Go take a hike
Husband-and-wife team wrote the book on the Buckeye Trail.
Getting outdoors to explore Ohio just got easier, thanks to a new edition of Follow the Blue Blazes, a guide to hiking Ohio’s Buckeye Trail, written by Connie Wilkins Pond ’77 and her husband, Bob Pond ’69, ’75 MA.
At 1,400 miles, the Buckeye Trail is the longest loop trail in the United States. It traverses 46 counties, circles the state and stretches from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, marked along the way by blue blazes.
“The book is not just for committed hikers or backpackers,” Bob said. “It’s for people who want to see Ohio.”
Most of the 33 featured hikes take a few hours and will appeal to families, seniors and people who want to learn about the area’s flora, geology and history. There are easy walks through villages such as Ripley, where travelers will learn the history of the Underground Railroad, as well as more challenging hikes for experienced travelers such as the one at Burr Oak Lake.
Bob, 77, and Connie, 70, completed the hikes in 2013 to update the guide Bob first published in 2003, when he blazed the trail with naturalists by his side. This time, Connie (and sometimes their boxer Buckeye), hiked with him and took the lead editing the guide, which features color photos, new maps with GPS coordinates and contact information for local attractions.
Connie is president of the Buckeye Trail Association, a volunteer organization that maintains the trail, including keeping the blue blazes freshly painted on the rocks, trees and signs marking the trail. All proceeds from Follow the Blue Blazes sales go to the association.
We asked the Ponds to identify five of their favorite Buckeye Trail hikes.
Northwest Ohio: Providence Metropark to Roche de Bout
Distance: About 10 miles
Time: At least four hours to hike one way. Bicyclists could easily ride the 20-mile out-and-back trip in half a day. Most hikers will require two cars.
Difficulty: The Ponds label this hike as easy because it follows a level, crushed stone path.
Highlights: Near the starting point, hikers can enjoy Providence Dam, first built in 1838, rebuilt in 1908 and renovated in 1996. The water below the dam is shallow, and visitors can walk on the rocks, fish and play in the water. A stone shelter house in Providence Metropark was built in 1941 under the Works Progress Administration.
Northeast Ohio: Mentor Marsh
Distance: 8 miles
Time: About five hours for the hike from Headlands Beach State Park to the Zimmerman Trail and back
Difficulty: The 2-mile Zimmerman Trail is undulating and somewhat difficult. Hiking poles are helpful. The rest of the hike is easy.
Highlights: This hike is best undertaken before late May or after the first frost because at least 26 species of mosquito (yes, 26!) live and breed in the marshlands. On the flip side, it also is home to more than 200 species of birds.
Southeast Ohio: Scenic River Trail in Wayne National Forest
Distance: 4 miles from the trailhead on top of the ridge to the picnic area in Leith Run Campground (two cars are recommended unless you plan to hike back up the ridge)
Time: Two hours one way
Difficulty: Hikers will find it moderately difficult walking down to the river and difficult walking back up. Hiking poles are recommended for the return.
Highlights: The woods include maple, oak and tulip trees along with many small pawpaw, which have a pretty purple flower in the spring and edible fruit in the fall (although deer may beat you to it). Mountain bikers also use and help maintain the trail.
Central Ohio: Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls
Distance: A loop of about 5 miles
Time: At least 3.5 hours if you take time to enjoy the natural wonders
Difficulty: It’s moderately easy. There is an elevation change of more than 200 feet from the bottom of Cedar Falls to the visitor center, but most of the climb takes place on the wooden staircase at Cedar Falls.
Highlights: Running water gouged out the sandstone cliffs to create the majestic Old Man’s Cave. Look for an interpretive sign about a rock formation shaped like the head of a sphinx that has become the logo for the state park.
Southwest Ohio: Eden Park
Distance: Less than 3 miles
Time: Allow at least two hours to enjoy the sights
Difficulty: This is an easy hike. The elevation change is less than 100 feet, although hikers will ascend and descend along the trail a couple times.
Highlights: At the start of this hike, Twin Lakes Overlook offers a magnificent view of the sharp curve of the Ohio River 200 feet below. Other attractions within the park include a bronze replica of Lupa Capitolina, the wolf that — according to mythology — nursed the twin builders of Rome; Navigation Monument; Krohn Conservatory; and Hinkle Magnolia Garden.