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Thousand-Miler Book Review:
Ice Age Trail Hiking

By Diane Spicer

This Thousand-Miler book review was written at the suggestion of the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking The Ice Age Trail was written by Melanie Radzicki McManus.

The book, nearly 300 pages in length, is available in paperback.

If you want to cut to the chase and order a copy of the book from Amazon, you can do so here (affiliate link).

Thousand Miler: Adventures Hiking The Ice Age Trail book coverBook cover used with permission

Thousand-Miler book review

I feel uniquely qualified to write this review, for two reasons:

  • I've already written about the merits of hiking the Ice Age Trail here.
  • I grew up a stone's throw from the northernmost area of the trail, in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As a result, I've hiked some of the Ice Age Trail and can attest to its geologic oddities.

As you can see, I have a strong bias in favor of getting the facts out about this little known long trail, a registered National Scenic Trail.

All of the opinions and observations in this review are my own, and I was not compensated in any way beyond receiving an advance review copy to read.

If you purchase your copy of the book here, HFH receives a small percentage of your purchase price but you pay nothing extra.

My intention, as with every book review on Hiking For Her, is to provide a seasoned hiker's perspective of a new book written about hiking.

Now let's get started on this Thousand-Miler book review!

book review details

The book follows one woman on her quest to break the speed record for thruhiking the 1,000+ mile Ice Age Trail (IAT).

She succeeded, thus earning not only her place in the "Thousand Miler" club but also bragging rights for finishing the trail end to end in 36 days.

Her thru hike was supported by her husband, parents, daughter, friends and others you will come to know as you share her daily musings and experiences on the IAT.

The author also shares history, geology and her hiking and running techniques, along with the details of how her body reacted to her relentless daily mileage.

Who should read this book

I can heartily recommend this book to several groups of hikers.

Skip down in this Thousand-Miler book review to find yourself.

  • It's possible that you will find yourself in several of these categories!

Thru hikers of all ages

A thru hiker is tough.

A thru hiker who completes a long trail in the face of set backs and adversity is even tougher.

And maybe a little bit (?) obsessed.

If you identify strongly with the following statements, you need to read Thousand-Miler:

  • Walking over thirty miles a day? No problem!
  • Oozy painful sores on both feet? Been there, done that.
  • Unmarked, sketchy trails bring out the best in me.
  • Why walk the entire trail when I can run, too?
  • Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail thru hikes are already notches on my hiking belt, but I'm itching for more.

Obviously, you need to join the Thousand Miler hall of fame!

This trail won't overwhelm you with huge vertical gain/loss days or challenge you with snow travel and icy stream crossings like the triad mentioned above.

But it will test your navigation skills, patience with trail conditions, and ability to make daily donations to the mosquito or tick population (depending on season) with a smile on your hot, sweaty face.

Wisconsinites and their neighbors

As mentioned, I grew up in the part of Michigan that overhangs Wisconsin.

  • I'm willing to bet that if I took a poll of Yoopers (affectionate name for U.P.'ers), most of them would give me blank stares in return for the words "Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail".

And I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Wisconsin born and bred folks also have no knowledge of this Trail.

  • The author gives several examples of this herself.
  • The most mind blowing was a man who literally lived right next to the trail!

The IAT is confined within the state boundaries, so every self respecting Wisconsin dweller should at least be aware of the amazing National Scenic Trail coiled within it.

It's likely that a segment of the trail is within easy driving distance from your home. What are you waiting for?

Midwest history buffs

Chapter 2, Birth of a Trail, is packed full of juicy details, just for hiking history buffs.

  • It includes a 1958 map sketched by Ray Zillmer, a man whose name is important in Ice Age Trail history.

Throughout the book, the author is generous with her descriptions of the cooperation it took for this trail to become reality.

And she gives full credit to the generosity and volunteer spirit keeping the Trail accessible today.

Hikers interested in high mileage hiking,
day after day

There's a special blend of physical and mental toughness that is required to be a long distance hiker.

  • Section hikers can tackle the Ice Age Trail in chunks, to fit their schedules.
  • Thru hikers can test the body's ability to absorb punishment mile after mile after mile, day after day, to finish the hike all in one go.

As a thru hiker/runner, Melanie shares the realities of devoting herself to coping with the aftermath of long days on the trail, including cellulitis, antibiotics, laser therapy, and impromptu visits to doctors along her hiking route.

If you've never pushed your body with repetitive motion and high mileage for weeks or months at a stretch, read this book. Then decide whether this adventure is for you, or not.

