“Hi, I’m Rick Lage from Manotick, Ontario.  My wife and I come down every year to this race and you folks do such a great job!  It’s the only race we do in New York State and we love it!  All those out on the course and the great people, we come back every year!  Thank you.”  The words and the warm handshake left me speechless.

That’s the sort of feedback that warns my heart to the point that I have to share it with the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway.  In deed, these people from a rural suburb of Ottawa have, for the last five years, made the event an international experience by driving four and a half hours to share what we have to offer.

With that I want to thank each and every one of you out volunteers for your help in making the Duathlon and the Mohawk Towpath Byway a success.

Over the next few days I will be crunching the numbers, collecting facts, and linking photographs for our sanctioning body, for the respective Boards of Directors, and for our own gratification.  But finishing the day with a safe race, happy competitors at the awards ceremony, and competitors and hosts sharing the post race feed… what could be more perfect?  Thank you, each of you.


The Mohawk Towpath Byway had an information booth today at the Adirondack Sports and Fitness Health Fair for the Mohawk Hudson Marathon.  There were two types of people who visited the booth: long distance runners and friends or families accompanying them.  For the athletes we were trying to interest them in a fun recovery workout next Sunday morning, the Mohawk Towpath Byway Duathlon.

The other group consisted of family members or friends that are in-town with their favorite athlete and might be interested in discovering something new in the afternoon or later in the weekend.  We were trying to encourage them to discover something unique along the Byway corridor.  We provided them with a copy of our self guided cell phone based tour.

While I was doing a stint in the booth we got one registration for the Duathlon.  However, there also was a spike in on-line registrations today.  It will also be interesting to see if there are a spie in the number of calls to the cell phone tour number 518-649-9990.

I would like to thank Mary MacDonald of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway, Chris Brownell, who has, over the years, volunteered many hours, many times for the Byway, and Darryl Caron who has helped the Byway publicize some of our stories and events.  Each were an immense help with the booth and the Byway!

Good luck to all the runners in this great event along the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor.

Work Together!

Sara Foss in her Tuesday, October 4 column in the Gazette is so correct, “spot-on” with her conclusion that we all have to work together to make this Capital Region a world class destination. Right now the international traveller may venture out of the New York Metropolitan area to visit the New York State Museum or “the track”. But then they’re to the airport and gone. If it’s a nice day they might notice the expansive grey rock outcrops or an unnaturally straight ribbon of reflected sky as they look out the plane’s porthole and wonder what else they missed. But they are gone.

The expansive grey rock outcrop, of course, mark the northern edge of the Helderbergs.  The unnaturally straight ribbon of reflected sky is the old Erie Canal through the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.  No matter where you go on this earth you can find a person who has a perception of the Erie Canal as well as the Pyramids or the Great Wall.  She or he might not speak your language, but the words are international.

By working together we, no matter which county we call home, can share our varied heritage, show off our changing seasons, draw them to our unique recreational resources, and share our “sense of place”. Who knows, the international traveller might even come back for another discovery. We in turn might learn more of the story of our guests and where they call home.

Towpath Trail Update

towpathtrailConstruction continues on the Towpath Trail.  Clearing a grubbing of the entire length (shown above in red) will be completed shortly.    The contractor is trying to move a barge into Weger’s Pond outlet on which a pile driver can be mounted.  The piles are necessary as a foundation for the 140 foot bridge across the outlet.  The bridge will arrive in 20 foot sections.  The fabricated bridge will be lifted in place by two “small” cranes at either end of the trail.

This dump truck backed over a half mile into the woods to get a load of debris!

This view at left was taken from atop the farmer’s bridge abutment to the east of Clutes Dry Dock. You can see that the trail is wide enough for a good size excavator as well as the construction sized dump truck.  The truck backed over a half mile into the woods to get a load of debris.

This week the Preserve is closed to all but duck hunters, so work on the eastern Halfmoon end of the trail will be the focus.

Work on the 10 foot wide stone dust trail is expected to be complete by the end of the year.  Its is truly exciting to see the progress.  This will be a wonderful recreational recourse for the Byway corridor.

Towpath Trail

Early advocates of the Mohawk Towpath Byway envisioned a reconstructed Towpath through the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve into the Town of Halfmoon.  The eastern end of the trail will connect to Canal Road, rise a slope in a northerly direction just west of the abutment of the I-87 Northway southbound right of way and drop in elevation to meet the historic 1842 Erie Canal towpath and then proceed westerly across the outlet of Weger’s Pond,  pass on the south side of the Canal in the vicinity of Clutes Dry Dock, and emerge on the Water Authority Access Road in the Preserve.


