Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Feet

I got up early and evacuated my bivouac at Lebanon Coummity (sic) Church, not willing to wait around and see if anyone was upset with my presence there. The ADT goes into Tar Hollow Forest next. I chose to skip the thrills of thorns and brambles, moving instead on state highways. Call me a coward only after reading the following two bits of evidence - let us refer to them as Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
Exhibit A, one of the way points for the trail here lists these directions: Trail leaves Musgrave Rd. and turns left onto the more westerly of the two driveways. In 1000 feet leave driveway and continue south across lawn toward an electric utility pole. Just past utility pole, ford intermittent stream and continue south on mowed path. Trail soon fords a second intermittent stream and immediately turns northwest. For almost a mile the trail will be on old forest road that is intersected by other similar traces. Trail reaches a low ridge and turns sharply south. In 1100 feet at a "crossroads" turn northwest and ascend. In 1200 feet pass old log ridge you can see the pedestrian culvert that passes under highway. Descend to culvert and pass under US 35. Turn south on grassy bench and in 360 feet turn back toward corner of highway fence (no bench)....
This nonsense continues on for another eight lines of print, but I shan't bore you, I think you get the drift.
Exhibit B, a trail journal entry from Andy Niekamp. The most recent person to finish the Buckeye Trail, he completed the over one thousand mile circumnavigation of Ohio on June 14: "The weeds were high, the footpath was faint, blazes were few and limbs covered the trail. Someone had selectively logged a few trees and left the tops to cover the trail. Plus there was an assortment of fallen trees covering the trail.
I wandered off the trail and got lost several times. I had to backtrack. The trail would make tricky turns off the established footpath. The turns would be covered in weeds and I would miss them. Many blazes were faded or obscure. Navigating the fallen trees was hard and dangerous.
My spirit finally broke. Hiking the trail in this condition was too tough on me. I realized that I wasn't hiking the trail. I was fighting the trail instead. I came to the Buckeye Trail to hike it not fight it. The trail had been in bad condition for the last week.
I sat down on a high knoll and got out my smartphone. In frustration I wrote an email to the Buckeye Trail Association executive director, board president, state trail coordinator and a few trustees. I explained how poorly maintained the trail was and pleaded action. They need to know how bad the trail had gotten. I am just one of a series of hikers who hike on the Buckeye Trail in southern Ohio and encounter these conditions. Some hikers quit in frustration and never come back.
I resumed hiking and things got worse. I missed a turn and ended up at an Amish Farm. I could tell it was an Amish Farm because it had the biggest clothes line full of clothes I had ever seen. An Amish lady was outside holding a baby. I asked for directions. She told me to backtrack which I did. I found the turn I missed. I had seen it before and figured it was not the correct turn.
I came to a spot where the blue blazes went in two directions. A faded sign by a logging company said the trail was rerouted in this area. I chose the wrong set of blazes and got lost. I backtracked and followed the second set. The trail disappeared into the woods. Whomever blazed this route spaced out the blazes too far. I got lost a few more times. To me this part of the trail looked abandoned.
I finally got to a road. I was whipped physically and mentally. It took almost four hours to go three miles. I was so disappointed.
I decided to walk to Fort Hill on roads instead of taking trails. There was no way I was going back into the woods on this section. The route by road was slightly longer than by trail but it was easier. My head was spinning from what I had just come through.
I got to Fort Hill and took a break under the picnic shelter. It was shaded, cool and breezy there. It felt good to take a break from the 90 temperatures. After the break I decided to hike a few more miles. But after going about a quarter of a mile and feeling the heat and I humidity I decided to turn back to the picnic shelter and camp there. I set up my tent under the picnic shelter. There was a stream nearby for water, restrooms, picnic tables and trash cans. Nobody bothered me there.
I felt sadness for the Buckeye Trail, the Buckeye Trail Association and Buckeye Trail hikers. Nobody wins when the trail is like this. There has got to be a solution for this."

So I road-walked to Richmond Dale, 12 miles or so from my starting point and had a very nice, uneventful day up to that point. I spent some time at the store and then the library, where I learned that a couple of trail angels, Connie and Mike, lived next door. I went over to say hello, but they were not home. There was nothing to do but get back on the trail and head to Scioto Trail State Park, about eight miles away, where there was a place to camp.
I had traveled a mere two blocks before a small car stopped and the man inside started asking me hiking questions. I knew almost immediately that I was speaking to Mike. Connie was returning from the store (I would have run into her five minutes later if I had missed Mike) and took me back to their house for a shower and a drink. My left foot was starting to bother me so I was more than happy to call it quits for the day.
Once we arrived at their house, the two of them kept coming and going in an almost comedic fashion, so that we were having alternating conversations and my tired brain could barely process what I had said to whom. Eventually I realized they had invited me to stay in their home and slackpack for the next couple of days until Mom and Colin arrive.
Later on in the evening MC, as I will now refer to the duo, took me out to nearby Chillicothe for a nice meal and then showed me a bit of the city where I will be staying with my family. One particular space on the north side of Chillicothe has been used for an amazing variety of purposes over the centuries. You can stand on burial mounds used by a group of Native Americans known by anthropologists as the Hopewell Indians and admire the two state penitentiaries on either side. The old Erie canal also ran right through here during the 19th century and World War I saw a huge training facility called Camp Sherman hastily built right atop the burial mounds.
I'm really enjoying my time with Mike and Connie, their hospitality is out of this world and their knowledge of hiking dos and don'ts will no doubt be of great service to me as I move down the road. Most of all, holy cow am I excited about slack-packing - after forty days the burden of the massive pack will be lifted from my shoulders for a short while. I imagine I will burst out of bed and get a running start in the morning.

12 miles/671 miles


Anonymous said...

The Great Adventure continues, well done! I se you are over $4000 now. Fantastic!

Love, Dad

skweek51 said...

Hey, Alastair...we met Connie when we were hiking in WV and she was with a friend in Dolly Sods, tell her Hi...but not sure she will remember us!
Sharon & Paul