What a journey to the Ice Age Trail it has been for me! I look back upon my journal and am surprised to see that my adventure started back on Oct. 27, 2018. The plan was to visit Gibraltar Rock on my day off. I wanted to see the sunrise from atop this amazing place.

Arriving around 6 a.m., I remember how dark it was at the start of my ascent and being caught off guard by a family of raccoons while traversing the trail. Unfortunately, there was no view to be seen of the rising sun.

Not letting the disappointment get me down, exploring the area soon ensued. There was great excitement upon finding a yellow blaze and the Ice Age Trail. Having the whole day to enjoy the outdoors, the thought “why not?” came to mind. And so my very first IAT hike and out and back took place.

It wasn’t until Dec. 7, 2019 that I decided to hike that IAT and its entirety. The outdoors has always been in my very soul for as long as I can remember. My family taught me to respect all flora and fauna. It’s no wonder that I thought about the IAT so much and chose to complete it. This, along with other nature goals, has helped me to overcome depression that has plagued me since my teens. Nature truly heals the soul, body, and mind.

One-third of my hikes were solo with most taking place at the beginning of this journey, when hikes were only about two hours away. Once they reach 2.5-plus hours from home more planning, gear and hiking buddies were needed.

As backpacking was not an option for me, I chose to car camp. It helped that I didn’t need to carry as much weight on hikes. Yet, I was still able to have items in the car that made this way of camping enjoyable, like having a dry place to keep a journal.

Keeping a journal became part of my car camping routine. Once I became serious about this goal and wanting to complete the IAT, it was my way to remember what had transpired on each hike. I made sure to answer questions found in the 1,000 Miler application. It made the process easier to fill out the form. I answered such questions as where I hike, the weather, who I met and hiked with, and what I saw.

There were so many unique and amazing sights to see on this trail, this journey. So many stories to tell. This trail heals the soul, yet demands respect. I saw beauty in every season. From the icy, snow-filled trails of winter to spring’s slushy, muddiness. From the buggy hum and water-filled ruts with summer’s sucking mud to fall’s crisp temperatures with colorful landscapes. This trail has my respect from these lessons I learned.

I learned that 1,200 miles was no small feat. My longest hike was a personal best at 28.2 miles, completed in nine hours and 20 minutes No wonder I wore out a pair of boots in less than a year.

Bike shuttles overtime strengthened my body so that hills are no problem now. The IAT gave me refuge from the chaos of 2020. When one is as determined as me, the majority of such a goal can be completed within nine months.

I am so thankful for COVID-19 giving us time (though not with the loss of life), the IATA, other 1,000 Miler wannabes, the kindness and help from neighbors and friends, like-minded, goal-driven hiking buddies turned friends, fantastic weather, and a cure for my depression. These reasons made accomplishing this goal possible on Aug. 11, 2020 at the IAT Eastern Terminus, in Potawatomi State Park. Here, I became the 233rd 1,000 Miler, a 1,000 Miler wannabe no longer.

I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of physically and emotionally. Completing the trail was my goal. My reason simply was for Brett (my son with a disability) and others like him who no matter the struggles always have a smile on their face. They never give up. Always trying until they succeed. My goal is little compared to that. My reason is huge because they matter.

Good luck to those still striving to achieve their goals. Never give up! It can be attainable. Even if it isn’t, you will walk away with a better sense of who you are and new life skills. Life is short. Don’t waste one moment on the “what if‘s.” Live in “your moment”!

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