Cromers, Jopeks cited for 40 years of work with Ice Age Trail|
|Two couples instrumental in the formation of the Ice Age Trail in Langlade County have been honored for their services.|
Dr. Robert and Dede Cromer and Joe and Peg Jopek have been recognized by the Ice Age Trail Alliance for 40 years of volunteerism, developing and promoting the trail in Langlade County.
The state award was presented during the Alliance’s annual meeting held April 10 through 13 in Sturgeon Bay. Also honored were Lloyd Godell of Bryant, In-The-Mud recipient; John Barker of Antigo, 750 Volunteers-In-Parks hours; and Bill Roff of Bryant, 100 hours Volunteers-In-Parks.
A local event will be held in October when the chapter will celebrate its 40th anniversary. At that time, special patches will be awarded to hikers who make two of the three outings scheduled for the year. The first was held April 26, with additional opportunities on Sept. 6 and Oct. 4.
Joe Jopek began his involvement “when the trail was but a dream,” he said, considering it central to his role of county resource agent.
“My thinking was, if we had a trail of that nature, we might appeal to a segment of population that wasn’t being accommodated at that time,” Jopek said. “Plus Langlade County had some unique geographical features that made it a natural location for trail development.”
That “business” interest soon grew into a passion, Peg Jopek said, to the point where, at the awards banquet, she was referred to as “Mrs. Ice Age Trail.”
Dr. Cromer was recruited as the chairman of the local chapter, which held its first official meeting in December, 1974.
“I’ve always been interested in hiking,” Cromer said. “I have hiked many miles.”
Understanding the Ice Age Trail requires some geological gymnastics.
As late as 15,000 years ago—just a blink in the epochean eye—much of northern North America lay under an embrace of ice.
Wisconsin was not spared from those icy fingers, which clawed at the landscape repeatedly in a span of 2 million years. The ice reached its greatest extent about 14,000 to 16,000 years ago, covering about two-thirds of the Badger State.
It wasn’t one great covering of ice, but rather lobes, that were directed into various lowlands by the uplands of the Bayfield, Keweenaw and Door peninsula. The Wisconsin Valley, Langlade and Green Bay lobes all converged on this area and creating stunning landscapes such as the Crocker Hills and the broad outwash plain known as the Antigo Flats. The glaciers formed the ridges known as moraines and left chunks of ice buried deeply in debris, creating the kettle lakes that dot the region.
While the topography dates back eons, the actual Ice Age Trail itself has a far shorter history, with the formation of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation in summer, 1958.
Originally there was a push to establish Moraine National Park but that effort was doomed to failure. Instead, support gradually grew for creation of a trail system that hugged the glacial lobes that had enveloped much of the state.
The route, which still existed mostly on paper rather than on the ground, was designated a National Scenic Trail—one of only nine in the nation—in 1980.
Today, visitors to the County of Trails can trod where the mammoths and mastodons ambled among five separate Ice Age Trail segments, which are interconnected with the exception of a short blacktop detour north of Summit Lake.
The Kettlebowl segment begins at Polar and extends northeast to Highway 52. It is a stunning walk, featuring deep-sided depressions known as kettles and mature hardwoods. It’s a climb, starting at an elevation of 1,550 feet and gradually rising to over 1,700 feet and passing near the highest point in Langlade County at Kent.
The Lumbercamp segment takes its name from the remnant of the Norem Lumbercamp and runs from Highway 52 to Highway A. The segment passes through mature hardwood forests and exemplifies the rugged terrain left by the last ice sheet.
Continuing west, hikers will enter the Old Railroad segment running from Highway A to Highway 45, a distance of 9.5 miles. It receives its name, appropriately, from the railroad grade which it follows. Original wooden ties and iron spikes can been seen along some points of the trail.
From Highway 45 to Highway T is the 12.3 mile Highland Lakes segment, the only incomplete portion of the county system. Western terminus is Town Line Lake.
The final segment is Parrish Hills, 12 miles between Highway T and the Lincoln County line a mile west of Parrish. It is named after the Parrish End Moraine through which it travels and includes a ford over the Prairie River, crossing two beaver dams and following the edge of some large wetlands.
The paperwork is already in the pipeline to extend the trail from Polar southwest to join with the Marathon County segments, a lengthy process that may take many more years of planning, hours of meetings and negotiations with landowners and reams of paperwork to accomplish.
When completed—someday—the entire Ice Age Trail will measure 1,000 miles and wind its way through 23 counties.
From left, Peg and Joe Jopek with Dr. Robert and Dede Cromer, all honored for 30 years of involvement with the Ice Age Trail.
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