April 20 - Chardon

Today I hiked 17 miles to Chardon. It was a busy day. I have now hiked over 500 miles on the Buckeye Trail.

I was on the trail by 8:00am. It was 60 degrees and a little sunny when I started. My route today took me along Big Creek. Big Creek is beautiful. It was flowing fast from the rain from the previous night. Big Creek is aptly named. It seems large enough to be called a river. The weather changed quickly this morning. When I was hiking through Girdled Woods MetroPark it became cold, windy and rainy again. I took a break under the SR-608 highway bridge along Big Creek to get out of the rain. I felt like a toll under a bridge.

My route took me to Big Creek Park in Geauga County. When I walked in the front door of the Nature Center they asked if I was Captain Blue. There was a note there for me from Jim and Gayle Wohlken who live in Burton. Their son, Shane "The Gimp", is a Triple Crown Hiker (AT, PCT & CDT). Their son had received a lot of help from people along his hikes. They wanted to help me out if they could.

The folks at Big Creek Nature Center wanted to know more about my hike. I gave a mini interview and they took some photos of me. They tweeted about my visit and posted a photo of me on their Facebook page. Check out the post.

Also at Big Creek Nature Center I met Patti Cook. Patti is the section supervisor for the Burton section where I am currently hiking. Patti recently took over responsibility for this section. I gave her some suggestions on where I thought a few blue blazes could be added. It was nice to meet her.

Soon I was in Chardon. Chardon is a small town with a town square like you would find in New England. Chardon received 151 inches of snow this year. Chardon was part of the original Western Reserve and hosts the annual Maple Festival.

While in town I met with Josh who is a newspaper reporter for the Chardon Maple Leaf. I did an interview with him and he took some photos. Look for an article in next week's edition of the Maple Leaf.

I finished my hike today about three miles south of Chardon on the Maple Highlands bike path. Just before finishing my hike I received a phone call from Gayle Wohlken. Jim and Gayle offered to to take Debbie and me to dinner in Chardon. We accepted. We had a nice dinner at a fabulous pizza place. Afterwards I stayed in Chardon and met up with Tom Sari. Tom is a college buddy and fraternity brother living in Chardon. We went to the local brewery for a few beverages and reminisced about our college days.

Tonight is my fifth and final night staying with Debbie Zampini. I can't begin to thank Debbie enough for being such a great trail angel. Without having met me she offered to host me. It has been a great stay and one I will always remember. Debbie is quite involved in the Buckeye Trail Association and has inspired me to get involved.

I have said this before and I will say it again. I thought I knew what hiking the Buckeye Trail was about before I left home. I was way wrong. Hiking on the Buckeye Trail has been such a rich and rewarding experience. More so than I ever expected. The Little Loop has been extra special. Before my hike I saw the Little Loop as "extra miles" that would cost me time, money and energy and take me away from the main circuit. I wasn't looking forward to it and I wanted to just get it done. It has turned out to be some of the most rewarding hiking on the Buckeye Trail so far.

I wonder how many other people are out there who are hesitant to take a long hike on the Buckeye Trail because they think it will be boring or not exciting? It just baffles me on how wrong I was about my preconceived notions of the Buckeye Trail. And I consider myself to be an experienced hiker.