Four days on some great off-road trail took me through the spiritual heart of the Buckeye Trail. Here it is host to three great trails - North Country, Buckeye, and American Discovery - and here it has located its headquarters.
The area is economically challenged. The main street of the town of Shawnee, where the headquarters building stands, contains more abandoned, hopelessly deteriorating buildings than it does habitable ones. Yet they all speak of a grand past. The much larger town of Glouster has a similar plight. The great promenade of downtown store-fronts along High Street was largely empty. It felt like a ghost town.
I've found that where there are economic challenges there are also trail challenges. This is an area where the off-road trail, despite signs inviting foot traffic but prohibiting all motor vehicles, has been infested with ATV and motorcycle traffic.
Some of it could be attributed to workers accessing old oil wells that, in some cases, are being given new life with new technology. Some of it can definitely also be attributed to local government actions. The town of New Straitsville, just a mile and a half from the worst of the violations, has designated itself an officially 'ATV friendly' town. If I understand correctly this means ATV riders can legally use public roads. Finally, Wayne National Forest itself probably contributes to the problem, given that its Monday Creek ATV trail system is so close to the Buckeye Trail in the New Straitsville area.
Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight. A few rogue ATV riders using foot-traffic-only trails tear them up and the damage takes years to recover. If a few rogue hikers use ATV trails ... well ... nobody even notices.
Who has more numbers statewide? Well, as of this writing, the Ohio Motorized Trails Association Facebook page has 1694 'likes', and the Buckeye Trail Association has 2910.
Now, let's compare an infestation of rogue ATV riders to nature's own rogues. One could say that use of ATV's is evidence of man's evolutionary advantage. Well, the Oak Apple Gall Wasp (Amphibolips confluenta) has evolved the ability to turn a simple oak leaf into a virtually impenetrable, too big to swallow, fortress.
Somehow this tiny quarter-inch worm has worked out the chemical messages to con the oak tree into constructing an amazingly elaborate structure that does not benefit the tree at all.
Yet the oak tree endures, its stately splendor undiminished. Nature has a way of keeping its rogues in balance. I'm sure that will be the case with the human infestations as well.
Okay, off the soap box and onto the trail. Burr Oak Lake is a wonderful serene setting.
No ATVs on the trails here, and even the waters are regulated. Boat motors are mostly of the silent electric type. Anyone with a motor greater than ten horsepower must keep it at 'no wake' idle speed. I saw more kayakers than motorized boaters. The carp thrashing about in shallow mud flats made far more noise.
This part of Ohio is notable for its 'grotto' style waterfalls. Here's the latest example - a walk-behind trickle of a waterfall in Burr Oak State Park.
There were some road walk sections during these four days. Here the invasive, ubiquitous, European native multiflora rose was at peak bloom.
My favorite roadside sight was this venerable old pine in Salem Cemetery.
Back on trail in Wayne National Forest, there was some pleasant woods walking. (I've selected a non-ATV-infested scene.)
And in the midst I took the 0.4 mile white-blaze side trail to the Buckeye Trail Association office and enjoyed a pleasant half hour chat with Executive Director Andrew Bashaw. I never cease to be amazed how much there is to talk about with another trail person. Thanks for the sticker, Andrew! I added it to the collection on the back of my van. I bought an orange Buckeye Trail t-shirt too, and I'll add that to my 'rotation' of hiking shirts.
Now I'm leaving Wayne National Forest. The last of it comes at this nice trailhead ...
... then its off to do some road walking with my head held high.
ATVs can roar around all they like. I prefer to take my trails slow and quiet.
Here's the GPS track images of the four days of hiking reported here.
For the interactive map of the latest hikes, zoom in on Ohio in this overview map.
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