Outdoors by Rick Brockway: 365 miles of the Erie Canalway Trail

Up until a few years ago, I did a lot of bicycling. I averaged between 1,200 and 1,500 miles a year. Where ever we went with our camper, I had my bicycle on the back rack. But, things changed. I guess the biggest reason I quit road riding was because of all the idiots who spend more time texting on their phones than paying attention to the road. It’s obvious. With no rain, ice or snow on the road, sections of guard rails are knocked down everywhere you look time and time again. We followed a car to Oneonta one day. The driver crossed both lines on the road and even drove through the ditch, up the bank and back down onto the highway. What if I was riding there at that time?

I’ve missed riding though, and the urge finally got to me. I bought bright flashing red lights for the backs of our bikes and started out. Then my wife and I drove to Utica by way of Cooperstown last week. We drove down over Vickerman Hill and took Route 5S into Utica. Wow! The state is remaking the biking trail along the old Erie Canal. A wide, smooth blacktop trail with bridges and guard rails replaced the old tow path. The first canal boats were drawn by mules and horses, so the trail is relatively level.

Pat and I have ridden several sections of the Erie Canal Trail over the years. We like the section from Utica, through the Utica Marsh and on to one of the locks on the Barge Canal. Another beautiful section in Little Falls where the lock 19 at Moss Island lifts and lowers about 40 feet. It’s the highest lift lock on the entire canal.

As we drove along from Mohawk towards Ilion, I said to Pat, “That’s what I’ll do when I turn 80.” I hiked the Northville-Placid Trail 135 miles across the Adirondacks the summer I turned 60. At 70, I climbed the 35 Catskill High Peaks. At 80, I plan on riding the 365 miles of the Erie Canalway Trail—if I can wait that long.

Gov. Cuomo decided that there should be a biking/hiking trail for New York City to the Canadian Border and another from Albany to Buffalo. From what I see, great progress has been made. The trail is 365 miles long and 87% of it is not on public roads or highways. It does go through or near towns and cities, so motels and restaurants are easily accessible if you don’t want to camp along the way.

A few years ago, I told you about two women who were bicycling from Boston to Boulder, Colorado. They had a technical problem near Cathedral Farms, now the Cooperstown All Star Village, so I stopped to help them. A few weeks later, I got a post card from them. They finished the trip.

When I taught school in the Adirondacks I had a neighbor who rode his bike to Montreal to join a group that was peddling across Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia. When he met up with them, he was told that he was too old. After all, he was 80. He laughed and started out on his own, beating the rest of group to the west coast by a full week.

Garry Lawyer, the fellow who hiked the Appalachian Trail has bicycled across this great country three times. So, I started getting ready and peddled to West Oneonta and back the other day. I immediately realized I’m out of shape. After all, that was six miles.

Don’t worry, that will change. I’ll be ready. I just ordered the guide book and will start making plans. I doubt if I’ll wait five years to do it though. After all, a while ago I had decided to finish climbing the Adirondack 46 High Peaks when I’m 80. Only time will tell.

Trending Video

Recommended for you