Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail | Wisconsin Public Television

Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail

Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail

Record date: Jul 18, 2017

Melanie Radzicki McManus, Author, “Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail,” recounts her journey as a thru-hiker on the Ice Age Trail. McManus, who completed the 1,100 mile hike around Wisconsin in thirty six days, shares the history of the trail.

University Place Lecture Series: 

University Place Subjects: 

Episode Transcript

>> Today we are pleased to

introduce Melanie Radzicki

McManus as a part of the

Wisconsin Historical Museum's

History Sandwiched In

lecture series.

The opinions expressed today are

those of the presenter and are

not necessarily those of the

Wisconsin Historical Society

or the museum's employees.

Melanie Radzicki McManus has

worked as a news reporter at a

Green Bay radio station, as a

press secretary at the Wisconsin

State Capitol, and as editor of

two local publications.

Since 1994, McManus has

worked as a freelance writer

and editor, specializing

in travel and fitness.

She has won numerous awards

for her writing, most notably

prestigious Lowell Thomas

Gold and Grand awards

for her travel journalism.

Her book, "Thousand-Miler:

"Adventures Hiking

the Ice Age Trail,"

was recently published

by the Wisconsin

Historical Society Press.

Here today to discuss and share

stories from the Ice Age Trail,

please join me in welcoming

Melanie Radzicki McManus.


>> Thanks for coming today.

I'm really excited to be

here because I love the

Ice Age Trail, and

I'm excited to share

everything I know about

it with all of you.

To start with, I'm going to talk

a little bit about the history

of the trail and our National

Scenic Trail System to give you

a little bit of a background

because if you're going to do

any hiking, it's just really

helpful to know how the trail

came about, what it really is,

how it fits into the

National Trail Systems Act,

and how it's administered.

So, first of all,

where the trail goes.

This is the Ice Age Trail.

It's roughly 1100 miles long.

It is about two-thirds finished.

So, today, it's about

650 miles of signed trail

and about 350 miles of what

they call connecting roads.

These are areas where they're

hoping to get land in the future

for the trail, but they

don't have it secured yet.

So the Ice Age Trail Alliance,

which is the governing body for

the trail, has maps

available where they show

connecting road

routes where you can

walk from the end of one

trail segment to the next.

So if you want to do what's

called a through-hike, which is

hiking the entire trail, it is

possible, but you will be hiking

two-thirds on trail and

a third on road routes.

The western terminus, to the

left, is in St. Croix Falls

in Interstate State Park, which

incidentally was Wisconsin's

first state park, and it

opened in 1900 or 1901.

And on the eastern side,

it is in Potawatomi State Park

in Sturgeon Bay.

The trail roughly starts, if you

look going from the west

to the east, it starts

in St. Croix Falls

and goes to the Antigo area.

Then it loops down and goes

all the way to Janesville,

which is the southernmost point,

and then it goes up, as I said,

to Potawatomi State Park.

And the route is roughly

tracing the terminal moraine

for the last glacial.

Now, I'm going to get back to

the Ice Age Trail in a minute.

I'm going to talk a

little bit now about

the National Scenic Trails,

where they are

and what they are.

So, sometime in the 1950s and

1960s, researchers, scientists,

legislators were all talking

about how Americans were working

really hard, it was post-World

War II, but they needed

to take some time

for recreation.

And they were starting to learn

how good it was for people to be

outside and in nature,

how healthy that was for you,

for your body, for your mind.

And at that time we had

already started building

a lot of the national parks.

Those were started in the early

1900s with Teddy Roosevelt.

But a lot of the big national

parks for Midwesterners,

unfortunately, were out far west

with Yosemite and Glacier

and Yellowstone,

Acadia in the east.

So the researchers and

scientists and congressmen

said let's start

developing some trails

that people can get outside.

Walking was becoming popular.

And so they decided to come up

with three types of trails

that could be developed:

National Scenic Trails,

National Cultural Trails,

and National Historic Trails.

So in 1967, Congress passed the

National Trails System Act

that said let's get some

of these trails out there,

and let's get some Americans

out in the outdoors.

Now, at that point in time,

in 1967, America's very first

long distance trail was

already in existence.

And that is the Appalachian

Trail, which I want to try

and point here, if I can find

my little... There we go.

Okay, so here is the

Appalachian Trail.

