Visit the Byway

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Now that the vegetation is down and the seasons are changing visit the Mohawk Towpath Byway. It. is amazing what you can see that was not obvious a month ago! The pesky summer insects are gone. The water chestnuts that clogged our shallow waterways have gone to seed. If the sun comes out and the air warms get out in your kayak.

IMG_4928RYacco

– photo by Ricard Yacco

If the sun doesn’t come out bundle up and take a hike on the Towpath Trail. It looks entirely different now. You can pick out historic features, even remnants of an earlier time like foundation walls and storage pits for ice cut from the river surface. You can also get a feel of how important the Mohawk River was in everyday life.

With the first snow and the low angle of the sun some of the secrets of the land and how early settlements and farming modified the landscape. Animal tracks in the snow give clues how they survive through the winter. Take notes, take pictures, and make your own tracks.

17th Annual Mohawk Towpath Byway Duathlon

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At 6:40 AM I realized I was kicking frost as I scrambled to get out the parking signs in Isabel Prescott’s back yard. The sky was mottled with “wave clouds” each illuminated by fiery red light anticipating dawn.

This would be one of the coldest starts to the Duathlon in our 17 year history.

Shortly after 8:30 the competitors were off. Photo by Tracy Perry.

For a few statistics:

  • 92 people registered (down from previous years)
  • 55 individuals finished
  • 9 teams finished (an all time record!)
  • 18 Byway volunteers most are members of the Friends of the Byway
  • 9 Radio operators provided great communication
  • 5 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Volunteers
  • 2 deputies from the Saratoga County Sheriff Department
  • 1 NY State Trooper
  • 1 extraordinary I T person
  • more than 3 staff from the Town of Clifton Park
  • the fantastic crew from Riverview Orchard
  • the print shop crew from Modern Press
  • 3 timing crew
  • 11 sponsors for which we are most grateful
  • 11 event patrons
  • 2 Bar-B-Q caterers with scrumptious culinary results.

They all made a memorable event, assured that we all did it safely, and cleaned up before the showers.

For all these folks we are most grateful and share in the satisfaction of a job well done. Thank you!

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.