Journal

Buckeye Trail Trail Blog Post #1

Nearly 100 miles completed… mostly on the multi-use path that many of you know as the Little Miami Scenic Trail (LMST). Having grown up in the area, it was great to get a different perspective… and actually walk through many towns that I’ve only briefly passed by in an automobile. Places such as Milford, Loveland, Morrow, and Oregonia.

At Caesar Creek, the trail heads to the lake, skirting the north shore for approximately 13 miles. This was our first taste of actual trail, unpaved and often muddy or blocked by large trees that were felled in a recent storm. It was nice being so close to the water, which afforded us the opportunity to cool off with a swim.

Before parting ways with the lake, we had our first support stop at VFW Post 1646 in Harveysburg. We received a very warm welcome and all the food we could eat… which is quite a lot for us hikers. Suffering from a self-induced food coma, we called it a night to get some much needed rest.

The next day, after putting Caesar Creek behind us, we passed through Spring Valley… a town I’ve never been to until now, and actually had never even heard of. From there, we were back on the paved LMST, where the miles passed quickly as we made our way to Xenia for our first night of stealth camping, conveniently behind a church. Gotta do what we gotta do!

From Xenia, it was on to Yellow Springs – a quirky town with cafes, a great brewery and a store that sells metaphysical rocks. While in town, we nearly ran into Dave Chapelle while walking down the sidewalk. Some of you may have heard of him.

Looking forward to week two, where we will venture to Springfield, Fairborn, Dayton, and finally, Vandalia… to wrap up the week.

 

Buckeye Trail Trail Blog Post #2

After leaving Yellow Springs, recognizing that the paper maps directed us west to Dayton and the online maps directed us north to Springfield; we chose to go north, thinking that an online resource would be more current than a paper map from 2013. Later, we found out that the trail no longer goes to Springfield. Interesting that a paper map would be more current than the online version! No worse for wear as we got to see more of Ohio can you ever see enough?! Despite a lot of negative visuals in and around Springfield, the people were nice enough. We even had a free lunch, which was provided by the owner of a local cafe. Hiking out of town, two separate people stopped and handed us bottles of cold water. Quite a welcome gesture.

Somewhere after Springfield we passed the 100 mile mark. Typically a time for a photo op, but I can’t quite tell you when or where it even occurred. The road miles were ticking away easy to do on a long, flat highway swallowed by wooded plots, fields of crops, and the commercialized ugliness of American suburbia. Not to mention the heat. It is thick and relentless we are almost never dry while hiking. At least we are constantly reminded to stay hydrated. Speaking of hydration, at the end of the day, we wandered by the Boone Saloon. We figured this would be a great place to ask the locals about any possible camping spots nearby. An hour later, we had not only been provided a place to camp, but also pizza and beer at Mad River Adventures, a canoe livery between Springfield and Dayton.

Entering Fairborn, knowing that places to stay would be severely limited in the greater Dayton area, I shot out an email to a couple of trail angels… just to give them a heads up that we would be downtown the following day. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a trail angel is someone that is known to provide assistance (of any kind) on a long trail. The assistance they provide, whether it’s food and drink, a ride to the store, whatever… is called “trail magic” and it is often what keeps a hiker putting one foot in front of the other on a rough day.

In Fairborn, we opted to get a hotel room so we could grab a shower and do laundry. This turned out to be a prescient decision as a strong storm with high winds came rolling through in the evening. Our tents almost certainly would not have withstood it. Before the night was done, one of the trail angels responded with promising news that he’d have something arranged for us in Dayton. This was a huge weight off of our shoulders, knowing we more than likely would not end up trying to blend in with the homeless on the streets of downtown.

The following day, thanks to the storm, we hiked out in cool weather. Though, it didn’t take long for the humidity to return and at our halfway point for the day, it was time for our break which we had planned for the National Air Force Museum. I can’t remember the last time I had been there it all looked new to me. It’s a fantastic museum, and a must see for anyone interested in the history of Army Air Corps/Air Force aviation, as well as space exploration. An hour and a half didn’t give us much time, but hiking was on the agenda and we had a schedule to keep.