It starts in Springer

Mountain, Georgia,

or that's the southern terminus, and it goes about 2100 miles up

to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

That trail was developed

in the 1920s and 1930s.

And so it's considered

the granddaddy

of our national trails.

Another early trail, which some

of you might be familiar with

from the popular book and movie

"Wild," by Cheryl Strayed,

is the Pacific Crest Trail.

And this goes up from,

through California, Oregon,

and Washington, from

Mexico to Canada

on the Sierra Nevada's Cascades.

And the third biggy is the

Continental Divide Trail,

also which goes from

Mexico to Canada on the

Continental Divide,

where the rivers on the east

flow into the Atlantic

and the rivers to the west

flow into the Pacific.

So in 1967, the Appalachian

Trail was already built,

the Pacific Crest was

probably about 90% finished,

so they petitioned Congress

and were designated

our first two

National Scenic Trails.

Now, they didn't get to become

a National Scenic Trail

just because they petitioned,

just because they're long,

or just because they're pretty.

A National Scenic Trail

is a pretty difficult designation to receive.

You have to have

something significant

about your trail to America.

In the case of the

Appalachian Trail,

it ran along the

Appalachian Mountains,

which is a significant mountain

range in North America.

And similarly with

the Pacific Crest.

You know, the Sierra Nevada's

Cascades are significant.

And the Continental

Divide, again,

is a very significant formation.

Now, the Ice Age Trail and

the North Country Trail

were the two next

ones in 1980 to get

designated a National

Scenic Trail.

And we were able to get that

designation, again, because our

trail is tracing the edge of the

glacier's last terminal moraine.

And not just that, but one

thing, I knew we had a lot

of glacial formations in

Wisconsin, but I did not know

until recently that we

are considered to have

some of the very best

in the entire world.

So that's a very cool thing.

The North Country Trail

is up here.

It goes from North Dakota

up to New York.

It's 4600 miles long,

and it's the longest of our

National Scenic Trails.

And a tiny bit, about 120 miles,

of it runs through Wisconsin

north of the Ice Age Trail.

So that was 1980.

In 1983, the Florida Trail,

down here,

came on board,

and the Natchez Trace.

And then, in 2009,

the last few came on.

There's the Arizona Trail here,

Pacific Northwest Trail up here,

Potomac National Heritage Trail,

and this tiny little guy

that I'm going to be

hiking this fall,

the New England

National Scenic Trail.

It's the shortest at 215 miles.

So from 215 to 4600, these are

our 11 National Scenic Trails.

Only three of them are

only within one state.

Ice Age Trail is one of them,

and then the Arizona Trail

and the Florida Trail.

And I just want to take one

minute to say one thing I really

hope anyone that hears me talk

is going to come away with a

real appreciation for what a

treasure this Ice Age Trail is.

I mean, it's not just ours, it's

everyone's in America's, but

it's all in Wisconsin and from

being a travel writer for so

many years and working with a

lot of editors and people on the

coasts, everyone always talks

about the Midwest is a flyover

zone and there's nothing good

in the Midwest and it's a

boring place and

blah, blah, blah.

And I think somehow, this is my

own theory, I think somehow when

you hear that all the time, over

and over your whole life,

that the Midwest is hicks and

all that, I don't want to say

you believe it but you

can look at something

like the Ice Age Trail

and say, well, it's just a

trail, we don't have mountains,

it can't be that great,

we're not the coast,

but yes, it is great.

Yes, it is cool.

It doesn't matter that it

doesn't have mountains.

You're going to walk across some

things that feel like mountains

and that are very

phenomenal glacial remains.

And we really need

to be proud of this.

We really need to talk about it,

use it, help develop it,


It's a huge status symbol,

if you will.

So that's my little

spiel on that.

Now, back to the trail itself.

How did our Ice Age

Trail get started?

Well, there was a man named Ray

Zillmer, who I tried to get his

picture for you last

night three or four times

and it kept crashing my laptop,

so I gave up.

But he was a lawyer

out of Milwaukee.

He also was an avid hiker and

mountaineer, and he and his son

actually climbed a peak

in the Cariboo Range

in British Columbia that

no one had ever hiked.

So there's a peak named

Zillmer Peak out there.

But he had hiked all

around the world.

He actually started some of the

trails in Kettle Moraine in,

I believe, the 1930s-1940s.

He was very much keeping a watch

as the Appalachian Trail was

being developed and when all

this research was coming out in

the '50s about the benefits

of people being outdoors.

