A Long Walk on the Erie Canal

Leaving on a Sunday night for a business trip is never fun, but this week I tried to keep it in perspective.  Time away from home sucks, but time seeing new things usually tempers that a bit.  I got to the hotel in time to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, celebrated a Bruins win and prepped for the week ahead.  Monday would be a long day of customer-facing meetings, and by the end of the day I was ready to get outside and move.  My hotel was in Bushnell’s Basin, an especially lovely part of Perinton, New York.  A large part of the charm is the Erie Canal running through.  The tow paths have been reclaimed as walking paths, akin to a rail trail but with the benefit of a waterway on one side of you for the entire journey.

A quick five minute walk from the hotel is Richardson’s Tavern, built in 1818 and now the oldest original canal house left on the Erie Canal.  I’ve written about it previously.  Just across the single lane Marsh Road Bridge is the Erie Canal Heritage Trail.  The bridge was built in 1912 but was just completely renovated.  It was the first time I was able to cross it to walk the trail so I made the most of it.

The great thing about the Erie Canal is that it’s still a functioning transportation corridor.  Where once it was barges full of commerce coming from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, today it’s largely pleasure boats making their way from point-to-point.  I thought it would have been a great place to row, with long straightaways and a convenient bike path for coaches barking instructions.  Funny how I always come back to rowing when I see the right body of water…  but today I was walking, and my goal was a quick five miles before dinner.  From the bridge I walked 2 1/2 miles towards Pittsford, turned around and walked back.

Walking the trail, I passed walkers, joggers and bicyclers.  A highlight was watching two boats cruising the canal.  People wave to boats, and boaters wave back.  The world would be a better place if everyone else would follow their example.  This stretch of the Erie Canal is best known for a particularly challenging engineering project that had to happen to support the canal traveling through.  The Irondodequoit Creek ran perpendicularly 70 feet below the path of the proposed canal.  So James Geddes, the assistant engineer for the Erie Canal, designed the Great Embankment, a mile long, 7-story pile of rock and fill from the canal, with a 245 foot culvert to channel the creek they were building over.  This was the early 1800’s mind you, so digging and dumping required a significant labor force.  The embankment was completed in 1822.

Back in Bushnell’s Basin after my walk, I took a right turn and headed for a new brewery that opened last year.  Named Seven Stories after the height of the Great Embankment and for the seven forms of storytelling, this brewery had great beer and better names for it.  They’re right along the canal, and I replaced my burned calories with a pint and a couple of 5 ounce tasters.  Seven Stories will be on my regular rotation on trips to the Rochester area.

A lovely evening walking along the Erie Canal certainly beat eating at the hotel bar and watching television.  Getting out and seeing the world in earnest is my goal.  The Erie Canal Heritage Trail, paved in stone dust and lined in stretches with bollards for tying down barges once upon a time, was a lovely place to spend the final hours of Monday sunlight.

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