Sub-24 Hour Overnight. A term that arose from the initiative to gently introduce new cyclists to touring by bike. The idea is that jumping on a bike and riding across the country might be a bit over-the-top for beginning tourists, but perhaps a short, easy-to-recover-from overnight camp trip might be the place to start to get your feet wet (sometimes literally). It’s a chance to test-drive your bike, your gear, your preparation, and maybe … yourself.
How convenient that the Genesee Valley Greenway offers a neat little option to do that!
As the Greenway heads south out of Mount Morris paralleling NYRoute 36, it takes a turn through the now-closed Livingston Correctional Facility and into the Sonyea State Forest. The original canal route and the subsequent railroad went into the Keshequa Creek Gorge, but severe erosion has left the original route impassable, so the Greenway trail winds up an old road into the forest and comes to a trail that accesses the gorge. DOWN into the gorge, one can find a nice single track trail leading to campsites along the creek. That’s our destination for a “First Run” of a Scottsville to Sonyea bikepacking overnighter.
Our tiny “advanced scouting team” of myself and Karen of course, plus veteran off-road tourist Todd, and “bike packing newbie” Mark all planned to meet at the church/park parking lot in Scottsville at 10:00am. Even with the chance of rain, Karen was OK to ride down the Greenway from home in the city to Scottsville, a 17 mile warmup. Todd did the same from his home, 8 miles away, so Mark’s was the only car left overnight in the park … with permission, of course. We hit the trail.
Heading out of Scottsville from Canawagus Park, our first stretch of trail has us riding the newly resurfaced section of trail between Scottsville and Route 5 just east of Avon. A major project, NYS Parks went all in on widening, clearing, installing a new base and top surface (stone dust … like on the Erie Canal in places) and adding amenities and water management structures. Wonderful work, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, the section south of Wadsworth Junction …
… where the Lehigh Valley Trail crosses the river and connects to the Greenway … had seen heavy horse impacts on the trail. It seemed a bit less jarring this time, but perhaps because I was on my fat bike this time. Time will tell if the trail “settles” and packs down hard like others have. Just before reaching Route 5, we explored the Erie-Attica Trail that extends eastward from the Greenway toward the village of Avon and found that it too appears to have gained some attention, but it too has been pocked by horses. Not a problem for the right bike. The trail crosses the Genesee River …
… and stops at a parking area accessible from Route 5&20. From here, it’s easy access to downtown Avon for food and refreshments.
Returning to the Greenway and crossing Routes 5&20, the trail reverts to natural surface, double track …
… and leads us to the remains of the Genesee Valley Canal’s Lock Five.
It’s easy to miss with all the tree and brush growing up around it. Perhaps a work party can address this sometime? We continued south through Piffard and found our hopes for a cool drink dashed when we discovered that the Yard of Ale opens for dinner only, no afternoon bliss in air conditioning for us!
Onward, we tried again for a break … food AND fluids …, but no luck in Cuylerville either as the Greenway Pub was open for drinks but wasn’t serving food.
No problem … Mount Morris is just a stone’s throw. We planned on stopping here for supplies anyway, but the bartender at the pub suggested Brian’s (not MINE) USA Diner on the highway just north of the entrance to Letchworth State Park. We’ve been there and knew the food was good, so that became the dinner plan. After dinner, we hit the Kwik-Fill in town to stock up supplies, and headed south, but not before the obligatory photo on the bridge over the river in Mount Morris!
Mark, I’ll mention here, is just beginning to ramp up into this whole bike-touring thing and didn’t have all the gear, or capacity FOR the gear, so his plan was to ride with us to the gorge, but not camp there. Rather, Mark got a reservation at the Greenway Motel just south of Mount Morris and right across the highway from the trail. We could intercept him in the morning on the way to breakfast. Simple! So we pulled in there, Mark got checked in and dumped some gear, and we took off for the forest. It was a short stretch from the motel to turn into the grounds of the former Livingston Correctional Facility. Strange and spooky place! The grounds appear well kept, but most of the buildings look like something out of a Hitchcock film. Mark captured some interesting light on this one:
Anyway, we enter the forest via the closed off end of Union Corners Road. You can’t drive a car into the forest from this end, but you can get in via Tuscarora. The route in is little more than a double track till it gets to the gate restricting access to the gorge itself. Down we go into the gorge, riding it mostly, but dismounting to hike-a-bike down for the final drop to creek level.
And the reward? Perhaps one of the sweetest, discreetest little out-of-the-way campsites you could ever find. Alongside the creek with it’s waterfalls, pools and pollywogs, we find level tent sites, an impressive fire ring, and a selection of nicely spaced trees to experiment with hammock camping.
We “lounged about” with a really nice campfire while waiting for dark … when you’re ready to turn in while you can still see.
In the morning, we climbed out of the gorge and headed toward Mount Morris, bypassing the Greenway Motel and heading for the Radisson Country Inn where we meet Mark. Mark shared a harrowing story of a night-gone-bad at the hands of a less than hospitable desk attendant at the Greenway Motel. He "upgraded" to a bed at the Rad in town, and was surprisingly upbeat about the whole thing, Mark being Mark and all. I suspect he may be enthusiastically searching for gear for camping now.
We all returned to Brian’s USA Diner for breakfast to fuel up for our return to Scottsville. Food was great and portions were “truck-stop standard”. Wow!
A great day 2! Weather was warm and sunny and people were out enjoying the trail. We arrived back in Scottsville early afternoon but chilled for another hour or so at Artisan’s cafe. From there, Mark drove home, Todd had 8 more miles to home, we had 17. Wrapping up the overnight, Karen and I logged just over 100 miles on loaded fat bikes and slept really well that night. This overnighter proved out OK. We’ll plan another run to Sonyea!
Who's Ready for Beechwood State Park?