Hiking Dude Blog
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2 Weeks to IAT
I have about two weeks until my 1,100 mile Ice Age Trail thru-hike across Wisconsin begins! Am I excited? You Betcha!
My friend that I met on the Arizona Trail last year will be arriving from Seattle by train on July 30. We'll then review our gear, get food in order, and drive to Wisconsin. I hope to start hiking by August 3 or 4, heading West from Sturgeon Bay. Well, actually heading South for the first week, then a U-shape to the West, then another week heading North, then 2 weeks heading West. It's not really a very straight trail since it follows the last glacial terrain.
For the past couple months, I've been ramping up my hiking. Nearly every morning, I've been getting on the trail by my house. Starting with 4-mile hikes, each week I've added a mile. This week, I'm doing 10 miles each morning and that should be good enough. I feel in good hiking shape, even though I've still got 5 pounds that I don't need. But, that will go away soon enough on the IAT.
I know these last couple weeks will be hectic with last-minute preparation, but once I'm on the trail all I have to do is walk. That will be a welcome change to the busy lead up time.
I've made a rough schedule for my Ice Age Trail hike. Even before I start hiking, I know I won't keep to the schedule, but it's good to have a general plan with approximate miles per day and areas where I'll be spending the night.
See the schedule. As long as PapaBear and I stay healthy, I expect we'll complete the trail 4 or 5 days sooner than scheduled - but we'll see.
Camping along the trail will be a challenge since much of the trail is through private and populated land. I'm looking for people that would let a couple vagabonds camp on their property. So, if you or someone you know is along the trail, please holler!
It's only about 260 miles straight across Wisconsin. From the map, you can see the Ice Age Trail takes a serpentine path that more than quadruples its mileage. Of all the National Scenic Trails, it takes more miles to cover less distance than any other. Others, such as Pacific Crest and Appalachian, are pretty much a straight shot from end to end.
I met this young fella on the trail this morning. You can tell he's noticed me and is checking things out.
When you encounter wildlife, you should have respect for them and leave them alone. It's best to give them plenty of room and observe from a distance. If they change their behavior because of your presence, then you are too close. This deer was right on the trail and bounded off about 60 yards, then stopped and watched. So, my approach did change his behavior, but I had little choice since he was on the trail. I didn't hang around, just long enough to take the picture and then move on.
Other ways to respect wildlife include camping far from water sources so they have easy access, avoiding areas where young are being raised in the spring, avoiding food sources in the fall when animals are preparing for winter, and keeping a clean camp by disposing of waste properly.
I'll probably see quite a few of this guy's buddies throughout Wisconsin next month.
Most of the Arizona Trail takes hikers through wilderness where you can camp anyplace you wanted within 15 feet of the trail. The Superior Hiking Trail has designated campsites every few miles. Unfortunately, much of the Ice Age Trail route is through populated areas and private land. It's not proper to just drop your tent in someone's backyard or even on their back 40 acres.
Consequently, a fairly big challenge of thru-hiking the Ice Age Trail is finding places to camp for the night. The Ice Age Trail Association is working hard to create 'Distributed Camping Areas' (DCAs) along the trail specifically for long-distance hikers. These DCAs are just open spaces where hikers can legally set up a tent - usually no water or facilities. There are only a handful of DCAs at this time, so what does a hiker do?
The IATA has some great volunteers and they've compiled a list of Trail Friends - folks that may be willing to have hikers camp on their property. I figure these wonderful people probably get asked for help often, so I've held off on contacting them. I'll call on them when it gets critical.
Instead, I've emailed Boy Scout troops and packs across Wisconsin that are in towns along the trail route. The last couple days have been great because I've received replies back from a few Scouters that have space for me to spend a night! I'm now down to less than 6 nights where I'm not sure what we'll do for camping.
I've also asked a couple friends about a stopover. If you know of anyone along the Ice Age Trail route in Wisconsin that wouldn't mind having a couple old guys crash in their yard, or hunting land, or wherever, please tell them to contact me. It would be greatly appreciated.
New MYOG Pack
My pack took quite a beating through the Arizona Desert and Minnesota north woods last year. It held up very well, but I wanted a backup "just in case". So, I ordered a new kit of materials from Quest Outfitters and made a nice green version this time.
For my needs, this pack is just great. The raw materials weighed 26 ounces and the final pack weighs 15.6 ounces. It easily holds all my gear and food for a week, and is comfortable. Quest Outfitters will sell you the materials as a kit and the plans with detailed instructions so you can make your own.
