Thursday, June 22, 2017

The M&E Canal Trail, Piqua to New Bremen - a mixed bag

Hiking the Buckeye Trail 'clockwise,' as they call it (around the state), I have been handed over from the paved and well-maintained Great Miami River Recreational Trail onto the trail known as the Miami and Erie Canal Trail.  It's a bit of a shock.  Almost none of the M&E Canal trail is paved, there are road-walk gaps, some of which carried heavy, nearly continuous dump truck traffic, and the first pieces of real canal tow-path trail I encountered were pretty rustic.

You won't find me complaining about trail in the woods, as long as it's passable.  And here it was.  For the most part the route was freshly weed-whacked and out-reaching growth had been lopped back, leaving a clear pathway, as the photos show.  The hiker will pass several surviving examples of 150-year-old stone canal mile markers.  This one announces that we are 101 miles from Cincinnati.

But there were also neglected sections overgrown with weeds and one significant piece coming north out of Newport, from SR66 to Cardo Road, that has been abandoned.

Yes, the photo above is the bed of the canal, bulldozed over, covered with gravel, and turned into a line of RV hookups in the Hickory Hill Campground.  The original tow path follows the line of posts with brand new electric outlets and spigots, and every one of those spigots was working when I passed through.  You could stop for a drink every twenty feet.

I suppose Hickory Hill still allows hikers to follow this route.  There were no signs or gates or fences.  It's a concert venue.  They like people.

The reason the section is closed is not here.  Between here and downtown Newport the Buckeye Trail Association built a footbridge over a twenty-foot deep ravine that has cut through the tow path.  The bridge was just built in 2013, but it took only three years for the erosion in the ravine to cause it to collapse.

The route through here is truly impassable now, though I struggled through the ravine on hands and knees, slipping and sliding and grabbing branches and vines.  Rebuilding that bridge in a way that it will last would be a major project.   It doesn't appear that it's going to happen any time soon, if ever.

But that was the worst of it.  Elsewhere the experience was much better.  There's a genuine hiker shelter in the woods, on a section that had just been lovingly maintained by 'Snap Dragon' the day before I came through, according to the shelter register.

As you approach the town of New Bremen the trail seems to hit its stride.  The headline photo is of the gravel tow path looking north toward town.  In the downtown area there is an elaborate kids park,

a fully restored canal lock,

and many interpretive signs.

Heading north out of New Bremen the trail is even paved for a mile, and the trail is able to follow the canal without interruption for a long way.  Three more full days of hiking, to be specific.  I'll cover those in my next report.

This report covered the first two days of the five I hiked along the M&E Canal.  Here are the GPS tracks.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Great Miami River Recreational Trail - first class all the way

Called the GMRRT for short, it's the gem of the Miami River Trail System.  With scenes like the above, with the Dayton Skyline gleaming in the background, and many other fine river views, this is a paved bike path worth exploring.

I took three days to cover it, from the confluence of the Mad River and the Miami River in Dayton, where the fountain above comes on for just 30 seconds every hour (yes, I was just plain lucky to be passing at the right moment) to "Road Side Park" on the north outskirts of the town of Piqua, this trail was a first class experience.

Before going on, I wanted to clear up any confusion about the name Miami here in Ohio and its connection with Miami, Florida.  Both places are named after Native American peoples, but they have no linguistic or cultural connection with one another (though perhaps they have common ancestors who crossed the land bridge from Asia back in the ice age).  An Ohio Miami Indian refers to himself as 'Myaamia.'  The plural is 'Myaamiaki', and they originally lived in SW Michigan, western Ohio, and Indiana.  The completely separate 'Mayaimi' people lived around what we call Lake Okeechobee in Florida.  But these people named themselves after their lake - Mayaimi means 'big water'.  The Miami River in Ohio is big water too.  But maybe I better stop here before I confuse my readers who still mi ami  (Italian for 'you love me.')

Anyhow ... The GMRRT and its namesake river pass plenty of interesting places.  There's even  a ghost town called Tadmore (not much to see) where a flood control dam rendered the town uninhabitable (that's the way they defined progress back in the early 20th century), and there's also the historic Eldean Covered Bridge, which unlike anything in Tadmore, is still standing and still in use.

The trail passes through the city of Troy, with a promenade of trail-side park benches overlooking the river and the town beyond,

And it offers a wonderful route through Piqua that the Buckeye Trail/North Country Trail used to follow but no longer does.  Because I was walking one way and biking back, I got to experience both routes.

Instead of following the river through Piqua, the Buckeye Trail follows Linear Park in a promenade through center town,

And then along what's called the River's Edge Trail that follows the Miami and Erie Canal, passing the biggest cemetery I've ever seen

And passing three pretty lakes that helped provide the canal with its water in this area.

The Miami and Erie Canal runs from the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie.  Parts of the GMRRM follow it, for example here, as it passes Lock 14 near Tipp City

and it officially becomes the 'Miami and Erie Canal Trail' and the route of the Buckeye/North Country Trails from Piqua North, so you'll be hearing and seeing a lot more about that in posts to come.

Here are the screen shots of the GPS Tracks covering the three days along the GMRRT

And as always, you can delve deeper with this interactive map of my track.  Just zoom in on the area of interest starting from this general map of my Personal Continuous Footpath meanderings:

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Connector and Creekside Trails - a short cut to righteousness

This report is the second and last covering my path of iniquity.  Yes, I confess to have strayed from the way that the Trail Gods set before me.  Yet the route I chose could truthfully be called the Straight Path (or at least the straighter path), so who's to say which is the true course?