And he kind of ended up having--

He had very strong

opinions about this.

He thought people needed

definitely to be out

and recreating in the outdoors.

He thought people should not

have to drive, spend their whole

vacation driving to the west

coast or the east coast to hike.

He thought everyone should

spend no more than half a day

driving somewhere and be able

to get into the outdoors.

He also thought a lot of

the trails, especially the

Appalachian Trail, were trying

to pull people away from

civilization and keep you in the

wilderness as long as they could

before you'd need to resupply,

before you'd have to be

dropped back into a town.

He didn't agree with that.

He had hiked a lot in

England, and he loved

the way the trails there just

kind of meandered around

and regularly would

dip into a town,

and, oh, you could have lunch

and then you'd hike some more

and, oh, here's another town,

I can stay overnight.

He thought that was great.

It was convenient for the hiker,

and it really brought together

the communities with the trail.

So he initially thought

let's do a park,

a National Park in Wisconsin.

He knew about our

glacial remains.

And he thought let's put it,

you know,

going around the

terminal moraine.

And as you can see here, it's

picture this ribbon of parkland

going through the state.

That's what he was picturing.

He thought there'd be hiking in

it, but it would be parkland

so you could just see all this.

And he talked to the National

Park Service about that,

and they said you are crazy,

how in the world

could we administer

something like that?

Most of their parks or all of

their parks are pretty much

a postage stamp kind

of mass of land.

They said we cannot

do that, no way.

So they nixed it, and then,

unfortunately, in 1960 Ray died.

But he had already been working

with plenty of people who were

excited about the idea of

some kind of something

with our glacial remains.

So I'll just kind of fast

forward this part, but during

the '60s and it ended up

becoming morphed into the idea

of a long-distance trail.

So then the National Trail

Systems Act had passed in the

'60s, so the group of people

that had been actively working

for the last 10 or 20

years on this idea

grabbed a chunk of trail

in Kettle Moraine.

It was actually, already

developed because the forest was

already developed, and it was

called the Glacial Trail

because it was one of the

trails there that happened

to go along around

the terminal moraine.

So they said this is going to be

the seed of our Ice Age Trail.

So they started that in the

'70s, and then, as I mentioned

before, 1980 Congress said, yes,

this is a special enough place

to be a National Scenic

Trail, keep going.

So they just were

off and running.

But there was a problem

almost right away.

As things go with politics or

any group, people started

fighting, and they had

two trains of thought.

One group of trail developers

said let's just get trail

on the ground as

fast as possible.

So if that means we're going to

strike handshake agreements

with people, that's fine.

And what that means is

you're Farmer John

and you say I don't want to sell

you my land for your trail,

but you can hike on it, sure go ahead, and shake hands on it.

And another group of people

said, well, yeah, you can get

trail really quickly that

way, but what happens,

it's not permanent

and you never know,

what happens if we

lose that trail?

And they said don't worry about

it, it's just important first

to get this trail developed,

we can go back later

and find permanent agreements.

So a bunch of people started

going out and striking all these

handshake agreements, and the

other group was working to try

and purchase land and have it

or get permanent agreements.

Well, just what the one side

feared started happening.

People would say-- Farmer John,

I'm going to kill you off, sorry.

Farmer John dies and his kids

get the land and they say

we don't want a trail here

or we want to sell it

and we don't want to

sell it with a trail.

Or maybe Farmer John loves the

hikers the first five years

and someone comes through

and litters one day

and he says forget this.

And so a National Park Service

employee told me for the first

10 or 15 years they were working

on the trail, maybe even a

little longer, she said we just

kept growing and reseeding.

Every time we'd gain trail,

we'd lose trail because these

handshake agreements

were not holding up

for a variety of reasons.

So at some point the main body

that administers the Ice Age

Trail, which today is called the

Ice Age Trail Alliance, they

said stop, stop the madness, we

are only building trail if we

can purchase the land or if we

can get people to sign a

permanent easement where this

land is protected in perpetuity.

Sometimes people will

sign those free

because they're trail-backers.

Sometimes they ask for, like,

basically a rent

payment every year.

So that's the way the Ice Age

Trail is operating now, and

that's why, one of the reasons

why it's not finished yet.

Some people will say, how

can they build a 2100-mile

Appalachian Trail in 20

years and we're working on

the Ice Age Trail 50 years

and we're not done yet?

