I helped my touring companion get his backpack on, after which we hit the path. Inside the first half mile, a couple of indicators had us imagining hundreds of tons of dust falling from the sky.
The indicators weren’t fairly as dramatic as our creativeness, although. They described the highest of a glacier a mile or two over our heads. The glacier floor might need had lakes with sediment resting on their backside. The glacier additionally had dust and gravel that formed the stream of water into streams and lakes on prime of the ice. Having seen related options in Alaska, I might think about these glacial landscapes pretty properly. Because the glaciers melted, these totally different shapes of dust and gravel would descend, or slide off the aspect of the ice sheet. Then they lastly reached the bottom—forming the panorama we noticed.
We’re climbing a brief part of the Ice Age Nationwide Scenic Path in northern Wisconsin’s Chippewa County. We began on the David R. Obey Ice Age Interpretive Heart on prime of an ice-walled lake plain. Floor particles right here crammed cracks within the ice because it melted, leaving a bunch of ridges when the glaciers withdrew. Our path weaves amongst many small “kettle” lakes on this “hummocky” landform.
This makes the panorama very totally different than what we see again dwelling in central Illinois. We’ve a number of terminal moraines, gravel and dust that bought shoved to the top of those ice sheets. One native park options an outwash plain, the place meltwater flowed off the glaciers and left behind the uncooked materials for a sand and gravel mine. We don’t have dust falling from the sky, nonetheless.
Congress established the Ice Age Nationwide Scenic Path in 1980. It’s considered one of America’s lengthy trails, with a deliberate size of 1,200 miles. The route nonetheless requires some highway walks, and our journey would require two brief highway segments of a pair tenths of a mile. The path roughly follows the sting of the ultimate ice sheet in Wisconsin, that includes a mixture of glacial geology – dells, drumlins, eskers, ice-walled lake plains, kames, kettles, moraines, outwash plains, potholes, and until plains. We definitely loved the various panorama, although we moved at solely a glacial tempo.
Congress designated the Nationwide Park Service because the lead company for the Ice Age Path. The NPS manages many nationwide trails, however so do the U.S. Forest Service and another companies. Along with nationwide scenic trails just like the Ice Age, nationwide trails embrace historic trails just like the Oregon Path and about 1,300 nationwide leisure trails of native significance. The system additionally consists of some connector or aspect trails. A type of aspect trails will take you to Timms Hill, the excessive level of Wisconsin, from the Ice Age Path.
These trails depend upon the work of park companions. The Ice Age Path is lucky to have a robust volunteer group, the Ice Age Path Alliance, and a supportive Wisconsin Division of Pure Sources. We noticed proof of their work all through our three-day backpacking journey – wonderful signage, benches, boardwalks throughout wetlands, and numerous path upkeep tasks together with a detour round a washed-out highway crossing. Just a few tasks honor individuals who performed a key function in establishing or sustaining the path.
The Ice Age Path additionally relies on cooperation from many various land managers and personal landowners. We might cross via lands of the Chippewa Moraine Nationwide Scientific Reserve, Chippewa County Forest, Chippewa Moraine Lakes State Pure Space, and a brief stretch of personal lands whose proprietor has given the path permission to cross a subject.
Every of those models has totally different guidelines about tenting or off-trail journey. We didn’t see these guidelines posted, so do your analysis prematurely. We discovered one unofficial campsite that clearly will get common use, on a hill above Dam Lake. We spent our second evening at an official campsite on a peninsula between the 2 Harwood Lakes. That provided a spectacular location for dawn and sundown over the lakes on both aspect.
Working with everybody to get path entry, and to make it possible for the path features a cheap variety of tenting zones and campsites, offers ongoing challenges for managers. For the lead company, I believe that “administration” typically looks like herding cats. When it really works properly, you get a well-designed and well-managed path with seamless transition from one landowner or supervisor to the subsequent. The segments we hiked fell into the “working properly” class. I’ve completed some day climbing on two different segments that had been much less attention-grabbing than this one, in additional suburban areas than this backpacking journey. Nonetheless, the situations of all three trails had been excellent, an affidavit to the work of all of the companions.
When you’d wish to discover the Ice Age Path, begin with the Ice Age Path Alliance webpage. They provide a information to the path on the web site and in print. No less than in northern Wisconsin, I wouldn’t depend on web entry once you’re on the path, so that you most likely need the printed information. That features detailed maps of each segments, details about tenting choices, and temporary explanations of the geology.
Whether or not you select a day hike or goal for the complete 1,200 miles, the Ice Age Path provides nice Midwest surroundings and a geological schooling as you discover the glories of the Badger State.
Robert Pahre is a professor of political science on the College of Illinois who teaches and conducts analysis on environmental politics, particularly in and across the nationwide parks.
Traveler postscript: You’ll be able to assist the Ice Age Path Alliance safe entry to extra miles of path and supply path enhancements with a donation.