Monday, May 11, 2009

Biking - Mohawk River Bikeway / Erie Canalway Trail

Today dawned sunny with temps expected in the 60s with light winds, so I decided I needed some serious saddle time. The Erie Canalway Trail, of which the Mohawk River Bikeway is a part, runs from Albany to Buffalo, just like the song. Today, I rode one continuous section from east of Amsterdam to Canajoharie, 25 miles each way. Of that 50 miles, 30 were on an unpaved stone-dust surface, and of that 30, 15 also had a headwind. It was a good workout for both legs and rear end.

The route is pretty much dead flat, aside from the one 10% grade I climbed to capture this view of the Mohawk Valley below. That's NY5S in the foreground, and trucks are visible beyond it on the NYS Thruway, I-90.

The route follows the Mohawk River Valley, as did the Erie Canal in its day. The river is now used as the NYS Barge Canal, and has dams and locks along most of its length. At one point, it passes between Big Nose and Little Nose, steep promontories on either side of the river, seen here in the distance. Through this gap in the terrain pass all modes of transportation - the NYS Thruway, NY5, NY5S, railroads, the Barge Canal, and now the Canalway Trail.

Building the Erie Canal created some interesting engineering problems. The canal followed alongside the river, but rivers also have tributaries, and some of them are substantial. This was the case with Schoharie Creek, near Fort Hunter. Now a state historic site, Schoharie Crossing tells the story of how the canal crossed the creek, and how it survived the massive spring floods that as recently as 1987 caused the collapse of the I-90 Thruway overpass. In the 1800s, an aqueduct was built to carry the waters of the canal over the creek. The remains of that aqueduct are still visible today. A similar but much smaller aqueduct in central New York is currently being restored, and will once again carry the waters of the canal over the local creek.

The problem with a purely flat route is that continuous pedaling is required. There are no coasting breaks as downhills are encountered. Add to that the fact that a stone-dust surface creates much more rolling resistance, and this felt like more than a 50-mile ride. But some friends and I are planning a similar trip for later this year. We'll be riding the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail trail from Pittsburgh, PA, to Cumberland, MD, and then continuing on to Washington, DC, on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) Canal Trail. Today's outing was a good test of bike and butt on a similarly flat but bumpy ride. More details on that one as the planning continues.

No comments:

Post a Comment