Exercising and eating along the old Erie Canal


For me, exercising and eating ice cream are a solid combination in the warmer weather, the Bonnie and Clyde of activities, without the Tommy guns.

It’s about guilty pleasures and plain old guilt, I suppose. You can’t eat ice cream every day without exercising, and why exercise if you can’t reward yourself now and again?

That’s how it worked for me on Memorial Day.  I went on a 20-mile bicycle ride along a section of what is not quite so elegantly called the Enlarged Erie Canal system. The nicer name for this 36-mile bike path is the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, a linear park that stretches from DeWitt to Rome.

I started my trek at what is called the Lenox Basin, just north of the Madison County government complex in Wampsville. You have to look hard for the parking area for the state park, which is just over the railroad tracks on the left side as you head north.  The bicycle path is crushed gravel and mostly flat, bordering the canal on one side and secondary roads or woods on the other.

A stop on the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park

A stop on the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park

I reached the village of Canastota in about two miles, and easily worked my way through some side streets to pick up the bike path again and continue west toward Chittenango.  It is great not having to worry about traffic on the bike path. There is a secondary road to cross now and again, but mostly it was me, some hissing geese looking out for their young offspring, and an occasional family riding together.

I detoured off the path at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, where I learned about a former cannery there that sent thousands of cases of locally grown peas and corn on the canal for distribution far and wide.  

Everyone knows that the Erie Canal, started in 1817 and completed in 1825, was a huge reason for the state’s growth and emergence as an economic force. It was interesting to read how the canal was expanded in 1862, hence the Enlarged Erie Canal moniker, to better handle the large volumes of traffic. The expansion was done for the most part directly on top of the original canal, which was widened and deepened. This part of the canal was abandoned in 1918 when the Barge Canal System was put in place, and it now serves as a feeder for the state’s canal system that is used for recreational boating.

I rode past a nice park to the intersection of routes 13 and 5, where I eyed the North Pole ice cream stand. I had only biked about nine miles at that point, but hey, exercise is exercise and a reward is a reward. I enjoyed my soft-serve twist cone and peeked in the window of the adjoining Hamlet Diner, noting it for a future stop and write-up.

I hopped back on my bike and worked my way east, enjoying the sunshine and anticipating the second half of my reward: the Hofmann’s hot dogs that would grace my barbecue later that holiday afternoon.

North Pole ice cream stand

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