I’m coming to the end of another quest: to hike every trail in Portage County in 2021. If COVID-19 was going to “shorten my leash,” I figured I’d make the most of it! At first, I estimated that it would only take a couple of months to complete the challenge. But here we are — at the end of July, almost 350 miles into the project — and I’m still hiking.
Back in January, I started with all the trails listed through the Portage County Parks District. With their own website boasting “a total of 34.96 miles of trail within our park system,” I wondered if I might complete the whole quest by the end of February or the beginning of March. But in the course of my quest, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of other trails, too!
In addition to all the county parks, there are several state parks in Portage County, as well. Plus state nature preserves! Plus a number of municipal parks and preserves. And a couple of natural areas reserved for institutes of higher learning (Portage County being home to both Kent State University and Hiram College). And even factoring in all of the trails managed by government- and institutional entities, there are still several trails that defy category. Trails through National Audubon Society (Birdwatchers) preserves… Bridle (Horse) trails… Snowmobile trails… Even beyond these categories, there are trails that I haven’t been able to find referenced on a single map — until I explore it and upload it to my Gaia maps online. Many of the “mystery trails” seem to be maintained by someone (though it’s unclear who), and others seem to be emergent desire paths.
It’s been more of a challenge than I expected to hike every step of every trail in Portage County. But I’ve really enjoyed the challenge. The process of discovery. The complex web of bridle trails in the northern part of West Branch State Park has been particularly difficult — and delightful. It seems that the trail managers regularly rotate trail segments to mitigate the effects of erosion. So even when the map seems to indicate a single trail, there are often two or three variants to any given section of that trail! Ropes are used to close off access to the parts of the trail that are being rested. But for my own (self-devised) quest, I’ve decided that I need to hike every step of every variant of every trail in Portage County. At least, to the best of my knowledge.
I’m committed to finishing this “Portage County Trail Quest” — a.k.a “PoCo 2021” — likely within the next week or two. But who knows what other trails I may yet discover?!? If you know of any that don’t seem to be indicated on the map above, please let me know.