Many hiking trails are like narrow, linear time machines. This is certainly true for a place like the Grand Canyon or the Adirondacks, where even a little progress upward or downward can take one across geological epochs. There are also some trails that are defined by human interactions. Some of our local trails are like that but I can think of nowhere that this stands out more than on the Lehigh Valley Trail (LVT) and Genesee Valley Greenway (GVG).
I started out Sunday morning around 8:30 at the parking area just off East River Road in Rush, NY and started walking the trail toward the river, which is around 2.5 km west. This part of the LVT is a segment of the old Buffalo rail line. It is so nearly perfect a straight line that you can almost see down the trail to the river itself. Stepping from the parking area I entered the 1890s. That is the era when the rail line and trestle were established. The trail passes many tall abutments that were part of the railroad’s trestle bridge. This bridge stretched nearly 2 km, crossing the Genesee River and its wide floodplain. Part of the old bridge is now a crossing for hikers and cyclists. It is a big and bulky trestle bridge and even when the Genesee is running fast the bridge remains strong under your feet.
Cross that bridge and you’ve reached the westernmost extent of the LVT. The Greenway crosses the LVT and it runs north to Rochester and south toward Cuba, NY. The Greenway runs almost to the PA border. I decided to walk south. I’ve frequently cycled this route from Rochester so it is like an old friend. I suddenly realized that in turning left I had now dropped further back in time. The Greenway uses the original Genesee Valley Canal’s towpath. This canal, built in the 1830s and 1840s, connected with the main Erie Canal to the north. It was used to barge wheat to market in Rochester and points east.
Eventually the canal was replaced with a railroad. Even so, the ruins of several small locks can be found along here. The canal itself is now a deep ditch that occasionally runs parallel to the hiking trail. I often wonder about the generations of horses and boys that helped to pull the barges along the towpath. I wonder who they were, what stories they might tell, and where life took them.
I walked down to Avon (Marker 17 on the GVG map) and then headed back. I saw several critters, but mostly birds. Low flying turkey vultures and loud jays were a real surprise. Near a marshland I noted several downed trees resting in the old canal. I’m pretty sure based on the cuts that they were dropped by beavers. Box turtles were out sunning themselves on many of these fallen trees. That gave me real pause. I’ve never seen this along the GVG and it is sort of cool to think about the New York State mammal making a comeback along the Genesee. I know they’ve reintroduced river otters south in Letchworth State Park. I wonder about these curious critters. Will they build a lodge and dam somewhere?
I eventually returned to the car and the 21st century. (OK, my car is a ’99 Corolla…but even so). It was a good hike and great practice for the bigger hikes I plan to do later this season. RT: 12 kilometers. Not a bad outing!