The Ice Age Trail is blazed in yellow. White blazes mark side paths that rejoin the main trail; blue indicates spurs to points of interest.
Trailblazers are innovators, pathfinders, pioneers, firsts in any endeavor. Among these synonyms, trailblazer stands alone in its focus on marking the track to guide others. Only distantly related to the blaze of a blazing fire, the second half of trailblazer comes from the blaze or white stripe on the face of a horse. Wilderness explorers chipped away bark to leave similar white marks on trees, so later travelers could follow their route. Today they use paint or signposts.
I’m thankful to the many who scout the Ice Age Trail route, acquire land rights, open and maintain the path, build boardwalks and bridges, and clear dispersed camping areas for long-distance backpackers. Perhaps most often, day hiking through unfamiliar terrain, I feel gratitude to the trailblazers who help me avoid getting lost.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.