After apple picking, John tracked down one campground that was still open, Waterloo Harbor Campground. Growing tired after stealth camping for most of the past week, we were happy to find a campground to relax in. I was extra pleased when I realized we were headed to the Finger Lakes region of New York State. In a decade of living in New York City, I had never been to this popular vacation destination, so I was eager to see it.
Reading about the lakes themselves, I learned that Cayuga and Seneca Lakes are the longest and deepest of the finger lakes. At 618 feet maximum depth, Seneca is among the deepest lakes in the US, according to the Wikipedia article. That figure aroused my curiosity so I did a little investigating and found that it is the 17th deepest lake (at least that is what lakelubbers.com, a website of unknown reliability, displays). Looking through the list of deepest lakes, that 628 feet figure seemed less impressive, but most of the deeper lakes are huge; for instance, four of the five Great Lakes are on the list, while Seneca Lake is long and narrow. I made a spreadsheet to be able to compare the depth to surface area ratio of the deepest 20 lakes. (Yes, making spreadsheets is my idea of fun). Seneca moves up only to 10th place using this ratio (and may be further down if I included more lakes in the data set), so it is not even the deepest by surface area. What I learned in that exercise is that crater lakes own the distinction of being the deepest per surface area.
As far as I can tell, the main activity in the Finger Lakes region is wine tasting. The climate effect of the lakes is beneficial for growing grapes, so the region hosts a plethora of wineries. We are not big wine drinkers, so I thought maybe we could find a nice lake-viewing bike ride. I asked the campground employee checking us in if there is a bike trail around, and she said there is a new one that runs along the canal. Great! So I did some research. First, I figured out that Waterloo is located at the halfway point along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. (As a side note, Waterloo is a also the officially recognized birthplace of Memorial Day – a fitting reputation for a town named after one of the most famous military defeats in history.) New York State is building mixed-use biking/walking/jogging trails along the system of canals in an effort called the “Canalway Trail“. One can apparently bicycle from Albany to Buffalo along the Erie Canal trail, 75% of which is off-road, while the rest is still under construction.
Finding information on the Cayuga-Seneca Canalway Trail proved to be difficult. From the official, if poorly maintained, website for the trail I determined we could get on the trail at the locks in Waterloo, a mile from the campground, and ride to Seneca Lake State Park. The article that suggested this was possible was from December 2012, and stated that construction to connect the bike path to the park was about to begin and should be completed by spring. We found the bike trail and were on our way.
The trail is flat and smooth, though unpaved; the surface is a fine gravel. We had a lovely time pedaling our way along the canal, encountering few other people. But after a few miles, the trail ended abruptly at a highway! We stood there for some time, trying to figure out what to do. A wide shoulder ran alongside the highway, and we considered taking that up to the traffic light we could just see in the distance, but ultimately decided we did not feel safe riding on such a high speed roadway, even with the wide shoulder. Defeated, we turned around to head back. But before we pedaled off, John stood on an elevated part of the bridge just before the highway, and noticed a walking trail below the bridge along the embankment.
We trekked down a steep trail, under the bridge and back up to a set of railroad tracks. We had to walk up the tracks for a little ways to find a way into the park. Washington State Drivers’ Education class instilled in me an intense fear of railroad tracks, so I was very uncomfortable with this portion of the trek, but it paid off and we found a trail into the park. We went back to grab our bikes, which added a whole new challenge in navigating the steep section of the trail, but we made it to the park. The beauty of the park was worth the trouble of getting there!
After taking a break to gaze down the length of the 38 mile lake, we head off to ride the rest of the bike trail through the park. The sun breaks free of the clouds, and we have a lovely ride…until John gets a flat tire! No problem, I have a complete flat tire kit in my backpack: all the tools needed to take the wheel off the bike, tire levers to get the tire off the rim, and a patch kit, plus my bicycle came with a hand pump mounted on the frame. John gets to work – he finds the culprit that popped the tire, a long. To find the hole to patch he needs to put a little air in, so he looks on my bike for the pump. But it’s not there! I know it was there when we set out – I remember noticing it as I unfolded the bike. About a 1/2 mile before the flat, I ran over a stick that encaged itself in my spokes; at that time I had felt like I dropped something, but when I saw the stick I thought it was just that and didn’t look behind me. But now I realized that the stick must have dislodged the pump; what a time to loose it! I jumped on my bike and started cycling back to look for it. After about 100 yards, a man walking two small dogs waved at me from across a parking lot yelling “Did you loose this?” I realized he was waving my bicycle pump! He saw it on the ground while walking his dogs, and picked it up because he didn’t want it to get stolen. He planned on taking it to the front desk at “the hotel” (I hadn’t realized until I returned that a large hotel sat behind John as he fixed his flat), because he figured we were probably staying there. This was really an amazing set of circumstances – we only noticed the pump was missing because John got a flat, and I just caught the man before he got in his car to leave. We must have earned some good lost item karma from returning that camera to the thru-hikers.
We rode back to the campground without incident, unless you count the mud service road, railroad tracks and steep trail we had to go through to get back to the Canalway Trail. Altogether, we had a great day and fun adventure!