Well, that's part of the reason.

And now, too, that we're trying

to purchase so much trail,

there's limited funds available

and back in the 1920s, there was

a lot fewer people in the US, it

was a lot easier to buy land.

A lot fewer people,

a lot more land available.

Now there's less land available. So it gets trickier.

But we will still get there.

I did not mention yet this

bifurcation, as they call it.

That is right, this bubble

in the middle here.

So what this is, is an

area of dispute again.

So when they were plotting out

the trail, which Congress had to

approve as part of the National

Trail System, the actual

terminal moraine runs right in

the middle, and one side said we

really think the trail should go

here because if we put it to the

east, we can lead people past

Aldo Leopold's shack and John

Muir's boyhood home, and those

are significant environmental

things we'd like to showcase.

The other side said, no, if we

put it out here, somewhere in

here, I might be off a little

bit, during the glacier's time

there was something called

Glacial Lake Wisconsin.

It was a massive, massive lake.

I've got to look up the

statistic again.

It's something like three Lake

Winnebagos would fit into it

or something like that.

So that side said, no,

we got to put it

where Glacial Lake

Wisconsin was.

It's outside the

terminal moraine

but it's a major, major

piece of the glacier.

And, in fact, Glacial Lake

Wisconsin was stopped up by the

Baraboo hills and part of

a piece of the glacier

that had the ice sheet

that had come down.

And when the glacier started

melting, this lake drained.

Some scientists or most

scientists are estimating it

could have drained in as

fast as three or four days.

And that lake draining is what

chiseled Wisconsin Dells.

So this fight went on and the

National Park Service was like

the parent and finally said

stop, stop, we will create

official side loops to National

Scenic Trails, so you can keep

both of these routes and

then you guys just decide

which is the official and

which is a side loop.

So they gave their blessing,

they stepped away, and the

people kept arguing again

because the people who wanted

the eastern side said, well, we

want this to be the main loop

and the other to

be the side loop.

So they were fighting and

finally they just said,

you know, we're just

going to sign a truce,

we're just going to

leave it as it is.

So now, today, if you want to

hike the entire Ice Age Trail,

you only have to hike

one side or the other.

It's your choice.

And that's what's

considered, you know,

completing the whole trail.

But they have told me that in

the somewhat near future the Ice

Age Trail Alliance is hoping to

decide, designate one side the

official trail and the

other the side loop.

So, stay tuned.

I don't have any

indication from anyone

if they're leaning toward

one side or the other.

So that is the trail today.

I've hiked them both.

And, actually, both today

have very little trail.

They're mostly road walks.

A few more things I

wanted to mention.

The Ice Age Trail passes

through 31 of our 72 counties,

and 60% of us live

within 20 miles of it.

So that was Ray

Zillmer's vision:

easy access to the trail.

So that is a great thing.

And it's also maintained

by 21 volunteer chapters.

And that's a very

important piece to know

if you're hiking it.

I knew that when I started out,

but I didn't really

understand what it all meant.

So, very, very basically, the

Ice Age Trail Alliance, which

happens to be based in Cross

Plains, so we're lucky it's in

our backyard, they have a small

staff, and they work on getting

money to build the trail,

physically building some of the

trail, maintaining some of the

trail, advertising the trail,

etc. and then there are these 21

volunteer chapters, which are

areas around the trail, and they

get volunteers to do,

they really do the bulk of the

reblazing it every year,

cutting the weeds, that kind

of thing, building new trail.

And Ice Age Trail Alliance also

has events throughout the year

where if there's a major

trail-building project,

they might have people go up for

anywhere from a day to a week

and build trail, build

boardwalk, that kind of thing.

But it's really the volunteers

that power and are in charge

of a lot of these

sections of trail.

And so what does that

mean for the hiker?

Well, when I first started out,

when I first learned what the

Ice Age Trail was, I thought,

oh, that's right, the Ice Age

Trail, I remember now, I hiked

some of that in Kettle Moraine

and I hiked some of

that in Lapham Peak

and I hiked some of

that in Indian Lake.

Well, these are all

county or state parks.

So there, when the trail runs

through a county or state park,

there are county

or state employees

that maintain that trail, as well as all the other trails,

and you're getting a

lot of people through.

So those things combined means

the trail is basically

always in good shape.

