Category Archives: Ice Age Trail

Verona to Cross Plains

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7/23 – the temperature dropped back to ‘normal’ today, high of mid 70s. This really is the nicest summer weather…

20140723-195332-71612482.jpgWe hiked the Ice Age Trail segments south of town, and met Ruben, a trail volunteer, out mowing the sunny parts of the trail just for us. Thank you, volunteers, for all you do!

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We saw a new sign on the trail today, warning us of wild parsnip ahead. It seems that this yellow wildflower is an invasive species that causes blisters if you touch it. Of course, the narrow trail was filled with the yellow flower, which grows about waist high. We did our best to avoid them, but time will tell, as it takes several days for the blisters to develop… Beware if you see these:

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Belleville to Verona

7/21 – Cameo Rose B and B continued to delight us with fresh cut flowers and a four course breakfast garnished with mint and lemon balm from the garden. I meant to take a picture, but it slipped my mind when I saw the stuffed French toast… Oh my!

We got back on the Badger Trail, and had a lovely two hour trek on the straight Rails to Trails path before we found ourselves back on the highway at noon. Today was very warm by Wisconsin standards, in the upper 80s. Once again, a Nice Person of Wisconsin stopped for us almost immediately, saying that it was much too hot to walk. When we said we were on our way to Verona, this lovely lady changed direction and took us all the way to our hotel, even though she wasn’t originally going into town. Thank you, Nice Person!image

We’ve decided that the reason so many people stop for us is my floppy blue hat. What do you think?

We will be in Verona for several days, completing the Ice Age trail segments nearest to town in the mornings, and returning to the hotel in the afternoon. This is an especially nice way to hike, as we can leave our packs behind.

7/22 – today the weather warns of record-breaking heat (high of 90!!), so we set out early to be done by the hottest part of the afternoon. The trail starts behind the public library, which, of course, is on Silent Street. Love a town with a sense of humor!image
The trail took us through some wildflower-filled meadows and up a hill that let us look over the town below. We found ourselves humming “the hills are alive” and looking for Julie Andrews… What a lovely morning!image

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We want to take a moment to thank the state of Wisconsin again for setting aside land, mowing and maintaining so many parks, bike paths and multi-use trails, and the Ice Age Trail volunteers for all they do!image

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Albany to New Glarus – Back on the Trail

7/17 – today we start a nice, flat 18 mike walk on a Rails to Trails multi-use path along the Sugar River, that the Ice Age Trail shares with the Sugar River Trail. We will break this walk into two days, camping out overnight, as the only town enroute (Monticello) does not have any lodgings. The young and strong would do this walk in one day, but I am the old and not-so-strong, and I want to test out the healing of my foot.
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We encountered a retiree bicycling group from Madison, and the riders walked with us a while and took our picture. They hadn’t encountered hikers on their bike trail before!

We have food for the journey, but the map doesn’t indicate a place to refill our drinking water today. A challenge! Jim has been carrying his water filter, and today will be his first chance to use it. By mid afternoon, we were hot and thirsty, so at the next bridge, Jim scooped up some Sugar River and squeezed it through the filter to refill our canteens. The Sugar River is not sweet, but the water was very welcome. We each carry two quarts of water (adding 5 lbs. to our packs) plus Jim fills a collapsible water container with another two quarts for supper and breakfast during our last water stop of the day.image
As you can see by Jim’s fashionable outfit, the mosquitoes were out in full force today. Not only did we need our net suits plus Deet, we had to zip the suits all the way up to our necks. Walking along like this makes me feel like an astronaut in a space suit, viewing the world from a distance. Eating reminds me of watching the females in Muslim countries eat wearing their veils. You can do it, but it’s no fun… Joggers and walkers stopped to ask where they could get suits like ours. Answer: Amazon!

7/18 – in the morning we broke camp and walked the last 5 miles to New Glarus.

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20140718-205404-75244722.jpgThis town was settled by a group of Swiss immigrants in 1845, and they turned their town into a little Switzerland. Chalet architecture and painted cows everywhere!

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Even businesses not trying to attract tourists express the Swiss theme:

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After checking into the Swiss Aire motel, we ate an authentic Swiss pub lunch of Brats and local beer at Puempel’s Olde Tavern.image Tomorrow, we will check out the tourist attractions!

Janesville to Albany

7/16 – last night we shared dinner at the home of our new friends Todd and Susan, who we met at church on Sunday. Todd drove across town to pick us up from the motel, and Susan prepared a delicious meal – the first home made meal we’ve had in over a month. We shared conversation about kids and grand kids (they have 14!), and a good time was had by all.

