If you’ve taken the Black Bridge (or some other) route to Waterford (see earlier post), you’re in for a pleasant (but unusual) treat if you use it as your starting point to explore the Champlain Canal Trail north toward Mechanicville.
After riding from the Black Bridge along the bikeway and after crossing from Peebles Island into Waterford, turn left/west of 2nd St. onto Broad St. (10.9 miles from the Row Center at the Corning Riverfront Park). Pass four streets on your right and come to the old Champlain Canal (11.1 miles from the Row Center). If you’re on 700X25 tires, lock up and take a nice walk up the canal towpath. If you are on wider tires, take the towpath (you’ll cross Division St., the only intersection in this area) past the foundations of the Weigh Lock and then those of Lock #5 and dry dock about 1.5 miles to the landfill and Momentive Performance Materials industrial complex (12.7 miles from the Row Center). The northerly path then continues on to Mechanicville.
But where is that path?
As you cruise over the landfill (with its ominous ventilators spewing forth God knows what) toward the fencing, you think that you’re in Gitmo with no way out. (The landfill covers the Old Champlain Canal – so guess where the leakage goes?) But as you get to the end where it appears that you are completely fenced in, you’ll spot a narrow, deeply rutted path leading down to the right (easterly) through the tall weeds and grass. After a tick check at the bottom, remount and head on a winding, unmarked narrow paved road (Google says cross Clute St. onto Bells Lane North which changes into School House Lane). Notice up and to your left the original towpath that is inaccessible at present. Lo and behold, where the unmarked Schoolhouse Lane bears left at 13.4 miles from the Row Center and 2.3 miles from Waterford, you’ll come to the Half Moon Trail skirting the old Champlain Canal on your left.
The Half Moon Trail is a nice ride on hard-packed stone dust. At “high noon,” there is no shade, so choose your ride time accordingly if it’s hot hot hot. A curious feature of the trail is frequent “Hazard – 100 Feet Ahead,” “Hazard – Keep Left,” or just plain “Hazard” signs. After expecting an alligator or two to rise from the canal, it seems that these signs are to alert trail users to the utility poles along the side if the trail. Those lawyers in Hal Moon must be looking for something to do…
Along the trial, watch for historical markers and remnants of the 200-year-old canal and later railroad structures. Cross Brookwood Rd., Lower Newton Rd., and an unmarked gravel pit road. At 16.4 miles from the Row Center and 5.3 miles from Waterford, you’ll arrive at a trail head with parking for 4-5 cars, no hint of where you are, and stick-on letters on a utility pole saying “1 Mechan School” (20 Upper Newton Rd. according to the Town website). Just across the road is a barricade across the trail, which at this point is just grass, weeds, and brush leading on to Lock #8 and Mechanicville – clearly unrideable. There must be a plan here …
Time to turn around and enjoy the peaceful, quite trail back to Waterford to continue learning about “Canal Days.”