Nearing our final destination for the day, we came to the pedestrian bridge at Deed’s Point and noticed a small group of people were paying particular attention to us, snapping photos and mysteriously staying just ahead of our route. It wasn’t the first time we’ve had gawkers on the trail. Not a lot of people even know about the Buckeye Trail so you can probably imagine the attention and questions we get on a daily basis. As we approached it became apparent that those people were not gawkers… they were there just for us! Flags waving and banner in hand, our trail angel and volunteers from Five Rivers MetroParks gave us an outstanding welcome into Dayton. Not only that, but donations from local hikers made it possible for us to stay in a hotel downtown. We also received tickets to the Dayton Dragons baseball game, and some spending money!

The timing could not have been better. As a matter of fact, since we were a day ahead of schedule, we decided to take a zero (no hiking for the day) while in the Dayton area. Another local hiker offered to let us stay with her on Friday and also took us out for drinks and dinner on Thursday and Friday nights. The kindness and hospitality of people was beyond anything I could imagine. It will be hard to top the experience we had in Dayton!

On Saturday, it was time to continue on. From Deed’s Point we walked north along the Great Miami River Recreational Trail, aka “the bike path.” The Buckeye Trail follows the bike path all the way to Piqua. Our next planned stop with our trail supporter was scheduled for that night. Some good folks from VFW Post 9582 in Vandalia picked us up from the trailhead and took us to a hotel nearby… and then to dinner, although after 12 miles of hiking on a hot day, we were fighting to stay awake.

Another week done. It already feels like we’ve been out here for a month. It’s a good feeling and reminds me of a quote from Seneca… “Life is long if you know how to use it.”

If there was a theme for this past week… it is “the good in people.” Our utmost appreciation goes out to those supporters mentioned and the people that will never know the impact of their random acts of kindness. Pay it forward!

 

Buckeye Trail Trail Blog Post #3

From Vandalia to Delphos… the week has been a blur. We’ve passed the 200 mile mark a lot of those miles being along the Miami to Erie Canal. There’s a lot of history on the trail, mostly relating to the canal and forts from the time of the French and Indian War, as well as the war of 1812.

We are passing through unique, small towns nearly everyday. There are so many welcoming people… even though it is obvious that not many hikers come through the area. We’ve been helped by passing motorists and people that have taken an interest in our journey… almost on a daily basis.

In Minster, we were welcomed by another trail angel, who invited us to his home and also took us out for dinner. We were also invited to a Sons of American Legion meeting where we could share a little bit of our story and talk about why we are hiking.

In Fort Loramie, we stopped at the lake and camped in the state park. I caught a couple of fish and spotted a Bald Eagle. So glad I brought the fishing gear with me as it has been used to pass the time on several occasions.

In Delphos, we were warmly welcomed by members of VFW Post 3035. The hospitality they provided was second to none. Also, Delphos has the best ice cream around, from a place called The Creamery. I consider myself an expert on the subject.

It’s hot! Several days this past week have had a triple digit heat index. We wake early, knock out the miles and try to be done by midday. It’s working so far, but night hiking might be a possibility in the coming weeks. Public swimming pools have been the best way to cool off. I also went for a swim in the Auglaize River.

We are now in Defiance, which is as far to the northwest as we will be in Ohio. Tomorrow, we start heading east toward Bowling Green. One corner down!

 

Buckeye Trail Trail Blog Post #4

One month down. Each day brings new sights and new challenges. I’m seeing a side of Ohio that I could never have imagined. Interesting history, kind people, and an unforgiving trail.

A trail that is nothing like I thought it would be. It’s hard… literally, as much of it is on paved roads and bike paths. My feet have never been this damaged – it’s a near constant battle to keep them under me. Due to the heat and amount of walking on hard surfaces, my feet have expanded one full shoe size.

On a positive note, the location of the trail as it goes through countless cities and towns, brings about a lot of opportunities for social interaction. This benefits us in many ways… such as in providing places to stay and expanding our network of supporters for those that hike this trail after us. It also allows us to carry less weight, since there are so many places to get what we need on a daily basis. After dispensing with some items I wasn’t using frequently enough to warrant carrying, my total pack weight is now hovering around 22 lbs (on average).