In my last report I covered the Tri-County Triangle Trail, a 34 mile paved bike path lined with cheesy poetry on official signs, which headed west from Chillicothe where I temporarily abandoned the route of the Buckeye Trail/North Country Trail.

The trails covered here include a short road walk to the unimaginatively named Xenia-Jamestown Connector Trail, and then the Creekside Trail, which brought me back to the Buckeye Trail in Dayton, Ohio.

This route saved me time and lots of road walking and likely saved me from scratched-up legs and tick bites caused by the thorny overgrown off-road trail that is endemic this time of year wherever this seldom-hiked trail plunges into the woods.

Late spring is the time that maintainers hate.  They can't keep up with the burst of growth. Mid-latitude plants do virtually all of their growing before the heat and dry weather of summer sets in.  By mid-June the growth spurt is over and maintainers get out and hack it back and then the trails are passable again.  Often one further pass is made in late summer or early fall, and the trail is good to go until the following spring.

So this short-cut on paved bike trail presented itself at a good time for me.

The Connector trail comes into Xenia from the east.  Xenia promotes itself as a bicycler's mecca because the spider web of old abandoned rail routes that converge on Xenia Station have all been converted to rail trail.  Even the station building is a reconstruction, and the parking area surrounding it was abuzz with bicyclers loading and unloading.

From Xenia Station one can choose five bike trails including the unfinished Cincinnati to Cleveland Ohio (river) to (lake) Erie Trail, the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the Prairie Grass Trail, and the two trails I followed.

I left Xenia heading west on the Creekside Trail, and despite my protestations about unmaintained footpaths in the woods, I had the opportunity to digress from the paved bike trail to wander through Creekside Reserve.

Here the trail was well trampled, and the maintainers had been hard at work.  It literally was a Creekside trail.

Where the Creekside Trail ends, it hooks up with the Mad River Trail (a scene beside the Mad River is the headline photo).   The Mad River Trail and those connecting in Xenia are all part of what is being sold as the largest network of continuous paved bike trails in the United States.  Collectively this network is known as the Miami Valley Trail system

And the Buckeye Trail and North Country Trail make extensive use of this system.  I was back on the path of righteousness.

So there's much more bike trail ahead.  Stay tuned.

Here are screen shots of the GPS tracks for the three days it took to get me back to the fold.

If you're interested in more detail--in zooming in on my route step-by-step, the interactive version of these tracks can be found by zooming in on the general map of my Personal Continuous Footpath meanderings:

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Tri-County Triangle Trail - 34 poetic miles

The poetry may be a little cheesy, but the sentiment fits perfectly.  When there is no other hiking trail, abandoned railroad rights-of-way are there, ready to support the long distance hiker.  In my particular case, when the hiking route proves to be overgrown, thorn- and tick-infested, and with too many long road-walk gaps, and when the existing route following old railroad grades had been developed into paved bike paths ... well ...

These two particular routes diverged at Chillicothe, Ohio.  In my last post I discussed the two choices in some detail:

A. Follow the Buckeye Trail from south of Chillicothe to Dayton. This alternative involves 355.0 miles of trail, 192.3 miles of which is road walking including some particularly dangerous road in the vicinity of Cincinnati according to BTA Director Andrew Bashaw, and more than half of the off-road portion is woods walking in State Forest land, which my experience has shown is seldom hiked and unevenly maintained.

B. Take the developed Rail Trails.  The Tri-County Trail from Chillicothe to Washington Court House, the Jamestown-Xenia Connector, and then the Creekside Recreational Trail straight to Dayton. Including the 12 miles to get from the Buckeye Trail up to the start of the Tri-County Trail in Chillicothe, this involves 92.2 miles of trail, only 30.4 of which is on roads and virtually all of the rest is paved, tick free, underbrush-free, non-motorized bicycle trail in a wooded corridor.

I chose plan B and was rewarded by a trail sprinkled with cheesy poetry on signs like the one up top, with vistas of pastoral farm land,

with creek-side vistas

wooded corridors with rest stops

a few more park-like, developed woodlands,

and with a side trail to explore pre-Columbian history at the Hopewell Mound Group, where traces of 2000-year-old native American earthworks (burial mounds) were on display.

The split from the Buckeye/North Country/American Discovery trail route began with a last trail walk into Scioto Trail State Forest then came back down a forest road to follow beside the Scioto River south of Chillicothe.

It was a fairly pleasant road walk through the country,

then into downtown Chillicothe.  Here I found a bike shop where I could have a tune up done to my bicycle.  With my second car in the shop for body work, I will be using the bicycle in its place.  Here in Chillicothe I hooked up with the Rail Trail at a truly peaceful downtown urban park called Yoctangee Park

The word Yoctangee means "paint" and I had walked Paint Street into town and the bike trail followed Paint Creek for the next day.

Farther west the trail enters more flat, open country, then finally becomes an urban bike trail through the heart of Washington Court House

That's where the Tri-County Triangle Trail ends, and where a road walk of about seventeen miles begins.  For the most part the roads were extremely lightly traveled, and I had the opportunity to visit a veteran's memorial in a cemetery between the little towns of South Plymouth and Milledgeville.

I may always wonder what I missed by not sticking with the Buckeye Trail route, but such thinking is a waste of time.  Life always presents more opportunities than it is possible for one person to experience.  It's making the most of the path you choose that really matters.