One of my personal goals for the year was to do a lot of hiking on the Ice Age Trail.

I’m not sure I could’ve picked a better time to focus on an outdoor solitary pursuit. The most relaxed and at peace I have felt in these past few trying months is when I’ve been out on the trail.

I started hiking the trails around in and around Verona in early March. At the time, there was still some snow and ice left on the ground, and worries about the coronavirus were starting become more and more real.

I have found the act of walking – just moving forward through space – to be so helpful to me mentally when it seemed like so many aspects of life were stuck or on hold during the pandemic. Hiking didn’t make my stress go away completely, but being outside – especially alone on the trail – turned the volume down on it for a while.

To be fair, I wasn’t really hiking alone. Occasionally, I convinced one of my family members to join me. But my most reliable hiking partner is my sweet dog Callie.

It is hard not to have my spirits lift when she is just so happy to be hitting the trail. As soon as she sees me grab my hiking boots, she’s up and at the door with her tail wagging.

If history were recorded by dogs, the winter and spring of 2020 would be regarded as a time of great happiness, when the family pack was all together and there were lots of walks and affection.

We are lucky to have such a fantastic natural resource right in our backyards here in Verona. The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail and one of only two long-distance trails in the United States that are contained within a single state.

The trail meanders its way from Potowatami State Park in Door County through 31 counties to the western terminus in Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls, about 1,200 miles later. It follows the edge of the glacier during the last Ice Age.

But you don’t have to go that far afield; there are so many good hikes in and around Verona. I especially like the Montrose segment and the Verona segment that runs along the Badger Mill Creek.

It will be a lot of years before I’m able to hike all 1,200 miles of the Ice Age Trail, but I made a pretty good start this spring and followed the trail all through Dane and Green counties. There are lots of beautiful forest and prairie sections (and plenty of hills), but the trail also takes you through small towns, along country roads, past many farms and sometimes through suburban backyards. It’s a view of the community you don’t get to see in any other way.

I’ve lived in Dane County for more than 25 years, and every mile I walked on the Ice Age Trail took me someplace I had never been before.

I’ve finished all the trail segments close to home, and now that the pandemic restrictions are loosening up, I’m looking forward to planning some weekend camping trips this summer and getting in some more Ice Age Trail miles. As the great John Muir said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

Stacey Burkart is the director of the Verona Public Library.