About the Trails In This Area
The Buckeye Trail is split up into 26 sections. You might think of it as a nation with 26 states? Adventurer's Project covers the Road Fork and Whipple Sections. Each section has a volunteer section supervisor and a corps of trail adopters whose duty is to oversee trail maintenance. As they are a separate program from the Buckeye Trail Association's chapters, Adventurer's Project assists them as needed. In the event that the non-supervisor/ adopters are utilized in trail maintenance, the leadership of the project will step aside to allow the supervisors to retain theirs.
The original design purpose of the Road Fork and Whipple Sections is to connect the Marietta Unit of the The Wayne (National Forest) with a hiking route to the AEP ReCreation Lands. And the purpose of the the off-road trail in the Marietta Unit is to be attractive to hikers of an enthusiast and advanced nature. These two sections are arguably the most remote and strenuous on the Buckeye Trail (show elevation profiles). Even the most seasoned Appalachian Trail hikers underestimate it's terrain and their water consumption in this region.
The Buckeye Trail is a 1,444 mile circular trail within the four corners of Ohio. Where the North Country is about 4,800 miles and is routed from the Appalachian Trail in Vermont to North Dakota by way of Upper Peninsula Michigan. Both trails are on and off of roads.
In 1959, the Buckeye Trail Association incorporated as a non-profit organization. The first piece of off-road trail that was built was in the Hocking Hills State Park. It is known as the "Grandma Gatewood Trail" It is named for Emma "Grandma" Gatewood, the first female to complete the Appalachian Trail and a founding BTA board member.
The second piece of off-road was built in the AEP Recreation Lands in Morgan County, Ohio. At the BT's inception, it was the original Lake Erie to Ohio River Trail by way of AEP in SE Ohio. After the National Trails System Act was amended on March 5th, 1980, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) was created, the North Country Trail Association announced that it was coming though Ohio. At that time, I also announced that it intended to run concurrent with the Buckeye Trail as it was then.
But the NCTA also picked up some extensive off-road opportunities in Ohio's west that have become the Little Miami State Scenic, Mad River, Great Miami River and the Miami & Erie Canal Tow and Heelpath and the Wabash & Erie Canal Towpaths. When it was discovered that it was going to create a huge "U" in the state, it was determined that the BTA would take over developing the west and also cap off the north.
In what is considered by many, the NCTA took a "bizarre" twist in regards to the Marietta Unit. By today's measure, they came 117 miles off of Buckeye's main loop to pick it up. As to why, that's currently left to rumor. But hearsay is that NFS gave them everything they could have ever wanted in an off-road trail.
National Forest Service was required to conduct an Environmental Impact Survey (EIS) as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act. The survey consists of several studies to determine the impact, in this case, that the trail would have on the land, geology and ecology. When it came back favorable, trail building began in 1983. It took until 1987 to open it and it was built by the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). This is a group that the National Forest Service assembles to employ area youth.
As predicted, the NCTA had volunteer procurement difficulties resulting in maintenance woes. But it was able to assemble the Ohio Valley Chapter for a few years. However, this chapter is now known to be defunct. The BTA voted to take over the area by bequest in 2000. It took until 2003 to rebuild the trail and 2005 for it to map what is now the Road Fork and Whipple Sections.
As per the 2010 edition BTA maps, this area is known as "The Wilderness Loop." Depending on the prospective, that's debatable. The Buckeye's prevailing audience is from Ohio. To them, this is so remote that their likely to see it as a "wilderness." But more advanced hikers with experience on the Appalachian Trail might say that there's too many roads in this area for it to be a true one. And this area grapples with both perspectives.
The North Country Trail is a "concurrency" in the area. That means that it's presence is routing with Buckeye only. One could think of it like two state route signs on one road. The Buckeye Trail administers the route and maintains the trail. North Country is a public/ private sponsorship between the NCTA and the National Park Service. It receives a stipend from the federal government. The BTA isn't like that. It is private only, but does receive some material assistance from the NCTA and NPS that is usually in the form of DR Mowers (Brush Hogs), professional weed eaters and brown carsonite composite and other navigational markers for use on concurrent areas.
The "National Scenic Trail" designation is for portions the trail that have been certified by the NPS. In this area, they are off-road only. When North Country is on-road, it is labeled a "Temporary Connector" and is a component of the private side NCTA. In the Buckeye Trail section map & guides, there are two kinds of trail... on-road and off-road. Many on North Country Trail don't see their temporary connectors as the trail, but Buckeye has a better rapport with them because they do.
A "blaze" is a painted marker that is used to mark the boundary of a property. In the 19th century, it was also used to mark the route of a road that was being built. Both trails use this for their navigational markers. Blazes are 2in wide by 6in tall and can be found on trees and utility poles. North Country uses "boundary blue" while Buckeye's blue is lighter. On the concurrency, North Country assumes Buckeye's markers and that is what is used in Far SE Ohio.
The NCT is routed as an east - west trail. But since Buckeye is circular, it's official directions of progress are "clockwise" and "counter clockwise." And the Road Fork and Whipple Section's on The Wilderness Loop have their own clock. So lets say that one's hiking from the Village of Belle Valley towards Lamping Homestead Recreation Area in the Marietta Unit. It may be confusing that they're actually heading east, but they're progressing westbound/ clockwise. In that direction, they won't actually go west (according to a compass) again until their on the Whipple Section, which starts heading towards bypassing the City of Marietta to the north.
As of 2000, the trail in this area is administered and maintained by the Buckeye Trail Association. North Country is concurrent and doesn't have many duties here. However, all of the off-road trail in this area is certified as being a National Scenic Trail via North Country. And all of the on-road portions are classified as "Temporary Connectors" on their records.
For a description of the Road Fork Section through Noble, Monroe and Washington Counties, trail alerts and map updates click here.
For a description of the Whipple Section through Washington, Noble and Morgan Counties, trail alerts and map updates click here.
For maps of these sections and other items, please visit the online Buckeye Trail Shop.
Buckeye/ North Country Trail Mileage by County
This area has the potential to become a destination. At the moment, it's hiking numbers are low. But that could change. All it requires is local volunteerism in the way of trail maintenance adopters and future chapter, or association members. If you'd like to support Adventurer's Project, please email info@AdventurersOHWV.info.
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