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July 22, 2013 • 09:50:58 a.m.

Couple hike 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail, plan to write book

By JAMI KUNZER - jkunzer@shawmedia.com

(Photo provided)

Of the 11 National Scenic Trails in the country, few have hiked the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, and none have written a book about the experience.

A native of McHenry hopes to change that.

Sean Quinn and his girlfriend, Kassie Kolden, are determined to hike the roughly 1,200-mile trail, which winds from the northwest part of Wisconsin to the Lake Michigan shoreline through the entire state.

The two, who both work full time, hike portions of the trail on the weekends and have done so since December. Their goal was to reach the 400th mile this weekend, which would make them a third of the way done.

They've hiked up to 31 miles at a stretch and hope to finish by the fall of 2014.

Now living in Racine, Wis., Quinn always has wanted to hike scenic trails, having previously worked for the U.S. National Park Service. He thought about taking on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

"Just the logistics of it never really worked for me at the time because I was in school or working," he said.

When he moved to Wisconsin to work as an administrative officer with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, he discovered the Ice Age Trail.

"I've gone one (a scenic trail) more or less in my backyard, so why not take advantage of this?" he thought. "I've been a hiker my entire adult live. I love being in the outdoors and getting to see places most people will never get an opportunity to see and experience and amazing things along the way."

In his hiking experiences, he's run into wolverines, which are endangered species, and seen bald eagles fight.

On the Ice Age Trail, he's passed numerous landmarks, such as the National Registry of Historic Places' birthplace of the ice cream sundae in Two Rivers, Wis. and Holy Hill, the most visited cathedral in the Midwest.

Near Milton, Wis., he's hiked by the campsite that Abe Lincoln stayed at when he was a soldier during the Blackhawk Wars and one of the 11 nationally recognized sites of the Underground Railroad.

"You never know what you're going to run into on a trail," he said.

The more he looked into the Ice Age Trail, the more intrigued he became by the lack of information on it. Although all other National Scenic Trails have books written about them by those who've hiked them, the Ice Age Trail has never been written about in that way, he said.

Since it was brought into being in 1979, only 77 known people have hiked it entirely, he said, compared with the 300 or 400 a year that hike other trails, such as the Appalachian, which is twice as long.

"It might just be that not many people know about it," he said. "I'm hoping to raise awareness."

He takes notes along the way, and his hope is to have a book out by the summer of 2015. He and Kolden typically drive two vehicles to the trails, parking one at the beginning and the other at their destination. They then hike from one car to the other.

The gas money, food, clothing and hotel expenses are putting a strain on his finances, so he's created a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising money for his efforts.

His goal is to reach $3,000, though with about a week left, he had only raised $515 at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/308514752/hiking-the-ice-age-trail-book-to-follow.

The fundraising also would make it easier for him to get the book published, he said.

But he'll hike the trail regardless of how the effort turns out.

"It might just take us longer if we don't get the funding," he said.

Compared with others, the trail is not difficult as it stretches through plains, oak savannahs and sections of roads, he said. The toughest parts so far have included an area of rolling hills and a steeper section in Devils Lake, Wis., with stairs that are about 500 feet high.

The couple also has had to wade through waste-deep water and balance on the wooden planks of broken bridges.

An avid walker before the effort, Kolden has been up to the challenge. The two previously had gone on a backpacking trip or two.

Quinn, who also enjoys mountain and rock climbing, has dropped 26 pounds so far from the experience.

"I like to do things where I don't really have to rely on a lot of gear," he said. "I'm not someone into four-wheeling or things like that, where you've got the loud noises that scare wildlife and gasoline. ... It kind of destroys the nature experience of things. (With hiking), it's more like you're becoming part of nature."


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