A bad trail there might be the

grass is up to your ankle.

So in my head I was

thinking that's what

the Ice Age Trail is

going to be like.

It's going to be like these

trails, and it's a prestigious

National Scenic Trail, so I'm

thinking it's just going to be

this, you know, you're in the

wilderness but it's going to be

a beautifully clipped trail

that I just follow along.

And on the second day, I had

started in St. Croix Falls

and it was like, oh, my

gosh, what the heck?

There could be wild raspberries

up to my shoulders, there were a

lot of weeds up to here, and I

remember I was tripping all over

and I remember at one point just

yelling out loud to nobody

because I was out

there all by myself.

I'm like, "This is not a

National Scenic Trail.

"This is an embarrassment.

"We cannot be telling

people to come out here.

"What if I was with my grandma

"or what if I brought

little kids along?

"And this is a disgrace."

I had no idea how

it was supposed,

you know, how it operated.

Well, then I talked to a

volunteer the next day,

and it's like, oh, okay,

yeah, I get it now.

I had started my hike

at the end of August,

all the summer growth

had been going on.

At that point, long

distance hiking in America

had just currently been

growing, you know,

every year, but it had really,

it was just starting to

become a thing maybe

five years ago when

I was out there.

And they were only getting

maybe, they could get maybe

two people a year in

some of these sections

of the Ice Age Trail

that are far north.

So if you're only getting two

hikers through a year and you

maybe have 60 miles of trail in

your chapter and there's maybe

four of you that are

volunteering, maybe two of you

are young people with kids who

are in a lot of activities,

maybe the other two are 80 and

you can't really hoist a big

chainsaw on your shoulder and

hike 10 miles into the trail

to clean it up,

of course the trails

can't be in shape every minute.

Even if you were able to clean

them out perfectly at the start

of the spring, think of how

your own yards, you know,

it seems like sometimes

the grass grows overnight.

You just mowed it, you got a

rain, and it's this high.

So that is something to keep in

mind, and I don't say that

to scare anyone because it's

not like the whole thing

is this wild jungle.

But you will get sections that

are pretty rugged, which, in the

end, I decided after I was so

mad that first couple days,

I really liked going through

some of those because when you

come out and, yeah, maybe you're

all scratched from the bushes

or whatever, you're like dang

it, I got it, yeah, go me.


So, yes, that is part

of the experience.

But it is also something to

let everyone know about too

because maybe you are

passionate about hiking

and you'll love the trail.

So then see if you can

take time and volunteer.

Even if you don't live in an

area where there's a chapter,

they have these events,

about a dozen events a year,

where they're building trail.

You can sign on, you can do

anything from pull weeds

to learn how to do, operate

the big saws and everything.

Or that's not my thing

so I just bake cookies

because they feed these people.

Sometimes they'll camp,

like I said,

anywhere from a day to a week.

So they need food, so you can

volunteer and drop off cookies.

One man told me I hate hiking

but I love to build trail.

So maybe you're a handyman and

you love to build boardwalk.

There's a lot of ways that

we can get involved and keep

building the trail and then get

the word, spread the word out

about it, make it even a

greater gem than it already is.

I will talk a little bit about

my journey on the Ice Age Trail.

So, why did I do this?

A lot of people would say

to me, what the heck?

Are you crazy?

What are you doing out hiking?

Well, I actually had a

friend, Jason Dorgan,

some of you may know him.

He's from this area.

In 2007, he was a big Ice Age

Trail backer and a big runner.

He decided I'm going to

try and set a record,

a speed record on

the Ice Age Trail.

That's what a lot of people were

doing on the Appalachian Trail

and the Pacific Crest.

No one had tried to do

it on the Ice Age Trail.

And he knew that when you

do these speed records

you bring attention

to the trail.

So he thought, I want to

help this trail grow.

He was talented at doing this,

so he went out and he

through-ran, as he calls it,

the trails in 22 days.

He averaged about 50 miles a day

And I knew this was going on

when he was doing it, but I

didn't know because my oldest

child was about to

graduate from high school.

He was doing this in April-May,

and I was busy with that and a

bunch of other things.

And I would get these emails

because I'm part of a running

groups he's in.

It's like, Jason's here,

now Jason's in Lodi,

who wants to meet

Jason at the end?

And I thought, I knew

he was doing something

but I didn't know what.

