Monday 9/8/08 … Naweedna to
We got off to a slow start. First of all, we were only going about a hundred miles, so what’s the hurry? Secondly, I was waiting for our John Deere dealer to come pick up the tractor for repair. Yep, Big John is sorta hurtin’. It seems he can’t keep his loader up. I think a dose of Viagra ought to do the trick … that or a new lift cylinder – probably the latter. Anyway, they were supposed to come pick him up early, but hadn’t shown up by eleven, so we left a note and took off. Eleven AM, not exactly the butt-crack of dawn, eh?
We were headed SW so we took a slow drive through Letchworth to enjoy what was left of the great early-fall morning. The forest was edged with tall growths of what we believe to be White Snakeroot. It was ever so nice. After Letchworth, we took back roads through Fillmore, Houghton, Caneadea, Ellicottville, Little Valley, and Salamanca on our way to Allegany SP. Okay, some of you purists might be wondering about the spelling of Allegany. Well, as it turns out, it is spelled differently in different places. In NY it is Allegany. However, in neighboring PA it is Allegheny and in NC & VA, Alleghany. I believe the official geologic use, as in River, Mountains, Plateau, is Allegheny. When in doubt, ask Janie, she knows how to spell e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, e-v-e-r-y-t-i-m-e. If not, she will take time to look it up. Me, I just take time to ask Janie.
Our route was lined with Goldenrod and Purple Asters. I have a particular fondness for the purple and gold combination – they are the Lancaster HS colors. Go Golden Gales. See I do remember something from my HS days. It was a most pleasant drive – very little traffic and no one seemed to be in a big hurry – especially us – so we could poke along and enjoy the unfolding scenery while listening to WBOG. It’s a tough life, but someone has to live it, right?
We eventually found ourselves in Little Valley. If you look at the map, you will see a RR running along the north side of the village. Well, that just so happens to be an abandoned RR that has been turned into a bike trail. It is called the Pat McGee Trail in honor of NYS Senator Pat McGee. If you click the Trail link, you will see a picture of the trail and shelter where we parked. The village park just happens to be in the middle of the twelve-mile trail. It was mid afternoon, so we decided to do the northern half just to see what it was like. Well, it was like pretty neat. The trail has several ecological signs explaining the plant & animal communities as well as some of the geology of the area. There were only two things wrong with the trail: the surface was bumpy gravel rather then the crushed stone on most rail trails, and it was too short. Map
We flushed a GBH from the surrounding marsh and then watched Cedar Waxwings bugging over Linlyco Lake. We also saw Juncos and heard the constant clucking of a Cuckoo off in the deep woods. We also saw a pair of Solitary Sandpipers working the mud flats on a small pond. We were not at all sure about their ID because, well, they are supposed to be solitary, right? This was definitely a pair, but we later convinced ourselves that they were indeed Solitary Sandpipers.
One of the ecology signs identified a Continental Divide. Water falling on one side of the trail goes to the Gulf; that falling on the other side finds its way to the Atlantic. That got me to thinking. If one could follow the stream path in one or the other direction, you would have a complete downhill track to sea level. One thinks about such things while pedaling a bicycle – downhill is usually a good thing.
Bike Data: 11.9 miles, 1.75 hrs bike time, 2 hrs total time
We pulled into Allegany SP well after they abandoned the entrance gate, so I didn’t even have to show ‘em how old I was to avoid the entrance tariff. When we got to the campground we learned that it wasn’t the usual Iron Ranger arrangement. Instead, a sign instructed us to pick a campsite and go back to the park headquarters to pay. We did that, and when we got back to the headquarters we discovered it was … CLOSED. A sign said we should come back after 9 AM to pay. Yeah, we’ll do that – NOT.
Tuesday 9/9/08 …
Up and out by 8:40 – no one at the registration until 9:00 – dang. We got to park overnight for FREE. It was a rainy day – heavy mist and drizzly rain all day long. What do you do on rainy days? Well, you tour the indoors venues in the area. We headed west to Jamestown. Why would anyone go to Jamestown? Well, there certainly are a lot of notables who are FROM Jamestown. Check it out:
Notable people from Jamestown
· Roger Goodell, the current NFL Commissioner, was born and raised in Jamestown.
· Robert H. Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, attended Jamestown High School.
· Lucille Ball, the television legend whose birthplace was Jamestown, and whose childhood home is in nearby Celoron.
