May 30 - Fort Hill

Unmaintained trail in Sinking Spring section.

Today I hiked 14 miles to Fort Hill State Memorial. Put an asterik next to today's miles as I had to bypass some sections. Today was probably the worst day I've had on the Buckeye Trail.

The day started out quite nice. I had a pleasant morning with Mike and Connie. They are great people. They hosted me for four nights. They drove me around so I could slackpack. They gave me a bed to sleep in, fed me, allowed me to use their computer, shower and laundry. They asked for nothing in return. Connie packed me a lunch each day. They are very kind people and anyone who is hosted by them is very lucky.

I got word that my mother and her husband will meet up with me in a few days. They will stay at Shawnee State Park and help me slackpack a few days. I mailed a box of food and gear to Shawnee to lighten my load.

Connie and Mike dropped me off at 11:30am. Right from the start the trail was in bad shape. To me this section of trail appeared abandoned. 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 establised 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.