Sixteen feet seems like a very wide bike trail, until you encounter a speeding Amish buggy. Six years after its completion, I finally had a chance to spend some time biking on the Holmes County Trail. This rail to trail project is uniquely wide because one half is smoothly paved with asphalt for bikes and runners, and the other half has a more durable “chip and seal” pavement intended for equestrian traffic.
All the necessary pieces came together in July, with Dad giving me the keys to his BikeE(don’t worry, Scott, I eventually figured out how to pump up the air shock), us building a place where you could store the bike, and Elizabeth getting a Texas-sized pickup with an eight foot bed so I could haul this oversized recumbent bike to the trailhead.
The slow bike movement rejects the inconvenient and sweaty accoutrements of biking, and my slow paced rides on this quiet and level trail were undertaken without high tech bike clothing, without special shoes, and with no head protection other than a ballcap from Tractor Supply. The segment between Killbuck and Millersburg curves through the Killbuck Bottoms, with several rest spots where you can sit on a bench and watch turtles, geese, and herons. I also saw pileated, red headed and red bellied woodpeckers, orioles, bluebirds, and blackbirds.
The traffic picks up in Millersburg, with the Amish using it to get to the Walmart and the thrift shop. They zip right along in their buggies. I did encounter people on horseback when biking in the English countryside, but I never experienced horse drawn vehicles. The trail is luxuriously wide, until you get to one of the bridges, which are narrower. It makes good use of the old railroad bridges, adapting them to bikes and buggies by covering the riveted metal sides with wooden sheathing. I’ve had to wait out some buggies, and once had to come to a stop when an oncoming group of bike-riding Amish girls filled up both lanes of the bridge and were too busy texting to notice that they were riding straight for me.
North of Millersburg, the trail goes through areas of hardwood forest, and farmland. The familiar sites of the Holmes County Home and its Ohio Bicentennial barn are visible across a wide corn field. Continuing through Holmesville, I made it all the way to Fredericksburg on one trip, grabbing a burger and shake and hanging out with the other bikers mid-way through a 30 mile slow bike ride.
Eventually, the trail in Holmes County will be just one segment of the Ohio to Erie Trail, which is planned to run from Cincinnati to Cleveland. At this point, no off road trail exists to the north between Fredericksburg and the Ohio & Erie Canalway in Massillon. The southern section of the Holmes Country trail, from Killbuck to Glenmont, is missing some bridges and isn’t expected to be completed for several more years.
I haven’t taken a bike on it, yet, but the old rail tunnel under Route 62 was reopened by ODOT a couple months ago. An unpaved trail is now open from Glenmont through the Bridge of Dreams at Brinkhaven and into Danville. A paved trail is open from Danville to Mount Vernon, and eventually, the old rail right of way should be reclaimed all the way to Columbus.