38.5 mi / 10.1 mph / 1349 ft. climbing
Home: Camp Benjamin
We awoke after a quiet night to see the Erie Canal’s Lock 21 in use a couple times! The first was so silent and fast that the boat had been raised nearly the full 26 feet by the rising water before I even realized anything was happening. For the second, we were able to watch the small boat motor in, see the doors to the giant bathtub close behind it, and then watch the incredibly-fast tub-filler bring in enough water to raise the boat quite visibly in just a handful of seconds.
Railroads and canals are two historic forms of transportation infrastructure that have turned more towards recreational uses (rail trails, canal trails, pleasure-boating on the canals) as their commercial uses have been superseded by newer technologies. It makes me wonder if, at any point in the future, we’ll reach a point where significant portions of the automobile road network become obsolete and are given over to other uses?
The trail on the north side of the Erie Canal was paved and very pretty, with loads of colorful wildflowers growing between the trail and the broad waters of the canal. But after a few miles it joined that auxiliary canal and turned into a narrow dirt singletrack, so we exited and got back onto the roads.
Today’s ride had us ascending up toward the Adirondack plateau, a vast region whose base is roughly 1700 ft. above sea-level, or 1300 ft. above the Erie Canal at this point. Luckily we had a river-valley-following road (NY 46 out of Rome) to ride upstream, so the grades were never super-challenging, but the short-mileage was still a tough one for Rett. We caught some showers while riding for the first time in a while, and that wasn’t a big deal, but a hoped-for relaxing lunch at Pixley Falls State Park turned into a bust, as swarming bugs made it annoying to sit and eat our sandwiches at a picnic table, and our walk-and-eat failed to reveal any view of the falls through the undergrowth.
One unexpected respite from the slog was the sudden appearance of Cobbled Stone Castle, an open-for-public-wandering roadside art installation from an eccentric mind. A tourist-attraction that attracted only a couple of bike-tourists for the moment, we had fun snooping about and exploring all the oddities.
And then our final arrival to Camp Benjamin (which we found on Hipcamp, the AirBNB for campsites), was a joy. Though no one was at the farmhouse when we rolled up, in a few minutes Ash appeared with their dog Levi and big hugs for our scuzzy selves. Though we were technically just paid up for tent camping on their land, she welcomed us into their house, offered fresh-picked blueberries, cold water, tea, and then a choice of either the very-nice house-shower or the clawfoot bathtub shower in the barn.
While we were setting up camp amid the trees, the eponymous, gregarious, and unexpectedly-English Benjamin arrived, with three cans of cold local-lager Utica Club to share, as well as an even more-locally farm-grown treat. He gave a great introduction to the culture of the region (with an outsider’s perspective), as well as the interesting history of the 7-acre plot that he owns and the various uses that they’ve been putting it to.
Staying with such like-minded, interesting, and interested hosts made it feel more like a WarmShowers stay than the paid (and totally worth it!) transaction that it was, and that social and emotional sustenance refueled us as much as our dinner did, and put us down for a good sleep in this special environment that Benjamin and Ash created and shared with us.