Our support network has been amazing. Our relentless progress and successes on the trail are largely credited to those that have helped us along the way. And we continue to meet people who offer assistance and open their homes to us… or at a minimum allow us to camp on their land.

I’m now looking forward to getting over to the east side of the state… and some new terrain, and hopefully more trail with less road walks.

 

Buckeye Trail Blog Post #5

This past week, after leaving Norwalk, I continued my “off trail” adventure… taking a bike path called the North Coast Inland Trail. First, let’s backtrack a bit — I had originally left the Buckeye Trail near Fremont, Ohio… a few days before Norwalk; deciding that I wanted to do less road walking, hoping that my feet would improve, as well as giving me a chance to take another day off. I walked for several days through Clyde, Bellevue, and Monroeville… ending up in Norwalk. This was nearly 35 miles in croc flip-flops that were covered in all manners of tape to keep them from rubbing my feet raw… and then I tried another pair of lightweight sandals, but they didn’t help the situation much. The thing is, I knew that if I could get off of my feet for at least a day and a half, I’d have a much better length of time to allow for healing. That was the plan!

The bike path was mostly paved, with some large sections of gravel… and a few places where walking on a road was inevitable. But, overall this turned out to be a great decision. From Norwalk, I passed through Collins… camped in Wakeman, then walked through Kipton on my way to Oberlin, where I got a hotel room downtown and found some shoes that just felt right… finally! The next day, I had a long walk, but I played my cards right and was able to take a day and a half off in Elyria… two nights in a hotel where I could get my feet somewhat squared away.

From Elyria, I put in a 21 mile day all road walk, in 90+ degree heat and humidity to get to Berea. Some of you may have seen the photo of my foot in a bag of ice. Well, that was at mile 18. It definitely helped me get through that day. One foot was still pretty bad while the other was almost completely healed. The good thing I could tell it would only be a few more days and my feet wouldn’t be too big of an issue. After putting in three more miles, I stealth camped in a park… just in time as a storm rolled through, the sound of rain drops helping me to fall asleep.

The next day, I then got on the trails of the Emerald Necklace, which is a series of parks and green spaces that nearly encircle Cleveland. That path took me right back to the Buckeye Trail near Brecksville. About 23 miles later and I found a place to stealth camp near Sagamore Hills. From there, it was an average mileage day to Solon, where our next VFW stop was scheduled, this past Saturday. Took the day off on Sunday… knowing it would be easier to make up the lost miles over the coming week.

In closing, it was a very tough and trying week. But now the feet are feeling much better… and so I’m way more motivated and eager to get the miles behind me. Now, looking forward to reaching Lake Erie in the next day or so, then turning south to trek down the east side of the state. The 500 mile mark has passed… won’t be long until the halfway point!

 

Buckeye Trail Blog Post #6

The past week has sailed by! After hiking out of Solon, I continued north along the Emerald Necklace on the east side of Cleveland… passing through Hunting Valley and Gates Mills. The first night, I camped at the North Chagrin Reservation near Squire Castle, which was built in the 1890s and was intended to be the gatekeeper’s house for an estate that was never built.

The next day, I detoured off the trail a bit to see the Airborne Bridge in Mentor. Later in the day I made it to the Northern Terminus on the shore of Lake Erie at Headlands Beach State Park. After camping near the lake, I turned south, passing through Grand River, Painesville, and finally stopping for the night in Chardon.

The following day, between Chardon and Burton, I stopped for a midday break at East Branch Reservoir. While there, I caught a couple of small bass and saw more bald eagles I’ve seen quite a few in northeast Ohio. Heading south, I noticed more and more Amish, and even saw a group playing volleyball. I found out later that the area is home to the 4th largest Amish community in the USA. In Burton, I camped at Century Village, an authentic representation of a Western Reserve Village from 1798 to the end of the 19th century.

The day after hiking out of Burton, I caught a ride to Aurora for our next VFW meet up. Fortunately, I had some time to kill and was able to take the entire weekend off. On Monday, I got dropped off at the point where I left off, and continued hiking south to Mantua and then Ravenna, where I veered off the trail to take a bike path instead of road walking.