Well, five years go by

and it's the end of 2012

and I'm on some group run

and Jason's talking about,

reminiscing about his

record-setting run.

And I said, "Now what

did you do again?

Explain this to me."

Well, as he's talking about it,

by then my kids are out of the

house and I had started doing a

lot of hiking over those years

and writing about hiking.

And I just got so excited.

I had just done a ton of work

on this Camino de Santiago

in Spain.

I had written a guidebook about.

I'd been hiking

that over and over.

And it's like, oh, my gosh,

I've got a trail that's twice

as long, twice as exciting,

and it's in my home state.

It's right in my backyard.

I don't have to go overseas.

And I thought, I want

to do this too.

I want to hike it.

And I thought, and I like to

run, so, you know, let's see.

So I went on the website that

night, and then I got really

excited because I saw only three

women, this is like December

2012, only three women had done

what's called through-hike,

and that is when

you hike the trail

from start to finish

in one attempt.

And I thought, ooh, too bad I

couldn't have been number one.

[laughter] I know, I'm a competitive runner.

So then I looked at the times

and I thought, I can tell

none of these people was

trying to set a record.

I mean, I never heard of a

record-setting attempt other

than Jason's, and I could just

tell from the number of days

that it wasn't any

record-setting pace.

So I thought, well, I'm know

I'm kind of old to set these.

I can't do 50 miles a day,

but I thought I could

do maybe 30 to 35.

And then I'd have the women's

record, and that could be really

cool because if you're into any

kind of competitive sports or

running, by the time your,

if I was 50 at the time, 51,

you don't set any

records anymore.

So I'm like, oh, I could

have this record too.

And then I thought, that's

still, I calculated it out,

that'll be like five weeks,

though, and I can't really take

five weeks off of work.

But I thought, well, if I didn't

know about the Ice Age Trail and

I've been writing all about

Wisconsin travel for that

last 15 years, 20 years,

I bet a lot of other people

don't know about it, too.

So I started asking around.

Have you ever heard of this?

Do you know what this is?

And it was kind of like me.

People either knew nothing about

it, had never heard the name,

or they had heard about it,

but sort of thought they knew it

but they didn't really.

So I went out and I got a

bunch of article assignments.

And I said to my husband,

you need to crew me.

Well, no, first I was

going to do it on my own.

First I was just going to hike

and have someone pick me up at

the end of the day

and go to a lodging,

a friend's house or an inn

or something like that.

But Jason said, no, if

you're going to try to set

a speed record, you have

to have a crew with you.

And in running terms that

means somebody who's with

you all the time.

So you head off on a trail

segment and it might be five

miles and someone's

going to meet you there.

When you finish this day,

do you need more water?

Do you need snacks?

Do you need a change of shoes? Whatever.

And so I agreed, and I put

together this crew of family

and friends who

agreed to be with me.

So someone was with me

on the trail every day.

And I kind of calculated out

where would 30 to 35 miles

be a day, and I found

friends and family

who said I could stay with them.

And when I didn't know anyone

in an area, I booked a room

at a motel or something.

And I set out in the very end

of August of 2013.

Mostly it was in September,

but a little bit of August,

a little bit of October.

And I decided to start in

St. Croix Falls, Interstate

State Park, because I was

thinking, that's up north,

it's the end of August, it'll be

cool up there, and then I'll,

you know, I'll be hiking,

I'll be hiking south.

And so maybe, you know,

I'll have the best weather

because I hate hot weather.

I love Wisconsin.

I love winter.

So the day I started off this

lovely day at like 6:17

in the morning, it was projected

to be a high of like 95.

[laughter] It was

like 90% humidity,

and it's like you

gotta be kidding me.

I think I changed

entire outfits,

my entire outfit three times.


And it was so gross!

And, actually, that whole time I

was hiking, I would say until,

the very last week, it was

hot almost every single day.

I had a whole week of 90s.

There were a lot of 80s,

a lot of 70s, and 70s

might not sound bad if

you're doing something else,

but if you're out hiking and running, that's pretty warm.

So that was probably the most

challenging part for me,

was just the weather.

And I did the trail again

a couple years later

at the same time and

it was just as hot.

So, I don't know.

But the good thing about

hiking the trail in the fall

is that you don't have ticks.

That is one thing with

the Ice Age Trail.

You do have to be aware if

you're hiking in the spring,

which is another good season,

that there are a lot of ticks.

