Just beyond my backyard at my childhood home was a small footbridge. Really it just led into a wooded area and a small clearing, but to me it was the gateway to imaginative play.
More likely than not, my brother and I were pretending to be Native Americans. He convinced me to try eating pine needles because he read they were edible. After spitting out the pine needles, we tried walking like Native Americans.
In order to move silently, we took off our shoes and tried walking toe to heel. Toe to heel, toe to heel, we crept along hoping to see wildlife. Thank goodness this was before trail cameras could capture our awkward movements.
As I grew, I ventured out of our woods and increased my mileage. I realize now that not everyone has woods to explore behind their house. As metropolitan areas grew in Ohio and neighboring states, forests and wooded areas have decreased in size. Fortunately for Ohioans, many natural areas have been set apart as public land.
Collectively, we share a backyard to explore and to protect. It is known as the Buckeye Trail.
It was envisioned and proposed by Merrill Gilfillan in a 1958 Columbus Dispatch article. In September of 1959, the first 20 miles were established and dedicated in Hocking County.
Under the care of the nonprofit organization, The Buckeye Trail Association, the trail has grown in distance to cover over 1,444 miles. What started out as a vision of a trail running from the Ohio River to Lake Erie is now a complete loop.
Reflection of Ohio. The trail is a reflection of all the unique geographical areas within Ohio. From the coastal shores in Mentor to the steep sandstone cliffs in Hocking Hills State Park, hikers can experience diverse and spectacular landscapes. Wetlands, forests, and rolling hills are all a part of the terrain covered by the trail.
Some people have traversed the entire trail as a circuit, but most hikers choose to explore sections of the loop. Day trips and shorter hiking trips are very popular. For those inclined to dwell within nature, camping along the trail is an option.
One particular camping location is a century barn, renovated by the Buckeye Trail Association. Located near Tappan Lake in Cadiz, Ohio, the barn has restrooms and showers available for hikers in the summer.
Trail towns, ranging from historic villages to large cities, also provide boarding options in the form of hotels or VRBO rentals.
Biggest Day Hike
The Buckeye Trail Association is holding an event called the Biggest Day Hike, June 5. The goal of the Biggest Day Hike is to have the entirety of the Buckeye Trail circuit hiked in one day.
Individuals, families or groups of friends can hike a portion of the trail and share photos on social media. Anyone interested in pledging to cover a small section can register at buckeyetrail.org/biggestdayhike.php.
The event is in conjunction with the American Hiking Society’s National Trail Day. It is a day set aside to maintain and advocate for public lands and trails.
For my family, it will be a day to review and practice “Leave No Trace” principles such as respecting wildlife and disposing of waste properly. We have chosen a portion of the trail to hike and plan to use gloves to pick up any litter on the trail.
I don’t foresee myself walking barefoot, I will be wearing my favorite hiking boots. I won’t be walking toe to heel either like I did when I was younger. I doubt that a family of six could hike quietly anyhow.
However, we will be together and we will be outside soaking up the benefits of being in nature. Instead of leaving traces on the trail, we will be making an impact on the future of public land and trails.
John Muir once said, “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
Even if following the blue blazes of the Buckeye Trail is not a realistic goal for National Trails Day, make sure to find an alternative trail and join the movement by hiking together on June 5.
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