Erie Canalway Trail, Day 1

We drove out to Buffalo yesterday, stopping at the REI in Rochester on the way to pick up a few last-minute things, including the new saddle I’d ordered shipped there this week. Although we’ve been riding all summer, I recently started thinking about my stock saddle more and realized I didn’t like it at all. I looked up the specs and it’s a men’s saddle, of course. Since I had an REI coupon, I splurged on the Terry Butterfly Century, supposedly good for long distances, and with plenty of reviews saying no break-in time was needed. Hopefully, those people were right.

We got to my aunt and uncle’s house outside the city in time for dinner and my cousins came over later to join us. It was great to catch up with everyone.

I did put the new saddle on before dinner and adjusted it a bit while riding up and down the block. It was a little tender on my butt, which made me nervous, but I hoped I’d get used to it.

This morning, I woke up early to a wind advisory. 20-30 MPH winds all day with gusts up to 50 MPH. I consulted with Ketchup, who would be joining us, and we debated postponing starting at all, but instead decided to change the 70-mile day I had initially planned to a shorter day. I thought there was camping a little off-trail around 30 miles so we’d aim to get there before the thunderstorm forecast to come in later.

We ate breakfast, said goodbye to Aunt Jan, and Uncle Tom came out with us to Buffalo so he could drive my car back.

It’s very unclear where the trail starts in Buffalo. The current PTNY guidebook is 5 years old and says the trail ends in one spot. Their website says it ends in another spot. There didn’t appear to be a Mile 0 sign anywhere. We started at the spot on the website which is currently a construction zone. Then we immediately went in the wrong direction. Not to worry, that path was soon closed for construction, so I pulled out my Gaia GPS app and realized we were not going the right way anyway.

I had three GPS routes to follow: one I’d made following the path in the guidebook, one from PTNY’S big Cycle the Erie Canal event (which isn’t exactly accurate since they need to start and stop where hundreds of people can park or camp every day), and one from Ketchup’s recent trip on the Canalway. I figured from all of those routes, and hopefully signs on the path, I’d be able to find the actual trail.

Going in the correct direction now, we did start to see signs for the Erie Canalway Trail, the Empire State Trail which runs along with it, and the Lakeside/Shoreline Trail, which is what they all follow in Buffalo. Once we reached the shore of Lake Erie, the wind really picked up and I thought maybe we’d made a bad decision starting today. Oh well. At least it was sunny.

We soon ran into a trail closure (more construction) with no detour signs, but we made our way around it by following the fence line on the grass. There was one more closure before leaving the city.

Ketchup soon rode into view from the other direction. He had decided to ride with us for the day, then go home to sleep since he didn’t see any point in camping in a storm so close to his house.

We stopped for a snack at one point but otherwise kept moseying along. We reached an ice cream shop in Pendleton right before they opened at noon so I had to have a pumpkin soft serve cone. We planned to get to Spring Lake Winery in Lockport for lunch so this was a nice addition to tide us over. It didn’t really feel like ice cream weather standing there in the wind, but shops like that will probably close after this weekend so we had to take advantage.

There is a nice, new-ish section of trail going east from Pendleton, which also had a short section closed for construction. We had to lift our loaded bikes over the guardrail, ride down the road a few hundred feet, then lift them back over the guardrail again.

Any road sections today were fairly short and easy to follow. Only a few spots had me questioning where to go.

We rode into Lockport and stopped to watch one of the locks filling for a tour boat to pass through. It’s a 2-step lock, built to replace the 5-step lock from 1825, to bring boats up the 70′ difference in height of the canal.

After that, the path turned to gravel right along the side of the canal. It’s nice and firm so the going is just about as smooth as the pavement we’d been on previously. It helps to have a gravel bike, of course.

We eventually came to the bridge we needed to get off the trail and head south a mile and a half to the winery. It was gusty there, but still pretty, and we enjoyed a wine tasting and lunch.

After leaving, we stopped at a deli to pick up some subs for dinner later. We then headed back to the canal and Ketchup went back the way we’d come while Jeremiah and I went north to the Niagara County Camping Resort. It was just a few flat miles through farmland to get there. Apparently, they give cyclists half off campsites too!

We picked a spot in the tall trees of the tenting area, immediately got out camp shoes and comfy chairs, then I headed off to take a shower. It wasn’t even 4:00 and I figured my hair would dry pretty quickly in the wind.

It looked like there could still be a storm and we figured we’d wait until after to set up camp so we just sat around for a bit and had dinner. When some rain drops started, we rolled our stuff over to the picnic pavilion to wait it out. It never really started raining more than a minute at a time, but I kept checking the weather until we decided it was past.

I couldn’t wait to leave the pavilion. It was like the Lord of the Flies in there. Seemingly every child in the campground was using it as a playground, skateboarding around, bouncing balls against the wall, even causing one of the fluorescent lights to fall and shatter at one point. We stayed at a picnic table in the corner, charging our phones and learning to play a Settlers of Catan dice game that I’ve had for years. When we finally went back to the campsite, it felt so quiet and peaceful.

We set up camp right before dark then made some tea before bed. One round of Steal the Dice Yahtzee and then sleep. The ride ended up being about 43 miles today, and the wind wasn’t too terrible for most of it. A great first day!


Add yours →

  1. Glad you ended up having a good day!

  2. So fun. Excited to follow you on this trip. Idk if I should be surprised or not at the lack of detours for construction. Now I want ice cream.

  3. Yeahhhhh! This is so great. We love you!

  4. Happy to have your trail stories to read!!!

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