Day 1: 9.5 miles.
Drove to Peebles, started hiking 3:30. Roadwalking to a nice offroad section, Tolle Hill where I met Kyle, section maintainer. Poor guy seemed overwhelmed but had blazed the trail perfectly. Some more remote road walking to Davis Memorial, a very nice small park with good trail. Camped nicely on Cedar creek under some Cedars. Only a tiny bit of misting.
Day 2: 25 miles.
All day roadwalking through valleys and hills. Pleasant, quiet roads but still just a lot of roadwalking. Very painful breaking in body on roads. Nice late afternoon break at Ben's Happy Camp. Camped in Shawnee State Forest. Ridge walking to camp was very nice. This will easily be the quietest camp of the trip.
Day 3: 18 miles.
All day through Shawnee State Forest, aka Little Smokey's. Quite nice trail through the park although at times it was surprising how much logging was going on. Very tiring being out of shape and I somehow screwed up my water twice today which was pretty dumb. Exited park on Sunshine Ridge Road and made it to Sunshine Church just as the rain started hammering down. Nice big pavilion to sleep under. Not my favorite but the road is very quiet and it's supposed to rain off and on all night and most of tomorrow too. Seems worth it to stay under pavilion.
Day 4: 26 miles
Start of many days of roadwalking although Ohio does have some of the quietest roads to roadwalk. Basically had a choice between the Buckeye Trail with 78 miles of road or a more direct Google maps route which is 15 miles shorter but mostly state and county highways. 15 miles shorter is a good amount but camping would be no fun and these quiet Ohio roads are actually pretty nice. There's just too much of them. Really struggling to get down food. Not sure the deal. I guess breaking in the body and missing restaurants. Pretty happy though that after not many miles of mostly roads I'm feeling better than expected. Found a good camp spot in some woods between farm fields. Left the Appalachian foothills for good, now a lot of cattle and hay as I head west.
Day 5: 21 miles
Feet did not recover as well as expected overnight. Pretty painful day of road walking and with no trail reprieve at all it's tough. Lots of really small and quiet roads though and a nice sunny day. Last couple miles to Russelville I could walk the edge of the road that was soft dirt which helped. Little town was nice with a good bar, gas station and pavilion.
Taking my own Google maps walking route to the next town, Williamsburg. Weird as it's 8 miles shorter but still appears to be on fairly quiet roads. I guess I'll see but I struggle to look at the maps and understand the Buckeye Trail route for this next stretch. Found good camping in some small woods between farm fields/power lines.
Day 6: 23 miles
All roads, slightly more busy. Feet better than yesterday but still really hurting. Pretty boring day although Williamsburg gas station at end had great food and good seating to save the day. Walked out of town late and camped off bicycle path near Ohio river and East Fork State Park. Was told by a ranger some of the park trail had flooded so I'm taking the northern park dry alternate.
Camped next to the Ohio River at an overlook tucked in some woods. Good spot.
Day 7: 25
Northern dry bike path alternate apparently is "to be built" bike path and ended up mostly being road. Good gas station in Batavia though. Warm and humid day. Busy roadwalking and made it through Milford and onto Little Miami bike trail, crossroads of many trails totaling over 20,000 miles. Found a stealth spot up a small slope off bike path.
Day 8: 12 miles
Bike trail to Kings Mills. Tornado warning with sirens in the morning! Got a hotel room. Didn't really want to as the weather cleared by Noon and bad weather is coming in 2 days but my feet just hurt too much from the pavement and I need a day off.
Days 9 & 10: 0
Sat/Sun. Although I wanted to start walking again on Saturday, Sunday is forecasted for 1-2 inches of rain, tornado warnings and severe storms and wind. I searched ahead for a way to walk Saturday and take Sunday off but there was really nowhere to take off. Decided just to stay put here for 3 nights. Not ideal but my feet did need a zero day and there's good food around. By Sunday I was ready to walk big time but watching the violent weather in a hotel room is kinda nice too.
Day 11: 25
Finally got walking again. Cold morning, cold day. Low 50s as a high. Little Miami Rail Trail was nice all day. Much quieter than before. All paved though. Nice camp spot at a wildlife refuge although a state highway is across the way.
