Whopper Ride West of Syracuse to Port Byron

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Nine Mile Aqueduct
Weedsport Aqueduct Park
Jordan Flower Park
Sims Store Museum - Camillus

Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, September 7, 2012

It has been a long day.  I woke up just before 7 am and thought I would sleep another 15 min or half hour, but it wasn't happening.  And, if I had any chance of stopping at Jerry's, I did need to start out around 8 am.  I don't know why it took so long - maybe chatting with Janice when I put out the garbage and recycling - and then, getting gas and trying to wash my car windows.  In any case, I was on the road by 9 am.

It would be a long drive since I intended to go the Camillus starting point for the next section of the Canalway Trail that starts west of the city of Syracuse.  Unfortunately, I didn't look closely enough at my map and thought there would be a Thruway exit sign for Camillus.  There wasn't, so I ended up in Weedsport.  And, if I had known that the off-road trail extended past Weedsport, I could have started there.  So I eventually managed to get to Camillus and finally to the trail, but not to the actual starting point.

It was a nice ride.  Lovely weather, with those vegetative smells of late summer plus the smells of harvesting farm crops that I love.  The trail was very flat and had pleasant enough scenery.  There were a few sections that were shared roads - shared by cars I guess - but they really weren't roads in the usual sense - single lane dirt tracks.  And there were some sections that had an extra heavy dose of stone dust so that I slipped and slid over it making a slushing sound as I rode and it made it heavier going.  But generally, I felt as if I were streaking along!

I started on DeVoe Road by the Sims Store Museum in Camillus Canal Park.  The canal was fairly wide and beautiful there across from the reconstructed store/museum with outbuildings and canal artifacts - lock gates, buoys, and other things.  Whatever was inside the store/museum, I couldn't see because it was "closed due to car trouble."  I am not even sure it has very long opening hours or is open every day.  It looked like fun though.

I chose to head west on the longer stretch to Jordan - which, according to someone or something, was where this section of the off-road trail ended.  I went past the gun club as I heard a bunch of shots.  The road was shared up to the gun club entrance and was full of pot-holes.  The Old Erie Canal with water in it was to my left.  The canal changed character over the ride to Jordan - first it had water, but you couldn't see it that well because of the foliage.  Then it was green & scummy for awhile - but a pretty scummy green - and then dried up.  Then it started filling up again and I went through a section with lots of dead trees in it and above it.  One section had lovely flowers cascading over the path. 

I saw some little black birds with a flash of yellow on their wings and heard them tweeting.  I saw some bigger birds ahead of me on the trail but was too preoccupied looking for a pee stop and almost entirely missed the turkeys!  But the rear guard turkey stayed on the ground until I was almost up to it before flapping off into the trees.  So that was exciting!

When I got to Jordan, there was an extensive park built around their aqueduct and the canal - although the canal was made into a garden.  There was a small water fall though.  I inquired about the path of a man sitting and reading by the interpretive signs and he said that he wasn't sure but he thought the trail went another 8 miles or so to Port Byron.  I told him that the next town - Weedsport (where I had turned around) was good enough for me.  But as I rode toward Weedsport, I began to obsess with getting to Port Byron. 

It is hard to remember exactly, but I think a lot of the canal from Jordan to Weedsport was filled in with weeds, cattails and other plants- it had a swampy not-so-pleasant smell in some sections.  Just before Weedsport, the trail hit the road and went cold.  A road was closed, but since I thought the trail might be beyond it, they let me go past the bridge under construction.  Then I was totally befuddled.  This section was maintained as a ski-mobile trail and there was a sign on the road that showed a skidoo crossing, but for the life of me, I couldn't see where on that road it could possibly be.  I asked at the gas/convenience store on the corner, but they didn't have a clue.  People who don't ride bikes seldom notice hard-to-find bike trails.

I was ready to give up, but thought I would look past the ski-doo x-ing sign.  I found one end of it where I would have come out if I stayed on the trail and then crossed the highway to see if I could pick up the other end.  I went in back of a motel/hotel and some workers were in the parking lot.  I asked one and, unbelievably, he knew:  I had to follow the road until past the end of town and look for another aqueduct.  It was a bit confusing and I almost missed it but I found this second aqueduct park (Weedsport) and headed west to Port Byron.  This last section was not that different for the previous ones, but it had a fairly good surface and it seemed as if I really zipped along until I got to a place where the water in the canal ended and a little park began.  I turned around and headed back.  I think I took way too many photos because this whole thing took quite awhile.  I didn't check the time until the very end.

I retraced my wheel-marks back to the Camillus Canal Park but wanted to do the whole section so I went the extra 2 miles (in each direction) toward Rt 173 where this whole section actually starts (on the eastern end).  By now people were out.  Previously I had seen about 3 walkers and 1 stander.  Now there were traffic jams with joggers and walkers mostly.  One couple was taking turns pushing their double stroller as they ran.  This was by far the most popular section and I could see why.  It was wider and the surface was more compacted.  The canal itself was filled with water and clearer with lovely reflections of the trees and plants on the other side.  The near side had vegetation removed so that people on the trail had an unobstructed view. 

About halfway, there was another aqueduct (I do love the aqueducts) that was still functional.  It is the only one on the entire canal system that boats can actually use.  You could see the canal running above the Nine Mile Creek or river or whatever it was.  And from one side you could see the lovely arches of the aqueduct.  This one had recently been reconstructed:  the first boats traveled through in 2009 - the first since 1917.  It was 6:30 when I made it back to the car.  Then I loaded everything in, grabbed a granola bar to eat and finished my morning coffee.  I called Jerry to tell him I wasn't going to make it today and we settled on my getting there before 10 am tomorrow.

I was planning on taking I-695 back instead of going directly to the Thruway, but didn't manage to find it right away.  I ended up using the GPS and getting on 695 west until I hit the Thruway - only one exit closer than the one I had mistakenly taken this morning.  Oh, well. 

I realized as I chose photos for this blog that I have a lot of sign photos.  In a way, this will be my blog dedicated to trail signs.  As you can see, there is a wide variety of signs encountered during a Canalway Trail bike ride.  There are the standardized Canalway interpretive signs with history and old photos, the "you are here" maps that show the trail and surrounding area.  Then there are a variety of signs pointing out local towns and perhaps distances between places.  Special sights have their own sets of signs with identification and commentary.  I should have taken a photo of the sign that said the museum was closed due to car trouble.  This section of trail was also notable for the different shared routes:  gun club members, snowmobilers, horseback riders (oops, I meant to take a photo), and automobiles.  As a MUT (multi-use trail), this section also had joggers, walkers, dogs, turkeys.  No rollerblades or skateboards on the stone dust surface though.  And I didn't see any horse and buggies today either.  I might have left out some kind of sign, but you get the picture - lots of signs add to the experience.

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