This morning, Susan graciously volunteered to drive us the 29 miles to Albany, so that my foot can continue to heal. This saved us a horrendous road walk. She brought along some fresh and dried comfrey, known to herbalists as ‘bone-knit’, and home-made salve to further help my recovery. What a wonderful and thoughtful person! Thank you, Susan and Todd – it was so nice to get to know you!

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Here in Albany we are staying at the Albany House B and B, the only inn in town. At the beginning of our hike, I thought there’d be many B and Bs along the way, but it turns out that these posh stays are usually out in the countryside, making them impractical for travelers on foot who need access to groceries and restaurants close by. We were happy that Albany House was right in town, although the Main Street of the little town is torn up for the summer, which made finding supper a challenge.

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Also staying at Albany House were a group of artists who meet here each month at the studio behind the house for art workshops. They were great conversationalists and lovely company.image
So, what did we have for breakfast? Fruit parfait, homemade coffee cake, spinach pie and bacon baked with black pepper and brown sugar. We waddled back onto the trail not needing to eat for the rest of the day!

Whitewater to Janesville

7/12 – Well, we did not walk from Whitewater to Janesville, we took a bus. My left foot has been giving me increasing discomfort, so Dr. Jim prescribed a few days off, to see if it will heal. There is a sporting goods store in town, so I’m counting on a new pair of boots to help. We’re tucked into a very nice Motel 6, next door to a Cracker Barrel, across the street from a Walmart, so all our needs will be met while my foot gets some rest. (Somebody please tell Doug Nixon that I was wrong and he is so right about Cracker Barrel – the best restaurant ever!)

We’ve been following the Ice Age Trail for a full month now, and have walked over 300 trail miles, plus all the miles we add by walking into and out of towns. With the exception of the Nice People of Wisconsin who occasionally pick us up on our way into a town, we have been getting by on our own.

With the prospect of being laid up for a few days and seeing some long road walks ahead, Jim reached out to Tess, one of the Trail Angels who help support Ice Age Trail hikers in this county. Tess completed the 1100 mile trail last year by hiking in sections, and is one of the handful of women who have achieved this goal. She understood our frustration at being sidelined by injury, but assured us that it happens to everyone trying to complete the long road walks. In fact, she was surprised that we accomplished as much as we did.

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Tess came to our motel with maps and suggestions of ways we could break up the miles differently, and encouraged us to reach out to other trail angels as we continue on. This is very good advice.

Next to our motel is the Janesville Bible Church. Whenever we find ourselves near a church on Sunday, we stop in. Last week in Eagle, it was a Catholic church. We sat through the mass, sang the hymns and walked out without any one saying a word to us.

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This week’s service was about as different from that one as night is to day. There were only about 12 people, but just about everyone came up to introduce themselves and welcome us. After the service (and I’ll have you know that my verse finding skills are VERY good), the pastor’s wife invited us to stay at their home, and offered to make an herbal compress for my foot. We were touched by their friendliness, and will take them up on their offer of supper before we move on.

7/14 – This morning we walked the mile over to Gander Mountain, a huge camping/hunting/hiking store that just opened in town two weeks ago. (Coincidence or answer to prayer? You decide!) I danced out with a new pair of comfy boots, new socks, and new Keen hiking sandals to wear in wet weather. My feet feel better, and my spirit is elevated 100%. (Jim’s not so much, as the purchases went on his credit card…)

I don’t have many pix to share, so here is one from home of Lexi and Emma eating ice pops while watching Frozen. I find this amusing on several levels.image

Delafield to Eagle

7/5 – Today we tackle Lapham Peak, the highest point in Waukesha County. (BTW, don’t try saying WauKEEsha, like I did. It’s WAUKesha.). Luckily for us, the trip up the slope was filled with wildflowers, butterflies and sandhill cranes, on a beautiful day with a high of 78 degrees.

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There is a tower to climb at the peak, that gave us a great 360 view of the surrounding countryside.

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The trail continued for several miles along a bike path, where we had fun jumping out of the way of cyclists going in both directions, who really didn’t want to share their road. One man stopped to ask what we were doing on the bike path, and we showed him that it was also the path of the Ice Age Trail. He became a Curious Townfolk at this point, and rode alongside us asking tons of questions about our experience until our trail turned back into the woods.

