Happy Ice Age Trails

Life is a journey!

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.                                                         Pink Floyd — Time

I know the feeling well.  At first I didn’t think it was a race, then, for many years I acted like it was.  The thing is, I didn’t know where I was racing to.  I didn’t have directions or principles; I didn’t know right from wrong!

It’s been four years since my rite of passage i.e., my bout with cancer, and over three years since I retired — more like quit — my job with Mother Mutual.  Now I’m on a long hike, searching for truth amongst the oaks, and seeking a balance between carrying a light pack and being prepared for trouble ahead.

I’m really glad I decided to camp and hike in the Allegheny National Forest on my way to and from Philadelphia for the Free Your Mind III conference.  The Minister Creek Campground was a perfect mid-point for the journey and a great base camp to explore the Allegheny Plateau.

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Most of the campsites were still covered with ice and snow, but I found one that would work and soon had a nice wood pile thanks to my chainsaw.  I had two full days of hiking to collect my thoughts and the obvious first choice was the Minister Creek Trail.

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The view from the Minister Valley Overlook (note the sunny version below.)

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The North Country Trail, like the Ice Age Trail, is a National Scenic Trail and I hiked a section near Tracy Ridge that took me to the shores of the Allegheny Reservoir.

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The conference in Philadelphia was great.  I met a righteous dude named Pete to share my hotel room with, and continued in “camping mode” by cooking my fresh vegetables, rice and curry lentil staple beneath a beautiful white pine in the back corner of the hotel parking lot.  The highlight of the conference for me was the presentation by Jeanice Barcelo.  She contrasted giving birth in a hospital setting to home birthing and helped me understand how traumatic the hospital birthing process can be for both mother and child.  Some of us carry undiagnosed birth trauma with us our whole lives not realizing the impact it is having.

Below, Mark Passio‘s presentation and the “Meeting of the Minds” conference wrap up.

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I stopped at Minister Creek on the way home and had a couple of sunny days to continue exploring.

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The Hickory Creek Wilderness in the Hearts Content Recreation Area is just north of Minister Creek.  I wish I’d had this map when I took the hike; the trail was very difficult to locate and I literally spent 5-10 minutes on multiple occasions looking for the next marker.

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It’s good to be home and I can barely imagine how my African Queen, Pati, feels today as she makes the return trip from her 6 week adventure in South Africa and Uganda, where she has been working with special needs children.  Welcome home Pati!

Ever since I rediscovered the sections of the Ice Age Trail that are just east of the Scuppernong Springs last winter,

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and learned of all the trail building projects that Pat Witkowski has been leading there, I’ve been looking forward to joining the effort.  This past Saturday, April 18, Pat and her team from the IATA partnered with REI to pull off a very successful trail reroute workday.  Here is a flashback to my visit with Pat where she described the 280 yard reroute that we executed on Saturday.

Tina Pickruhn organized things from the REI perspective and she had to turn down dozens and dozens of volunteers, a testament to the reputation of the Waukesha/Milwaukee chapter of the IATA and the desire for people to get involved.  Pat enlisted the help of a fourteen highly trained Mobile Skills Crew team leaders to teach and guide the volunteers.

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Below, Pat introduces the project and fires up the volunteers.

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I joined the “Esker” team, led by Rita and Jo.  Below they explain how to use and handle the tools.

We stopped often along the 20 minute hike to the job site to note the spectacular Kettle Moraine features and the work already accomplished by the IATA volunteers.  The work crews spread out over the 280 yard reroute and we got after it!  Carl, Jo and Rita sharing a laugh.

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Pat shows us how to use a cool tool for ripping out buckthorn.

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Check out the buzz…

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The results are fabulous!

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Pat and Tina celebrating.

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After lunch I headed over to The Springs to replace signpost #4, near the marl pit bridge, which Anne Korman speculates was stolen by a Brett Farve fan.

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It won’t be so easy to rip off this time.  Then I continued rehabilitating brush pile burn rings near the marl factory by disbursing the ash and covering the rings with organic material.  And finally, I took a relaxing stroll around the trails and noted that Andy Buchta had finished piling ALL of the buckthorn I cut in the waning weeks of Winter.  Thanks Bro!

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Here is what the north end of the trail looks and sounds like now!

Happy Ice Age Trails to you until we meet again at The Springs!

One thought on “Happy Ice Age Trails

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