· Natalie Merchant, a musician
· 10,000 Maniacs rock band called Jamestown their home.
· Roger Tory Peterson, a naturalist, artist, educator, photographer and inventor of the Peterson Field Guides of birdwatching was born in Jamestown and is remembered through the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.
· Walter Washington, first African American mayor of Washington, D.C., and its first elected mayor, grew up in Jamestown.
· Nick Carter, a singer from Backstreet Boys, was originally from Jamestown, though he grew up elsewhere.
· Mitchell Anderson, actor from Doogie Howser, M.D., among others
· Jim McCkusker, former NFL lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles
· Joel Berg, Spanish teacher (#1 east of the Mississippi)
· Junior Guilders A singing group connected with the local Lucille Ball Little Theatre
Although we Love Lucy, we opted to visit the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and learn about the GOB (God of Birding). The RTPI is a marvelous building housing rooms full of RTP paintings and memorabilia. Being a money making enterprise, there was an entrance fee to deal with: $5 per person, even aged ones like me. Although dead, RTP has a new bird book out, and we had planned to get a copy. The book costs $26. The nice lady who greeted us offered a membership in the RTPI for $25. The good news is membership allows you to get into the exhibits FREE … AND … you get a free book of your choice. Okay, we pay our $25, get to tour the displays, and get the book we were planning to buy anyway. That means we spent $25 and saved $11 (plus tax). Free camping and an additional $11 to boot – this is working out real well.
We started by watching a video about RTP and how he put together the first useful field guide for birders – all the rest are variations of the original. The most amazing thing is that he did it during the depression – and sold out the first printing. After the video, we just walked around looking at the paintings and displays. It turns that when he was in the Army during WWII, he used his bird book experience to make a handy airplane identification manual so people could tell friend from foe and report what they saw with accuracy. It was all very interesting.
After leaving RTPI, we headed toward an Audubon Center and Sanctuary located a little south of town. Ah, but on the way is the Ecklof Bakery/Deli. We arrived around 12:30 – just in time for lunch. Janie had read about their Swedish bakery goods and their special Korv Burger. We started by spending some time investigating and learning about the various breads, cookies and pastries before settling down for our lunch. That was a mistake because when we sat down in the deli and gleefully ordered our Korv Burger, we were informed that the last one had just been served: “They always go fast.” Damn. By the way, what the hell is a Korv Burger? Well, it’s a Swedish sausage called Korv grilled with onions and peppers and served on Swedish light rye. Now that sounds real good – but they ain’t got any so we’ll settle for a roast beef Panini and a ham-salad Butterbit (innards served on a rye dinner roll). Well, now, if the Korv Burger is better than these offerings, it must really be something. We’ll have to come back and get one – early – say about when they open at 6 AM. After lunch, we drug our full bellies back over to the bakery displays and had the nice young lady bag us up $10 worth of cookies, pastries, and bread.
Then it was on down the road to the Audubon place. Well, let me cut to the chase. This was a bit of a disappointment. It was more of a learning center for kids than anything an adult would like. There was one display of a bee colony that was pretty interesting. They had the colony inside a double-sided glass case that was connected to the outside by a little tunnel so the bees could come and go. The glass case rotated so you could see them working in the honeycombs from either side. It was jammed packed with honey bees and they were all busy as … bees. Kinda neat – especially the rotating part. I found myself wondering if they’d get dizzy – no, I didn’t try, but I did think about it.
It was mid-afternoon and we wanted to check out a rail trail Janie had read about. The information was confusing so we were a little concerned about its existence and quality. We headed for a place the web site described as having “unlimited parking”. You really have to be concerned when you read that anything is ‘unlimited’ – it reeks of advertising hyperbole. In this case, you’d have unlimited parking if you didn’t mind parking along the edge of a way too busy road. Unlimited parking my ass. And the trail was barely a rut through tall grass surrounded by trees – typical unkempt old railroad bed. Okay, there is supposed to be a depot down in Mayville that is right on the trail. There must be some parking down there right? Let’s see if the trail is any better down there. Well, there was parking – actually lots of it – but there wasn’t any trail. For crissake, why would you have a Rail Trail office, brochures, and ample if not unlimited parking when there isn’t an actual trail?