And one section was actually

closed for a couple weeks

because the tick count

was so high in there.

The Ice Age Trail

Alliance, if you're ever

interested in hiking, they have

an annual conference every year,

and they have a hiker

panel on it every year

where people will talk

about their experiences.

It's a Q&A kind of thing,

and you can learn a lot.

So my friend Jason

had said go to that

before you do this.

I had already started.

I had gotten these

article assignments.

I had gotten people to crew me.

I was well into planning when

this conference was in April.

So, again, I started this idea

December, this is now April,

I'm planning to do it

at the end of August,

and one guy on the panel

was talking about how he

had hiked last spring.

And he said it was tick season,

and he said he just kept,

he had hundreds on his arms,

and he would just be

brushing them off like this.

And my palms started sweating. [laughter]

And I didn't know

what tick season was because,

again, my parents, we're

from Chicago originally

and that's just not our thing.

It wasn't our thing.

So we never went camping

or anything like that.

But I just, my palms were

sweating and I'm thinking,

all right, I'm going to have to

cancel all my assignments,

I'm canceling this hike,

I can't do this.

You know, I can do a lot of

things but I can't do ticks.

And by the end of the, yeah,

he said he finally

stopped doing it.

So he hiked all day with

these sleeves of ticks,

and then at the end of the

night he would brush them off.

So I'm like almost gagging too.

Then somebody asks a question,

you know, when's tick season?

And they said spring and

it starts dying out in

July, and it was like,

oh, thank God because

I thought I really

was going to have

to cancel my hike.

But that is one thing

about the spring.

So I headed off on my merry way.

I'm going to go back

one minute too.

When I was talking about

through-hiking and

through-running and records,

a couple things I want to say.

So, through-hiking

is starting a trail

and hiking it through to

the end in one attempt.

Now, that doesn't mean

you can never get off

or never stop hiking.

Many people will take a day,

a rest day a week.

Some people, you know, if you

have a wedding and you just

can't find a convenient time to

schedule your hike and you know

it's going to take you two

months or something, you might

get off on a weekend to go to a

wedding or a graduation or one

set of hikers took off a week

when I got, that week that it

was the 90 degrees

when I started.

This group of hikers,

two hikers took off

because it was just too hot.

And in many trails, the bigger

long distance trails,

like the Appalachian Trail,

Pacific Crest,

and even the Florida Trail,

which is about the

same size as ours.

They give you a year.

They say if you do this

trail in 12 months,

you're considered

a through-hiker.

So I'm actually through-hiking

the Florida National Scenic

Trail right this very minute

because I hiked a bunch in

January and March and May, and

then they tell you not to hike

until November/December

because it's just too hot

and buggy down there.

And so if I decide to go back

down there, which I'll probably

have to go in the holidays which

will be hard, but if I can go

there and finish by, I think I

started January 7th this year,

in one year I'll be

considered a through-hiker.

And the Ice Age Trail

doesn't quite--

They don't really have rules.

So I suppose technically if you

hiked from one end to the other

over years, you could say I'm a

through-hiker, but the general

understanding is that you're

going to be doing this--

Try to do it in one

attempt and within a year.

Section hikers, that's

you can hike

the entire trail in sections.

And you can get a wonderful

thousand-miler award

and get your name in

stars or in lights.

All kinds of things.

And that's what most people do.

So if you decide, hey, that's

going to be my goal, especially

maybe your two young children

there, grandchildren,

who are starting to hike,

you can, they have great,

the Ice Age Trail Alliance

has wonderful materials.

They have a map, a huge map of

the state and the trail.

You can put the

dates you're hiking.

You can go out and hike a

section at a time and just tick

it off, and whenever you're

finished, whether it's,

two years, five years, 20

years, you can fill out a little

form on the Ice Age Trail

Alliance website and submit it

and you get your designation

as a thousand-miler.

So that's what most people.

And if you section hike,

you can do it in any

order that you like.

You don't have to go in

sequential order.

And then, onto the

record-setting fast packing,

the one thing I wanted

to mention about that,

when Jason talks

about his through-run

or I say I ran the

trail, no one, no matter

how talented, ever runs an

entire trail like that.

So there's just another

speed record set

on the Appalachian Trail.

What that means is you

run when you can,

and when you're running

it's very slow jogging.

It's not like running a 10K race

where you're going

six-minute miles.

You're jogging slowly.

