Backpacking the Ice Age Trail
I turned 58 this week and decided that I should see if I still have what it takes to be an outdoor adventures writer. With my trusty golden retriever “Ruby” for companionship I hiked a 36-mile section of the Ice Age Trail in Polk, Burnett, and Barron counties. This test kicked my you know what!
Wednesday, July 3rd
High 87, low 55
This trip was literally thought of in the last 48-hours. I had planned on canoeing a section of the St. Croix river but thought I would save that for time other than the 4th of July. The Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin is a work in progress with almost all maintenance being done by volunteers.
So here is the scoop, Sarah Bucher of Barron would ride with me to Luck where she would drop me off on what is actually is the Gander Dancer Trail, I would hike north to Frederic, hit the Ice Age Trail and then hike through Polk and Burnett Counties until I reached county road H which is in Barron County.
My truck would be at my good buddy Tony Ficocello’s place and I would drive home.
Here is reality, I really hated taking up much of Sarah’s time, I had no idea where I actually was, my pack was too heavy, the humidity was nasty, and the deer flies and mosquitoes were so bad I think they enjoyed the 40-percent Deet that I sprayed on my body with regularity.
Had I known what I later learned I would have been dropped off at Straight Lake State Park and would have shaved off about 8-miles which would have been much more doable in my time frame.
I started hiking today at 3:45, my pack weighed about 60-pounds and I ended just before dark in a world of at least one hundred mosquitoes feasting on me and made my camp in brush that was so thick that I literally almost got lost when I took took Ruby to a nearby lake.
To keep mosquitoes from getting in my backpackers tent I sprayed a cloud of Deet over head and got inside asap and it worked. When I got in my tent I realized that I had literally put the spine area of my tent on a rock and that rock did not want me to sleep.
Thursday, July 4th
High 86, 53
This trail and surrounding country side is beautiful and today I tested my stamina more so than I have in a very long time. My maps are a bit weak on details, I forgot a compass, and four times I would get off trail because I simply did not pay good enough attention to the yellow marks that are about every 75-yards on trees.
Here is the way a person can get their hiney kicked in as few words as possible. Every swipe of my hand to a leg or arm killed at least ten skeets and one or two deer flies. My backpack is an external frame that I purchased in 1990 to hike the Appalachian Trail, much of is worn out. The shoulder straps literally seem like they are pulling your shoulders off from behind.
The humidity, especially when I am not in a forest wants to kick man and dogs tail end. Thankfully for Ruby, there has been so much rain that there is plenty of water for her to drink and swim in.
This afternoon I took a break near Mckenzie lake which is incredibly beautiful and no motors are allowed, not even electric. I just finished my break and a powerful rain and thunderstorm began. I knew I had to keep moving to finish the next day and while I hiked, two-inches of rain fell. The trail here is a constant up and down and it was literally flowing with running rain water.
Early in the storm I stopped and put my camera in my pack and Ruby looked at me and said “what the heck are we doing?” We kept hiking and it was at this point in the trip that I was acclimatized. Pain, mud, heat nor bugs were going to get me down.
My body and mind were in a good place and I knew I just had to keep moving. I built camp after a 16-mile day and set my tent up making sure there were no rocks underneath of it and slept like a baby.
Friday, July 5th
High 86, low 52
I made this trip sound tough and it really was but if I had hiked less miles, had less bugs, mud and humidity it would have been a lot easier. Today I walked in mud for much of the day which was a total of 14-miles, I got off trail once and though I was literally about out of blood and sweat, I had a great day.
My trip ended where the trail hits Tony Ficocello’s place and my buddy Paul Bucher was there as well.
Lots of jokes were made about my body odor, we had an excellent meal cooked on the grill and a good time was had by all!
Push till it hurts! Sunset