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Backyard: Hikes/Paths/Food & More (part 1)

Backyard: Trails/Hikes/Food (part 1)

By Ken Day

Backyard is your source for everyday adventure in Mechanicville. What’s everyday adventure? It’s hopping on a bike and discovering an amazing view twenty minutes from your house. It’s finding a swimming hole with a rope swing. It’s taking a dance class for no reason. It’s making a movie with friends. It’s recognizing that life is about doing, not waiting. The world is full of wonder– and the best place to start is just outside your door.

I was in need of adventure. It was Saturday and I was up early. I wasn’t quite feeling a two hour drive to the High Peaks to spend 10 or more hours hiking one of the highest peaks in New York. I was in the mood for a relaxing, short, close adventure where I could spend quality time in the woods.

Stillwater Multi-Use Trail

I did some research on short local hikes outside of Mechanicville and was amazed to see how many trails and parks are in the area. For example, there is a bike path that runs right behind my apartment in between Mechanicville and Stillwater.

The terminus of the trail ends only a few hundred feet from my apartment. The Stillwater Multi-Use Trail runs along the train tracks from Northern Mechanicville to Southern Stillwater. The trail only runs approximately one (1) mile and is part of a series of other bike paths that travel to the Saratoga Battlefield and Waterford (also known as the Erie Canalway Bike Trail). You may feel uncomfortable riding or walking along the backyards of some local residents. You’re not trespassing but it’s clear that the residents along the trail want you to stay on the path.

I was rather disappointed that Stillwater Multi-Use Trail was so short, though, to its credit, this was one of the most well-maintained bike paths I’ve been on. There were benches, garbage cans, and bike stands, not to mention the wide, well-paved trail.

Ushers Road State Forest

It was still early. My need for adventure was not met. I remembered that I passed a DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) trail sign just north of Coon’s Crossing a few months ago. That’s where I was going next. My car was the only one in the lot; though I passed the Southern terminus of the Zim Smith Trail and I was amazed to see how many cars were parked there.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. When hiking in the High Peaks you have to be fairly certain what you’re getting into: How many miles is the hike? How much elevation gained/lost is expected? How long will the hike take? Will we get out by dark? How much water/food should we bring? These are questions that I learned to answer well before I embark on a High Peak hike. So after signing into the Ushers Road State Forest registrar without answering any of the above questions, I set off. The trail runs through some thick woods following the yellow DEC signs. Luckily I was correct with my judgments. The trail was flat and in good condition. The trail ended up looping around the forest to total roughly 1.5 miles. We passed a sign to follow the Zim Smith Trail. This is the second time today I saw something about the Zim Smith Trail.

Shenantaha Creek Park

Okay, so it takes a lot for my adventure needs to be met. It was still early and I wasn’t done quite yet. I hit Rt. 9 and traveled a bit north to Shenantaha Creek Park in Malta (just off Rt. 67). This was a complete unknown to me. I didn’t know this place existed until pulling up to a parking lot with 20 or more cars. This was an actual park with swings and a playground. It also had a nice long bike path/trail that was, coincidentally enough, part of the Zim Smith Trail.

We (my girlfriend and I) hit an interesting point on the path where it veered off to the left. A sign that mentioned hikers and walkers only intrigued us (we were indeed walking). This trail was heading back south to the parking lot which worked out perfectly. We were greeted with a Historical Landmark sign that mentioned an old historic bridge: The Ruhle Road Lenticular Truss Bridge.

The short iron bridge was constructed in 1888 by Berlin Iron Bridge Co. and moved from its original location in Cambridge replacing an old stone bridge that was swept away in Malta in 2001 as a gift from Washington County.

It was just about noon – time for lunch. We drove into downtown Ballston Spa to grab a bite to eat at the The Brickyard Tavern & Grill – a place I’ve never been to before. The food was delicious and they had a beautiful and relaxing outside patio. They also sported some local brews from Davidson Brothers Brewery Co. located in Glens Falls, NY.

Grays Crossing

This was an unexpected visit. We were actually on our way home when we noticed a sign on the side of County Rd 45/Northline Rd. for Grays Crossing. The Crossing offers a canoe/kayak launch directly into the Kayaderosseras Creek. We walked along the creek following the Burl Trail – a 1 mile loop that runs along the creek. We saw a few people fishing in the shallow creek. The signage suggested that this was the second stop along the creek where canoers can launch or pack it in. The Kayaderosseras Creek runs from Kelly Park 9.5 miles directly into North-West Saratoga Lake. This sparked some curiosity, though it was too late in the day to kayak 9.5 miles. Maybe another time.

Malta Ecological Park

All right, so we’re heading home for real this time, right? Well, I’m a sucker for nature/DEC signs alongside the roads. We found another – only a few miles down the road from Grays Crossing. This time it was the Malta Ecological Park.

We were greeted by a triangular sign in a beautiful wooden gazebo. The sign offered some insight as to what could be expected in terms of wildlife in the area: frogs, birds, turtles, beavers, etc. There were several trails that all seemed to loop around themselves. The center trail ended in a wide open circle where other trails branched off. The trail system was interesting since it was almost like a maze that seemed to end at the same point. The main loop around the park was short – less than half a mile. We saw a few people walking their dogs where they can run carefree. This time we were on our way home for good. There were no more stops along the way – at least we didn’t see any, or we would have stopped.

So after today I’m now interested in biking the entire Zim Smith Trail, since that’s all I seemed to encounter. There has been some work done and some plans sketched to develop the Zim Smith Trail into a nature preserve and extend the trail more into Mechanicville.

I’m also interested in kayaking the entire Kayaderosseras Creek since there seemed to be many great spots to enjoy along the way.

 

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