Early Frontier

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The Mohawk Towpath Byway’s latest kiosk will be dedicated on Saturday, September 28 at 11:30 AM. The kiosk is located strategically near the bike/pedestrian path entrance to the City of Schenectady at Gateway Landing Park. The kiosk describes the role the historic Stockade area played as the early Frontier. The reverse panel explains the role of bateau as the preferred watercraft before the Erie Canal improved navigation along the Mohawk Valley.

Join us for a tuly unique historical experience! Together we’ll reflect on and celebrate the renaissance of Schenectady’s waterfront. The 2nd Albany Militia, expert 18th century re-enactors, will be on station to show off their reproduction bateau. Of course, well have complimentary refreshments!

Nearby, the Stockade Historic district will be running its biennial Walkabout – a showcase of music, costumed interpreters well as many of the oldest and most beautiful homes in Schenectady (tickets $25 each). Truly, it will be a full-day celebration of Schenectady’s storied past.

The kiosk was funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the New York State Scenic Byways Program at the New York State Department of Transportation. A local match for this funding was provided by the coalition of municipalities along the Byway corridor including Waterford, Cohoes, Halfmoon, Colonie, Clifton Park, Niskayuna and Schenectady. Content for the interpretive message was a joint effort by the Stockade Association, Schenectady County Historical Society, miSci, and Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway. Schenectady County Department of Public Works installed the kiosk during the summer.

To get to the Gateway Landing Park from State Street in Schenectady take the exit ramp on the right as you approach the Western Gateway Bridge. Look for the Rotary International sign on the right. From Scotia take the first exit ramp on the right to Schenectady County Community College and keep turning right under the approach to the Western Gateway Bridge. Gateway Landing Park will be on the left.

Raconteur

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Each of us needs to be a story teller when we describe the Mohawk Towpath Byway or one of the features on the Byway. We need to convey authenticity, provide a personal perspective, inject a bit of humor, if appropriate and entertain.

We have several who live within the Byway corridor who are really good at this: Russ Van Dervoort, John Scherer and Stephanie Bandosik come to mind.

With all the focus recently on birding on the Byway, I have a great deal of reverence for John James Audubon (1785 to 1851). The subject of ornithology came up recently at a Byway event and John Scherer said, “Audubon. Wasn’t he the guy that went around a couple of centuries ago shooting birds and then painting dead birds?” The comment put the life and times in perspective leaving a memorable impression on those listening.

Hamilton has been all the rage on the Byway with the production of the musical at Proctors Theater at the western end and Cherry Hill the Albany residence of Alexander Hamilton for a couple of years. My family is not of the “Virginia Hamilton” clan, but I can share the views of freedom for all. I remember Russ Van Dervoort making the comment, “Didn’t Alexander Hamilton own slaves?”

The story of the Peace Maker and the Cohoes Falls is a fascinating one. If you ask a Native American Elder who knows the story he would say quite reverently that you are not ready to hear the story …leaving me to feel that I am not worthy. Stephanie Bandosik with reverence will put your mind at ease and in a relaxing, soothing way convey the story, but it may take longer than you wish to devote to the story.

In addition to all the other demands of a good story teller, we must be a good raconteur.

The dictionary says raconteur, (rä,kän’tar), is a person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way. The word comes from early 19th century from the French “raconter” meaning to relate or recount. I realize that I have been pronouncing the word, or at least the last syllable incorrectly by making it sound like “tour”.

Try your hand at story-telling and see if you can bring your audience back for more! Be a bit of a raconteur.

Canal Fest

Canal Fest at the Mabee Farm Historic site was a hoot!

Harvesting winter wheat. Note the riders on the Canalway Trek in the background.
Thanks to Mary MacDonald (pictured) and Nancy Papish for the help telling the Byway’s stories. This is an excellent opportunity to reach an audience interested in experiences offered along the Mohawk Towpath Byway.
Canal Fest included an opportunity to take a short excursion in a bateau. Three centuries ago these small craft were the way to navigate the shallow waters of the Mohawk River. There were many shops in Schenectady that would build you one for your trip west.

