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Backpacker Magazine – August 2010

Ice Age Trail

Hike a landscape carved by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.

by: Devon Taylor

Download a printable version of this entire trip right here.

KEY SKILL: Beating mosquitoes

There’s nothing more devastating to a night’s sleep than a tent full of blood-thirsty mosquitoes—and Wisconsin is home to 50 different species. Here’s how to defend yourself.

Pick your battles Limit strenuous activity to between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., when mosquitoes are more dormant. Sweating and heavy breathing attract the wrong kind of attention.

Be vigilant Spritz exposed skin with a 30-percent deet repellent every six to eight hours. Drape a bandana or spare T-shirt under a ballcap to create a makeshift head net.

Smoke ’em out Repel bloodsuckers with smoke. Create a smudge with notecard-size pieces of yellow birch bark (a striking silvery yellow and plentiful in Kettle Moraine State Park), roll it loosely, light it and blow it out so it smolders like an incense stick. Frontcountry stand-in: a stogie.

glacial_erratic SEE THIS
Moving sheets of ice carved the Wisconsin landscape like an enormous snowplow, leaving behind long, ridgelike moraines and misshapen glacial erratics—and Kettle Moraine is one of the best spots on the Ice Age Trail to view them. Check out the Stone Elephant, at mile 19.4. This four-foot-high by seven-foot-long gray sculpture resembles the arched back of a large pachyderm buried to the nape of its neck. According to Native American legend, the granite formation was used as an altar where the Prairie Potawatomi sacrificed their vanquished foes.

With long stretches of treeless prairie, the Ice Age Trail is ideal for evening hiking. Take advantage on your second night: From Shelter #3, hike two miles, past a trailside bench, to a point near La Grange Lake and watch the stars and moon glitter on the ink-black surface. On clear nights, hike by moonlight alone (full moon on July 26 and August 24). On cloudy or moonless nights, hold your headlamp at waist level and shine it onto the trail—this creates long shadows around rocks and roots and increases depth perception. (Wearing a headlamp between the eyes casts uniform light over the terrain and makes it appear flat and two dimensional.) Hear something? Return your headlamp to your forehead, flash the woods and look for two glowing points; eyeshine in animals varies from red (owls) to green (coyotes) to silvery yellow (whitetail deer).

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