March 29, 2017

North Country Trail: Circle Drive to Erie Canal Village

Even though the snow from winter storm Stella has virtually all melted at home, the Southern Tier got more accumulation, and I knew it wouldn't have all melted yet down in the hills.  I decided to skip the unmaintained seasonal roads for one more week, and finish up the Erie Canal section of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) instead.  I parked at the trailhead on Circle Drive, and hiked east to the old Erie Canal Village, then retraced my steps back to where I started for a roundtrip out-an-back of 8.8 miles.  This was my longest school day hike yet, although certainly not the most challenging, given the pancake-flat terrain. 

There are a few short sections where the trail is paved, but they total less than half a mile.  The remaining surface is stone dust, which was fairly soft today with the ground so saturated with snowmelt, but still a bit firmer than I'd like.  Nevertheless, this was my favorite section of NCT along the Erie Canal, simply because so little of it was next to a road.  There is one portion of this hike where a road runs parallel to the trail on the opposite side of the canal, but it is a dead end with little traffic or development, and the remainder is surrounded by woods.  It's so much more pleasant to walk out of sight of the road!

I didn't know what to expect from the Erie Canal Village, and I still don't, really, since the footbridge over the canal was gated and locked.  I gather it was a living-history interpretive site, a replica of an old canal village.  However, it definitely appears closed now, and the structures look to be deteriorating due to lack of maintenance.  I briefly stepped on the back deck of the old canal boat moored at the side of the canal, but when I peered into the cabin, it was water logged, so I didn't actually enter.  Kind of a sad state of affairs.  With nothing to keep my interest, I didn't linger, and headed back the way I came.  

From here, the NCT eastbound is not developed for many miles, with tentative routing following roads through the City of Rome and beyond.  Therefore, I am done exploring the NCT to the north and east for now.  I will focus on the sections following the Finger Lakes Trail south and west, and see where it takes me. 

Zingerline Road crossing

Heelpath Road crossing

washed out driveway

back at the Circle Drive trailhead

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