Monday, June 23, 2014

Eastern Terminus Blues

On Saturday Morning, June 21 at around 6:30 am I started hiking the Ice Age Trail along the Anhapee Trail from the Algoma Trailhead north to Sturgeon Bay.  I made really good time and ended the hike at around 4 pm when Roger, Sandy and Holly picked me up and we went out to Dinner.  I had hiked all the way to the waterfront in Sturgeon Bay.  The next morning at 6:30 am I continued my hike towards the Eastern Terminus of the Ice Age Trail in Potawatomi State Park.  Along the way I hiked along the shoreline of Sturgeon Bay in the park with some gorgeous little cliffs and rock formations.  The trail went inland and headed north to the observation tower.

I had heard the Eastern Terminus was located somewhere near the tower.  Once I got to the tower, I started looking around.  I did not immediately see the marker for the Eastern Terminus.    I did however see a blue blazed trail, which signifies a side trail to a parking lot.  I went over and looked at the Blue Blaze Trail to see if the Eastern Terminus was over there. It wasn’t. I thought maybe the Eastern Terminus was at the top of the tower.  So I went over to the steps where there is a sign, but the sign said nothing of the Ice Age Trail. Instead the sign was about the tower, describing how it was built.

I walked around and saw a rock about three feet high.  I went to the other side of the rock and saw the plaque for the Eastern Terminus of the Ice Age Trail.  I was immediately underwhelmed. 

What's that rock over there?  Well, by golly it's the Eastern Terminus
The rock was in a triangle space between two park roads and the tower.  People ride their bikes past the rock and don’t even realize it has any significance.  Watch my video of the Eastern Terminus to see what a drab place it is. 

Maybe the thought process of putting the Eastern Terminus there was so people could celebrate their completion of the IAT by hiking up the Observation Tower.  But for some people that would be totally out of the question.  I know one Ice Age Trail Hiker that is totally scared of heights and would never go up the tower.  I’m not naming names but her first name starts with an H and rhymes with jolly.

The Old Ski Hill Overlook just east of the Observation Tower
What makes this even worse is that if you take the blue blaze side trail to the parking lot, it leads you down to the parking lot for the Old Ski Hill Overlook. It’s a stunning overlook, unless there is fog. Such was the case when I visited it. Shouldn’t the Terminus of a National Scenic Trail be at a stunning overlook? All they would have to do is move it about 200 yards, for pete’s sake.

At the Eastern Terminus of the Ice Age Trail
The Southern Terminus of the Continental Divide Trail
The Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail
Plus the monument itself isn’t very impressive.  This is hardly the way to celebrate the accomplishments of someone who has hiked 1100 miles.  Again, this is a National Scenic Trail.  Take a look at some of the monuments for other National Scenic Trails.  Granted, some of them like the ones for the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail are not in the most scenic spots mainly because they are at the US Border.  But, because they are at the border, that makes it a little bit interesting.

By the way, I still have over 300 miles to go to complete the Ice Age Trail.  I was doing this hike because Holly and Sandy were also hiking in the area.  And Sandy’s husband Roger was doing the shuttling for us, between doing some Geocaching.  Thank you very much, Roger.

Moving the Ice Age Trail Eastern Terminus to the Old Ski Hill Overlook also makes sense because Ski Hills are a major part of the IAT.  The IAT goes through the Kettle Bowl Ski Area near Bryant and the Sunburst Ski Area near West Bend.  Plus the IAT goes right past some other ski areas including Devil’s Head near Merrimac and Little Switzerland in Slinger.

I say the Ice Age Trail and Ice Age Trail Alliance is losing potential hikers and money because of not having a better Eastern Terminus. Potawatomi State Park has tens of thousand of visitors each year, and many of them don’t know anything about the Ice Age Trail.  Maybe if the IAT had a more inspirational Terminus Monument it would motivate people who just happened to see it to hike the trail. Then, if more people hike the trail, more people will find out about the Ice Age Trail Alliance and join.  Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who walk by or ride their bikes by the current Eastern Terminus Marker, and don’t even see it.

After further review, I came up with an Idea
At each end of the Trail the Ice Age Trail should put a Wooly Mammoth. It should be similar to the one at the IAT Headquarters in Cross Plains.  Having a photogenic Wooly Mammoth at each end of the trail would be an unique trail marker, plus it would help promote the IAT's brand.
The Wooly Mammoth at the IAT Headquarters.

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