Monday, March 2, 2015

The March of Time

     Zero degrees this morning, the first of March.
     While I was waiting for the skid-steer to warm-up I noticed my bike leaning against the shed wall. Two flat tires, rusty chain, covered with grime and almost buried behind kerosene heaters, chain saws, shovels - all the detritus of the season.
     Then I heard a plaintive whisper, "Come on, let's go for a spin. Just like old times. We can do it."
     I didn't have the heart to tell her I'ld been seeing someone else. It started as just a brief fling, destined not to last. But here it was March and I was still sneaking away to spend an hour or two with sweet little Karhu Pinnacles, aka my backcountry skis.
     What can I say? It's cold, the snow is deep and the heart's fancy is a fickle thing. Soon enough my affections will swing back to bikes and boats but for now skiing's the thing.

The gate handcrafted by Leif Johnson of  Black Creek Forge in Hebron

     Hudson Crossing was todays get away. It's an island in the river just north of Schuylerville that's been developed as a park. You turn off Rt. 4 by the canal locks and drive a short distance to a cleared lot. The road used to cross the island and a bridge over to Clarks Mills in the Town of Greenwich. Now it's gated and the Dix Bridge across the Hudson is used by pedestrians, bicyclists and snowmobiles, but not vehicles. I skied over the bridge and spent about a minute in Washington County. The boundary here is the middle of the river and though its called a bi-county park the island is actually in Saratoga County. We won't hold that against it.

The Dix Bridge

     There's a perimeter trail with continuous views of river and canal. Facilities include a picnic shelter, playground, canoe launch and deck overlooking the water. A nice variety of trees and shrubs line the banks but it's the giant cottonwoods that you'll remember.

     Burgoyne crossed here on his way to Saratoga. If he'd foreseen the butt-kicking the Americans were about to give him he might have stayed on the east side of the river. Upstream from the Dix Bridge you see two rows of piers stretching from shore to shore. They used to carry a trolley line and railroad but with changing times they were abandoned. I wonder if digging the canals on the west side is what turned this into an island? The original Champlain Canal was superseded by the modern Barge Canal and today they parallel each other.

     It's quiet here in the winter. I saw some kids sledding with their Dad and a few snowmobiles passing thru. The trail had been well-packed by snowshoers but nobody was out on this cold snow- spitting afternoon. There were ducks in a channel of open water, crows in the trees and fresh woodpecker holes in aspens. When (not if!) warm weather comes you can do a triathlon here, watch boats move thru lock 5 or put your own car top boat in the water. There's a level towpath that leads to Fort Hardy in Schuylerville and just up Rt. 4 is the geologic curiosity called Starks Knob.
     Hudson Crossing is aptly named. It has a palpable sense of coming and going. I'm a small part of that history. This is where I used to escape when the burdens of school became too much. I'ld lace up my running shoes, cut classes and slip across the island to the backroads of Washington County for  a few hours of exploration. I knew the Principle's office and a stern Mr. Nolte would be waiting for me when I returned. But who cares? For a little while I was getting a real education and tasting freedom. No wonder I like it here.  


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