I believe I just completed my quest to hike every publicly-accessible nature trail in Mahoning County! It’s always hard to know for sure with these sorts of adventures, since there isn’t any single, centralized source of information where all the different sorts of trails are collected and categorized.
Still, I’m pretty sure that I’ve done every trail in the Mill Creek Metro Park system (even some for which I needed to secure a special permit). I believe there’s only one site from the Ohio State Park system in the county, and I’ve done all of the trails in that one. I’ve done all the trails I could find in the various municipal park systems I could find within the county. And I’ve even done a few trails within private spaces like the Boy Scouts of America’s Camp Stambaugh (where I just so happened to finish today).
It took me over a year: 47 different hikes totaling 167 miles. I spent 60 hours and 6 minutes out on these trails, largely during extended times of practicing spiritual disciplines, and all the ups and downs of the Appalachian foothills amounted to a total ascent of 4,121 feet.
Even without all the facts and figures, though, I’m pretty proud to have finished what I set out to do.
I don’t know what it is about my personality that makes these sorts of quests to intriguing, so motivating, so satisfying. I tend to be an “over-achiever,” and my heart can struggle with pride — but I don’t really think that I do this sort of stuff for others, or for any sort of “bragging rights.” I suspect I’d do this sort of thing even if I didn’t have a blog or a Strava account (though I recognize that somehow sharing the accomplishment does add some element of joy).
I feel like the main motivator is enculturation — feeling like a really know a place, having intimately experienced its natural landscapes, its roads, its restaurants, its people. This particular quest is certainly linked to the H2O YSU church plant. I feel a sort of familial pride and concern for the team we sent out. So I guess I want to know that they’ve landed in a good place, where they can grow and thrive. And thankfully, that’s proved to be the case throughout the Mahoning County hiking quest. The Mahoning Valley is a beautiful place with lots of joy to discover.
There’s some scuzzy, rusted, rotted-out stuff, too — but even that tends to have this post-industrial, post-apocalyptic, shabby-chic, abandoned-warehouse appeal to it. The grit is part of the glory. In addition to that, though, the restaurant scene in Mahoning County is probably the best I’ve experienced in Ohio: everything from all-American favorites like pizza and hot dogs and fried chicken to some really great places for Italian cuisine and Greek cuisine. And Mill Creek Park, proper, is legitimately one of the finest urban parks I’ve ever seen. Like, on the level or even better than New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park or the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s been truly a privilege to walk its trails.
What comes next for my questing heart? I’m honestly not sure. Trumbull County, Stark County, and Summit County are the three other counties that are contiguous with my “home turf” in Portage County (having already done Geauga County and, now, Mahoning County). Trumbull keeps me East, where I’ve got a standing weekly appointment with H2O YSU friends. Summit’s got the Fall Hiking Spree, which times up well with September. Or maybe some combination of these two? We’ll see…
If you know of any trails that I might be missing in Mahoning County, please let me know. This would not be “raining on my parade,” but rather bringing extra “sunshine” into my life. Eventually, I hope to post my Top Ten Hikes from Mahoning County, and maybe some other observations from the quest as well. For now, though, I’m just happy to register this achievement and see if there might be any loose ends to tie up.