The festivities also included live music, kayaking, food, craft beer, and wine, craft vendors, heirloom gardens, free Stewart’s ice cream, and family-friendly tours of the historic Mabee house, summer kitchen, smithy, and restored Dutch barn. The museum was also open for those that have not seen the most recent additions.

And the hoot? A wildlife rehabilitation was also exhibiting with some of the more people friendly animals and birds including two species of owls and several raptors that have been rescued from life threatening situations.

All together these made a memorable, family-friendly experience.

Itinerary Published

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During June, July and August American Road Magazine has a Mohawk Towpath Byway itinerary posted on their website. Our itinerary is the only one they have published in the northeastern U S, so it is near the top of the page.

Check it out!

American Road Magazine has a quarterly magazine that highlights the unique and sometimes unusual features along America’s roadways. Their audience is that portion of the traveling public who seek unique experiences along their journeys on the back roads and byways.

Hits to the Mohawk Towpath Byway website, our calls to our self guided tours, Facebook page likes, and brochure requests all peak during the summer travel season. It will be interesting to see if this American Road posting will provide an additional boost to these metrics.

Water Trail Guidebook

My copy of the New York State Canalway Water Trail Guidebook arrived!

I could not resist reading word-for-word the sections I am most familiar with. Seeing these beloved sections of the Water Trail described in such detail by someone else’s eye is inspiring. The print makes for an easy read and the three color maps are uncluttered, but of sufficient detail.

The superb black and white photographs accompanying the text are included to help tell the history of the area and entice the reader to take their own photographic memories.

The spirally bound document is not small enough to fit in a back pocket reminiscent of the Long Trail Guidebook I treasured in my youth, but it is much easier to read and use planning my next outing. Packaged with the guide is a set of four neatly folded full color maps that will fit in your pocket. These can be refolded to the section of the water trail that you are navigating. They’re water and tear resistant and have all the details you need once on your planned water adventure.

What a treasure. I can visualize the Guide proudly displayed on my coffee table in twenty years, well worn and dog eared, open to a favorite section of the water trail that I would like to explore again.

I recommend you get a copy of the complimentary Guidebook from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and let’s start planning a Paddle the Byway event this summer! How is that for a Canalway Challenge?

Canalway Challenge

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The next meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway will be at the historic Grooms Tavern in Rexford on Tuesday April 9 at 7 PM. Our Guest Speaker will be Jean Mackay from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Her topic will be the new initiative “Canalway Challenge”. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Canalway Challenge: tracking history, tracking miles.

This is a challenge to discover the recreational and historic resources of the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. Conquer 15 miles at a time on foot, bicycle, kayak and remember the line, “…15 miles on the Erie Canal.”

Join us as we learn about this challenge; how to register; how to start; how to earn a patch; how to get others involved. Refreshments will be served.

We will have additional agenda items.

2018 Annual Report

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While wrapping up reports and other administrative requirements of the Byway and the two organizations that are the backbone of our community

  • The Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway, and
  • The Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Coalition

…we have developed a 2018 Annual Report that you can view here. It was prepared for municipal officials within the Byway corridor, as a thank you to our volunteers for a successful year, and as a tool to help tell the story of the Byway to the general public. If you do not receive your copy of the 2018 Annual Report by mid February send a request for a copy.

This is a collage of a number of successes we had on the Mohawk Towpath Byway this year.

Were you a part of it? If you were thank you for the help. If you were not please act now to make your place on the Mohawk Towpath Byway in 2019! Join the friends of the Byway while the year is young. Click here!

New Year

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The enlarged 1842 Erie Canal with the recently reconstructed Towpath Trail to the right.
The enlarged 1842 Erie Canal with the recently reconstructed Towpath Trail to the right.

Welcome to a new year on the Mohawk Towpath Byway. The Byway is open today along with all of the recreational opportunities. The Byway from Schenectady to Cohoes and Waterford uses all public roads and all the public outdoor recreation facilities are open, but, as always, dress appropriately against the wind driven squalls. The ice skates and skate sailing will have to wait for colder temperatures.