We drove down the road a bit to see if there was any indication of the trail. Nope, just a snowmobile sign. Wait, I’ll bet this is more of a snowmobile trial than a bike trail. That’s why there isn’t any actual trail back at the depot. In the winter, the snowmobiles make their own trail. That explains the poor condition of the part of the trail we looked at. Further investigation showed that the trail was actually several short segments connected by roads. Nope, we won’t be doing this trail. Now we need a place to stay for the night. Ah, a few miles north of Mayville is … Lake Erie SP. And that’s where we ended up. When Janie was checking in, she asked the young man at the desk about the trail. He said, “Yeah, it’s all chopped up – not much of a bike trail really.”
The waning of the day brought a change in weather. The rain was blowing over and the sky was clearing. We were camped in the only non-electric site in the loop nearest the lake. We were maybe a hundred yards from the actual shore, but we had a pretty clear view - a clear view of waterspouts out on the lake. It was neat. Neither of us had ever seen a waterspout before and we were happy that we were in our Land Yacht and not out there in a boat. We watched the gulls soaring around looking for targets of opportunity and just generally enjoying the pleasant evening after a very wet day. There was also a group of vultures soaring into the wind heading NW from the land to the lake. When they got to the shore, they banked and glided along the shoreline. They may be ugly, but they certainly are graceful flyers – fun to watch their artistry.
I mounted my new bike seat before leaving on the trip. Now after a short ride and a much longer drive in the rain, I have some good and bad news to report. The good news is that the bike seat is very comfortable. Although it is the same seat design as the old one, it has a different cover. The old seat was leather; the new one is a synthetic material in the middle and abrasion-resistant Kevlar on the vulnerable sides. These materials are much less slippery than leather, so your butt tends to stay put better – you don’t slide around like on the leather. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new seat isn’t waterproof. Thus, after being exposed to a whole day’s worth of rain, it was pretty much soaked. By soaked I mean when you press on it, water gushes out – like a water-logged sponge.
Okay, I’ll have to get a seat cover. Hey, we’ve got a wall-to-wall Internet connection; I’ll see what I can find. Well, I couldn’t find much – lots of car seat covers, but almost no bike seat covers. Hey, I can use a plastic bag … or make a cover out of some waterproof nylon we have. Wait, we have a pair of foul-weather booties to cover your feet when biking in the cold and/or rain. The seat is a lot like an upside-down foot – maybe I can get a bootie to … yeah, I can. It fits great … AND … it looks like the Sockness Monster. Problem solved.
The sunset was pretty nice and once the light dimmed, we were graced with the waxing Harvest Moon. It was a cool and pleasant night. We slept the sleep of the innocent.
Wednesday 9/10/08 … Lake Erie State Park to Allegany State Park NY …
Our morning beverages were accompanied by tasty Swedish pastry this AM. While we enjoyed the pleasant but brisk morning, we made plans for the day. Originally we had intended to spend the day on the trail that we now know is a literal dead end. Soooo, we decided to go back to the Pat McGee Trail and do the southern half – and maybe do the northern half again; we’ll see. We arrived at the now familiar village park and shelter around 10:30, un-racked the bikes and headed south toward Salamanca. The trail was even better the second time. It’s amazing how a little familiarity can alter your judgment.
This was an Accipiter day. These old RR beds are usually lined with trees forming a corridor. As it turns out, this sort of narrow opening surrounded by woods edge is good habitat for Accipiters like Sharp Shinned Hawks. We’d seen one gliding down the corridor early on. However, the real show was later when we were stopped by one of the ecology signs about an end moraine. A small road was built on the moraine and the sign was located where the trail crossed the road. As we stood by the sign, we both caught a blur in our peripheral vision. It was a Sharpie gliding in from the open area of the road. It glided just behind me – no more than five feet – and on down the trail a bit before swooping up to perch in a bounding tree. Wow, we’d never been ‘buzzed’ by a sharpie before. It was really exhilarating.
