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Author Topic: Book Review - A Walk in Ohio  (Read 5217 times)
Buckeye
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« on: January 26, 2011, 12:17:24 PM »

A Walk in Ohio:  1310 Mile Walk Around the Buckeye Trail
Written by John N. Merrill
Reviewed by Darryl R. Smith

Publisher: Walk & Write, 2000
ISBN: 978-1903627037
140 Pages
$20.00

Books about the Buckeye Trail are far and few between, and books on hiking the BT as a thru-hike are nearly non-existent.  (I am hoping that the Anslingers will write one about their thru-hike during Ohioís Bicentennial in 2003)  Therefore, after finding this title online from Blackwell in the United Kingdom (bookshop.blackwell.co.uk), I was very eager to crack open its pages and read about author's thru-hike of the BT that he completed in 2000.

John N. Merrill (at the time he wrote A Walk in Ohio) had already completed over 170,000 miles of hiking and walking all around the globe before tackling the Buckeye Trail.  He completed the Appalachian Trail as a warm-up to the Pacific Coast Trail.  The amount of miles he completed each day on the BT was simply amazing (most days in the mid twenty mile range, several days over thirty miles per day).  He has fifty titles published on his various walks and hikes.  So, needless to say, he probably knows a thing or two about walking and hiking.

A Walk in Ohio is a day by day account of Mr. Merrill's sixty day hike of the then 1,310 mile Buckeye Trail.  Each day is broken down into a short chapter.  The author gives a bit of info of the sights and sounds he sees along the way.  Alas, the book is rife with typos, run-on sentences, and some factual inaccuracies - at one point, upon reaching Lake Erie, the author was disappointed in not seeing the CNN Tower in Toronto sixty miles away...of course he would not see Toronto because Toronto is across Lake Ontario, not Lake Erie - and, at one point he mentions that Ohio has 80 counties when it actually has 88 - but overall the read is very enjoyable and the author exudes enthusiasm (and a contagious positive outlook) every step along the way.  His encounters with Buckeye natives during his hike gives me the hope that there are still friendly and helpful people out in this world, something I hope to experience myself as I hike the BT (in sections of course, I can't take two months off of work).

The quality of the book is a bit sketchy.  The maps of Ohio are a bit off in their city locations.  The overall map showing the entire trail infers that the trail is a giant circle, where we know that the trail meanders in and out of certain counties and creates its own unique shape.  As mentioned there are typos and grammatical errors strewn about the book.  And to make matters worse, my copy literally started falling apart during the first night of reading.  However, after conversing with the author via email, he sent me an updated version, one that has laminated covers and is spiral bound, which in turn will keep the pages from falling out.

At first I was put off a bit by Mr. Merrill's hiking techniques - he seems to eat at restaurants and stay at motels on a daily basis on his journey, but in hindsight this might be the most effective method of completing the BT as a thru-hike, as there are few places to camp and very few shelters (ala the AT) along the entire trail.  Still, I was surprised that Mr. Merrill did not carry more food to make his own meals and use his tent more often than he did as there are some opportunities for more actual backpacking, particularly in the southeastern part of the state; his work is more like a walking tour than a traditional thru-hike as most American backpackers define it.

Overall, this is a pleasurable read (even with the typos and factual errors) and should be a must title for Buckeye Trail enthusiasts.  The authorís joy of walking and meeting folks along the trail, and his positive demeanor even during days of less than ideal conditions will make you want to complete your own thru-hike of the Buckeye Trail.
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2011, 12:03:38 PM »

Buckeye,

Thanks for that wonderful review of Merrill's interesting adventures.  I too have read the book and enjoyed most, if not all of it.  Some of our BTA members at the time did not like his grousing about some of the trail. 

As you know, this grousing continues today, and points out the need for more maintenance people to be out there to find problems and correct them.  However, with 1400-miles it often seems like an impossible task.  Thanks to all present maintainers for the often thankless task of keeping the trail in shape.

FTBB
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Buckeye
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2011, 12:32:40 PM »

FTBB,

I might be one of those who grouse from time to time, because I have reached out to certain positions/persons within the BTA for info or help or whatever and never received a reply, even after several attempts.  Makes it frustrating to get involved when there isn't a response.  However, to balance those issues, I HAVE had some great responses from the director, certain board members, and others. 

When I read A Walk in Ohio, I empathized with the author as I have had some of those same, non-responsive, issues.

Buckeye

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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2011, 09:28:55 AM »

I feel your frustration!  To be fair, though, every one running the organization except the Executive Director is a volunteer.  Most are working normal full-time jobs.  I remain amazed at the quality of Trailblazer, put out on time every 3 months by a volunteer editor with a full-time job, a volunteer graphics designer with a full-time job and one assistant editor (retired!).

In addition, many volunteers on the board and staff have taken on multiple responsibilities which sadly often results in none being done well.  I think the board has realized that a major goal must be increasing membership, and thus increasing volunteers so each volunteer can concentrate on fewer tasks.

In short, if you see a short-coming or a need, step up and volunteer to help.  Buckeye did that and it is the reason this forum exists again.
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matthewbird76
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 07:34:27 PM »

Still, I was surprised that Mr. Merrill did not carry more food to make his own meals and use his tent more often than he did as there are some opportunities for more actual backpacking, particularly in the southeastern part of the state; his work is more like a walking tour than a traditional thru-hike as most American backpackers define it.

As A Brit I kinda identify with him though.

Hiking in Britain, whilst we may have the trail miles to put in excellent journey's, because we're such a small country, you're hardly a mile or two from a snug inn or a B&B or pub......... lets face it, the weather in the UK isn't predictable and I've researched doing the Pembrokeshire Coast / Hadrians Wall / Penine Way trails all before and they all seem to mandate staying in either hostels, B&B's or Inns.......

I guess the only true wilderness left is the high crags of Scotland or Dartmoor or the Lake District........ Even as a kid I remember hiking in the Peak District and you're hardly an arms length from civilisation.

I think anyone who enjoys the outdoors on foot is doing it right.
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 11:54:45 AM »

The same goes with a good part of the US, especially in the east.  You never really escape from civilization, you are rarely more than a mile from a road or a house.
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matthewbird76
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 06:07:02 PM »

yes granted, but for the most part there are opportunities to camp and do decent backpacking excursions.

It's mostly private land with right of way easements in the UK.
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