Ohio man attempts speed record hiking the Buckeye Trail

Jon Baker
The Times-Reporter
Ohio resident Josh Horsfall, photographed at Tappan Dam, Tuesday, Oct. 5 in Uhrichsville, is currently attempting to break the fastest known time for completing the Buckeye Trail. The current record is held by Everett Brandt, for 55 days, 6 hours and 12 minutes, according to an August 27, 2018 article in the Record-Courier. The trip is approximately a 1400 mile hike.

UHRICHSVILLE — After completing what is known as the "triple crown of hiking" on Sept. 9, Portage County resident Josh Horsfall was looking for a new challenge.

Finishing the triple crown — hiking the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail in the eastern U.S., the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail in the Rocky Mountains and the 2,654-mile Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast — took him five years. 

"So I finished, and then it was like, now what is there to do?" he said. "What's the big challenge?"

Then it occurred to him that the Buckeye Trail, which makes a 1,444-mile loop around the state of Ohio, goes through his hometown of Mantua. 

So he came up with a new goal — break the fastest known time for completing the trail, which is 55 days.

He began his new challenge on Sept. 27, and passed through the Tuscarawas Valley this week while working to meet his goal.

Horsfall paused from his journey on Tuesday at Tappan Dam near Uhrichsville to talk to The T-R about his quest.

Ohio resident Josh Horsfall, photographed at Tappan Dam, Tuesday, Oct. 5 in Uhrichsville, is currently attempting to break the fastest known time for completing the Buckeye Trail. The current record is held by Everett Brandt, for 55 days, 6 hours and 12 minutes, according to an August 27, 2018 article in the Record-Courier. The trip is approximately a 1400 mile hike.

Locally, the trail follows the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail through Bolivar and Zoar and goes through Camp Tuscazoar. It continues past Leesville Lake in Carroll County and goes around Tappan, Clendening and Piedmont lakes in Harrison County and Salt Fork Lake in Guernsey County.

To equal the record of 55 days, Horsfall said he will have to walk at least 26 miles a day.

"Knowing what I've done on other trails, I was like I feel that was something I might be able do, and I don't want to go back to work. I felt like, why not do another one?" he said.

On the trail, he travels light. He has a bag in which he carries food, water, a sleeping bag, tarp, inflatable air mattress, puffy coat for cold weather, wool hat, wool gloves and raincoat.

On longer trails, he carries a bigger pack, but he wasn't trying to go for a speed record. 

"So this one I really pared down my gear list," Horsfall said. "It's almost like you want to make yourself a little bit uncomfortable because then it's easier to get out of the tent and get moving in the morning. If the name of the game is pace and speed, you don't want to be comfortable laying there, sleeping in an extra hour or two."

In many places, the Buckeye Trail follows existing highways — a big difference from trails in the western part of the country where there is plenty of public land available for hiking.

The scenery in Ohio is much different — farms and small towns — than in the west where there are plenty of lofty mountain peaks.

"I don't have to worry about grizzly bears," he said. "I love that. Night hiking is a lot less nerve-wracking around here."

Ohio resident Josh Horsfall, photographed at Tappan Dam, Tuesday, Oct. 5 in Uhrichsville, is currently attempting to break the fastest known time for completing the Buckeye Trail. The current record is held by Everett Brandt, for 55 days, 6 hours and 12 minutes, according to an August 27, 2018 article in the Record-Courier. The trip is approximately a 1400 mile hike.

Horsfall arrived in Tuscarawas County on Monday and was planning on spending the night at Camp Tuscazoar.

"I got to Bolivar and I saw that there was a hotel next to a grocery store, and that's a lot of temptation. I couldn't make it past that," he said.

The distance from Bolivar to Camp Tuscazoar is 8 miles. To make up for that lost time, he started again on Tuesday at 5 a.m.

"Tuesday morning I was walking down the Towpath right out of Bolivar, and I had my head lamp on and it was early," he said. "I see these eyes glowing, and they're just above head level. It was a possum hanging in a tree, which is funny because a couple of days ago I walking through Mentor on the Buckeye Trail, and people have Halloween decorations out. Someone had a fake bat hanging from a tree, and the possum and the bat looked alike."

 Horsfall said he enjoys meeting people on his hikes.

When he was hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017, he encountered a group from New Zealand. That led him to go hiking on the nation's South Island in 2019, the same year he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.

He likes that the Buckeye Trail goes through small towns.

"I think you meet a more authentic type of person to that area," he said. "I think big cities are very generic areas, and they're kind of all gray and very similar, regardless of where you are in the world. Whereas if you go through small town areas, they're very distinct and different and they all have their own things. I really enjoy the people."

In between hiking, Horsfall has held a variety of jobs — working at the Cleveland Zoo, making snow at a ski resort and working for Nestle. For the past five years, he has alternated between hiking and striping roads in Ohio.

People can follow Horsfall's progress on his latest hike on his Facebook page. 

Ohio resident Josh Horsfall, photographed at Tappan Dam, Tuesday, Oct. 5 in Uhrichsville, is currently attempting to break the fastest known time for completing the Buckeye Trail. The current record is held by Everett Brandt, for 55 days, 6 hours and 12 minutes, according to an August 27, 2018 article in the Record-Courier. The trip is approximately a 1400 mile hike.