We were back at RVan by 1:00 and had a nice lunch while deciding what we were going to do for the rest of the day. That’s when I heard the clip-clop of horses. We’d been driving through Amish country, so I fully expected to look up and see one of those black carriages coming down the street. Nope, it was a pair of good ol’ boys sitting high and mighty on a home made chariot contraption pulled by a brace of work horses. The two-wheeled cart was very high and fitted with bucket seats removed from an old vehicle. I gotta say it was pretty impressive. I took a grab shot because I knew it would be difficult to describe. PIC
After digesting our lunch and some interesting local color, we decided to do the northern half again. We’d done this on Monday and enjoyed it. Why not try it again on this magnificent day? Why not indeed. Yeah, this is a great trail. We reread the ecology signs, watched the Waxwings again, but the Sandpipers were nowhere to be seen. In their place was a big ol’ Snapping Turtle. It had hauled itself out of the mud – still had some clinging to its shell – and was basking in the coolness of a small inflowing stream. When it saw us, it wheeled around, watched for a bit, and then scurried back to the protection of the muddy depths – raising billows of silt as it did so. It was around this area that we saw a Muskrat cross the trail. When we got to the place it had crossed, we could see that this wasn’t a one time deal – there was a well-worn, muddy track from one side of the trail to the other.
We made the correct decision. We will be back to do the Pat McGee Trail again.
Bike Data: 25.85 miles, 3.75 bike time, 4.75 real time
We were only about six miles from Salamanca, which, in turn, is only a few miles from Allegany SP. That’s where we headed to spend the night. The plan was to do as much biking in Allegany as possible and then head home on Friday. We set up camp in the same site we used Monday – this time we didn’t fall for the going back to the administration to pay trick. We’ll take care of that tomorrow when we bike the paved bike path around Red House Lake – it goes right past the admin building – there will probably be someone there to take our money. Yay!
Thursday 9/11/08 …
We awoke to another beautiful day
– and a flat tire. Yup, just as we were ready to saddle up, I noticed my front
F-L-A-T as in no longer round. What’s up with that? I spent a lot of good money to get these fancy tires that are supposed to be thorn resistant … and … the Pat McGee isn’t exactly a wilderness trail. Hmm, there was that road crossing the trail that led to the Salamanca Beverage Company; a road liberally sprinkled with bits of broken glass. Oh well, I have to change the inner tube so let’s get to it. A half hour later we were biking the paved bike trail around Red House Lake. Map
We took a couple diversions off the trail to investigate some adjoining dirt roads that lead to cabin areas. They have lots and lots of cabins in Allegany – a couple hundred at least. We saw three sets of Does and Fawns just ambling along the edge of the woods. In one cabin area we got to witness something we never dreamed of seeing. We came upon a small group of Crows pecking their breakfast out of the mowed grass around the cabins. They were absolutely tame. Normally you can’t get within several hundred feet of the wily Crow, but these just kept huntin’ and peckin’ as we rode by. Really strange.
Then we saw a Sharpie swoop down toward the Crows. What the hell? Yep, the Sharpie was strafing the Crows. You have to realize that Crows are bigger than a sharpie and apparently not the least bit afraid of the little hawk because these Crows paid no more attention to the Sharpie than they paid to us. We watched this for a while, and during the whole time only once did a Crow react to the strafing – and then it was just an annoyed croak before going back to foraging. This little drama would make perfect sense if it were nesting time – I suspect Crows would rob eggs from any unattended nest. However, it isn’t nesting season, so we surmised that this must be an immature hawk just foolin’ around. Whatever, it was enjoyable to watch.
The bike trail has a spur paralleling the main park road and ending at a small chapel – so devout campers can walk/bike to Sunday services. This part of the trail is along a widening valley that heads out toward Salamanca and the Allegany River. This would be good terrain for a Buteo … hey, there’s one now. It was a Broad Winged Hawk soaring along the valley edge. Ah, nature – it’s ever so wonderful.
We made our way along the downstream side of the dam that forms Red House Lake. That’s where we discovered a big, billboard-sized sign explaining how this used to be a ski jump area. Sure enough, up on the side of the adjacent ridge, you could see a pair of walls that formed the end of the ski run and beginning of the jump. One was a 30 m jump and the other was a 50 m jump. While looking and marveling at the jumps, we saw a pair of Phoebes working in the trees along the stream. We stopped on the bridge to watch Whirligig Beetles and Redbelly Daces in the stream below.
Then it was up to the Administration building to pay our camping fees. The lady at the registration desk was a real toad. When we came in, she appeared to be looking at porn on the computer. Well, she was probably just playing solitaire or, even more likely, doing some Internet shopping. Anyway, she was devoid of personality, hopelessly uninformative, and sweaty – not a good combination. We paid our tariff and moved on – after marveling at the 1929 building that houses the administrative offices and a restaurant. It still has the original, metal-framed windows. They are not in good shape – sorta like the NY state government.
We were back at RVan for lunch and a bit of a rest before going up to the winter ski area and trying out some of the cross-country ski area.