But there's some spots

where you just,

physically the terrain is such, you can't run.

There's some pretty

big boulders in

a section called

Grandfather Falls.

There's bit boulders

in the Dells.

You have to walk up those.

And just in general, even if you

are running, say, a shorter,

maybe a 10-mile trail race, the

thought in those is that you go

faster in the long run

if you walk up the hill.

So even your winners of

those races will generally

walk uphill when

you're on trail.

So some people just

have this image of,

you know, how could

you possibly run?

You're not really

running all the time.

Jason estimates, when he

did his 50 miles a day,

that he was running 60% of

the time and walking 40%.

I would say my figures were

actually flipped, walking 60%

and running 40%, because I had

some other issues with some foot

problems and things where I

couldn't run for a number

of days and I could only hike.

So that's what that means,

if you're curious.

And, also, in the world

of these speed records,

you don't have to

run them at all.

There's two trains

thought of there.

They attract, the people who try

these either are good at

ultra running, which is anything

over a marathon distance,

so over 26.2 miles.

So they will try to run

as much as they can.

And they'll stop, they'll

maybe only be out on the trail

10 or 11 hours a day.

The other theory is that I'm

going to hike it all because

it's not as exhausting, but I'm

going to hike for up to 16 hours

a day, which I can't imagine

just being on my feet that long.

So when you hear about these

speed records, that's what

people are generally doing is

one of those two methods.

One thing I learned about our

Ice Age Trail that's so great

compared to some of the

others is that we have

a lot of variety

in our landscape.

The Appalachian Trail,

which is so famous

and I'm sure is beautiful

from what I've seen,

a lot of the hikers call it a

big, the long, green tunnel

because you're in

the woods a lot.

We have a lot of prairie.

We have, we see the

beautiful woods.

We have a section where you're

walking along Lake Michigan.

And then all the cities

and towns too,

the communities that

you're going through.

So I know I'm getting close

to my time limit here,

so I'll just do, these are

just prairie on the left

and some of the forest

land on the right.

A lot of glacial lakes,

of course, those are beautiful.

There's some farmland that,

this picture on the left--

It doesn't really do it justice,

but this was one of the

most spectacular sites.

I popped out of the woods

and I found myself

on the top of this hill, and a farmer had mowed this trail

and it was just winding

like a ribbon down.

And there are these little

grasses on each side that were

kind of waving, and I made it

like, I felt like I was royalty.

Like walking down

some special path.

It was just really incredible.

A lot of pine forests.

Those are lovely.

More prairie and woods.

And then, on the right is where

it goes on Lake Michigan,

along Lake Michigan two miles.

One year the water level was so

high you had to actually walk

through pretty deep water

and a lot of bramble,

and that was kind of difficult.

In general, the Ice Age

Trail is blazed yellow

with painted on

or plastic blazes.

Sometimes they have

some old signage.

They're trying to make it

uniform so it's just

the yellow blazes, but the little brown sign on the left,

those were some freebies

from the federal government.

So they had used them a lot in

the past, but it doesn't look

like it blends in here, but

really they kind of blend in

with the tree trunks and

it can be hard to see.

They started using some

on the right years ago,

but that's kind of like

the snowmobile signage.

I got mixed up on that once.

Snowmobile signs are generally

rectangular and not square, but

I didn't know that and so I

think it was my second day on

the trail and I thought, well,

that's the only thing I see so

that must be the Ice Age Trail,

and that got me lost.

On the right, the yellow

sign in the bubble,

that was an old Ice Age symbol.

It has Wisconsin in the middle.

The triangular shape around

it that's kind of rounded,

that is the shape for the National Scenic Trail.

Some guy in Florida called

it a pregnant triangle.

So there's the standard

blaze on the right.

They don't usually use too many

arrows like you see on the left.

Now, on the left, it's

not a great picture.

That is the current

Ice Age Trail sign.

It's got the woolly mammoth in

the middle and a little bit of

blue behind it, and each segment

that's currently developed,

as opposed to the road walks,

they have a name, which is nice,

and they generally have

these nice, big, wooden

signs on either end.

So it's easy to find

where they are.

Every once in a

while they don't.

They have a thin Carsonite post,

and that can be a

little confusing.

I know we're out of time,

so I won't get to my signs

of the glacier.

But I want to say thank you

so much for having me here,

and I hope everyone

will enjoy the trail.


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