Over the next several days, I’ll continue on the path which is actually an alternate route of the Buckeye Trail. This section of the trail cuts through the southern Cuyahoga Valley. Staying on this route will take me to another canal towpath and finally to the trailhead closest to my destination for Saturday… New Philadelphia, Ohio.

 

Buckeye Trail Blog Post #7

Over halfway!

After taking a day off in New Philadelphia, I continued south over the Zoarville Station Bridge, out along hilly, rural roads to Sherrodsville where I finished the day just as a storm front passed. Taking shelter in a gas station, I watched the winds swirl and the rain fall before catching a ride to my evening accommodations; a small camper just big enough for me. Perfect.

The next day, I caught a ride back to Sherrodsville, and resumed hiking with a plan to go 20+ miles to Lake Tappan. All road walk with more ups and downs. Around 7pm that evening, I arrived in Deersville… and went straight to the general store, knowing exactly what I wanted. Earlier in the day, during a break at a small town restaurant, I was given great advice… “make sure you get the ice cream in Deersville.” After downing a large mint chocolate chip milkshake, I was fortunate enough to meet a local who introduced me to the owner of the Union Bell Hotel. As luck would have it, she had an empty cabin in the woods just down the road. My “home” for the night. Perfect… again.

The following morning, I set off to the south, hitting the trail near Lake Clendening… getting in some fishing along the way catching nothing by the way. After moving beyond the lake, the trail merged with a road; another long road walk, and another lake as my destination. After 15 miles, I arrived at Piedmont Lake… where the proprietor of a local inn was offering a free stay, and a ride to Freeport for supplies. It just kept getting better!

The next day, I continued southwest, mostly on gravel roads… 20+ miles; making my way to Old Washington. From there, I caught a ride to Cambridge where I am now. Here, I’ll rest and resupply before resuming my hike. As well, I’ve already worn through my latest pair of shoes so a new pair will be necessary. Soon, longer sections of rural area will begin a mix of gravel roads and trail, with little opportunity for resupply. Best to get those shoes now!

Over all, the last week has been fantastic. This part of the trail is markedly varied when it comes to terrain… and lots of tree cover to provide much needed shade. I’ve said it before, but the people along the path continue to amaze me with their kindness and hospitality. The people make the trail, in more ways than one!

 

Buckeye Trail Blog Post #8

It has been about two weeks since my last post. I’ve been in a more remote part of the trail, some of it being in the Wayne National Forest in southeast OH. I’m feeling good overall, but my feet took another turn for the worse… which I’ll touch on in a bit.

On the 2nd, I caught a ride from our Buffalo, OH VFW contact who took me back to where I stopped the day prior. After he dropped me off, I hiked south to Seneca Lake, my goal for the day. I’d picked up some new shoes the evening prior so it was good to have a short day for testing them out. Back in Cambridge that evening, it was nice to know I would have another day off at a hotel. Saturday was the scheduled dinner at the VFW, where we would meet a lot of nice folks. They pulled out all the stops, with steak and potatoes served, and a dozen or so supporters showing up. It was a great chance to talk about the hike, the Buckeye Trail, and Warrior Expeditions.

The following morning back on the trail, I could tell it was going to be another hot one. I put in a long day, walking from Seneca Lake to Belle Valley… stopping for the night to camp at Wolf Run State Park. The place was packed being Labor Day Weekend, but I secured a camping spot and was able to grab a shower before calling it a night. The next day I was up at dawn to pack up and walk down the hill to Belle Valley where I ate breakfast at a local joint, Marianne’s Food Station. Being right on the trail, a couple of people inside inquired about my hike. It is always interesting to see people’s reactions when they find out about this journey. Many who live on the trail know nothing about it. After breakfast, I stopped at the gas station next door and picked up enough water and electrolyte drinks for the long day ahead.

