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It was a mammoth of a challenge

It was a mammoth of a challenge It was a mammoth of a challenge

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I do love a good walk. It’s a stress reliever. It’s exercise. It’s a good activity to do with other people.

As soon as I saw the Ice Age Trail Alliance was hosting the Mammoth Hike Challenge, where participants hike 40 miles of the trail and visit three of the trail communities during October, I knew I wanted to do it. I realized it would be more fun to do with someone and it didn’t take much to convince my boyfriend, Brett, to come up for a visit to do it with me.

Since we were meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, for a wedding in early October, we decided the week after that, would be our timeframe to complete the challenge. That put us around five miles over eight days, with the weekend making up whatever we didn’t fit in during the week.

The trip to Iowa, for the wedding, went much smoother than the last time. There were no car crashes or emergency room trips. And, Nate and Ellen are married!

On the way back, we started our walk in Verona, and refueled on ice cream and bubble tea afterward. I would say that snack was straight processed sugar, but my Italian ice had carrot juice in it, so, take that.

Once we were outside of the city limits, the paths got a little narrower and more challenging, which Brett and I both enjoyed. We walked on portions of eight different segments of the trail and up to the start of another two segments.

About the fourth day of our walks, I realized every segment we did became my new favorite. Brett said his favorite segment was the Mondeaux Esker segment, because it had just been covered in a light snow and was pretty. Pretty. Blasphemy. I briefly considered leaving Brett there.

On our final day to complete the challenge before Brett returned home, we went to St. Croix Falls, to walk about 7.5 miles and see what there is to see. We started in Interstate State Park and found the western terminus of the trail. It was in an obvious spot along one of the more popular looking trails in the park, but it took us a while to find it, because we were looking for it. If we hadn’t been looking for it, it most definitely would have been one of the first things we saw.

After a lunch break, we resumed our walk on a different section of the segment. Imagine our surprise, when the trail was wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, and every culvert or waterway had a perfectly manicured bridge over it. It was a nice change of pace (literally, we walked it slightly faster).

All of a sudden, the manicured part came upon a single campsite and ended. There we were, back to the path just wide enough for one person, and covered with rocks and roots. The “bridges” were rocks you jump across. Except for the one little creek that had no rocks and you just jumped across.

The trail was suddenly marked exceptionally well, and Brett made a comment that they must not want us to miss a bridge or something. Then, we saw the bridge. It was three large branches/logs and a semi-rotten piece of wood lying across a river that was probably 10 feet wide. One side of the river also had an arrow sign pointing down to the logs, as if to say, “Yep, that’s the path.”

Brett made it across fairly easily and I did OK, once I managed to find my balance, which took a bit. It definitely didn’t help that there had been rainy and snowy weather the morning before, so the water was running pretty good. Oh well. We only needed half of a log path to get across, anyway.

Brett said the wooden path was his favorite. I told him I would like it better after we both made it over the water, without getting wet, a second time.

He nearly fell in on the way back, but managed to pull out the save at the last moment. I did better than the first time crossing. The electronics in our pockets were spared and no one had to walk back to the car in wet clothes on the rather cool day. So, I guess the collection of branches is now my favorite bridge, too. What a challenge.