Two Events Complete a Successful Season

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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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2022 Trail Steward of the Year: Gerald “Jerry” Pfeifer

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Dave Caliebe, Trail Manager for the Ice Age Trail Alliance (right), congratulates Gerald "Jerry" Pfeifer, winner of the Trail Steward of the Year award for 2022. Photo by Cameron Gillie.

The Trail Steward of the Year award recognizes a volunteer whose work contributes in an extraordinary manner to Trail management and development.

These contributions include:

  • Strengthening landowner and/or partner relations;
  • Trail layout, design, and construction;
  • Significant trail maintenance and stewardship efforts.
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A Long-Awaited, 350-foot Lodi Marsh Boardwalk is Complete!

Volunteers wasted no time utilizing built sections of the boardwalk to more easily navigate the marsh as they finished construction. Photo by Riley Dupee.
Volunteers wasted no time utilizing built sections of the boardwalk to more easily navigate the marsh as they finished construction. Photo by Riley Dupee.
In typical April fashion, 40 volunteers experienced all four seasons over three workdays. Each day brought a surprise. Would it rain or snow? Who would lose a boot to the marsh? The only thing volunteers knew for certain: two-inch thick, white oak deck boards are heavier than they look. Nevertheless, they tackled it all with good humor – laughter was as common a sound as the squelching of muck boots.

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The Student Conservation Association is hiring an Ice Age Trail work crew!

Photo by Cameron Gillie.
Photo by Cameron Gillie.
A partner organization, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), is hiring an Ice Age Trail work crew for the summer!

This is a great opportunity for those starting out or considering a career in the outdoors.

Crew members will spend their summer with a team of like-minded peers, gaining hands-on training and developing trailbuilding and leadership skills. And they’ll be working in some of the most scenic locations Wisconsin has to offer, right along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

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Farewell to Brad Crary, Special Projects Coordinator

Brad Crary assisting with food prep at an MSC Event. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
Brad Crary assisting with food prep at an MSC Event. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
On Friday, April 1, after 14 years with the Alliance, we say goodbye to Brad Crary. Many of you know Brad from his years coordinating project support for scores of large-scale MSC events. He was a fixture at basecamp, managing logistics big and small: setting up the tent, assisting with food prep, and ensuring coffee was ready first thing in the morning. No matter the hour, he wore his trademark smile.

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Volunteers Braved Cold, Wind, and Ice to Help Make the Ice Age Trail More Scenic

Volunteers of all ages bundled up and came out to help with habitat management events along the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Justine Kapitzke.
Volunteers of all ages bundled up and came out to help with habitat management events along the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Justine Kapitzke.
Volunteers braved classic Wisconsin winter conditions – frigid temperatures, icy terrain, and steady wind – during the Alliance’s habitat management events in recent weeks.

Winter is an excellent time for cutting and burning. Snow cover offers relatively safe burning of brush piles, and the cold temps prevent sawyers from overheating.

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2021: A Successful Trailbuilding & Stewardship Season!

One of our skilled sawyer Mobile Skills Crew volunteers, Anne Helsley-Marchbanks. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
One of our skilled sawyer Mobile Skills Crew volunteers, Anne Helsley-Marchbanks. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
After months of uncertainty, the familiar smiles of volunteers returned in a big way as 2021 progressed. Small events at the beginning of the year built toward the return of our large-scale projects. Despite shifting circumstances, trust quickly emerged as the season theme. Trust the plan. Trust Crew Leaders to lead. Trust volunteers to work carefully. Trust the skills, dedication, and passion of everyone who showed up to an event. As a result, we greeted August with a rousing return to near normalcy – hosting almost 100 volunteers and spanning two segments – that added three new miles of Trail in Dane County. A few months later, the ribbon (and cake) was cut on the newly minted Ringle Segment, an achievement worthy of a year filled with smiles.

