When Jared “Rooster” Gonzales started his Ice Age Trail thru-hike on July 1, he had 80 pounds on his back and just downloaded FarOut.
“I didn’t prepare at all for the hike”, he says.
Instead, he simply said “yes” to the adventure, which he’d been urged to do by a man he met while working at a halfway house in Stevens Point.
A Madison native, Gonzales grew up near the Trail but didn’t realize the full extent of it. He started learning more about the Trail (including that it was 1,200 miles long) while at UW Stevens Point.
He’s an experienced camper and backpacker thanks to his outdoorsy family. But this is his first extended time doing both.
Gonzales realized quickly–by Burnett County–that he needed to drop pack weight in order to complete the thru-hike. Once he did, he found his groove. And now, he tries to hike 20 miles a day.
“Any day on the Ice Age Trail is an amazing day for me,” he says, even when there were bugs. He’s laughed at the names of the streets he’s passed along his hike (Mosquito Avenue, Horsefly Lane). People obviously knew the area when they named the streets, he says.
Gonzales was really happy to get to the bifurcation as it signaled, for him, the end of a heavy bugs on the Trail.
Although he does admit now, he wouldn’t mind getting bit “so I know I’m still on the Trail,” he says.
A fan of John Muir, Gonzales said he took the “better” bifurcation: west. He wanted to “sleep in [Muir’s] woods, swim in [Muir’s] lake.”
Other highlights for Gonzales along the Trail, so far, include:
- “The best night’s sleep I’ve ever had” which came one night in Rusk County.
- A fun couple of days hiking with a father-daughter segment hiking duo, which included a memory-making stop at Fisher’s Bar outside of Antigo.
- A Trail Angel who appeared with water at just the right time on a hot day.
- An encounter with a Trail Angel from Brickyard Pottery, which is on the connector route outside of Timberland Hills.
Gonzales said he’s also now in love with the Northwoods and all of the lakes. There, he found himself totally disconnected from his phone and therefore, technology. That allowed him to stop caring about SnapChat and Instagram and put him “in touch with reality again.”
To share his current reality, Gonzales is using TikTok to vlog. He was inspired by a fellow thru-hiker’s YouTube videos, Huck Was Here. Huck also influenced Gonzales’s attempt to grow a beard, but Gonzales joked he can’t wait to shave. He hopes to grow his TikTok audience so he can get small sponsorships to support his future hiking journeys. You can follow him @the_chickens_adventure.