Departing Belle Valley, I hiked a few miles and stopped at Caldwell Lake, and of course I had to break out my fishing gear. I saw quite a few fish but none were interested in what I was offering. Leaving the lake, I continued south and east along the trail, which is all on rural roads in the area along what is called the Road Fork Section. As the day wore on, my feet were starting to hurt quite a bit more than usual. Another few days of 90+ degree temps was doing a number on them. There’s a lot of factors but the gist of it is my feet swell up to the point that blisters form where my toes are pushed up against or under adjacent toes, as well as where my heels are rubbing on the inside of the shoe. It’s worse when on the asphalt roads or country roads with large gravel… where it’s like walking on golf balls. You can treat as you go, but eventually you just get tired of stopping all the time… when you’re there to hike, you just have to press on and cover the miles, ignoring the pain as much as possible.

Nearing the end of the day, the heat had sapped my remaining energy so I started looking for a place to camp. As I approached Fulda, I could see a lot of commotion up the hill at a church. Even though it was about a half mile off the trail, it was definitely time for me to camp so I headed that way to see if there might be someone who could help. If there is one thing that’s been reinforced on this trail, it’s that interacting with the locals often leads to finding the best places to stay (and eat). Once at the church, it was obvious there was a Labor Day picnic in progress… and it seemed everyone from town was there. About 20 minutes and a couple of conversations later, I had met the Father that lived next to the church and he approved of me camping there for the night. They were also serving food and cold drinks so everything worked out very well. Martin ended up hiking in and camping there for the night as well. A bit later after everyone had went home, a friendly barn cat really just a kitten, wandered up to investigate. That cat ended up trying to get in my tent with me most of the night.

Continuing on the next day, I hiked southeast another 20 miles on rural roads, stopping to camp at Lamping Homestead in the Wayne National Forest. By this time, I was short on water so I pulled three liters from a nearby creek, treated it with bleach and kept two liters in reserve just in case I couldn’t find a good source the next morning. Now, I was in the mood for a warm meal. But… I had shipped my stove home several weeks back I just wasn’t using it nearly enough to justify the weight. On this night I needed some carbs so I started a fire, got some coals going and boiled water in a clean aluminum can I had found earlier alongside the road a few miles back… hobo style. I always carry a bag or two of instant mashed potatoes for just such an occasion. That really hit the spot and helped me fall asleep… as I crashed out for the night without the sounds of civilization that had been so common up to this point.

The next several days were a blur as my feet continued to worsen. I made the tough decision to hike out of the Wayne National Forest, toward State Route 7, which is the scenic byway that would take me directly to Marietta. I was off the trail by five miles or so but this alternate route would put me closer to a couple of small towns. This would enable me to take better care of my damaged feet and get help if I needed it. Fortunately, the highway had a wide shoulder and I made fairly good time covering about 30 miles over the next couple of days… putting me in Marietta a day early. I checked in to our host hotel, dropped my gear and linked up with the contact at the local VFW, ensuring he knew my situation. The next morning I picked up some Epsom salts and started working on my feet. And by that, I mean getting off of them as much as possible. This would prove harder than I thought. Luckily, it all worked out and I didn’t have to do too much walking on Saturday. The VFW put on a dinner… baked steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. Also, the Sternwheel Festival was in full swing just down the road, so there was a lot going on.

On Sunday, I was mentally ready to go again. My feet not so much. But, as in my previous battle with them… I would prove victorious in the end. Lots of tape, some ibuprofen and a good dose of willpower, and I covered 12 miles from Marietta to Whipple, catching a ride back to Marietta for one more night in a hotel and another chance to treat my feet. And then yesterday, after breakfast at the VFW and being dropped off in Whipple, I hit the trail running. Not literally… but with a steadfast determination and desire to get some miles behind me. Last night, after a 22 mile day, a veteran saw me walking by and stopped to offer me a place to stay. Once again, the people along the path make this experience what it is.

It’s Tuesday and I’m a little bit behind schedule as this week progresses. I’ll make that up over the next couple of days as I pass through Stockport, on my way to Burr Oak State Park… then a stop in at the Buckeye Trail Association in Shawnee before the weekend and a VFW stop in Nelsonville. The blisters are still there but not as bad as before. As the temps drop, I’ll get ahead of my feet and they’ll stop whining so much. The walk goes on… in cooler temps, which is going to make this hike much, much better!