The Towpath Trail with the 1842 enlarged Erie Canal beyond the trees to the left.

The two Towns began the project in very early spring by cutting larger trees along what will be a 10 foot wide trail.  The trees had to be removed before the end of March when endangered species start their return for the nesting season.  This is in one of the remotest parts of the two towns.

Construction crews are now just east of Clutes Dry Dock near the power lines with a chipper and saws clearing for better access and more refined trail work.

It is hard to imagine this being part of the major route through the Appalachian Mountains almost 200 years ago.  By 1842 more than 100 canal boats a day would pass through this part of the Erie Canal, propelled by draft animals, mostly mules on this south berm of the Erie Canal.  By December we will all be able to hike the reconstructed trail from the Preserve through to Canal Road then east along the Crescent Park Trail to the Route 9 Bridge at Crescent.


Catbird Seat


Photo by John Briggs

An interesting sound as we recreate within the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor is the song of the Catbird.  Audubon publications say that the bird got its name because it sounds like an cat’s, “Meow.”  It’s a unique sound in trees and low brush, and, usually, has two very distinct syllables, like “me-ow”.  If it were a cat making that sound it would certainly be in distress, and from a bird, I first wondered if there were something wrong with it’s voice mechanism.  The sound is so gravelly.

The bird is hard to spot because of it’s drab grey or brown coloration.  To find the source of the call, one needs to stop and wait for the bird to move.

What is really curious is, in this area, the Catbird’s call can even take on a sound like, “Er-ie.”  When I have heard a Catbird in other areas of the northeast, I have never heard “Er-ie,” just the distinct, “Me-ow.”

What do you think?  [Other than the fact that I am an Erie Canal fanatic and have “really gone to the birds.” …and further I apologize to former fans of Red Barber.]  Whatever you’re thinking get out and take your observations now.  The Catbird seems to be one of the last species to arrive in the spring and one of the first to migrate to warmer climes when the nesting season is over.

The Byway provides unique experiences, and as I have said many times before, exhibits change daily.


You are invited to the meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway at 7 PM on Tuesday, August 16 at the historic Grooms Tavern.  It’s located at the intersection of Sugar Hill and Grooms Road.  The parking lot is located behind the Tavern with a driveway a bit further west on Grooms Road.

Generally, the organization meets on the second Tuesday of every other month, but our August meeting had to be postponed because of other conflicts.

Items on the agenda include

  • Planning update on the 14th Annual Mohawk Towpath Byway Duathlon
  • Updates for the Friends Action Plan
  • Discussion and critique of the new Byway website
  • Publishing a kids (or seniors) coloring book
  • A proposal for a gate tenders shed at lock 19 by Shenendehowa Rotary
  • Planning for our Annual Meeting

We will have reports on Byway projects like

  • Towpath Connector Trail
  • The Self guided birding trail

Our next meeting will not be until October 11 so come to this meeting to express your views on how the Byway is run.

Strange Encounters

Those who leave the Mohawk Towpath Byway to find a Pokemon will be shot!

Seriously, there are some interesting stories evolving about these new wave encounters on the Byway.  My closest encounter was to see Maryanne Mackey drawing a Pokemon character while answering questions by visitors to a recent Byway booth set up at the Schenectady County Historical Society’s Canal Fest.BywayStrange

As you visit the Byway what is the strangest story you have heard?

These individual stories are what brings the Mohawk Towpath Byway to life.  Share them with me, with friends, and with your neighbors.  There’s something new on the Byway every day.


The Mohawk Towpath Byway had plenty of visitors today at the Mabee Farm historic site.  All were interested in the recreational opportunities within the Byway’s corridor.  We started off the day with many bikers on the sixth day of the Erie Canal Trek coming from Buffalo and due to end up in the Corning Preserve in the Port of Albany tomorrow.  Our booth was well placed, opposite the kitchen where Schenectady County Historical Society volunteers scooped Stewart’s Ice Cream all day.


Many thanks to Maryanne Mackey and Mary MacDonald (pictured here) who helped staff the booth, answer questions and distribute materials.



Have a voice in how our community is presented to visitors on the Byway.  You are invited to a meeting of the Friends of the Mohawk Towpath Byway on Tuesday, June 14 at 7 PM at the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library at 475 Moe Road in Clifton Park.  The agenda includes:

  • Creating a birding trail in the Vischer Ferry Preserve
  • Improving a riverwalk trail from Clutes
  • Brainstorming a worthy project to apply for grant money
  • Organizing the 14th Annual Duathlon
  • Planning an Erie Canal Bicentennial Celebration

Come join the fun.  The public is invited!