Volunteers with the Ice Age Trail Mobile skills Crew construct boardwalk at the Polk Kames site in Washington County in May 2009.
Volunteers with the Ice Age Trail Mobile skills Crew construct boardwalk at the Polk Kames site in Washington County in May 2009.

Stepping foot on Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail (IAT) can take one in many directions. My earliest involvement was hiking this National Scenic Trail in its entirety.

Initially, a friend, Kay Kauffman, and I chipped away a few miles here, 20 to 30 miles there, purposely stretching out our time spent on the 1,200-mile path, half of which is off road. Our agreed upon approach with each hiking trip was to take our time. We wanted to immerse ourselves fully in the rich diversity of the trail's natural surroundings, learn interesting facts about different areas of the state, meet a variety of IAT chapter representatives, and graciously take on unexpected happenings that occurred with regularity.

For approximately 500 miles, we continued this delightful, leisurely pattern, setting aside one to two long weekends annually, until reality hit in 2006. Like a bolt of lightning, I realized that at my current pace, it would take decades more to hike the entire trail and I had other life goals. With some reluctance, I started venturing off without Kay to accelerate my tempo.

While Kay and I carried on with our yearly IAT sojourns, I also expanded my focus. I hiked more often, solo or with other affable companions until I hiked my final section in Lincoln County on April 25, 2009. I was one of 11 hikers officially recognized as a "Thousand Milers" at the annual Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) meeting in Merrill that year

I was delighted with my accomplishment but also sad my exceptionally pleasant adventure was officially over. I planned to stay involved with the IAT but in a different manner. I wanted to be a volunteer. It was time to "give back" for 16 years of priceless enjoyment.

Read the entirety of Jane Stoltz's path from Ice Age Trail hiker to builder in the May 2013 print edition of Silent Sports. To order a copy and/or subscribe to the magazine, call Cathy at 888/706-4045.