Building the Buckeye Trail

I’ve been a big fan of the Buckeye Trail for a few years now. But today I gained a new level of love for the Buckeye Trail when I became one of its builders.

I happened across Bill Jindra a couple of weeks ago, as he was doing some trail maintenance on the north side of the big lake at West Branch State Park. He was very friendly, but not too friendly. Just the right amount of pleasantry that put me at ease. I told him I appreciated his work to maintain the trail. He told me he appreciated the way I reminded him that people are making use of the trail. In the course of our brief conversation, I learned that I could check out the Events section of the website for the Buckeye Trail Association and join on a work day sometime. There was no sizing me up or “sales pitch” like I might have expected in a situation like that. It was just, “You’re welcome to come help sometime, if you want.”

And that “sometime” ended up being today.

I had a couple of ministry meetings in the morning, so I didn’t get to join the volunteer work crew until mid-day. So when I arrived at the parking lot identified by GPS coordinates on the Buckeye Trail website, I followed a series of orange ribbons that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had tied around vines and tree branches. These orange ribbons provided a meandering route to the work site, about a quarter of a mile into the forest.

When I reached the work site, Bill handed me a tool called a McLeod and gave me some brief instructions in how to build the trail. First, start with scraping off the duff (dead leaves and small brush). Next, cut down any larger brush crowding the trail. Then, hack off the roots on either side of the trail. And finally, keep this process moving to connect the orange ribbons with a trail about four feet wide. All scraping, raking, and hacking. So, it didn’t take long for me to start sweating. I worked for two hours and managed to clear perhaps 100 meters of trail. I got stung by bees after accidentally hacking into a nest. By the time Bill said we should wrap up our work for the day, I was wiped out.

But I was also super-happy. Any time out in the woods is good time, in my mind. Still, there was a deep sense of accomplishment to have such tangible progress. And it genuinely felt like an honor to be a part of building and expanding the trail system that I love.

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