 

Buckeye Trail Blog Post #9

When I last posted, I was closing in on Stockport, Ohio. I’m now just south of Chillicothe… having covered approximately 165 miles on both trail and road. From Burr Oak State Park to Tar Hollow State Forest, there’s been a lot of amazing trail the best in the state, in my opinion. There’s also been some hellish trail that left me breathless… in a bad way. It’s also been hot, again… with a few more days hitting 90, and my feet taking yet another turn for the worse. I’ll just call these last couple of weeks, “delight and delirium.”

At Stockport, I left the Muskingum River valley, climbing up and out, heading west on rural roads and finally reaching some trail near Burr Oak lake. My destination for the day was the State Park, where I had planned to camp but didn’t have to when they offered me a room in the lodge. Perfect timing as some rain came through. The next day, I continued down the trail encircling the lake to the south, crossing the dam and then hiking a mix of trail and roads making my way to Shawnee.

At Shawnee, I camped behind a carry-out where I had the best pizza sub sandwich. But, at this point in the hike, every meal seems to be the “new” best. The next day, I stopped in at the Buckeye Trail Association (BTA). I had an enjoyable time there… talking about the trail over coffee and then lunch. The BTA is doing their best to make this trail more “hiker friendly”… including adding more places where hikers can camp, which is probably the biggest limitation of the trail. Also, the trail is only built and maintained by volunteers, and they need all the help they can get. I’ll say this… the trail is a constant work in progress. One section may be good and the next may be a disaster.

Later that day, Joyce from the Nelsonville VFW picked me up and brought me to town. They put me up downtown in the Little B an extremely nice house, kind of like a B&B, with just a few modern rooms. My stay there was donated by the owners who are part of the family that started the William Brooks Shoe Company, which later became Rocky. Saturday morning, I went for a 4-mile run… then the dinner that evening at the VFW was a potluck, and it was second to none. I filled my plate three times, not including dessert. The folks at the VFW were friendly and welcoming.

After Nelsonville, it was back to the trail on Sunday morning, though not before having a big breakfast at Jack’s Steak House in Logan. Once I was dropped off near Shawnee, I headed out, eager to get on new trail in the area. This day was notable due to having a lot of interactions with dogs, including a pair that were very aggressive and nearly required the use of my trekking pole… as a measure of defense. I’ve run into a lot of dogs on this trail, since a lot of the trail is actually on rural roads where people let their dogs run free. Nearing the end of the day, I altered my path on the trail and hiked into Logan to find a place to stay for the night. Once again, nice people came through for me as Hocking Hills Canoe Livery let me stay on their property free of charge.

Continuing south the next morning, I passed Lake Logan and entered a mix of trail… some was okay, needing a bit of clearing, and some was pristine. The closer I got to Hocking Hills State Park, the better the trail seemed to be. This is not unusual as the more exposure (to hikers) a trail gets, the better it will be maintained. The majority of hikers want to hike, not bushwhack their way down a trail… trying to avoid the pitfalls that come with clearing overgrown paths. Once in the state park, I found a place to camp intending to stay for two nights so I would have time to explore. For those of you in Ohio, if you haven’t been to HHSP, you’re missing a rare gem. The geological features there are amazing to witness. From Old Man’s Cave… to Ash Cave, just to name a couple. My advice… go on a weekday! Also, something to make note of… I met two section hikers on Tuesday evening. These gentlemen are the ONLY other hikers I’ve met on the entire Buckeye Trail.

On Wednesday, upon leaving the greater park area… I hiked out just as the sun was starting to cast its light on the gorge walls. I saw just a couple of people, but they were coming out as I was entering. I had the trail to myself for a while… and at this point the trail is known as the Grandma Gatewood Trail. Her story is one of a kind… so, look it up! Easily, this section of trail is what hiking should be clean trail, rocks, roots… some tight spaces, boulders to scramble over or around, a stream right next to the trail, and amazing scenery all around. At right around 5 miles down the trail, I came to Ash Cave. Again, another significant geological feature the largest recess cave in Ohio, measuring 700 feet wide. Go see it!

