MEDINA — Tom Helbig is on a mission to walk the Buckeye Trail, and perhaps encounter “trail angels” who bring “trail magic” along the 1,400-mile journey.
Helbig made his way through Medina County on Wednesday, coming in along Spieth Road and heading into the city before planning to spend the night at the Hinckley Reservation in Hinckley Township.
“Trail angels,” he said, are people he meets who offer “trail magic” — food or facilities — when they hear about his journey.
Helbig, 43, of Dayton, grew up in LaGrange and graduated from Keystone High School in 1992. He said he decided to conquer the Buckeye Trail, which offers walkers a circular route around the state, to help the nonprofit Buckeye Trail Association, based in Shawnee, with its missions.
To make a donation, contact the association at (740) 394-2008.
Midafternoon, Helbig headed east on West Liberty Street toward Public Square while following a guide map showing the trail. He looks for markers — small, blue rectangles — on telephone poles and other places to keep him on the correct route.
He planned to cover about 20 miles Wednesday. Normally he averages about 25 miles a day. This leg of the trip brings his total of miles covered to about 1,000 of the 1,400.
Helbig said was active in athletics on the Keystone basketball and baseball teams and said that translated to a love of exercise and the outdoors after college at Bowling Green University, where he earned a degree in sports management.
Helbig said his parents, Patrick and Joanne, who live in Wakeman, served as angels this week by providing a comfortable overnight stay.
He said his parents grew up in Avon — his dad worked at FirstEnergy and his mother was employed at Lorain Schools — and he has fond memories of fishing trips with his father on Lake Erie. “That was the root of my love for the outdoors.”
The Buckeye Trail is made up by parts of the Ohio and Erie Canal trail in the state’s eastern half and the Miami and Erie trail from the Ohio River north in the state’s western side.
Helbig began the journey March 17 in Canal Fulton. He estimated it would take three months to complete, but an elbow injury forced him to take a three-week break.
On his journey so far he said there had been no incidents with wildlife or other potential threatening situations, including bad weather.
Three years ago, Helbig started Tomfoolery Outdoors, which does event productions and guide services. He said taking time off from his business didn’t require a major sacrifice.
“I only need about $10,000 a year to live,” said Helbig, who is single. “I don’t have to count every penny. I live ‘off the grid.’ ”
Taking on charitable work is nothing new for Helbig.
In 2016, he said he bicycled 4,200 miles from San Diego to Key West, Fla., and raised almost $10,000 for the Special Olympics.
Helbig’s only companion on his walk is a 40-pound backpack that contains a sleeping bag, a tent, a change of clothing, 40 liters of water, a camp stove, first-aid kit and sandals.
His choice of walking shoe is a Hoka that costs about $125. He said he prefers it because of its “aggressive tread.”
Helbig said Buckeye Trail records show only 14 people have completed the walk.
“I’ll have to have the shoes bronzed and hang ’em up,” he said.
Follow Helbig’s adventure on Facebook.
Contact Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.