Volunteer Spotlight – Gerald “Buzz” Meyer

Buzz immersed in a good-natured story. Anyone who’s worked with Buzz or accepted a shuttle from him knows he’s a masterful storyteller. Photo by Jo Ellarson.

Article by guest writer, Erika Cannaday

Gerald “Buzz” Meyer’s commitment to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail started with an article in the Star News. One bright morning, in 1990, while paging through the paper, he read about a hike on the Timm’s Hill Trail. While it wasn’t part of the Ice Age Trail, it would become a National Scenic Side Trail. The event was a fundraiser for the High Point Chapter. He decided to participate and set out gathering sponsors, raising somewhere between $50 and $100. After a few years of minimal commitment, he was asked to help out at one of the Chapter’s trail improvement days. Ten years later when Bob Rusch, the Chapter’s volunteer coordinator stepped down, Buzz took on the role he’s now held for nearly twenty years.

Buzz is proud of his small, dedicated group, numbering twelve volunteers. They maintain sixty-two miles of the Ice Age Trail in Taylor County, where the population is sparse at twenty-thousand residents. He estimates the average age of his volunteers is sixty-five years old. It’s a big job. He admits, even for the seasoned, it can be a challenge. “I got lost once myself, for about an hour, just out to do some grass cutting when the trail was overgrown!” He surmises it’s the distance from the city center to the Trail which hinders the interest in volunteerism. “Absolutely, we could
use more help. It’d be great to have younger people helping us, though we get it done with the crew we have.”

Volunteer spotlight, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Shuttle Service, Thru-Hiking on the IAT

Buzz in a light moment with Dave Caliebe at an MSC event. Photo by Jo Ellarson.

Buzz notes high profile use of the Ice Age Trail, like Annie Weiss’ successful FKT attempt, motivates volunteers to keep the trails groomed. He wanted her to be safe out there. Annie told Buzz she’d like to get involved in the Northern counties where the Trail is more remote and has less volunteer support than other areas. He hopes she will.

Like many of the dedicated volunteers who generously give of their time, money, and efforts, Buzz is a humble man. He talks little of himself and offered much praise to those he works with. Though he may be uncomfortable in the spotlight, his work with the Trail, and with hikers in particular, have branded him notable. His name often is found on Thousand-Miler applications as
a volunteer who provided incredible assistance. Shuttling hikers is one of his favorite volunteer jobs.

He once supported a group of ten or twelve high school students who were studying arduous journeys and created their own with a multiple day trek of 50 miles a day. The result was a short film. Buzz was pleased to give Craig Tauscher a ride. Imagine his astonishment when he arrived at the Mondeaux trailhead and realized he would be shuttling, not only Craig, but also his brother, Mark Tauscher, former Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer. In September 2012, he arranged a three-day, two-night hike for a woman, her husband, and their dog. She was a freelance writer for Backpacker Magazine. Requests for his shuttle service have increased ten-fold, since then, with hikers still referring to her article!

His most impressive claim to fame, at least among this readership, is time spent with Billy Goat (George Woodard). Named one of Backpacker Magazine’s “8 Badass Older Hikers,” Billy Goat said he’d like to hike 50,000 miles before he turned eighty. To accomplish this, he was hiking the Ice Age Trail when Buzz heard he needed a shuttle. Arriving at the hotel, Buzz discovered Billy Goat was ill and needed to rest. The next day, when Buzz went back, he learned Billy Goat was in the hospital. He shuttled Billy Goat’s backpack to the hospital instead. A Trail Angel’s work takes
many forms.

Buzz admits, “Sometimes it feels like you’re not doing much. Then a hiker comes through and thanks you for the work you do, and it’s worth it.” He add, “The exercise is good, too.”

NOTE: Gerald “Buzz” Meyer was recently awarded the 2019 Spirit Stick Award, one of the highest honors a volunteer can receive from the Ice Age Trail Alliance. To see a complete listing of the award categories and recipients, go here.

This article was previously featured in the Spring 2019 edition of Mammoth Tales

Erika Cannaday is an adventure writer and nemophilist. A proud solo backpacker, ultrarunner, and yogi, Erika strives to infuse her daily life with nature and exploration. Follow her adventures at www.flannellotus.com and on Instagram @littlerunneryogi.