Napoleon and the surrounding area will play host to an estimated 300 hikers in May as the Buckeye Trail celebrates its 60th anniversary.
The 2019 Buckeye TrailFest will be hosted by Widewater Retreat May 16-19, but many trail activities will be held on the local Miami and Erie Canal, which is also part of the statewide Buckeye Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail.
The event will technically begin May 11 when Mike Fanelli of Dayton, whose trail name is Scallion, will begin hiking toward Widewater Retreat from Norwalk with a few “seasoned hikers.”
“The first five days or so, they are planning to do 18-20 miles per day, so they are saying ‘seasoned hikers’ instead of beginners,” said Sam Bonifas of the Buckeye Trail organization. He and fellow member John Nemcik reported their update Wednesday to the Henry County Park District during its regular meeting.
“But the final day, Thursday (May 16), to get into Camp Widewater, anybody that wants to do it on that Thursday, he said come join them,” Bonifas said. “That will be more like a 10-15 mile day.”
Once the event gets underway, there will be programs and speakers held at the camp, as well as multiple hikes each day.
On May 18, there will be two hikes available that both end up in Napoleon. One, which will be 13 miles, will leave from the camp and head into Napoleon. The other, an eight-mile hike, will leave from Florida and end in Napoleon. Hikers from both directions plan to come to the downtown for lunch following their treks.
A six-mile hike from the camp to Liberty Center is also planned.
Bonifas said there will also be hikes around Defiance, Oak Openings and along the Wabash Cannonball.
“They’re still looking for hike leaders for some of those,” Bonifas added.
Dr. Joe Krueger, who is secretary of the Henry County Park District, said many of the hikes were set up in an effort to attract local people to come experience the trails, as well as give long-time hikers the ability to see and hike new areas of the trail.
He also pointed out one of the good things about the Florida to Napoleon hike will be that those taking part will pass the Gunn’s Cemetary.
“It has the only known American Revolutionary soldier buried in Henry County,” Krueger said. “And the only place you can get to it is along the towpath trail.
“There’s also War of 1812 veterans, Civil War veterans, all this local history that people don’t realize,” he added.
Programs will include mushrooms 101, War of 1812, Gen. Anthony Wayne’s campaign, drone use, outdoor ethics, Bigfoot past to present, one pot meals on the trail, beginner’s guide to hiking and more.
“On Saturday, May 18, it’s going to be family day,” Bonifas said. “The program barn is where all the families and kids will be, and there will be special programs just for families.
“I think they’ll have one of the Johnny Appleseed impersonators there for kids to bounce questions off of,” he added.
In addition, it is hoped that on one of the days Napoleon will officially be announced as a Trail Town. Krueger recently wrote a letter in support of such an action and is hoping to hear back soon.
Organizers are still putting together some events and are also seeking sponsors to help. The Henry County Park District and Toledo MetroParks have already signed on as a partner.
Registration has now opened up online.