Day 12: 25
Good day of bike trail walking. Really don't understand the Buckeye Trail route from Xenia which goes north to Yellow Springs and then roadwalks west to Dayton. I found a great bike path direct from Xenia to Dayton with no roadwalking. Worked very nice. Ended up getting a cheap hotel room as camping options were non existent without major roads and train tracks.
Day 13: 20 miles
Nice bike paths all day with lots of parks. Camped on the Great Miami River near Troy. Hidden spot was good but pretty loud area with train and roads.
Day 14: 12 miles
Short but strong t-storm first thing but then OK weather and nice bike path walking through Troy. Finished in Piqua for these 2 weeks. Heather picked me up.
Days 15-19: To kill a bit of additional time before hiking with Heather this year I went over to the Buckeye Trail in the SE corner and hiked the Wilderness Loop, about 120 miles around. Weather was quite good, trails were in surprisngly decent shape and the gravel road walking was pleasant. It didn't seem like crazy "wilderness" but was definitely quieter than most of the rest of the Buckeye Trail.
362 miles total
Buckeye Trail Summary
I'm just about done with the Buckeye Trail portion of the NCT. Overall, honestly the Buckeye Trail is pretty blah. It's a TON of roadwalking and trail sections are generally either just ok or in very poor shape. That's not to say there aren't nice sections. But on a trail that was like 900 miles of the NCT in Ohio those little nice sections don't add up to a whole lot. Ohio is actually quite pretty. It's just not really that great when you are mostly on roads or bad trail. There were plenty of little "mountains" (the Appalachian foothills) and farmland and if the trail could actually be routed through there then great. But it's all private land / not much funding so not much good walking.
Here's a few points:
-One surprising positive was the roadwalking was generally really quiet and a lot of times gravel roads. That was nice for road walking. Although much of it is through pretty poor / trailer homes with piles of trash / meth issues with many, many dogs. However, at times it can be SO excessive. Specifically leaving the Shawnee State Forest heading west to Cincinnati is almost all roadwalking and then turning north you are on paved bicycle path for endless miles. The path is quite pleasant but my feet were killing me from all the pavement.
-As I said there are some good sections of trail. A bunch of state parks and reservoirs come to mind. It was always so so nice when there was a good section of maintained trail.
-Much of the trail is in VERY poor shape. Like hasn't seen trail maintenance in a decade poor shape. There's just not enough funding / people interested in maintaining the trail. At times the trail was either very overgrown or almost non-existent.
-Camping is very, very difficult. I feel like I'm a master stealth camper and made it work, but it's tough. I tried my best to camp on as much public land as possible but it's virtually impossible to do that due to the lack of public land. If needed I would slip into some woods between farm fields or something like that. I never had any issues and was always very discrete. Camping is also quite loud with all the roads, houses, dogs, interstates and trains. Unless you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on hotel rooms and use a large network of people to come pick you up or camp in people's front yards you really have to do some discrete stealth camping to thru-hike the Buckeye Trail.
-If you really want to enjoy the trail you really have to appreciate it for more than hiking. There's a couple who thru-hiked and wrote a book called "Wandering Ohio". I enjoyed reading this book as I hiked. They must have spent a zillion dollars staying in B&B's and hotels most nights but otherwise their hike was interesting to me. The book of course has a very positive attitude but you can even see how they were frustrated by how poor the actual trail sections were maintained. Same goes for other past hiker journals of Nimblewood Nomad and Strider. You read those and see they were basically as frustrated as I was at times, if not more (Nimblewood was very pissed!).
I guess my point is that you need to really dig down deep and appreciate the Buckeye Trail for something more than a hiking trail. Personally, that's not really my thing so you get this blah review here. The best quote I saw was from a recent thru-hiker who is always heavily promoting the trail but said "they need to focus more on trail quality than trail quantity". That pretty much sums it up to me.
Anyway, I will repeat. Ohio is actually a quite pretty and pleasant place. It's just kinda rough to have a 1,400 mile trail around the state with so little actual decent trail.