Note that this account of hiking the Ice Age Trail was a supported thru hike, meaning the author had dedicated helpers to meet her every day at trail junctions with cold water, food, clothing and footwear changes.

But another way to tackle this trail is to backpack, camping along the route and taking things at a slower pace to avoid foot and leg problems.

  • In this book, you'll meet some hikers who did just that.

Hikers seeking solitude

I was surprised by how few encounters with other hikers Melanie experienced as the days rolled by.

  • She began her hike in late summer and continued for over a month.
  • And she had the trail pretty much to herself! (Do mosquitoes count?)

Older female hikers

Are you a woman who loves to hike but doesn't want the crowded conditions of the PCT or AT?

Can't picture yourself taking 5 or more months out of your life to hike a long trail?

Take a close look at the Ice Age Trail. It has a lot of good things going for it:

  • The author was able to sleep in a comfortable bed and enjoy hot meals every day.
  • There were few physical hazards to deal with (no snow travel, extreme elevation, poisonous snakes or scorpions).
  • It's shorter than some of the other long trails, and as mentioned, section hiking is a viable option. A week here, a month there, and you'll chip away at it until it's completed.

You can use Thousand-Miler as your inspiration for what one woman over the age of 50 can accomplish with meticulous planning, assistance, and perseverance.

  • Watch for the "no spring chicken" line in the book, and laugh out loud like I did!
  • Older females will appreciate who delivered it.

Thousand-Miler book review:
who should skip this book

Despite its title promising adventure on a hiking trail, there are some hikers who might not want to read this book.

Gearheads and planners

If you're looking for details on which gear you will need to get onto the Ice Age Trail, nutrient requirements for high mileage days, or how to set up a daily mileage plan for backpacking, this book won't help you.

Although the author mentions using IAT guidebooks, she did not include the details.

Footwear was mentioned, and a few other hints for how to cope with repetitive motion injury and inflammation were given.

But the book was not written as a planning book for conquering the IAT.

Elevation junkies

This 1,100 mile trail will not get you into the high alpine terrain of the Sierras or Cascade mountain ranges of the western United States.

If you're hankering for descriptions of long views of snowy mountain peaks, or pondering how to test your knee cartilage against thousands of feet of elevation gain each day, this is not the book for you.

On the other hand, if you're searching for a completely different experience from mountainous hiking trails, tag along with the author as she describes the beauty and serenity of moments on the varied terrain of this trail.

Easily frustrated hikers

If you're thinking that hiking a relatively flat Midwestern trail would be an easy walk in a summer park, think again.

I really have to highlight in this Thousand-Miler book review how the author does a great job of detailing how difficult it was to navigate the poorly marked connecting sections of the Ice Age Trail - without lapsing into frustration and anger.

More set backs:

  • black bear encounters, relentless humidity, insects, missing trail blazes and confusing junctions.

These challenges will slow down IAT hikers to a crawl.

If you're easily frustrated by adjusting your daily mileage downward to accommodate unforeseen trail issues, you'll want to walk away from devoting weeks of your life to this trail.

On the other hand, if you're a self-identified "low threshold for frustration" hiker, use Melanie's story as a lesson in the value of persistence and dedication in conquering a big goal.

What I liked most
about this book

There were two aspects that made this book an enjoyable read.

First, the author deviated from her personal story on the Ice Age Trail to share glimpses into the trail experiences of other hikers, male and female, younger and older than herself.

  • I found this to be a refreshing break from many thruhiking books which bombard the reader with tedious day by day trail details.

The second reason I appreciated the opportunity to write this Thousand-Miler book review was Melanie's engaging writing style.

She was honest and plain spoken about her own foibles (dehydration related crabbiness, for example) and her reaction to the maddening lack of yellow trail blazes in certain areas.

Her writing clearly illustrates a universal hiking truth:

  • A little humor can save the day when things turn sour on the trail.
  • Ditto for a good hydration plan.

Thousand-Miler book review:
questions for me?

I've got lots more good things to say about this well written, entertaining Ice Age Trail hiking book.

So use this CONTACT link to send me your comments and questions. I read, and reply, to every one.

It's about time that the Ice Age Trail got this kind of exposure.

  • Hurrah for Melanie Radzicki McManus, thru hiker extraordinaire!

And thanks to the Wisconsin Historical Society for the opportunity to share this Thousand-Miler book review.

Get your copy here!

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Thousand-Miler Book Review: Ice Age Trail Hiking