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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 69.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Ice Age Trail: Revised edition
New guidebooks update trail progress
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Hanson: The trail serves our need for adventure.
Hanson: The trail serves our need for adventure.

Andrew Hanson has the look of someone allowing himself a few moments to savor recent accomplishments before returning to the next tasks at hand. That's how it is blazing the Ice Age Trail. As soon as another segment is established, maintenance begins, and there is another goal to achieve.

As trailway director for the Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation, Hanson, 41, has devoted much of the past year to shepherding three books to publication. He edited the second edition of the Ice Age Trail Atlas, a collection of more than 100 full-color maps detailing current trail segments and the roads connecting them. He also co-edited the third edition of the Ice Age Trail Companion Guide.

With the foundation celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Hanson may be most proud of Along Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail, the coffee-table collection of photographs and essays he co-edited for the University of Wisconsin Press. "I think it documents how the trail is progressing," he explains. "It shows the trail is not a dream. It's here to stay."

Bart Smith's photographs, along with essays by the likes of emeritus UW geology professor David Mickelson and environmental historian Sarah Mittlefehldt, are bound to inspire readers to venture out on the trail. For those who do, the revised atlas and companion guide are all but indispensable.

First published in 2005, the revised Ice Age Trail Atlas ($35) has been reimagined in a three-ring binder format, so updated maps can be added as work on the trail continues. For the first time, Hanson says, the atlas shows the trail's entire length from Polk County to Door County - more than 1,000 snaking miles, about two-thirds of it trail segments, the remainder roads linking established segments together.

"It's hard to hike much of the trail without a map," Hanson says, "and I think it's good for people to use a map and have some basic knowledge of geography. The trail helps us understand the geography of Wisconsin. It's a conservation project, but it's also a geography thing."

The atlas renders this clear. It includes new trail segments, such as one enticing 10-mile stretch from Two Rivers through Point Beach State Forest along Lake Michigan to Manitowoc's Rahr School Forest. "A lot of it is along the beach," says Hanson.

Other updates to the atlas include some rerouted trail segments, and changes to some services, such as campgrounds and other resources. And the atlas contains a gazetteer of names for sites and features noted on the maps.

The revised Ice Age Trail Companion Guide ($20) remains spiral-bound. The chief merit of this, Hanson explains, is "being able to back-bend it." Folding it back on itself renders it easier to hold and consult. It's also more robust, running to almost 350 pages - about 100 more than the previous edition.

Among the new features are introductions to each county's trail segments and connecting routes, charted with mileage and indexed to the corresponding page in the atlas. Descriptions of each trail segment are rich with information on everything from trailhead access to resources along the trail, like food, lodging, medical services and points of interest.

But perhaps the greatest improvement to the Companion Guide is in its appendix, which includes an index of GPS waypoints cited throughout the text. As a tool for finding trailheads, services and points of interest, these resources may prove themselves among the guide's most indispensable.

Available from the foundation at www.iceagetrail.org, the atlas and companion guide represent an investment of countless working hours by scores of contributors. The revisions and improvements are significant enough, Hanson says, that "even if you have the old editions and plan to go out hiking, you need the new editions."

The trail remains a work in progress, he points out. Hanson is determined to see the Ice Age Trail completed. "I think there is a human desire for adventure," he says. Whether you embark on some far-flung expedition or a hike on the Ice Age Trail, "you are satisfying the quest for adventure."

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