This delightful spot is just off the North Country Trail in Caesar Creek State Park. Looks like a great hike, right? Barely a hundred yards beyond this, however, the trail gets routed up an old road so eroded by a wash-out that I don’t believe it can be traversed if the ground is even slightly muddy.
The North Country Trail is a national scenic trail, equal (on paper, anyway) to the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Like those trails, it is built and maintained largely by volunteer organizations. Unlike those trails, the NCT lacks the funds, support, and political capital necessary to build it to completion. This is especially evident in Ohio, where responsibility for the NCT has been foisted onto the Buckeye Trail Association (BTA), a private non-profit that already oversees the 1444-mile Buckeye Trail.
The NCT coincides with the BT for about 800 miles through the state. I’m sure that the BTA’s volunteers are just as dedicated as those in any other state, but their resources seem stretched thin with this double responsibility. The NCT/BT in Ohio also doesn’t seem to receive the same support and integration from public land managers that other national scenic trails in other states do. If you hike the NCT in many Ohio state parks, you find that it tends to follow existing bridle trails or park roads rather than its own singletrack path; it rarely forms the backbone of a state park or national forest trail system, the way the AT or PCT would elsewhere. Often the NCT seems placed arbitrarily through any park it traverses in Ohio, far from a park’s scenic highlights or loop trails.
In Caesar Creek, west of the dam, the NCT follows a lovely riverside pathway for about a mile before it suddenly veers away onto the unstable, gullied-out roadway to climb up to yet another paved roadwalk. A perfectly good path extends west into the state nature preserve, but because it isn’t a designated trail, you can’t enter it without a permit. Why doesn’t the NCT take advantage of this lovely pathway through the gorge instead of yet another dreary roadwalk? This is what I mean by the lack of support from the state’s public lands.