From Ash Cave, I headed southwest… my destination Tar Hollow State Forest. Mostly a road walk, with some trail in between… it was a long day, and a hot one as well, with the temp reaching 90 on the last full day of summer. Again, my feet were not playing nice… with the heat causing them to swell and create problems for me. I had hoped the hottest days were behind me. Apparently not. Around midday, I made it to a cabin where water had been cached for me and the two section hikers. While sitting there resting, I saw two large coyotes walking on the side of the hill in front of me. They didn’t see me, as they sauntered by… oblivious that they were being watched. That evening, approximately six more miles down the trail, I found a flat spot to camp up on a hill, but below the crest… out of sight if anyone did happen along during the night. I started a fire and cooked a meal using an improvised stove made from a beer can I found along the road. At some point later in the night, I was startled awake by an animal of some sort… likely a dog or coyote from the sounds it made running around right near my tent.

The next morning, I hiked through Tar Hollow State Forest… on roads and trails. The trails weren’t in very good shape… and some were downright terrible. At around 10 am, I was getting too low on water… having not had a source since the cache at the cabin the day prior. At the top of the ridge, I managed to get a cell signal and found a gas station at Londonderry, which was just a bit off the trail. I hiked down and made it to town in the early afternoon. There’s nothing like a cold drink after a long hike on a hot day! Since I had been out a few nights, I decided to hotel it for the night so I could get a shower and do laundry… and eat real food. I made some calls and managed to get in touch with the trail maintainer who lived nearby. He picked me up and took me to Chillicothe where I got a room for the night. I also arranged to get a ride back to the trail the next day.

Today, after getting dropped off at my stopping point from the previous day, I headed south… little did I know I was entering some of the worst trail to date. In one section, I actually had to use my pocketknife to hack my way through thorn bushes and tulip tree saplings that had overgrown the trail. It took me an hour to go a mile a snail’s pace for me. But, persistence paid off and I finally made it to the tunnel under Highway 35. Unfortunately, the trail didn’t get any better and I ended up opting to road walk to get to my next destination… Waverly, right on highway 23, my stopping point for the weekend linkup with the Piketon VFW.

Overall, this last week has exposed me to the best and worst of the Buckeye Trail. The condition of the trail has been a real disappointment… as I’d say that more often than not, the off-road portions are not being maintained to standard. There are a couple of exceptions… most notably, the Old Man’s Cave section which encompasses Hocking Hills. That has been the best trail so far… by far!
Tomorrow, Piketon VFW is hosting us with a dinner and hotel stay… then it will be back to the trail on Sunday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that cooler weather is coming. And, better trail would be nice! Only two full weeks left before this adventure is complete!

A special thanks goes out to the folks at Burr Oak Lodge and Hocking Hills Canoe Livery!

 

Buckeye Trail Blog Post #10 (Final)

I’m now just a couple of days from finishing this hike! It’s been an exciting last couple of weeks, including a day or so of dealing with a weather system that brought quite a bit of rain… and with it, incentive to put in one of my longest days on the trail so far.

After the VFW event in Piketon, I headed back to the trail… walking out of Waverly along rural roads. At about five miles out, I found a box turtle sitting in the road, basking in the sun… inches from certain death. What to do? I found a Powerade bottle in the ditch and transformed it into a portable terrarium. I carried the box turtle the rest of the way, to Pike Lake State Park, where it was released unharmed… and where I proceeded to camp for the night.

Over the next several days, I walked more rural roads, passing through Pike County and making my way into Adams County. I briefly stopped at the Serpent Mound, before hiking south to Peebles. On 28 September, the rain started… and didn’t let up for the entire day. It came in waves, one after another, and I hiked through it putting in 28 miles to get to Shawnee Lodge at Shawnee State Park. The long day put me well ahead of schedule… and gave me some time off to rest up.

The main reason I needed the rest was so I could run the Buckeye Trail Marathon on 1 October… but, unfortunately I was still having some foot problems and with all of the recent rain I decided to play it safe and avoided the temptation to run. No need to hurt myself and end up horizontal with being so close to the end of this hike. So… maybe I’ll have to run it next year.

