I love a good quest.
One of my earliest quests was to set foot in every building on the campus of Bowling Green State University. A little later, I decided to eat at every dining establishment in the city of Bowling Green. When I was living in Amsterdam, I once set out to photograph fifty different images of the number fifty (because it was a spiritually-significant number, and part of the name for the church we planted there). Another time, it was fifty different dining establishments representing fifty different ethnicities (to show the city’s incredible diversity). And, perhaps my favorite photographic quest during my Amsterdam years was the time I went hunting for “church carcasses” (to show the dramatic secularization that occurred in the city through the second half of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century).
I don’t know. I’ve found that it’s fun to keep a quest in front of me.
When I moved back to Ohio in 2012, I tried some variations of previous quests, like eating at every dining establishment in the city of Kent. Or growing out my beard in the winter and then taking a series of photographs as I shaved it off bit-by-bit. I’ve gotten into running since I moved back to the United States, and almost every race I’ve run has felt like a sort of quest.
But hiking quests have become my absolute favorite over the last few years.
I loved my quest to hike every step of every trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (completed at the end of 2018). So when I started to think about what might come next, I remembered that some of the most rugged, remote, and resplendent trails that I hiked in the National Park also happened to be parts of the statewide system of trails known as the Buckeye Trail.
The total trail system encompasses over 1,400 miles of trail across the entire state. But I’m focusing my current quest on the 252-mile north-eastern loop of the Buckeye Trail, where it passes through Portage County, Summit County, Cuyahoga County, Lake County, Geauga County, and Stark County.
I’ve already logged over 500 miles in pursuit of this quest. That might sound funny with a 252-mile trail — but the size and shape of the Buckeye Trail are large enough that I typically have to drive to a spot somewhere along the trail, and hike the same segment of trail out and back. I’m also focused on enjoying the process, not just the end goal, so my routes aren’t always the most efficient. Anyway, I’m finally about three-quarters of the way finished with my quest, and I’m getting excited to see its conclusion drawing nearer!
The last three months of the year are perhaps the best three months of the year for hiking — so I’m excited to keep chipping away at this quest between now and the end of 2019. I typically get to hit the trail once a week, as a part of my weekly discipline of seeking extended time with God. This week, though, I got to get to the northernmost (furthest-removed) segment of the trail twice because of Kent State University’s Fall Break.
I love the variety of scenery that I get to encounter on the Buckeye Trail. Beautiful forests and waterfalls… meadows and orchards… downtown Akron skyscrapers and suburban industrial parks… “seaside” scenes along the shores of Lake Erie… a little bit of everything that Ohio has to offer. I hope to share more of my experiences from the Buckeye Trail at some point in the future, as I get closer to the completion of this quest. For now, though, I’m enjoying the process.