Erie Canalway Trail

Tue - Aug 31

Today we left the Inn at Stone Mill in Little Falls at an unusually early (for us) hour - it was only 8:30 am. The continental breakfast at the inn was meager, and we decided to get coffee and a more substantial breakfast at McDonald’s. This required riding across the bridge and west one block. McDonald’s coffee was better than what was served at the inn, and this also had the added benefit of giving us the chance to pack our water bottles with ice cubes and water. The inn had a supply of ice cubes, but they were from a refrigerator freezer system and the wrong size to fit easily into our bottles.

After we finished our breakfast and filled our bottles, we were set to hit the trail. As we were putting on our helmets, I noticed that the tail light that was usually on the back of my bicycle was not there. We both use very bright tail lights on the bikes even during daylight hours so that we are more visible to motorists when we are riding on the roadway. Though today’s route was mostly on the trail, we did expect to do some on-road riding.

I wasn’t sure if I had put the light on my bike when we left the hotel or not, so since we were still only two blocks from the hotel, I rode back to look to see if I had left it in the room. (This meant riding up a steep ramp - again.) Nope. It wasn’t there. So I unpacked everything in my two panniers and searched through them for the light. Nope. Not there. I bugged the cleaning woman in the inn one more time (I don’t think she was happy about that) so I could look under the bed, in the recliner cushions, and around other places where I remembered last having the light. Nope. Not there.

I was irked to have lost the light, but at least I had another light on the back of my helmet that I could switch on an off as needed if we were riding with motorists, so we moved on down the trail. By now, our “early” start had evaporated, and Steve and I were both racking our brains trying to figure out how I had lost the light. We even looked for it on the street and along the gutter as we retraced our route on our way to the trail. We never saw it.

Today’s route was mostly uncomplicated, except for a 5-mile section that several riders have complained about because of the loose surface of freshly applied fine gravel. The complaints were from riders who had been on the trail two weeks ago, and they and others recommended making a detour onto a highway. We even heard from some locals about “that bad section of gravel” just east of Little Falls.

We decided we’d rather take our chances riding on a poor trail surface than ride with traffic on the recommended detour route. Part of the on-road section was on a fairly quiet stretch of road, but part of it was on a busier stretch, which we’d rather avoid.

When we reached the trouble section of trail, it was not at all bad. We have wider tires on our touring bikes, and the surface was no trouble for us. It might have been much looser two weeks ago, but it was fine for us. In places, it was a little soft, but nothing that caused us to fish-tail or have trouble handling the bikes.

We reached Fort Plain and paused briefly at the trailside before moving on. We weren’t quite ready for a break yet, and the next town, Canajoharie, was not many miles down the road.

Canajoharie was named for a Mohawk word for a circular gorge in a nearby creek - a swirl of water that has eroded a hole into the rock bed of the creek. “Canajoharie” means “pot that washes itself.”

We spotted Jim’s Irish Harbour Pub at the trailside, and pulled in to get a light lunch and use the bathroom. Jim Blair, the owner of the place, was an entertaining and gracious host. I went inside to get a look at the menu and report back to Steve, and we decided to split a roast beef sandwich and some chips. I went back inside to order, and Jim was ready to take my order. Well, almost ready. As I started to tell him we’d like a roast beef sandwich, he said, “Okay, hold on. I gotta get a notepad. I may be not good-looking, but I’m slow.” I told him that I had the same problem.

When I finished ordering, I started to open my billfold to pay for the sandwich, and he protested that I did not need to pay yet. “No, no,” he said, “what, are you from Canada?”

Before we left, we got several good laughs from Jim and a couple of good stories. He was born and raised in the Bronx, in a family with ten kids. His parents moved out of the city to escape some of the more unsavory aspects of urban living. Jim, his father, and his brothers all served in the merchant marines. So his stories were laced with colorful language.

When we rode off, we felt like we had indeed visited an Irish pub, and Jim told me, as I (finally) paid the bill, “You’re not so bad looking after all.” Everyone in the bar laughed.

As we continued down the trail, we got a nice tailwind and a gradual downhill slope for several miles. We were riding in the woods mostly, but we were close to the New York State Throughway (I-90), and we could hear the trucks screaming by.

We are traveling along the Mohawk River valley as it passes into the Adirondacks, and the steep slopes of the wooded mountains are visible on either side of us. At one point on the trail, we caught a glimpse of a geological feature called “The Noses,” two opposing mountains on either side of the river.

We rode past Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine near Auriesville, a shrine dedicated to three Jesuit priests martyred in the 17th century at Ossernenon, a Mohawk village near here. Ossernenon is also believed to be the birthplace of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, and a shrine to her is in nearby Fonda, NY, where she was baptized. Saint Kateri was an Algonquin-Mohawk woman born around 1656 and canonized as a Catholic saint in 2012, the first Native American woman to be so recognized. See

A few miles west of Amsterdam, our stopping point for the day, we visited the state park for Schoharie Crossing. At this site, one can see portions of all three iterations of the Erie Canal - ruins of a segment of the original canal (1817-1825), a set of locks from the enlarged canal (1835), and the present-day New York State Barge Canal, the navigation channel of the Mohawk River which still carries private and commercial river traffic.

