Everyone has been asking if I am/was excited for today. There are a lot of feelings, to include excitement, for sure, it’s just so very complicated. It feels good to have finished this hike across Wisconsin and to have done the things we have done. More than anything, I feel relieved that I’m through the gauntlet. My body could hike more, but I don’t want to, not in the way we have been these past few weeks.
With the help of Uncle Tim and Aunt Susan, today worked out perfectly. Brianna hopped on the trail with me in the morning for the final 17.8 miles of hiking while Tim volunteered to run support and meet us throughout the day. Brianna was feeling good enough to get her feet dirty again!
The trail day started with more dirt 2-track as we finished the final miles that Ice Age Trail shares with the multipurpose hike/bike/horse Ahnapee State Trail. With beautiful weather and plenty of time to kill between meet-ups, uncle Tim hiked in with us for 2 miles before turning around and heading back to the car for our next scheduled rendezvous. Having time on the trail with family and friends has been priceless, a rare opportunity to share our passion with the ones we love. It’s also a lot of fun to give them a firsthand perspective of all the beautiful and tragic parts of life on the trail.
Tim has been so impressed with our journey that he made a point to stop and tell as many people as he can about it. He interrupted a couple of lady bikers in mid-conservation to tell them our story, both of which responded positively and had many questions for us. At another point in the day, he had a park full of people clapping for us as we walked into town for our planned lunch. As a mostly stoic person, it’s often difficult for me to convey emotions – Tim had no problem getting smiles and laughs out of me with his social graces.
We had hoped to see more hikers over these last 50 miles or so of trail. It was the weekend with beautiful weather and the trails go through populated areas with beaches and waterfronts galore. We saw a lot of people on beaches and at parks. We did not see a single day hiker, section hiker or thru-hiker. The eastern terminus is tucked away on a peninsula and far away from the rest of the trail, so I get it, I guess. It boggles my mind that we ran into more hikers on the remote western section than the populated eastern that runs through and around large cities like Janesville and Madison.
Our lunch at the beachy Otumba Park left us with about 4.5 miles left of trail before the eastern terminus. Aunt Susan agreed to drive our car up to the end point so that Tim could hike the final miles with Brianna & I. Tim got a solid mix of sidewalks and dirt trails for his final experience, even some hills and stone stairs next to the bay water! What a beautiful trail to end the adventure on, what a good group to finish the adventure with.
Susan and Trisha were at the end ringing little horse bells and yelling congratulations as we arrived. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up a bit when we walked up to the final rock. Sitting on top of the rock next with the eastern terminus sign did feel great, especially after I cracked the celebratory beer. To accomplish what less than 200 people have done before me is humbling. To have the support we did throughout this adventure, from both old and new friends, is humbling. I am humbled.
If I was to do this all over again, I’d take 10-12 weeks rather than the 8 weeks I just completed it in. 2-4 more weeks would have allowed me to take more planned days off in beautiful areas and given more buffer room for unplanned days off when storms or other unpredictable events occur.
I would look to average 12-20 mile days when possible. Hiking 25-30 mile days is fun and sometimes necessary, depending on allowed camping areas and other variables, but should be kept to a minimum.
Wisconsin is a great state and more like Michigan than it’s not.
Thank you for coming on this adventure with me! Until next time… 🙂