On Saturday, after the rains passed, it was time to get down to Portsmouth in anticipation of the evening meet-up at the American Legion. My parents, who had come over to the Hocking Hills area for a rendezvous, gave me a ride to Portsmouth as they made their way back to the western side of the state. Upon arriving at the hotel, a guest hiker made her appearance… Diana Brown, who was going to join me for a few days on the Buckeye Trail. Diana is from Ohio and recently finished a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, also with Warrior Expeditions. Apparently, she wasn’t quite ready to be done hiking for the season… so, here she was, ready to experience a little bit of the Buckeye Trail.

On Sunday morning, our hosts took us out to the trail, picking up where I had left off at Shawnee State Park. This was a part of the trail I was apprehensive about due to seeing so many unmaintained sections in the past month. But, after just a few minutes down the trail, to our relief, it looked to be well maintained. We hiked on… up and over hills, getting some help from a few switchbacks here and there. We did finally reach a part of the trail that had quite a few downed trees, but were able to navigate around. Nearing the end of the day, we crested a ridge and found a place to camp on a hill, strategically stopping just a short walk from where the trail would end for us… and a multi-day road-walk would begin. Hashtag Buckeye Trail!

Over the next couple of days, we walked various kinds of roads… from gravel to blacktop, and back to gravel… then blacktop. We watched the big hills give way to smaller hills. And, as usual when road-walking in Ohio, we were greeted by a lot of dogs none were a problem! We also ran into a school field trip, which was out of the ordinary, but fun. For resupply, we hitchhiked to West Union, making our first stop at Mikey’s Family Restaurant… where bacon double cheeseburgers and fries were washed down with sodas. Then, to UDF for my favorite trail treat a milkshake! That night, we stealth camped at a country club golf course… which was probably the flattest place I’ve tented for the entire hike!

On Wednesday, we reached the town of Russellville… where Diana had planned to stop, and where I intended to camp for the night. We found a place called “Uncle Eddie’s” and proceeded to put away a couple of beers and a lot of food. Are you seeing a theme yet? Hiking… eating… more hiking… more eating. It’s a vicious cycle. Diana then caught a ride back to Portsmouth where she had left her car. Not 15 minutes after she left, a local trail angel, Mike Vogel (an AT Hiker) who had met Martin on the trail came looking for me by following the route backwards… and I ended up being housed for the night. Shower, dinner, great “hiker” conversation, sleep… in a bed!

On Thursday, after starting back up in Russellville, I made my way northwest… covering about 15 miles, stopping for the day at Mt Orab. This morning, I left there and headed toward Williamsburg, arriving around mid morning. First stop, Holtman’s donuts! Then, back on the trail… which became a bike path entering East Fork State Park… and finally more roads. In the park, I opted to hike the bridle trails as much as possible, staying off the road while trying my best to navigate directly to the west. A couple of hours later, I made it to Batavia and went straight to the UDF for… you guessed it… a milkshake. When I went inside, I noticed Martin’s backpack leaning against the wall. It’s pretty much a given that long distance hikers will end up frequenting the same places… often due to the need for ice cream and other sugary snacks.

After downing a milkshake and a root beer, I opted to keep hiking, even though I had already put in over 20 miles. My goal was to get to a hotel so I could relax and have a final day off before making the last push to the finish. So, after nearly a 30 mile day my longest day so far… here I am… resting in a comfortable bed just a few hours walk from the end of this 3-month long adventure.

It’s been quite a long walk… not at all what I expected in so many ways, and more than I expected in so many others. There has been a lot of highs and lows… and many emotions. I met so many kind people… quite a few that invited me in, fed me, and made sure I had a place to rest. I also saw some of the worst in people, usually just for a split second as they tried to run me down in their cars.

Overall, I’m glad I gave the Buckeye Trail a chance. It’s definitely one of the most mentally challenging things I’ve ever done. Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Not a chance. It’s just not a thru-hiker’s kind of trail. I enjoy solitude in the wilderness and there isn’t much wild on the BT. For some, I am sure it would be a great walk and chance to see much of Ohio’s history.

Thanks to everyone that helped out along the way. All of the trail angels along the way — your actions made a huge difference and were an enabler in my success on this long walk. Special thanks goes out to Warrior Expeditions for bringing me on to hike again this year.