Schoharie Crossing is also the former site of several installations relating to the Mohawk settlement known as Tiononderoge. In 1710, three Mohawk chiefs from this settlement and one Mahican chief went to England, at the invitation of Peter Schuyler, the Mayor of Albany. They met with Queen Anne and requested help in defending their settlement from the French. The establishment of Fort Hunter and the Queen Anne Chapel, located at Schoharie Crossing, were a result of their request. Queen Anne even sent silver communion pieces and other items to furnish the chapel. See

It was nearly 4:30 pm by the time we left Schoharie Crossing, and we were getting tired. As we rode into Amsterdam, we stopped first on the banks of the Mohawk River, where the city of Amsterdam has a beautiful pedestrian walkway across the river. On the south bank is the sculpture “Mother and Child at the Mohawk River” by Dimitar Lukanov. We stopped to appreciate it, and then headed to our hotel for the night. We could see the very steep streets that we would have had to climb if we had not changed our lodging arrangements to the Amsterdam Castle instead of a newer establishment on the top of the hill.

We checked in to the Castle, which features a great hall and a long table, with suits of armor lining the walls. Our room is 21st century though, and the bed is very comfy. We hauled our bags to the room and unpacked.

That’s when I found my tail light — stuffed inside a little bag of charging cables and power plugs for my phone and iPad.

Today’s total miles: 50.6

Little Falls

The Mohawk River at Little Falls - this is why it was so difficult to use the entire stretch of the river for navigation, and it was not until the mid-20th century that engineers had the equipment to make a navigable channel (the New York State Barge Canal).

an old building in Fort Plain

An old building along the trail in Fort Plain

map of Fort Plain

A map of Fort Plain, showing location of an aqueduct

Amish buggy

An Amish buggy passes on the street in Fort Plain

old shed

An old shed along the trail

Antique store

An antique store along the trail

Jim's Irish Harbour Pub in Canajoharie

Jim's Irish Harbour Pub in Canajoharie

A old-time stoplight in Canajoharie

An old-time stoplight in Canajoharie. According to Jim (in the Irish pub), it gets knocks over "almost every day" by the big trucks trying to get through the intersection.

Betty Beavers

Betty Beaver's Fuel Stop in Canajoharie

a house along the trail east of Canajoharie

A house along the trail east of Canajoharie

Kateri Tekakwitha shrine

Shrine on the south side of the Mohawk River, near Saint Kateri Tekakwitha's birthplace

Schoharie Crossing

Sign at Schoharie Crossing - this state park has elements of each of the three versions of the Erie Canal - the original canal, the 1835 expansion, and the present-day New York State Barge Canal

Yankee Hill lock ruins

Ruins of the Yankee Hill Locks at Schoharie Crossing. This was a portion of the 1835 (widened) canal.

At Schoharie Crossing

At Schoharie Crossing

evidence of an old Mohawk house

Evidence of an old Mohawk home was found beneath a later house

Mohawk adaptations of European influence

Mohawk adaptation of European influences

Molly in the canal bed

At Schoharie Crossing - Molly is standing in the middle of the ruins of the original canal - it was only 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep.

Queen Anne Chapel site

Site of the Queen Anne Chapel at Schoharie Crossing. The chapel was built because four Native American leaders (three Mohawk chiefs, one Mahican chief) accepted the invitation of Peter Schuyler, Mayor of Albany, to travel to England to meet Queen Anne (to solidify a trading alliance). The chief requested help in defending their lands from the French, and the Queen authorized the construction of a fort (Fort Hunter) and the (Anglican) chapel (partly as a way of counteracting the influence of the Jesuits). The chapel remained until 1825, though after the American Revolution, it was used as a tavern and a stable. It was torn down to make way for construction of the Erie Canal.

part of old Fort Hunter

Site of a portion of old Fort Hunter, built at the request of the Mohawk and Mahician people to repel the French from the area.

Sculpture at Amsterdam

Bronze sculpture on the banks of the Mohawk River at Amsterdam

plaque for sculpture on the Mohawk River at Amsterdam

Information about the sculpture on the Mohawk River at Amsterdam

Entrance to the Amsterdam Castle

Entrance to the Amsterdam Castle, our lodging for tonight

Great Hall of Amsterdam Castle

The Great Hall at Amsterdam Castle

A drawing room in Amsterdam Castle

A drawing room in Amsterdam Castle

Aug 22 and 23 - Getting to the starting point
Aug 24 - Buffalo to Lockport
Aug 25 - Lockport to Brockport
Aug 26 - Brockport to Palmyra
Aug 27 - Palmyra to Weedsport
Aug 28 - Weedsport to Syracuse
Aug 29 - Syracuse to Rome
Aug 30 - Rome to Little Falls
Aug 31 - Little Falls to Amsterdam
Sep 1 - Amsterdam to Albany
Sep 2 - Albany and reflections

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