Hiking the Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest

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Happy Monday! It’s a new week, a new opportunity, and hopefully a new attitude for yours truly. Last week was rough. The weight of pandemic life despite being vaccinated felt more suffocating than usual and a few painful procedures were more than enough to weaken what minuscule ounces of positive vibes that remained. And Saturday was perhaps the worst day of the week. So we made the decision to escape the flatness of Illinois drove 90 minutes north to the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

So what is a moraine? When I was in 5th grade, I was chosen to represent my class in the school-wide geography bee. My flame burned quick as I was eliminated in the first round due to incorrectly stating that the Columbia River was longer than the Rio Grande River. So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that I was yesterday-days-old when I learned exactly what a moraine is – a collection of rocks and sediment deposited by a glacier. The Great Lakes region is home of many moraines, including the Kettle Moraine, which happens to be where we hiked yesterday.

Stretching two counties in Wisconsin (Walworth and Kewaunee), Kettle Moraine is home to many kettles, which is a hole formed by retreating glaciers or draining floodwaters. Kettle Moraine State Park spans more than 22,000 acres and has over 100 miles of mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking trails, including the Ice Age Trail. Covering 1,200 miles (planned, only 675 currently completed) in Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail is administered by the National Park Service and maintained by a handful of organizations, including the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

It’s important to note that a vehicle admission sticker is required for Wisconsin State Parks. We did everything online and the sticker arrived in the mail a few days later. If you plan to bike, horseback ride, or ski on the trails, a state trail pass is required. Since we were just hiking, our vehicle sticker was all we needed to enjoy the Ice Age Trail.

We hiked a little over 6 miles on the Ice Age Trail. We started at the Kettle Moraine State Forest Headquarters (which was sadly closed, due to COVID-19) and found the portion of the trail we were on to be very well-maintained and very well-marked. It was not a strenuous by any means but we appreciated the hills and giving our calves a workout because it is flat where we’re currently stationed in Illinois.

The Ice Age Trail has been our favorite local-ish hike since PCSing to Fort Sheridan last summer. We have reservations to camp in Kettle Moraine State Forest in a few weeks so we’re looking forward to exploring more of the area.

Fresh air and an empty trail was the perfect prescription for our blah attitudes – at least for now. We do find that the less we’re outside, the more miserable we become. We’re hopeful that our attitudes improve as more things open up and pandemic life can only be seen in the review mirror. But in the meantime, we’ll hike.

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