Almost every eastern state has a state trail.
Today, I was privileged to hike a small piece of the Buckeye Trail with Andrew Bashaw, the Executive Director of the Buckeye Trail Association (BTA).
Since Hannah, my granddaughter, lives in Ohio, I thought she should get acquainted with her own trail. She knows about the Appalachian Trail and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, so she should know about the Buckeye Trail. The trail makes a circle around Ohio for 1,444 miles.
We hiked a piece of trail from Wildcat Hollow Trail in Wayne National Forest and a bit of dirt road off OH state 78, itself a small windy road, going in a clockwise direction.
Like the MST, the Buckeye Trail has sections of road walking; about 50% of the trail is on footpath. But unlike the MST, the Buckeye Trail has been completely blazed with blue rectangles. The motto for the BTA is “Follow the blue blazes.”
This makes a world of difference in the way the trail is managed. According to Andrew, the Buckeye Trail is the Ohio State Trail. But it doesn’t get any funding from the state.
“The cardinal is the state bird,” Andrew said, “but the birds don’t get funding either.”
This hands-off approach means that there are blazes on telephone poles and trees on the road. A carsonite wand signifies where the trail goes into the woods from the road. The trail has more visibility than the MST.
“Sometimes, a landowner will note that a volunteer is painting a blaze on a pole on the road,” Andrew says. “He’ll invite the volunteer in his kitchen to discuss moving the trail on his property.”
Beyond this major difference, the MST and the Buckeye Trail have the same challenges of volunteers, campsites, and money. A few hundred hikers have completed the trail, mostly in sections. The BTA only recognizes walkers; it’s not a multi-use trail.
A volunteer crew will work around the state for a week at a time, doing the heavy work. They function very much like the Konnarock Trail crew for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. For lighter cleanup and blazing, individuals adopt a piece of trail.
The terrain is much gentler than the MST and certainly the A.T.
We crossed Sunday Creek and I couldn’t help notice how muddy the water was, compared to a creek in the Southern Appalachians. Yes, there had been a storm last night which brought up mud and silt. Still I’ve never seen this kind of brown water in the mountains.
The amount of work and dedication to develop and maintain state trails is incalculable. I look forward to hiking more pieces of the Buckeye Trail.