Old Erie Canal State Historic Park
September 18, 2010
Surprise! It is a beautiful sunny, crisp morning as I head out on the 36-mile long path through the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Workers began construction of the original canal in 1817 on the flat Oneida Lake Plain between Syracuse and Rome. This section of the canal was known as the “Long Level” and didn’t require the construction of locks. Years later, to improve on the original canal an Enlarged Canal was built. In some places, it was built directly on top of the original canal. When the new Erie (Barge) Canal was built in 1918, the Enlarged Canal was abandoned. I will be cycling along this abandoned stretch of canal.
I am heading east into the sun riding under a canopy of trees. It is Saturday and the path is full of cyclist, walkers and runners. I pass by the stone remnants of an aqueduct spanning a river. Dew covered grass lines the path covered in colorful fall leaves. The waters of the canal are so calm that it looks like a reflection pool.
I arrive at a wider portion of the canal lined with marshes filled with reeds. Ducks swim by and like miniature boats leave a tiny wake behind them. I see two men fishing in a small boat. Their reflections color the water with yellow, red and blue hues. The sun sparkles off their nylon lines as they cast them in the water.
The path goes through the town of Canastota. It is celebrating its bicentennial. I am back on the bike trail where construction is going on. It looks like it is getting a makeover. Men are installing wooden fences and the trail has been widened and graded for a new layer of crushed limestone. It is bumpy and jars me to the core.
I arrive in Durhamville, and follow Canal Street to the next segment of the path. It is newly refurbished and a joy to ride on. I cycle by farms and derelict barns. Fresh hoof marks from clomping horses mar the path’s surface. I ride through a sea of apples that cover the trail.
I turn off the path onto Lock Road, which leads me to Erie Barge Canal Lock 21. As I cycle by, a woman is playing catch with her two standard poodles. The trail runs by the canal for a mile then veers off into the woods. Soon I find myself in Rome, New York, my destination.