Sean Quinn and Kassie Kolden aren't quite sure what to do with their weekends these days.
Because for the past nearly 18 months, the two have spent every single weekend hiking the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin.
The journey began in December of 2012 and ended this past Monday as they finished up about 1,200 miles of trail, winding from the northwest part of Wisconsin to the Lake Michigan shoreline through the entire state.
That's 62 days of hiking, about 20 to 33 miles a day, an average of 2 to 3 miles an hour about 8 to 10 hours a day.
In the words of Quinn on his Facebook page, "We finally pulled it off."
The McHenry native and his girlfriend, who now live in Caledonia, did so, they say, simply because few ever have and because Quinn plans to finish a book about the experience. He believes information on the trail is lacking when compared with the other 10 National Scenic Trails in the country. About 300 to 400 people a year hike other trails, such as the Appalachian, which is twice a long.
"It's mixed feelings," Quinn said of finishing up the journey. "We devoted so much time to it. It's what we've been doing every single weekend. It's, 'Now what?' It's also a huge sense of accomplishment."
Quinn has written about 30 pages of his book so far. He originally had hoped to raise money through a Kickstarter campaign for the publishing of the book and to help take care of the gas money, food, clothing and hotel expenses needed to hike every weekend. But the $3,000 campaign failed.
So for now, he said, he intends to finish the book and seek out a publisher in the hopes of getting it out there eventually.
The experience itself was a reward as the two encountered beautiful sites, animals, interesting people and quaint small towns along the way they'll never forget.
The trail – named so because it follows the last outline of Wisconsin's most recent glacier more than 10,000 years ago – stretches through plains, oak savannas, sections of roads, lakes, rivers and rolling hills. Brought into being in 1979, unkempt portions of the trail, especially in its northern-most areas, forced them to walk through plants as tall as them, wade through waste-deep water and balance on beaver dams and broken bridges.
With their dogs – a 6-year-old Terrior/Daschund/Chihuahua mix named Dogzilla and 5-year-old McNab Shephered named Captain Fantastic – often along, the couple had to occasionally carry the pets through rough patches. And they had to be on the lookout for plant-covered holes, one of which a dog fell into but was able to climb out of easily.
"There were quite a few times we got turned around a bit," Quinn said.
"We wound up going through so many towns we'd never heard of. … You just learning interesting things about the area and meet some of the nicest people. Everybody is really proud of their little towns and know the history only the local people can tell you."
Avid walkers, the two had only gone on a couple backpacking trips before tackling the trail.
They encountered landmarks, such as World War II memorials and an Underground Railroad site, and various animals, including porcupines, wolverines, cats, dogs, foxes and a fisher, which is in the weasel family.
Quinn took notes along the way. He and Kolden typically drove two vehicles to the trail, parking one where they started and the other at the day's destination. They then hiked from one car to the other.
They thought the road portions of the trail would be the most boring but found that many of those sections allowed them to see the landscape better when compared with the vegetation in the forest areas.
"It was an absolutely amazing way to see the state," said Quinn, who works full time in human resources for the Department of Veteran Affairs. Kolden also works full time at the department, in the Logistics Division.
The two next plan to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and eventually Quinn would like to take a bicycle trip around the world, an adventure he anticipates would take him six to eight years.By JAMI KUNZER - • firstname.lastname@example.org