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After Five Years, the Reimagined Ringle Segment is Complete

Granite boulders are a common sight along the reimagined Ringle Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Granite boulders are a common sight along the reimagined Ringle Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Saying thank you feels insufficient compared to the accomplishment’s scale: opening the seven-mile section of the reimaginged Ringle Segment. Hewn from rocky ground, every hour you invested in this five-year project forged a world-class section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Right in our backyard, your selfless dedication created a lasting legacy. We spend our lives working toward achievements in which we take pride. If we’re fortunate, we may create something that lives beyond us. In this case, a signature segment contributing to the health and happiness of people we may never meet.

Be proud of the work you’ve done and what you’ve helped accomplish.

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Closed out Trailbuilding Season with Major Upgrades to Three Segments!

Volunteers prove that moving boardwalk is a group effort. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Volunteers prove that moving boardwalk is a group effort. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
At the confluence of great weather and great volunteers is a great project. In the case of this year’s Wildcard event, three projects on three segments.

Calls of “Coming through!” rang out as hikers passed through the work area. The heavy hiker traffic caused frequent but not unwelcome interruptions. “Holy sh*t!” one hiker exclaimed. “I was here a couple of days ago, and this wasn’t here.”

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New Section of Waterville Segment Replaces Busy Road Walk!

Newly constructed boardwalk on the Waterville Segment. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
Newly constructed boardwalk on the Waterville Segment. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
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.

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The Reimagined Ringle Segment is almost a Reality!

The reimagined Ringle Segment will wind its way on fresh tread and over boardwalk through mossy and hummocky terrain. Photo by Lisa Krueger.
The reimagined Ringle Segment will wind its way on fresh tread and over boardwalk through mossy and hummocky terrain. Photo by Lisa Krueger.
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.

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Ice Age Trail Alliance Receives Prestigious National Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service

Ice Age Trail Alliance is the Recipient of 2020 National Hartzog Volunteer Group Award

Volunteers’ hard work and dedication not only builds, supports, and maintains the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, it also wins awards.

During a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, August 25, Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers and staff were named recipients of the 2020 National Hartzog Award for Group Volunteer Service. Bestowed annually by the National Park Service (NPS), the prestigious George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service recognize the “exemplary contributions” NPS volunteers make to their park and community.

In 2020, while most National Parks shut down and volunteer activities were stymied, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail remained open and its volunteers continued trailbuilding, maintenance, and support. In fact, a total of 1,499 Alliance volunteers spent nearly 53,300 hours on Ice Age Trail-related activities; all while adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing safety protocols.

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Three New Miles of Trail in Dane County!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Mammoth's Back Preserve, Valley View Segment, Reconnect, Mobile Skills Crew Events 2021
A crew of swampers pile brush in an effort to clear the corridor for a new section of Ice Age Trail along the Cross Plains Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
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.

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A New Bridge Spans Sailor Creek!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Sailor Creek Bridge, US Forest Service, Jerry Lake Segment
Volunteers cart soon-to-be repurposed deck boards to another location. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
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.

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Ice Age Trail Alliance Receives Hartzog Volunteer Group Award

By Dan Watson, Volunteer Coordinator, National Park Service – Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Ice Age Trail Alliance Headquarters in the Village of Cross Plains. Photo by Joanne Ellarson.
Ice Age Trail Alliance Headquarters in the Village of Cross Plains. Photo by Joanne Ellarson.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance won the National Park Service George and Helen Hartzog award for the Midwest Region – Volunteer Group Award out of 21 outstanding nominations submitted in recognition of 2020 efforts.

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Highlighting the Glacial Beauty of the Blue Hills Region

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.

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Volunteers Upgrade Structures on the Waterville Segment

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Members of the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter work together to deliver a boardwalk frame to the construction site. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.

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

Volunteers Ensure Successful 2020 Trailbuilding Season

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ringle Segment, Marathon County, Stone Steps, Trailbuilding, Volunteers
Volunteers spent 7,727 hours building and improving segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail this trailbuilding season, including these beautifully crafted stone steps on the Ringle Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
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.

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A Brilliant Finale for the 2020 Trailbuilding Season

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ringle Segment, Marathon County, Mobile Skills Crew Project, Reconnect
A volunteer crew shovels rotten granite into a pile for distribution along soft tread. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
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