Friday, February 13, 2015

Connecting Routes on the Ice Age Trail

To date, 15,524 people have become 2,000 Milers, thru hiking or section hiking the Appalachian Trail. Less than 100 people have completed the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to become 1,000 Milers. One reason for the difference may be that the Appalachian Trail was established earlier. But there's more.

The thing about hiking the Ice Age Trail, is that to have officially hiked the entire 1,000+ miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, you must also hike 400+ miles on connecting routes. A connecting route consists of country roads that connect completed trail segments. Narrow roads, without sidewalks, without trail head parking, and sometimes without friendly tree cover should the urge to urinate strike.

At times, the Ice Age Trail meanders through small towns and busy state parks. More often, the trail winds over ridges and bluffs through forests, prairies, oak savannas, and wetlands. On these portions of the trail we hike carefree and relaxed. On country roads all bets are off.

Often hikers are asked whether we worry about bear or snake encounters on the trail. Not really. The most dangerous and unpredictable elements are encountered on connecting routes. Cars speed around blind bends. The occasional unrestrained dog keeps hikers on edge.

But it's not all bad. A country road is prime territory for spotting hawks on the hunt. Country roads provide ideal vantage points for photographing old barns. Pastoral vistas viewed from Wisconsin's country roads speak to the soul.

It takes many decades to complete a long distance trail, to purchase the land, to convince private landowners to allow the trial to pass through their property. Hikers appreciate the effort and generosity of the Ice Age Trail Association, donors and members, volunteers, and private landowners. We understand the challenges of developing a long distance trail. We dream of the day the trail is complete, and hikers need not complete 400+ miles of the Ice Age Trail on country roads.

Until then, we walk each connecting route fondly looking forward to that next stretch of volunteer maintained trail.

Levee Road.

Connecting route through Merrimac.
I-39 overpass.
Durward's Glen Road.

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