We started our adventure at 7:20am on Saturday, October 29th, in a group of 7 Trail Sisters from Waukesha, Madison, and Wausau areas. We were up before 5am to drop off cars in different locations along the route with supplies. Megan Veldkamp was van camping with her adorable dog Bette. They both joined us for the first 16 miles, and then crewed us with food, warm beverages, and anything else we needed until we finished. Debbie Farra joined us until mile 23, and Sarah Bailey stopped at mile 31.5. We were left with a group of 4 – Renata, Joy, Carri, and Stephanie – braving the darkness, getting lost, and wondering how many more mud and creek crossings we could possibly encounter!
We experienced everything - roots, rocks, deep leaf cover, mucky muck, innumerable creek crossings, deep mud, bridges, boardwalks, and a few moments on fire roads. We tried our hardest to keep our feet dry, as we balanced on slippery logs, rocks, and grassy tussocks ("hand me that tree") but eventually most of us slipped into frigid watery ankle-to-shin deep mud. Some of us may have fallen into mud pits. When not avoiding mud, our ankles and feet wobbled continuously over rocks and roots hidden beneath the leaves. We had bright blue skies, perfect temps, and calm winds.
We heard grouse thumping, had a Great Blue Heron glide right in front of us, a snake slither across a logging road, a Bald Eagle circle by as we stood on a high ridge looking over the tops of mighty hemlocks and communed with a Barred Owl on a pitch-black fire road crossing. We turned off our lights and appreciated the starry sky. We also encountered a ferociously barking dog at 1a.m. For a moment we didn't know if the dog was coming at us, and we made a hasty plan to defend ourselves with our trekking poles. Turns out the dog was camped with humans somewhere in the woods.
We laughed so hard our throats hurt. We talked and made a lot of noise. We were also silent and contemplative. We questioned why we were doing this, and we marveled at how long it took to get anywhere. These IAT segments are NO JOKE. We were (safely) hauling ass with an average pace of 2mph. Our fastest pace was 2.73 mph, which likely occurred whenever we got atop an esker. Oh, how we loved eskers! Beautiful sights, few rocks/roots, and no way to get lost.
The trails were humbling, maddening, deafening (dry crunchy leaves are loud!), beautiful, wild, and pristine. We hiked for nearly 20 hours and 9 of those hours were in darkness. The trails are not well marked in some places, and we found ourselves off trail on the hour for many hours of the night. This is where the FarOut app coupled with our proactive system of yelling out "Blaze!" every time we saw one came in handy.
This was such a team effort. Everyone chipped in with positive moods, inspirational tales, problem solving skills, gear, and wardrobes (we had many failures with both). Without Megan ‘s selfless help, we couldn’t imagine completing this route unsupported.
Per maps, our route covers 36.2 miles. We had an additional .7 mile reroute due to active logging. We finished this route with 38.35 miles. Additional distances may have resulted from self-correcting our deviations from the trail or variations with GPS.