My Annual Ritual

Every year for the past five years, I’ve embarked on a trek to walk or ride the entire Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail. It started in 2006, when the Newtown trail head opened. The first year, I made it as far as Morrow. The next year, I got further, up to Corwin, a little town halfway to Dayton. In 2007, I made it to Spring Valley, a town that’s off any major highway and still stuck in the 1930’s. 2008 and 2009, I came up short, but in 2010, I finally made it all the way to Xenia, where the Ohio Trail System hub is located.

I do this every year, walking the trail in sections, including some sections that haven’t been built yet. Last year, I started along the Ohio River Trail at Newport, Kentucky, crossing the bridge and walking up to Berry Park just east of downtown.  Last year’s walk included a little trespassing on railroad property and through a few fields as part of the Ohio River and Little Miami Trails have not been built or laid out yet.

This year, I had to start at Berry Park as I began my trek the same morning as the Heart Mini-Marathon, which cut off the Purple People Bridge and Newport-on-the-Levee.  Not a problem as the areas along Riverside Drive are now designated as a bike route. Sunday morning found me walking along a newly completed section of trail from Schmidt Field, a park along the Ohio River about a mile up Riverside Drive from Berry Park, to Lunken Airfield, where a walking trail already circles the airport.

Hamilton County is about to approve the final plans for linking the Ohio River Trail to the Little Miami Trail. So unlike last year, where I trudged through a muddy wildlife preserve where part of the trail will eventually be built, I’m going to walk a park across the Beechmont Levee from Lunken instead.

The tricky part is the section between Beechmont Avenue at the foot of Mt. Washington to the actual trail start in Newtown. This part of the trail has been laid out, but until it’s finished, it’s essentially part of Turpin Farms and several people’s backyards. So while I’m walking a section that hasn’t actually been built yet, I’m actually having to walk along the edge of State Route 32, through a field, along a railroad track, to a town park and across part of a public golf course.

Once I’ve walked that, it’s time to get the old battered Huffy out of the basement and start riding. That begins at Avacoa Park, also near Newtown.  I plan to ride to my favorite part of the trail and my favorite suburb in Cincinnati: Loveland.  Every year when I walk or ride in Loveland, I stop at the Paxton Grill for breakfast or for beer and a bowl of chili.

Once I reach Newtown, I’m on the old rail bed of the former Little Miami Railroad, which I’ve blogged about before. You can still see bits and pieces of the old railroad along the trail.

But the trail is more than that. It’s quiet. The only noise comes from my seldom-ringing cell phone. During my ride last year between Morrow and Corwin, I stopped at one of the benches you find at odd spots far from any intersection with any road. It was a late summer afternoon, and I just stopped and sat and listened. For a mile in every direction was nothing but corn. The only noise came from the wind in the leaves, the odd car off in the distance, and an airplane buzzing overhead. I just sat and listened and thought about nothing.

There are more challenging trails. I used to enjoy walking the Old Man’s Cave Trail in Hocking Hills in a former life, six miles of hills and rocks. But the Little Miami is a place to unplug, unwind, and reset.

I do this every year over about eight or nine weekends every year. It’s become my meditation.