June 15 - Dayton - Hike Complete

Today I hiked the remaining nine miles of the Buckeye Trail into Dayton to Deeds Point. It was a wonderful day!

The final leg of my journey began on the bike path in Fairborn at Colonel Glenn Highway and Kaffman Road. This is where the Troy Section of the Buckeye Trail starts. Maria made the journey from Cleveland to Dayton to hike on the last day with me.

The day was overcast and rain was in the forecast. This is only appropriate since I had hiked so many miles in the rain on this Buckeye Trail hike. To me rain was just liquid sunshine.

From the bike path on Kauffman Road the trail goes up to Wright Brothers Memorial near Wright Patterson Air Force Base. We toured the Huffman Praire Flying Field Interpretive Center there. The exhibits in this center are geared towards the activites and accomplishments of the Wright Brothers after they made their first flight. From the overlook at the Wright Brothers Memorial you can see part of Huffman field. It was here at Huffman Field where the Wright Brothers flew their improved airplanes.

The first flight was in 1903 at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. This flight lasted 12 seconds and there was no steering of the airplane. The Wright Bothers came back to Dayton, created the Wright Flyer III, and flew it at Huffman Field in 1905. This flight lasted 39.5 minutes, covered 24 miles and included steering to make turns. This flight lasted longer than all other flights combined. The Wright Flyer III is considered world's first practical aircraft. It was invented and flown here in Dayton. (What good is an airplane you can't steer?)

It started raining at the Wright Brothers Memorial. It would rain for the next hour. We had trouble following the Buckeye Trail as it left the memorial. We followed the blue blazes into the woods and they dissappeared. We had to forge our own route which included the bike path, running across SR-444, walking along active railroad tracks and climbing down the railroad tressle at Springfield Street. We found the blue blazes again and headed towards Eastwood MetroPark.

To get to Eastwood MetroPark from Springfield Street the Buckeye Trail goes a short distance on water well fields owned by the City of Dayton. As we crossed this property we were approached by two City of Dayton Water Department employees in a truck. The driver manuvered his truck in a way to block our path. He told us that we were not allowed on the property and we must leave. I explained to him that the Buckeye Trail goes through here. This  did not matter to him. He ordered us to leave. I offered to show him the Buckeye trail map and offered to give him my card. He refused both. I explained I was finishing the last four miles of a 1,444 mile journey. This did not mater to him.

I asked if he would call his supervisor. The other fellow in the truck did. We heard a bit of the conversation. The fellow told his supervisor that two people were hiking in the Buckeye Trail then we heard him say "yep (pause) yep (pause) yep (pause) and then ok." The supervisor confirmed that the Buckeye Trail goes through this area and we were allowed to proceed. I found it ironic that after hiking 1,440 miles on the Buckeye Trail no one had attempted to block my path or throw me off the trail until I got to my hometown! But, in all sinceerity, I am so glad that the City of Dayton does their best to protect our precious water source. So I give these fellows credit for doing their job.

At Eastwood MetroPark I met with Chris Rizer, a reporter for the Dayton Daily News, for about an hour. Chris asked all kinds of interesting questions about my hike including my favorite towns along the way. The article Chris is writing will appear in the Sunday (June 19) edition of the Dayton Daily News in the Life section. Look for it!

Around 2:30pm members of the Dayton Hikers group starting arriving. I put out an open invitation and invited anyone to hike the last three miles of journey with me from Eastwood MetroPark to Deed's Point. About 15 people showed up. It was a great turnout! A videographer from the local FOX45/ABC22 TV station in town was there too. I gave him a short interview.

We walked the last three miles of the Buckeye Trail along the Mad River bike path to downtown Dayton. Mother Nature was kind to us and it did not rain. As we approached Deeds Point the fountains along the river were shooting water into the sky. I saw the Dayton skyline and Deeds Point for the first time in three months. The water shooting into the air was quite a site and made for a wonderful homecoming! A crowd of about 20 people had assembled at Deeds Point to help me celebrate the finish of my hike. They were waving flags and cheering me on.

The final stretch of the trail to Deeds Point goes on a foot bridge over the Mad River to Deeds Point. While on the bridge I got a blast of energy and decided to jump into the air and kick my heels in jubilation. Lisa Powell, a photographer for the Dayton Daily News, was there and caught this moment on camera. It felt so good to finish this hike and be back home in Dayton!

I gave "high fives" and hugs to the crowd waiting for me at Deeds Point. They continued cheering, chanting and waving flags. To close the loop on this circuit hike I needed to take ten more steps to the statues of Wilbur and Orville Wright on Deeds Point. I gave a big hug to the statues of the two brothers. I yelled "Off Trail!" The hike was officially over.

Afterwards we went to the Outdoor Recreation office of the Five Rivers MetroParks on Saint Clair Street in downtown Dayton. Brent Anslinger and Mike Fanelli had cake, ice cream and soda pop there for everyone. A slide show of my Buckeye Trail photos was showing on a large screen. There I got a chance to greet everyone and chat with them. A few short speeches and a couple of announcements were made. The crowd sung a belated "Happy Birthday" song to me at at my mother's request. There was a short question and answer period where I talked about my hike.

By about 5:30pm the festivites were over. It was time to return to normal life whatever that may be.