AM Bike Ride: 12.71 miles, 1:48, 3 hrs total
We racked the bikes and drove up to the Stone Tower parking area across the trail from which is the entry to the cross-country ski trails. There are several loops that take off from the main Ridge Run trail: MAP. We took Ridge Run over to the Sweetwater Trail. It is a beginner’s ski trail, so there isn’t a lot of up & down to it. Then back to Ridge Run and on down to Christian Hollow. Then we were back to Ridge with the intention of the Leonard Run trail. But after consulting our Garmin, we decided to just keep on Ridge Run until it starts to descent into the valley. That’s what we did, and if you look at the map, I can tell you that we got the big bend down on the south end of the trail. It was after four, we were getting tired, and, more importantly, hungry, so we decided to get back to RVan.
The ski trails were very nice. You don’t ski as far as you bike, so the trails were kinda short. However, they were very pleasant. I was overcome with a sense of quiet calm. The day was delightfully cool and fall-like. The forest floor was covered with fern and some of the largest Club Moss I’d ever seen. Near the end of Ridge Run we saw a new-to-us plant: Beech-drops. Apparently, they grow under Beech trees. Wikipedia: Epifagus americana (Beech drops, Beech-drops; syn. Epiphegus americana Nutt., Epifagus virginiana (L.) Bart.) is a parasitic plant which grows on the roots of beeches.
There was a gentle breeze through the under story … and … the most amazing collection of Chipmunks. We saw several scurrying across the trail, but we heard many, many more. There was an incessant chorus of chips coming from the forest floor all around us. They had lots to eat because the walnut, hickory, and oak were starting to drop their nuts. Then there were the Black Cherry. Where the trail passed under one of them, the trail was literally covered with overripe cherries and pits. There was lots of food for the local residents to feast on in this time of plenty.
PM Ride: 10.06, 1:53, 3.25 hrs total
We awoke to rain. There was the normal liquid variety falling from the sky and then there was the rain of leaves falling from the trees in the campground. Yep, fall is here. We drove over to Quaker Lake on the west side of the park. There we found a nice boat launch area where we parked so Janie could launch into making scrambled eggs and toast up the last of the Swedish Limpa rye bread we’d scored at Ecklof’s. It was a delightfully misty morning – a great time to be sitting in RVan and enjoying the atmospherically picturesque surroundings. PIC
After brunch, we drove back toward our campsite. The object was to check out the two park roads for future biking. The conclusion is that it would be possible – if there was as little traffic as we had experienced on our two days in the park. We could bike from the campground down to ASP-2, over to France Brook Road, and then back along ASP-1. It would make a ten mile loop. Yeah, we can do that. Then we’d have three bike routes in Allegany and when you couple those with the McGee Trail, well, you got yourself the making of a regular stop.
It was a rainy day and we decided to head home. But on the way we opted to stop in a shop where Janie found some socks and those little tape measures she has attached to her purse. They come in really handy, so she bought a few of ‘em as backups and gifts. Then we stopped at the Seneca Indian Museum to see what it had to offer. We’d passed it many times, but never went it. This was the time to remedy that. Although not a high-level, professional presentation, it was very nice and informative. They had a really great display of beadwork and a historical exhibit detailing the violation of a 1770s treaty signed by George Washington that deeded the land surrounding the Allegany to the Seneca. Well, later it was decided that there should be a flood control dam to protect Pittsburg: Kinzua Dam. Of course that meant displacing the Seneca from their native lands. The controversy continues today. The Monday paper had a full page, Seneca Nation sponsored advertisement about the situation. Before leaving Salamanca and the Seneca Nation, we stopped at a gas station to fill up on cheap gas.
Our next stop was Ellicottville. There was a chocolate place Janie wanted to check out, and then there was the Ellicottville Brewery for me. We managed to get a bad full of chocolate and fudge before visiting the brewery, which turned out to be more of a pub/grill than actual brewery. We settled into a booth and ordered a beer sampler and a couple of sandwiches – and two orders of the Spicy African Peanut Soup. The food was very good … and … HUGE. We brought enough home for lunch the next couple days. The beer … well, not so special. I did like the stout but unfortunately, they only sell it in growlers. Oh well, I got better stouts at home – but variety is nice.
We got home around 5:30 just in time to unload some of the necessities, have a beer, and sample the Spicy African Peanut Soup – it was really very good, as was the trip.