Saturday, July 11, 2015


As a hike leader, one of the questions I get asked is "Are you a Thousand Miler?" I joke when I say yes. Ever since I joined the Ice Age Trail Alliance as a volunteer, the idea of becoming a Thousand-Miler has been quite intriguing. However, at this stage in my life, with a career and a young family, trekking out new segments  is tricky, especially those that fall out of my surrounding counties. I do take silly credit for being a Thousand-Miler considering I''ve hiked some of the same segments with my toddler seemingly a thousand times. Joking aside, I am impressed with all that have completed the whole trail, those that are int eh process, and those that are like me, aspiring to doing it someday.

I did however get to take my toddler out to a new segment this morning. Reading my field guide, I noticed a segment adjacent to one of our favorite state parks, Pike Lake, was more of a tour through a trail town, meaning the majority of the trail follows roads and sidewalks. So, off to the Slinger Segment we went.

Of course, with limited parking at the trailhead, we parked in Pike Lake parking area and enjoyed a small chink of the Pike Lake Segment before making our way to Slinger. Even though we had just scouted this part of the trail for an upcoming Tyke Hike, we enjoyed it once again. With all my Tyke Hikes, I like to find a nice turning point, This usually ends up being at what I call a "turnaround tree." I missed the face on this tree a few days but look forward to sharing it with kids next week.

As we left Pike Lake, we came across one of my least favorite parts of the trail: a road connect. Luckily, this was only a 0.3 mile jaunt before being back in a more natural area.

When we first stepped foot onto the Slinger Segment, I noticed that unfortunately, it looked like someone had recently been there before us. Luckily, I had a spare bag in my supplies to clean up the collection of beer bottles and garbage they left behind. It also appeared that someone had driven their truck through this section. From Highway 60's trailhead, the trail follows a grassy path through some woods and farmland before reconnecting with a road in a neighborhood. It appeared someone had been using the trail as a shortcut. The tread damage was considerable. the jury is still out on if the litterer and driver were the same person.

Putting that behind us, my daughter and I walked through a mosquito-laden area and noticed breaks in the brush offered spectacular views of farmland and ridges in the distance.

The narrow but worn path allowed my daughter to lead the way safely. She loves being the hike leader and is sure to bop any blaze along the way and choose (mostly correct) what direction to travel when there is any type of intersection. Today however, she got tired quickly as the temperatures rose and the bugs increased. After leaving the woods and trekking through a neighborhood, her boredom with the trail town concept shone brightly, signaling it was time to cut our hike shorter than I had expected. We stopped for a water and snack break and headed back towards Pike Lake.
The short break did rejuvenate her for a short time. She ran ahead on the trail, stopping to smell the flowers along the way.

She did allow me to stop and read an information sign about Slinger's history as a trading post, one of my favorite topics to learn about. As a history geek, I can never have enough information posts on the trail.
I ended up carrying her back most of the way, so at least I got my workout in. While walking along roads and through sidewalks of neighborhoods isn't my favorite part of the Ice Age Trail. it does allow for a unique and intimate perspective of how the trail can impact a community. I look forward to completing this segment sooner than later, though I may have to go sans child. 

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