You could say Pat Witkowski wears her passion for the Ice Age Trail on her sleeve, if it wasn’t also on her shirt, her hat, her backpack and all over her car. She had never heard of the Ice Age Trail before going for a run in a state forest with a friend and passing by a trailhead. “She told me that it was the Ice Age trail but to never take it because it doesn’t come back,” recalls Witkowski. “I guess that intrigued me a little bit.”
She took the trail and her friend was right-she didn’t come back. “I just decided I was going to hike the entire Ice Age trail so over the next year I section hiked the entire 1,200 miles of the trail.”
The Ice Age Trail runs through 31 counties as it follows the edge of the last glacier to form Wisconsin’s landscape 12,000 years ago. Witkowski became just the 23rd person to complete the entire trail.
After experiencing how poor the trail is in places, she found a new passion. “I started volunteering almost immediately.” It didn’t take long for Pat to become the coordinator of trail maintenance for the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter.
The best way to let people enjoy the trail is to make sure they can find it and stay on it. The Ice Age Trail crosses private, county, state and federal land, through downtowns and forests-so trail markers are crucial.
Four years ago Witkowski asked for volunteers to help paint yellow blazes on trees and posts. A small group said they were interested. This group of ladies meets once a week to paint and pull buckthorn.
“They have really set the standard for, for good signage,” says Witkowski. “We want the signage to be the same throughout the entire 1,000 miles of the trail. One time I just called us the Blazing Babes and the name stuck!”
The Blazing Babes don’t discriminate. “We don’t exclude men. My husband could be a Blazing–he’s a babe.”