The kit contains ripstop nylon for the pack body, stronger cordora for the parts that rub more, thick mesh for pockets, and fine mesh to make a sleeve to slip in a blue foam back support. There are also all the thread, buckles, velcro, gosgrain, elastic cord, and every little thing needed for your pack.
I had ordered the instructions and template last year, so I just reused them. I copied teh template pieces to brown paper as soon as I got them and use those rather than cutting up the original.
The first step was to read through ALL the instructions to get an idea of how it all goes together. There are a couple mistakes in the instructions, I believe, and I've let Quest know abou them. They are minor.
Trace all the pieces onto the fabric. I laid them out as tight as possible to save fabric which I might use for some other projects. Quest provides plenty of fabric.
It's important to check that you are drawing on the 'back' side of the fabric so your marks don't show on the finished piece. And, ensuring that you are laying right and left oriented pieces for shoulder straps, belts, and the like is critical.
Having a comfortable area in which to work really helps. Here's where all the magic happens! :-)
Actually, a bright halogen floor lamp was a big help to keep the area brightly lit. It helped me find dropped pins in the carpet, too.
This is our new sewing machine since I broke our old, old, old one last year making my first pack. It wasn't my fault - a plastic gear inside just gave way, and replacing it didn't work out.
The pack is built in sections. Here's the back section with shoulder straps and waistbelt. It is the most complicated part, and the most difficult to sew. After this, it gets pretty easy.
The front, right side, and left side are made. Then, all the parts are sewn together.
I made a few modifications from the original pack:
- I left off the back support sleeve since I plan to just slip a piece of cardboard inside the pack.
- I did not add the optional top cover since I'll have a rain poncho that covers me and the pack.
- I angled the side pockets so the fronts are a bit lower, letting my reach back with my hand and get in the pocket.
- I added little water bottle straps to the front shoulder straps so I have two bottles in front, balancing the weight and easy to access.
Well, for about $40 and two days of sewing, I'm happy with my MYOG pack. Hopefully, I won't need to use it until next year, but it's ready to go!
MYOG = Make Your Own Gear
Papa Bear Arrives
Papa Bear arrived by train from Seattle on Tuesday night - just a 13 hour delay - Go Amtrak!!
Yesterday, we visited REI and a couple other places. Today, we walked 10 miles. Tomorrow, we head to Wisconsin!
Here's Papa Bear on the trail this morning. Check out my current location on the map.
we're on the trail!
Left Potawotomi Park trailhead at about 6am and are looking for breakfast in Sturgeon Bay soon. Check out my current location on the map.
We started hiking from the Ice Age Trail eastern terminus at Potowatomi park at 6am. Stopped for breakfast in Sturgeon Bay and continued on to Maplewood. There, we spied Richard's Grill and sfopped in. We met 3 guys and had a great time over a couple beers. Mark gaves us his extra string cheese and we were off again.
4 hours later, we're in Algoma at the Steelhead saloon having cheese curds and onion rings. It's a tough job, but...
Algoma to Ellisville
I traveled about 30 miles today.
Super day with many miles! Weather continues to be perfect and the trail is smooth and wide. We met many people on the trail and it's fun telling them what we're doing. :-)
This tunnel was on the Kewaunee River Trail. We hiked to Kewaunee and had breakfast at Kunel's Korner. We continued on to Ellisville and are having dinner at the only (and best) place in town. They are happy to have IAT hikers eat and camp out back.
Mishicot Trail Magic
I traveled about 21 miles today.
After a great night's rest behind Janda's, we were on the trail (road) at 6am. Rain threatened all morning but only succeeded in keeping the temps down for a perfect day of hiking.
Toaday was mostly road walking with a trail stretch through Tisch Mills and Mishicot.
Just as we were entering the new Mishicot segment, a truck stopped and the land owner introduced himself - he had just mowed the trail and was glad to see hikers using it. We thznked him for letting the trail pass through.
Entering Mishicot, we didn't know where we'd stay. I had lost info for my contact here. A vehicle stopped and a lady asked what we were doing. A short talk was followed with an offer to stay with her family. So, here I am, showered, fed, and on a soft bed heading to sleep - ready for another day thanks to more generous WI folks!
Day 4 - Leaving Mishicot
We left Mishicot after a terrific french toast breakfast using real home-made bread! We're on a road walk due east to the Lake Michigan shore followed by a nice, long trail walk to Manitowoc.
The short trail through Mishicot included this cool covered bridge that originally led to a brewery across the river. There is also a popular salmon run up to the Mishicot dam from the lake.
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