Kewaunee County native completes the Ice Age Trail hike, becoming a Thousand Miler for a second time
KEWAUNEE – This time, Laura Hinesh wanted to complete her journey in front of a home crowd, so to speak.
This past Sunday, Hinesh became a Thousand Miler for a second time, which means she hiked the entire Ice Age Trail that winds through Wisconsin. To complete the quest, she hiked an 0.8-mile stretch west of Kewaunee that followed along Sleepy Hollow Road from Pine Grove Road to Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery.
The first time Hinesh joined the Thousand Miler club, she finished at the eastern terminus of the trail, in Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay, in August of 2020, ending a trek that began in October of 2018.
But for her second thousand miles, she wanted to finish in Kewaunee County, where she was born and raised.
So, besides choosing to finish at Parallel 44 — "being a great place to celebrate afterward, at a winery," Hinesh said with a laugh — she also wanted to finish in front of her parents, Lawrence, Sr., and Emily Krummel, who still live on the farm near Stangelville where Laura grew up. Also on hand was her husband, Mike, whose family also is from the area; her brother, Lawrence, Jr.; and her son.
The Ice Age Trail is one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the country. It follows the outline of the most recent glacier that retreated from the state thousands of years ago, winding through 30 counties.
Hiking the entire route actually covers between 1,100 and 1,200 miles, with 680 miles of blazed and marked trail segments and about 500 miles of suggested connecting routes to get from one segment to the next, although hikers can create their own connections. Thousand Milers don't necessarily have to follow the trail from one end to the other in one long adventure, but they have to hike all the segments and hike connections between them to make it count.
If one starts from the trail's western terminus in St. Croix Falls, it heads east to Antigo, then winds south to Janesville, then north-northeast through the Kettle Moraine area to Manitowoc, Mishicot and Tisch Mills.
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From there, the next segment starts in Casco, where it follows the Ahnapee State Trail to Kewaunee, Algoma and on into Door County and Potawatomi State Park. The route Hinesh hiked Sunday was part of her connecting route between the Tisch Mills and Kewaunee County segments.
Those who wish to become a Thousand Miler can register online with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with 19 regional chapters to conserve, create, protect and maintain the trail.
It hasn't happened much, and to do it multiple times like Hinesh is rare. According to Melissa Pierick, director of marketing and community relations for the alliance, as of the end of 2021 the thousand-mile adventure has been accomplished 81 times since the first one was registered in 1979, and Hinesh is only the ninth person to have done it more than once.
Hinesh, who now works as an education assistant with students with special needs in the DeForest Area School District near Madison, said she wasn't necessarily planning to hike another 1,000 miles after completing the trek the first time. She said she was inspired to tackle the thousand the first time by her son, who's on the autism spectrum.
"To walk one simple little trail is so much easier than what he deals with every day," Hinesh said. "And he's happy all the time no matter what."
But Hinesh said she kind of stumbled (no pun intended) into doing it again.
"This time, I just started hiking with some friends who needed someone to hike with to finish their (1,000-mile) journeys," Hinesh said. "Before I knew it, I had 600 miles, and I thought, I might as well finish it."
She also made the hike as a fundraiser on her Facebook page for the trail alliance, with $135 raised of her $200 goal.
To Hinesh, it also means a lot because, well, she really enjoyed the hiking. She said the trail segments aren't too difficult and, as a woman, she always felt safe on them.
Plus, she said it was an educational experience. The trail goes into and through a number of communities to give hikers a chance to learn more about them; 13 of them, including Manitowoc/Two Rivers and Sturgeon Bay, are designated by the alliance as Ice Age Trail Communities.
"To complete it a second time just means the world to me. To get more information out there that this trail is not that hard to hike," Hinesh said, "that it makes (others) think, 'I can do it, too.'"
"And it's to know how important this trail is in the state of Wisconsin … discovering what Wisconsin's all about. When I started, I didn't know half about Wisconsin what I know now."
For more information on the Ice Age Trail Alliance, visit iceagetrail.org.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee County native completes the Ice Age Trail hike, becoming a Thousand Miler for a second time