We look forward to good participation at the upcoming meeting of the Friends of the Byway on Tuesday, January 8 at the Historic Grooms Tavern in Rexford. Before the meeting give some thought to what you would like to see the Friends do this year to make a difference for Byway residents and visitors.

One proposal is to reconstruct the footbridge deck on the Original Erie Canal Towpath just west of the Water Authority access road. The bridge abutments have shifted slightly with ice action over the years, but the stringers are still in good shape to serve many additional years of service.

Is there another project that you are passionate about? Bring your ideas to the meeting on Tuesday evening January 8.

Byway Achievements

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A discussion around the table at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway came up with surprising results.  The question was, “What were the greatest achievements on the Byway this year?”

HolidaySwag

First up, Ruth related the story that at the Duathlon registration when her husband met an individual recovering from a similar medical condition as his.  “The two of them are helping each other through recovery.”

Paul said, “I became more familiar with the features within the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.”  He also added that fellow volunteer Chris had used a personal GPS devise to map trails in the Preserve and proceeded to color blaze the individual trails to match the mapping.

 “Volunteers Chris and Joanne have painted a mural on the other side of the Whipple bridge aerial photo,” added Sue. “Their mural names and color codes the trails. Additionally Chris created directional signs at entrances to the nature preserve and at trail intersections complete with trail names and distances. Most of the trails have color coded discs on trees.”

Eric is proud of the Story Telling Summit that the Friends of the Byway helped host in late spring.  We had folks attend from as far away as the mid west U S. It was the consensus around the table that we should do something similar next year.

Mary reported that she had given a tour of the Byway to a group of 7 or 8 hikers.  They all enjoyed the experience and hope to repeat it, perhaps in another area of the Byway.

Nancy shared a story that as she and Tracy were marshaling participants at the Duathlon, Tracy pointed out a coyote crossing a distant field.  Nancy continued her post, but later saw the coyote return across the ridge.

Maryanne shared a story of a visit to a historic building and had paused at the top of the stairs.  While she was there she felt a push toward the stairs as if  by a mischievous child, but no one was around.  That story was added to the folklore of the historic property which had, at one time, housed an orphanage.

Lara successfully completed the Duathlon, and has always been impressed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers who host the event.  She is looking forward to competing again next year.

During Farm Fest weekend Larry helped a visitor discover nearby Clutes Dry Dock by accessing the Byway tour on the visitor’s cell phone.  The visitor was compelled to check out other features along the Byway corridor during the weekend.  The self guided tour feature makes it easy to discover the Byway at your own pace and on your own time.

These individual observations illustrate the diverse interests on the Byway and the collection of resources that make the Mohawk Towpath Byway such a unique place to live, to visit and to share with the outside world.  What stands out in your mind as a special resource along the waterway west?  

New Post

Birding Trail

John Loz and Eric Hamilton install an IBA sign to the introductory stop on the Birding Trail in the Vischer Ferry Preserve. – photo by Maryanne Mackey.

Actually there are four new posts just off the Mohawk Towpath Byway within the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.  They mark spots on the new birding trail added to our self guided tour of features along the Byway.  This is a joint project, long in planning, between the Audubon Society of the Capital Region and the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.

The tour points out four different habitats within the preserve each different types of bird species.  These habitats are described as open water habitat (in the background of the accompanying photo); cattail marsh; river and river edge habitat; and forest and shrub habitat.

“The Vischer Ferry Preserve was named an Important Bird Area in 1997 by Audubon New York and Bird Life International,” explains John Loz.  “This partnership between the birding community and the Byway community is most significant.”

“It is partnerships like this that broaden the appeal of the Mohawk Towpath Byway to local, regional and international visitors.  It is yet another story to add to the overall Byway experience,” adds Eric Hamilton.

Try it!  Stop at the the main entrance to the Preserve located at the intersection of Riverview Road and Van Vranken Road.  Scan the QR code posted on the wooden kiosk with the area map or key in 518-649-9990 and listen to the narrative for stop 4.  Then walk over the historic Whipple truss that bridges the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal and look for stop 31 on the right (as pictured here).

It’s all right here in our backyard!  Get out and enjoy it as the fall colors reach their peak and the bird migration along the eastern flyway is in full swing.