First off, many thanks to Mags for letting me steal the format of his PCT and CDT handouts, I hope I have done it justice with my efforts here.
So here is what I've put together on the trail. If there are any suggested additions, subtractions, or amendments, please don't hesitiate to PM or email me.
The Ice Age Trail
The Ice Age Trail is one of the eight established National Scenic Trails. The National Trails Act, incidentally, was introduced by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1964. The Ice Age Trail was approved by Congress in 1980 with an authorized length of 1000 miles, entirely within the state of Wisconsin. The trail follows the edge of the most recent North American glaciation, about 15,000 years ago. Geologists travel from around the world to see the drumlins, eskers, kames, dalles, and moraines left behind by this mammoth 2-mile thick ice sheet at the nine National Scientific Reserves along the route. This trail is not yet complete, like the earliest days of the Appalachian Trail nearly half of it's length is routed along rural roads and through various local communities.
This handout will help you prepare for the basics of a journey on this trail.
THE ICE AGE TRAIL AT A GLANCE
· Administered by the Ice Age Trail Alliance in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service
· Total length of around 1200 miles, of which over 600 are complete and certified. Uncertified but established trail length is constantly changing and increasing
· Entirely within the State of Wisconsin
· Travels from Potowatomi State Park in Door County to Interstate State park on the state's western edge.
APPALACHIAN TRAIL vs. ICE AGE TRAIL
· Half the length of the AT
· More gradually graded, easier tread
· No shelters outside of scattered State Forest units
· Long stretches of road walking
· Yellow blazes!
MAJOR CONCERNS OF THRU-HIKERS
1) Where do I start?
The eastern Terminus of the trail is at Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay has no bus, train or air service. Green Bay, 45 miles away, is the closest major city offering these services. Contact the Sturgeon Bay Visitors Center at (920) 743-3924 or www.sturgeonbay.org for more information
The western Terminus is in Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls. St. Croix Falls also has no bus, train or airport service. Nearest services are in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, 45 miles away. Contact the Polk County Information Center at (800) 222-7655 or www.polkcountytourism.com
The Ice Age Trail travels through or near so many towns, villages, and cities that re-supply is of practically no effort. In northern Wisconsin, towns are more scattered and trail segments are longer but there should still be ample opportunity to supply yourself with food and fuel.
2) Where do I sleep?
There are many opportunities to camp in the dozens of national, state, and county forests that the trail passes through. Be aware that the great majority of these campsites will require reservations in advance. In addition, there are Adirondack-style shelters available by reservation in the Kettle Moraine segments, and a few "first-come" shelters in other state parks. In areas where shelters are available, tenting off trail is often not permitted. Consult the Ice Age Trail Companion Guide for detailed camping information. For those seeking a more luxurious experience, there is an established "Inn-to-Inn" program, where hikers can walk to participating bed and breakfast inns, all of which will pick you up from and drop you off at the trail.
The weather in Wisconsin is highly dependent upon the seasons. Winter can be generally regarded as the time between November and March, but snowstorms in the months before and after are not unheard of. Winter temperatures and dense snowfall make hiking the trail in these months much more difficult. Much of the trail is open to cross-country skiing during the winter.. Summer weather can range from pleasantly cool mornings and evenings in June, to 90°+ temperatures and matching humidity in July and August.
5) Guidelines for hiking during hunting seasons
Hunting is a serious avocation for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites. During the annual deer hunt, there may be upwards of half a million armed hunters sharing the woods with you.
With this in mind, the Ice Age Trail Alliance offers the following guidelines:
"Private Lands: Portions of the Ice Age Trail crossing privately owned lands generally should be considered closed during gun deer-hunting season. "Private Lands" signs are placed at any point where the Ice Age Trail enters private land, most often at a road crossing. Additionally, Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers often place "segment closed" signs (with dates of the closure) at trailheads. To help ensure the continued good relations with private landowners that are so critical to the Ice Age Trail, it is vitally important that hikers obey these signs and stay off closed segments. If you'd like to go for a hike on a segment you think may be on private land, call the IATA main office (800-227-0046) or the local chapter coordinator to learn whether or not it's open for hiking.
Public Lands: The Ice Age Trail remains open on most public lands year-round. Those who hike an Ice Age Trail segment crossing public land during a hunting season do so at their own risk. For safety, hikers should wear high-visibility blaze orange hats and jackets when using the Trail during these times. The best option for hikers is to head to an area of a state park or forest that's closed to hunting. A list of such places is available on the WDNR website."
No permit is required to hike the Ice Age Trail. Parking at trailheads usually requires a state park sticker, available at most lots. The cost is currently $25 for a yearly sticker.
This is the home page of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the volunteer organization that administers the trail. This is the place to find nearly any information on the trail hiking programs such as the "Inn to Inn" program. This is also where to buy the Ice Age Trail Atlas and Companion Guide.
The State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources page on the trail
The home page of the National Park Service's information on the trail.
The official site for reserving the Adirondack shelters. In my experience, better results are achieved by using the toll free phone number.
Dane County chapter of the IATA, see this and other chapter websites for information on Trail Angels, current conditions, etc.