through the air via a highline to more easily – and safely – create a hardened walking surface through a moss-covered boulder field.
The stage is set, and with October rapidly approaching, we await the final act in the Reimagining of Ringle saga.
Despite the sweltering heat and violent weather, two new Ice Age National Scenic Trail sections are open after a five-day Mobile Skills Crew Reconnect event. The efforts of 86 volunteers, donating 1,852 service hours, created a new path through Mammoth’s Back Preserve and more off-road hiking along the Valley View Segment. Each section is a work in progress and will require continued restoration. But, it is hard to overstate the value of three newly opened miles of Ice Age Trail in Dane County.
Perfect weather, minimal bugs, and a fantastic crew, made for quick work as the bridge over Sailor Creek rose from the mud like a lotus. The squelching of boots through curmudgeonly swamp accompanied the din of hammers, saws, and drills, as 20 volunteers came together to complete the 178-foot-long Forest Service structure. In just over three days, the Jerry Lake Project totaled over 500 service hours! “Big Spider Bridge” will allow for the safe crossing of Sailor Creek for the next half century.
After two days of sawdust-filled work preassembling frames and cutting deck boards, all hands were on deck to begin construction in the middle of the week. Over three days, despite challenging weather (Tuesday was cut short due to rain), 20 volunteers donated 351 hours of service to construct 311 feet of boardwalk and a 12-foot bridge. These structures offer easier passage for hikers across an area notorious for standing water and muddy conditions.
Images worth a thousand words: Glacial rock and water formations are scattered throughout this beautiful landscape in Rusk County. Volunteers took in the sights while walking the land and planning how to best route future trail to highlight and preserve these features. Photos by Dave Caliebe.
Over four days, 19 individuals methodically explored more than six square miles of remote Rusk County. Building on the trail layout event last October, we continued to narrow down the locations for future Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Our group sought ways to connect significant geological features of the area and avoid wetlands and logging interaction where ever possible.
2021 is a year of new beginnings, new growth, and reconnecting. Our reforestation effort in Manitowoc County upholds this sense of hope for the year and beyond.
Beginning on Friday, April 30 – National Arbor Day – 60 volunteers came together to plant 5,500 young trees on the Ice Age Trail Alliance-owned Brownrigg-Heier Preserve. Volunteers (some coming from three hours away) donated 730 hours to help improve the earth in an effort extending beyond their lifetimes.
Over three official days (and one unofficial), 31 volunteers donated 615 hours to build four structures totaling 450 feet. Ahead of the project, efforts by the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter generated momentum with pre-built boardwalk frames. The on-site crews, composed predominately of chapter members, maintained the pace with their skillful construction. They also remained undeterred by the fickle weather, which alternated between snow squalls and spring sunshine. Continue reading →
For the fifth year running, the Ice Age Trail Alliance and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) came together with volunteers to continue restoration efforts on the Gibraltar Rock Segment. Under exhaustive conditions, crews worked to remove the invading juniper forest from the slopes of the Steenbock Preserve. Thanks to your efforts, biodiversity will be increased and nearly three acres of historic prairie can begin to heal and reclaim the landscape.
In an especially trying year, we learned how valuable the work we perform is as countless people discovered adventure near home. Parking lots filled and overflowed. Quiet, little known segments awoke with the footsteps and chatter of newly initiated hikers.
In May, after an unsettling absence, volunteers reconnected with the Ice Age Trail. Your skills and efforts were needed – and appreciated – more than ever. With our productive start to the year in the rearview mirror, we regrouped and accomplished quite a bit – and did it safely. Thank you for everything you did this year, and in the previous decades, to create one of the Midwest’s best hiking trails.
Like the witch-hazel flowers that dazzle in autumn as its leaves fall to the ground, the 2020 Reconnect Mobile Skills Crew Trailbuilding Season had a final flourish before settling in for winter. We all needed a bright spot this year, and Mother Nature provided plenty of brilliance during the Ringle Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) event. The weather, the leaves, the volunteers were perfect.
It was a much-needed respite from the unsettled “real” world. Bad news only came when your name was called to help move rotten granite. Continue reading →
To say the least, it’s been a weird year. With plans everchanging, we hold on to the normal activities – the ones we can still do – to anchor our lives. A constant on the Mobile Skills Crew event (MSC) calendar since 2017, trailbuilding along the Ringle Segment provides familiarity: the base camp setting, the scenery, the type of work. It’s fitting, in this discombobulated year, that we end with an old friend.
Exceeding expectations is easy when ideal weather and the perfect group of volunteers align, as they did for the Washington County Mobile Skills Crew event. This combination generated a momentum that blew ahead of the pre-set schedule.
Each task was sizeable but proved no challenge for the crews. Veteran trailbuilders brought new volunteers up to speed under their careful tutelage. A strong team formed to knock out the work, while wearing masks and following COVID-19 safety protocols.
The final product, a 269-foot-long boardwalk, includes a bump-out designed as a wheel-chair passing zone and look-out platform for hikers wishing to slow down and listen to the springtime chorus of frogs.