The "Little Loop" is the nickname for the 250-mile loop that forms the northeast corner of the full 1,444-mile Ohio Buckeye Trail. The Little Loop runs from the Brecksville area northeast to Headlands State Park at Lake Erie, then southward to Massillon where it meets the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath, and then north on the Towpath up through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park back to Brecksville to complete the circle.
While the Little Loop is part of the Buckeye Trail, this 250+ mile section deserves to be recognized on its own, as it stands as the ultimate journey on foot through Northeast Ohio with many notable sites to see. Furthermore, the Buckeye Trail Association awards a special patch to any hiker who completes the distinct Little Loop.
From the Buckeye Trail Association website:
"For nearly 1444 miles, the Buckeye Trail winds around Ohio, reaching into every corner of the state. From a beachhead on Lake Erie near Cleveland, to a hilltop overlooking the Ohio River in Cincinnati, a hiker can experience a little of all that Ohio has to offer.
"First envisioned in the late 1950's as a trail from the Ohio River to Lake Erie, the Buckeye Trail evolved into a large loop, branching both north and east from Cincinnati. The separate legs rejoin in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Cleveland, and complete the trip to the lake. Because it is a loop, it is also in essence, endless. You may start a hike at any point and hike as long as you want without ever reaching an end!"
it's time. it's taken a few years. some failures. lots of learning. but, I think I am ready for this next adventure. This Monday 7/25 I am going to attempt to establish the FKT (Fastest Known Time) for the Little Loop of the Buckeye Trail. It's a 250 mile loop of adventure. I am going to start at 0600 from the Bedford Reservation, and run clockwise. I'm still sorting through issues related to my pack. I will have hydration, a credit card, a thermal blanket, sticks, and rain poncho. I'm going light, and will improvise on the course. It will be a self-supported attempt, which means no crew, pacers, help. The goal is to not blow up the first 125-50 miles, and then rest, then push to the end. so, friends on the summit side of the BT, if you see me on the trail sleeping, check my pulse, if there is no pulse then call 911. if there is a pulse, then let me stumble back up to Bedford. if this works out, I think it would kinda fun to do this as a staged 4 day FA event in the future! a shout out to all the great atheltes in Trail Enthusiasts for Burning River for their inspiration.
On Monday July 25, 2022 at 6:02am I started from the Bedford Reservation/Egbert Picnic Shelter to attempt a self-supported FKT on the Buckeye Trail (BT) Little Loop. I was traveling with a Nathan Vapor Air 7L vest with no bladder. I carried minimal items: Energizer lamp and spare batteries, 1 thermal blanket, 2 12 ounce Gatorade bottles, Squirrels Nut Butter, 2 rain ponchos, about 1400 calories of bars, a change of socks and underwear, reflector vest, iPhone, and charging cords for phone and watch. I was using LEKI polls. Due to the amount of road on the BT Little Loop, and the dryness of the trails in NE Ohio, I was able to run in a pair of Hoka Clifton 8s with no worry of a shoe change. I was wearing the Coros Apex, and kept it in ultra mode. My plan was to eat at every possible place, forage berries, and hydrate when and where possible (there is sufficient water on the course from parks at this time of year). The weather was humid the first morning, but then Monday-Wednesday the high was 82 degrees and lows around 64-66 degrees. But, on Thursday, the temps soared to 88, and the heat was a challenge and slowed the pace, and made me stop mid day simply to rest out of the heat on the trail. My Coros Apex made it to mile 152 without needing charged. I took the opportunity at mile 152 to rest and sleep for 5-6 hours, and charge my watch. The course has several challenging aspects. The first is the inconsistency of the Blue Blazes. There are many places that the blazes are missing, wrong, or lacking rigor in their presence, e.g., where a trail dumps into a trailhead/parking lot. The other challenge is the lack of possible nutrition on the course. There simply are not many places to fuel. I intentionally started in Bedford to run clockwise the parts of the course I had never ran, and leave the familiar for the end. I had no issues with traveling solo, and enjoyed the beauty of the course. I had two low moments: 1) Wednesday early morning due to lack of sleep, hydration, and nutrition. I was hallucinating and hypothermic, and was ready to pull the plug when the sun arose, and 2) Saturday early morning the last 6 miles was horrific. Much the same issues, but I had a sense of extreme paranoia that I was going around in the same continual circle, and wasn’t making progress. Beyond the 5-6 hours of sleep on Wednesday, several trail naps of 30-60 minutes were done on the course. The BT Little Loop course is estimated at 250-258 miles. I finished with a total of 274 miles, which is easily accounted for by missing a blue blaze and having to backtrack to get on course, and by times of going off the immediate course for calories. I finished at the Bedford Reservation/Egbert on Saturday July 30, 2022 at 3:39am. Which is a time of 4 days, 21 hours, 37 minutes for the BTLittleLoop 250.