NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

No More Roads

I've talked a lot about the Ice Age Trail for the last few months.  I've learned a lot too.  The trail claims to be over 1,000 miles (bear with me) that winds through the state of Wisconsin from St. Croix Falls to Sturgeon Bay.  Last count had it at 1105.7, I believe.  Here's the deal: I did the math and there are only 658 actual miles.  The other 447 miles are on "connecting roads".  What that means is you are supposed to drag your behind down actual paved roads, some of them highways in order to be considered a "Thousand Miler".  This girl?  Not happening.

the sound of busy traffic and a view of subdivisions

This is the hardest post I've ever had to write.  I want to say some things that other people are most likely going to be upset about.  First, as I mentioned before, I got a ride to a drop off point which was great because then I only had to walk to my car.  The not so great part?  I was led to believe I was getting a hiking buddy, when that ended up not being the case.  I was given a set of options, and told the driver I wanted to do something fun, that I really wasn't interested in walking on roads, didn't do that well in the heat.  I also said that I didn't intend to complete the entire trail, didn't care about every tenth of mile, and was willing to do anything from 4 to 10 miles. I didn't get a lot of advice, was shown a handful of maps, and when I chose to finish the Verona segment and start on the Montrose segment I believe that would have been the opportune time to say, "But, Pam, there really are a lot of road miles on that one, maybe something else would better suit your style".  What I got was, "You know that's about 10 miles, right?  Okay, well I'll drop you off because I'm going somewhere else."

Ah, the roar of semis and the stench of exhaust fills the air

I got dropped exactly where I left off and for the first mile walked alongside a busy road and then crossed over a busy highway.  I was never so delighted to see the entrance into a wooded area in my life!

mosquitoes and False Solomon's Seal were abundant

I wasn't in the woods of the Prairie Moraine Park very long when I came out in to a prairie area that was very nice and the segment ended at a dog park.  For this 2 mile long section at the end of the Verona segment half of it was enjoyable anyway.  But now I had road in front of me and the heat was starting to get to me.

From there I was on foot alongside a fairly busy road again (semi truck blew my hat off and I had to go chasing it) but I did get 10 seconds of joy when I spotted a small flock of sheep.

I got on some side roads and roasted in the near 80F heat trudging along on asphalt...for almost an hour and a half.  I kid you not.  Total "connecting" route between the Verona and Montrose segments was 2.9 miles, something I did not realize or I would never have chosen this plan.  No shoulder either, so I was literally walking in the road, and to top it all off it went up and down a series of fairly steep hills.   Things could have been worse, at least I wasn't carrying any camera equipment, just my iphone because my battery had died for my Canon.

Now haunting my nightmares - The Montrose Segment

I thought I'd be happy to see the bike trail that began the Montrose segment, but I was wrong.  I spent 15 minutes with my shoes and socks off on a bench trying to cool off my feet, and then began another hour and a half of walking on the most boring bike trail ever designed.  The picture above?  That was it, at least 4 miles of exactly what you see there, no variation whatsoever.  No wildflowers, no curves, nothing but mile after mile of weeds lining the dirt track that was packed down as hard as concrete.  I thought I was going to lose my mind.  It was all I could do not to cry, to be honest.  So hot, and so ugly with nothing to distract me from how miserable I was.

Thankfully I had a hiking stick to pull back most of them

When I finally turned off the bike path I thought I'd be elated, but it was just a mown path that circled a corn field until it ducked into the trees where I was simultaneously attacked by mosquitoes and thorny plants for half a mile.  I don't know which drew more blood.

Half a mile left to go and I could see the parking lot where my car was the whole time because I was on the f*#*ing asphalt again.  Pure torture.  I completed 10.5 miles in 4.5 hours and I can't remember the last time I was so unhappy.  Only accomplishment of the day was that I finally remembered to use the Endomondo app on my phone to track my mileage but it sucked back battery like crazy and I only had 10% battery remaining.

So, no more roads.  If I want to see Wisconsin from the asphalt I will get in my car.  If I want to use a bike trail through nowhere I will use my bike.  I hike to connect with nature and there was absolutely none of that going on.  Remember those 447 "connecting route" miles that are part of the Ice Age Trail that I mentioned at the beginning?  That doesn't even count the segments where the trail is incomplete and it tosses you out onto the road for less than a mile.  I was generous and let those be counted as trail miles.  I can deal with a half mile on the road before heading back in, but what the heck is all this about?  Who are these people who are walking on the roadside for 500 miles (33 miles between the Elkhart Lake and City of Manitowoc segments alone!!) to claim they accomplished the whole "trail"?

Something else the Ice Age Trail does is in lieu of a trail it takes you through "trail towns".   Okay, a mile through a quaint downtown and then back in to the woods or prairie is one thing, but some of these trails go for miles through some of the ugliest areas with absolutely no value to a hiker whatsoever.  I'll give you an example tomorrow when I introduce you to an experience I had a few weeks ago in Portage, another post I've been dreading writing because I didn't know what to say about how awful it was.


  1. My feelings exactly! Parts of the Bruce Trail here are on roads (though not much in our immediate area), and the last thing I'm gonna do is walk those stretches just to get an end-to-end badge! Sorry you had such a miserable day!

  2. Oh, heck, what a major disappointment for you. Agreed, the best way to see roads, to be on roads, is in a vehicle, definitely NOT on foot. Sorry you got handed a bag of goods. Phooey!!!!

  3. I have been thinking about this a lot as I see so many "Top X Trails you Must Hike NOW!" "Best Trails for 2015!" These crazy "list articles" that are in all online magazines, and wonder how much of it is all marketing. Sorry this didn't work out, but good to embrace only that which feeds your soul. I wonder, do you hike with any kind of music, ipod, etc? Whenever I get in a boring stretch like that, music gets me through...

  4. This was definitely not a fun "hike." More of an exercise walk risking your life. Glad you survived your time on the road. That bike trail would have been deadly boring on a bike!! So sorry to read that you had such a terrible hike. Hope you feet survived!

  5. That does sound terrible, for sure. I guess the only good thing you can say is that it didn't rain.

  6. I'd have been furious too. I have wondered about that trail. Same story with the Florida Trail. You have to read up carefully to understand that it isn't all "connected".

  7. It's funny that if you look up wisconsin hiking trails at the DNR they only show bike trails. Hiking is a completely different sport that is virtually unknown in the Midwest. Though there are tons of isolated short trails in WI, very few interconnected long distance trails that I would call an actual hiking footpath. I'm trying to highlight the real hiking trails if wi at my blog But it will be a while before I have an extensive enough list. Good luck with the iat. I've been section hiking it, but staying off sections with road and bike paths.