I’ve mentioned before that the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, while actually about 1200 miles long in its entirety, is often referred to as a thousand mile footpath. I guess one thousand, two hundred miles just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily! In any event, I don’t think anyone would dispute that it’s quite a distance.
And yet, there are those among us who have taken on — and met — the challenge of hiking the entire Trail, including the yellow blazed segments through woods and fields as well as connecting routes along roadways. Within the Ice Age Trail Alliance these folks are referred to as “Thousand Milers.” Some people accomplish this feat solo, while others have a hiking partner or partners, which may include a canine companion.
The first recorded Thousand Miler was in 1979; since then there have been more than 230 additional names added to this list. Those who hike the Trail in one fell swoop, from one end to the other, are referred to as Thru Hikers; there have been approximately 75 of them so far. People who hike the Trail segments over time rather than all at once are called Section Hikers; there have been approximately 160 Section Hikers to date. As I reviewed the list of Thousand Milers I noted that the shortest time recorded for a Thru Hiker was an amazing 21 days, which was a record set by a trail runner in 2020. The longest time recorded by a Section Hiker was 50 years; credit goes to that hiker for the perseverance needed to stay with it and finish the whole Trail.
Regardless of whether someone is a Thru Hiker or a Section Hiker, it’s quite an accomplishment. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to stories that Thousand Milers tell about their time on the Trail and it’s clear that most of them have been deeply impacted by their hike. They spoke of the challenges and the delights they encountered while hiking, as well as the beauty of the Trail landscape and the good people they met along the way.
The philosopher Lao Tzu said: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I wonder if this quote was on the minds of the Ice Age Trail Thousand Milers when they began their hike…..Along the Ice Age Trail.