May 12 - Sitka

Downed power line and tree on the Buckeye Trail.

Today we hiked 14 miles. Put an asterisk next to the mileage today. We decided to walk around the remaining six miles of trail hiking.

I woke up this morning with a guilty conscious. The previous day we had walked on the road to get to our camping spot at the church and bypassed a short section of the Buckeye Trail. I wanted to go back and hike that section. Scallion was fine with this so we backtracked a half mile. Doing this was a mistake. We soon got lost. We entered the trail in the woods, followed a turn blaze and ended up in a field with an oil pump. The blazes ended. We eventually found our way out to the road but not on the trail.

The next section of trail entered a power line clearing. It was impassable. The weeds were already chest high and they were mainly thorny rose bushes. We decided to walk around this short section and attempt the next one.

The next section started out fine but quickly got worse. Lots of blown down trees, fallen limbs, missing trail markers and knee high weeds. We got lost. We found the trail again. We got lost again. There was no footpath to follow in this area. Hiking meant walking in weeds around blown down trees looking for markers. The trail was frequently very steep. Navigating around fallen trees on steeps hills is hard.

In one section, to get around a blown down tree we had to walk over a former garbage dump. This meant walking on broken glass. In another area trees had fallen on a power line. The downed power line was blocking the trail in two places. We had to climb over the power line to stay on course.

The trail hiking was just too difficult and dangerous. This part of the trail has not been maintained in years. It is on the verge of being abandoned. It will take some serious work to make this a hiking trail again. I made the decision to walk on roads around the remaining six miles of woods trail.

We stopped for water at a farm. The farm is owned by Eric and Debbie Cunninham. They served us chilled water, soda and made a sandwich for us. We took a relaxing break on their porch. We talked about a lot of things including the gas and oil boom in the area. The Marcellus Shale under the ground holds large deposits of natural gas. Landowners are being approached by speculators and oil companies to sign gas leases. There are promises of big money for landowners once drilling starts. Eric named his dog Pancake. The dog likes to chase cars. He is certain he will find his dog on the road flat as a pancake.

The road walking was much easier and enjoyable than the woods walking. We made good time on the roads. About a mile before our intended destination we took a break at a small getaway camp. It had an enclosed picnic shelter, a camper trailer and an outhouse. It looked like a good place to camp. Scallion flagged down a car and asked the driver if he knew who owns the property. The driver said "I do." We got permission to camp there. The owner showed us around and filled our water bottles at his house. This could be a potential camping spot for all Buckeye Trail hikers.