Our family found itself on a layover in Whitewater early this morning between games of a baseball tournament. It seems silly, but the only places open before 10AM on a Saturday morning both happened to be bicycle shops, and in the mood to be healthy and active, we stopped in.

Amongst the literature racks I found a number of great gems: local bike maps, waterway maps and hiking maps. What more could an ambitious Scout want?!

Ice Age Trail Alliance LogoOne of the brochures I picked up was from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, which is made up of several chapters from this amazing trail that covers a huge part of our state. More specifically, the brochure I picked up said “Be a Kettle Trekker” and “Hiking Log and Award Program” for Walworth and Jefferson County.

Now few things motivate a Scout more than a little 4 inch square patch for doing something ridiculous like walking 26 miles, so my son and I immediately began discussing how WE might do something so crazy!

The Ice Age Trail is one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the entire US, and its 1,000 mile meandering path is contained completely within the borders of Wisconsin. It’s path roughly conforms to the Southern-most boundary of the last glacier to cover Wisconsin some 10,000 years ago. And since the Trail covers so much of the state of Wisconsin, there are many things to see right along the trail as you hike it.

Hiking? Why of course! While the Walworth/Jefferson segment is only 26 miles long, the Hiking Merit Badge (an Eagle option) requires Scouts to make a foot journey of about 70 miles. (THAT is a lot of hiking!) So why not add on the Waukesha/Milwaukee Chapter’s program, “Walk the Wauk.” It’s another 45 miles and together you and your Scouts will discover some beautiful trails right near home.

And as long as you are walking nearly 70 beautiful miles of glacial trail, don’t forget to apply for the “50 Miler” and “Historic Trails” Awards as well! I wonder how many of these the Scout Shop sells each year – probably not too many! (The local trail associations will be happy to help you find Leave No Trace & Trail Conservation projects along the way as well.)

If you want to work your way up to one of the Ice Age Trail segments, perhaps you can take a look at the Devil’s Lake and Root River Hikes that the Badger Trails group hosts for Boy and Girl Scouts each year?

Maybe urban sightseeing is more your speed? Check out the Milwaukee History Trail, a great way to learn about where we live by tracing the footprints.

A few short 10 mile hikes will have you in perfect form before long! In fact, you may even find yourself applying for the “Century Club” patch – after completing 100 miles on foot. That 4 x 4 colorful patch would look great on a red jacket and be the perfect complement to those new hiking shoes you’re going to be buying next spring.