With the woods came the Return of the Mosquitoes, which had been blessedly absent for the past few days. We walked a total of 15 miles, which is a personal best for me, with no blisters or injuries, and made camp in an oak wood full of poison ivy, but we didn’t get any on us. Best news of all, it didn’t rain! Cue the Rocky theme song!

7/6 – Walked through the mosquito filled woods until we ran out of Deet, then walked out onto the road for our trek into Eagle. We don’t have high hopes for this place, but need provisions. The web says you can get a motel room at the local saloon. Can’t wait!

So who should offer us a ride on a Sunday morning? An Episcopal priest, on his way to celebrate Eucharist at a nearby parish! Father Noah took us right to the door of the Suhmer Saloon and wished us a blessed day. I wonder if we’ll be part of his sermon?

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And now we’re in Eagle. Let’s just say that there is a reason that this saloon has no 5 star ratings on TripAdvisor…imageimage

Hartford to Delafield

7/1 – we really missed a storm last night! This morning there were branches and trees down everywhere we looked, and some folks lost electricity. We are looking forward to completing the 30 mile stretch to Delafield with one or two nights out, and no more storms.

We started with a road walk that took us around Pike Lake, then off into the woods. I’m not posting lots of pictures of the trail through the woods, as they all look the same, even to me. See previous posts for nice woods pix…
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I asked Jim to stand by one of cornfields we passed on the road. When we arrived in June, the corn was just starting to come up, and although it is not quite as high as an elephant’s eye, it sure has made progress in three weeks!

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We started on the next trail section, designated on our map as Holy Hill, but we couldn’t get past all the poison ivy, so we ended up road walking some more. I was kind of glad to miss that section, as I imagined it involved a heckuva hill climb, so steep that it made people exclaim, “Holy Hill!”

By lunchtime, we could see two giant spires in the distance, and signs for the Basilica of Holy Hill, which was, indeed, on a heckuva hill. If we were in Europe, this definitely would be on my “must see” list of attractions, so why not here? We left our packs by a picnic table, and trudged up to see Holy Hill, Shrine of Mary, which is maintained by Carmelite friars.
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Here is a chapel where prayers are answered. Outside the door were dozens of crutches and braces, left by those who no longer needed them. There was a prescription to follow, that a supplicant should walk up the 178 steps to the chapel before entering to voice their prayer to Mary. We’ve seen several of these chapels in our travels, and they always have a profound effect on me.

At the basilica, we got into a conversation with the Hample sisters, who recognized us as backpackers, even without our packs. Jim, seeing an opportunity, told them to be sure to pick us up if they saw us walking along the road. They laughed and said they were going to Milwaukee, in the opposite direction.

We got back on the trail and completed the Holy Hill section, which put us back on the road for more road walking. At the end of the afternoon, who should pull up, but the Hample sisters! Returning from their afternoon in Milwaukee, they asked if we still needed a ride, and took us about four miles to our next trail entrance. Coincidence, or answer to Karen’s prayer? You decide!

We walked until 5, climbing over, scooting under, or crashing through several newly downed trees that blocked our narrow trail. Just as we were looking for a stealth camping site for the night, we came upon two Ice Age Trail volunteers, out after work with handsaws to start clearing storm debris. Thank you, Trail volunteers, for all you do!image

7/2 – woke up snug in our bug-proof tent, to a grey, drizzly day. Before too long, our feet were wet, and I was feeling crabby. Our road walk took us into Hartfield, an upper crust enclave of manicured lawns and Mc Mansions. The trail here meandered along paved paths in and out of local parks, next to a golf course and along a river.image Even though it was 60 degrees and raining, there were kids splashing and playing in the water as if it was… Oh yeah, it IS July! The ritzier the neighborhood, the grubbier, wetter and smellier I felt. We arrived at Delafield, not a moment too soon, so we didn’t need a second night out. Yay! Time to do laundry!

West Bend to Hartford

We seem to have run out of Native American town names, now that we are 200 miles into our hike…

I checked the weather last night, and saw that today would bring afternoon thunderstorms. When I checked again this morning, the forecast included the word severe, as well as dangerous lightning, hail, and possible tornado. Uh oh! We have eleven miles to walk today, and have to get to the Post Office in Slinger.

