Monday, December 1, 2014

Great Eastern Trail vs. Ice Age Trail

The Differences             
Great Eastern Trail


  • 1,600-ish miles, Alabama to New York

  • Generally painted blazes of every color: red, orange, yellow, gold, green, blue, purple, white


  • High point 4,300 ft

  • Months of prep recommended to gather together the needed resources


  • About 20 shelters

  • A few outfitters on or near the trail


  • Locals generally unaware of the GET

  • 3-4 months needed to thruhike
Ice Age Trail


  • 1,100-ish miles, Wisconsin to . . . Wisconsin!

  • Yellow blazes that may be painted or plastic markers on trees, on stakes, may be different shapes

  • High point 1,920 ft

  • Thorough map and guidebook available for purchase, free updates and hiker notes from volunteers

  • A few shelters

  • I don't know of an outfitter along the trail; REI accessible by a long shuttle


  • Locals more generally familiar with the IAT

  • 2-3 months needed to thruhike


The Similarities

  • The Ice Age Trail and the GET have much more in common than I would have guessed.  Most importantly, with both trails, were the people.  I feel like each trail I hike brings wonderful lifelong friends into my life, and the IAT was no exception.  
  • These trails are also both lonely.  While Devils Lake (IAT) may always be comparatively crowded and the Thousand Steps (GET) is a popular dayhike, neither of these trails boast many long-distance hikers.  I met 4 on the Ice Age Trail.
  • Easy resupply due to frequent town visits - just one section on each trail that is dicey for resupply
  • Challenging camping situations at times due to private land or public land where camping is not allowed
  • Maps are a necessity - neither the GET nor the IAT is fully blazed (this mostly applies to connecting roadwalks but there are wooded sections that are unblazed or underblazed
  • Both trails have an element of choose-your-own-adventure, as the connecting roadwalks are often unofficial and you can link the trail together by foot as you like.
  • Both trails have a bifurcation!  East or west, which will you choose?
  • They have similar ideal seasons for hiking: spring or autumn are your best bets to avoid ticks, heat, and mosquitoes.
  • Both are routed through a large city (Chattanooga for the GET, Janesville & Madison for the IAT)

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