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Mike Maziarka

Mike Maziarka spent Thursday evening packing rations at his parents' Baraboo home.

Mike Maziarka will spend the next 11 weeks hiking 1,200 miles across Wisconsin. But that won’t stop him from enjoying a little home cooking.

He’s taking part in a Warrior Hike, carrying dried food in a backpack as he journeys the entire Ice Age Trail from St. Croix Falls to Sturgeon Bay. He’ll get a break from crackers and energy bars in July, when the trip brings him through Devil’s Lake State Park and Baraboo.

His parents, U.S. Army veterans Jim and Ginny Maziarka, will be waiting with a feast. “We’re 100 percent behind him,” she said.

Like his parents, Mike is a U.S. Army veteran, an artillery mechanic who served in Afghanistan. He’s also a college student in La Crosse and an avid hiker. When he learned about Warrior Expeditions, a nonprofit that helps veterans achieve peace of mind through outdoors excursions, he couldn’t wait to apply.

He was selected after an interview, and on Sunday will begin the hike alongside a Marine Corps rifleman from Indiana. On Thursday evening, Mike visited his parents’ Birnamwoods Drive home to pack his rations. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Every single day I’m getting more amped to hit the trail.”

The duo will hit the trail with backpacks carrying 1.5 pounds of dry food for each day, all provided by Warrior Expeditions. Along the way they’ll make stops at local VFW posts, where they’ll get a chance to rest, shower and recharge. Mike plans to blog about his “rucksack to backpack” journey along the way.

One of those stops will come July 1 in Portage. That week, he’ll get to visit his family. “I think it’s pretty cool,” his father Jim said of the voyage.

Warrior Expeditions was founded to help military veterans transition from their military service. It was inspired by World War II veteran Earl Shaffer, who in 1948 became the first person to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail from George to Maine. Shaffer said he wanted to “walk off the war.”

Mike Maziarka, who went backpacking in Grand Teton National Park last year, said there’s much to be said for clearing one’s head. “The therapeutic benefits are proven,” he said. “I’m ecstatic to be part of this.”

Baraboo News Republic Senior Reporter

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