We got up early, and were on the road by 6:45. The sun was shining, but the sky told us there would be change before too long. The West Bend segment took us on a meandering trail along Silver Creek and around Lucas Lake, and included a boardwalk to get us over some of the boggy parts.imageimage
The trail abruptly ended and dumped us out on another road walk – one with no shoulder or safe place to walk. About 8 miles along, one of the Nice People of Wisconsin pulled over and, exclaiming that we did not look like axe murderers, offered us a ride.image

Chris is an archeology professor at the University of Wisconsin, and he was lost, so he said he may as well take us where we wanted to go. I looked up the address he needed on Google Maps, and he drove us into Slinger, where we had mailed ourselves our next bunch of maps, before we left Chesapeake.

After picking up our envelope, we spent some time answering questions from Curious Townfolk, who we encounter everywhere we go. They want to know where we are from, where we are going, what’s in our packs, what we eat, where we sleep, and if we have a car parked nearby. Jim concluded this session by saying we were on our way to Hartford, if anyone was going that way. One of the ladies immediately offered to drive us there, saying, didn’t we know there was going to be dangerous lightning this afternoon?
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So Deb, grandmother of 13 and owner of a family carpeting company, took us right up to the door of the Super 8 motel, and wished us well. Another Nice Person of Wisconsin!

So here we are, nice and dry, while the rain pours down, the thunder booms and the lightning flashes. We have new maps to read and tomorrow’s hike to plan. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is…

Kewaskum to West Bend

Although we really enjoyed getting to know Gino, the proprietor of the Bonne Belle motel in Kewaskum, it is time to move on. imageWe are just moving one town south, which is either 6 miles by road, or 11 miles on the trail. Of course, we are taking the trail!

We started out on the Eisenbahn Trail, which is a Rails to Trails conversion. This means that it is straight and flat, as far as the eye can see.image
It had rained overnight, and the sky was pretty spectacular.image
Then we were back on the trail on our way to West Bend, walking through dappled sunlight and practically bug-free!image
In what can only be described as Heaven for Hikers, the trail ended at the highway right in the middle of town, right in front of our hotel, with an Applebee’s and a grocery store right across the street. Now, into the hot tub we go!

Plymouth to Kewaskum

6/24 – As we packed our gear to leave Plymouth, Jim realized that the bag that held our ultralight stove, lighter and pen knife was nowhere to be found. After a frantic search, followed by a methodical search that included sifting through the trash and moving all the furniture, we added two miles to our day by hoofing it down to the Walmart on the edge of town to see if we could resupply. How lucky we were to have this happen in the first town we’ve been in big enough to have a Walmart! In an hour, we were back on track. Our new stove isn’t as light, but will get the job done.

We had a 7 mile road walk to get back on the IAT, the day was warm and sunny, and the roads all seemed to go uphill. Despite our best thumbs-out effort, there was very little traffic and no one seemed inclined to give us a lift. Just as we sweated our way to the top of a big hill, we spotted a nice old gentleman waiting at his mailbox with two bottles of cold water! He apologized that he hadn’t stopped when he passed us on the road because his back seat was full of parcels and dog, but now that the groceries were put away, could he give us a lift? He took us the last two miles to the trailhead, and showed us where to fill our canteens. Wisconsin People Are The Nicest! image

Now we were back in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest, with 30 miles to the next town, so we planned to camp out for two nights and average 10 miles a day. The challenges: this section has lots of hill climbing, there are few places level enough to pitch a tent, and our packs are heavier with three days worth of food, and as much water as we can carry. The mosquitoes were evident, but not as voracious as those we encountered further north. The payoff: some of the prettiest meadow and forest trails we’ve seen.imageimageimage

The first afternoon poured down rain, which not only soaked us and our stuff, but also turned the trail into a stream in many places. So much for my hope of keeping my feet dry! We slept cozy in our little tent, but had to get up in the morning and put wet clothes, wet socks and wet boots back on. Yuck!

The second day was clear, but we were either walking in deep forest shade, or crashing through waist-high meadow grasses, that got us wet all over again, so we didn’t really get a chance to dry out.imageimage That night, the temperature got so low that I had to get up in the middle of the night and put on my long johns (thank goodness there is no picture of that!)

The third day dawned sunny and clear. I was so cold that I refused Jim’s recommendation to put my wet socks back on, figuring that the trails must surely be drier today… My boots were soaked in ten minutes, and now both pairs of socks needed washing. Always listen to Jim! Because we did about 13 miles yesterday, we had an easy walk into the town of Kewaskum, and got in by lunchtime to the town’s only lodging, the Bonne Belle Motel. Time for a shower! imageThe first Kewaskum residents to greet us. imageThe Kewaskum yard kitsch award!