The pleasantly warm fall weather has extended both the biking and the softball season. So on this gorgeous November Sunday, I left Mr TBTAM at the ballpark in Hastings-on-Hudson with the Usual Suspects, and joined my friend Paula, whose husband was also in the game, for a 10 mile ride along the Old Croton Aqueduct Park Trail.
The 26 mile trail runs along top the Old Croton Aqueduct, an engineering marvel built in the 1842 to supply water from the Croton Reservior to New York City. The aqueduct is dry now, having long ago been replaced with a more modern water system with higher capacity. What remains is a wonderful trail that runs from Croton Reservoir to Van Cortland Park, easily accessible to New York City by car or rail.
The OQA Park Trail is really designed for walkers, but bikes are absolutely allowed. The way is unpaved, and there are not infrequent roots or rocks, so leave your thin-tired racer at home. I had no problems with my touring bike, but those with mountain bikes would do even better.
The trail is not a straight shot, and crosses more than a few streets unevenly in the Southern part, so make sure you bring directions, a trail map or like me, a friend who knows the trail. I’d also recommend leaving smaller children home, since the path is raised rather high in some narrow spots and has no guardrails. We were fortunate in this regard that there were few to no muddy spots and the leaves had dried from the prior day’s rains.
Our journey took us through the Hudson River towns of Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and Tarrytown, affording backyard and town views with occasional glimpses of the Hudson. (I made a google map of our ride to measure it)
Paula, who knows more about nature that Eull Gibbons, pointed out to me various unusual tree leaves, ginkgo pods and these large black walnuts, almost as big as oranges, on the trailbed.
Paula also told me that Laura’s Ingall’s father in The Little House on the Prairie used to hunt squirrels in the fall just to get at the black walnuts in their stomachs. As she puts it “A squirrel’s full belly’s worth of nuts, washed and dried in the sun, would be just about right for a tasty walnut pie, so they say. Have you ever wanted a walnut pie that bad?” Can’t say I have, Paula…But let’s get back to the ride.
We stopped in Tarrytown for sustenance and to visit the historic Lyndhurst Estate, built in the 1830’s for NYC mayor William Paulding and later home to robber baron Jay Gould. Although we did not take a tour inside the mansion, we did enjoy rambling around the grounds
A few miles into the Preserve, the boys called us and announced that their games were over, so we left the trail and met them along Rte 9. Too bad – I would have loved to continue up to the Croton Reservoir. Oh well, there’s always next season.
Thanks, Paula, for the wonderful company, great conversation and the fascinating tidbits of nature. And while I don’t think I’ll be making black walnut pie any time soon, I am keeping you to your promise to teach me how to make Lebanese stuffed grape leaves…
- You can order a trail map from Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct
- Times Up! – detailed directions for the ride from Van Cortland Park to Croton Reservoir.
- New York Times – Old Croton Aqueduct for Walkers, Not Water
- Intrepid Travel – The Old Croton Auqeduct Trail
- NY-NJ Trails Conference article on Hiking the OQA Trail
- Pete C wrote a wonderful poem about hiking the OQA Trail
- Croton Aqueduct Park Info
- Follow the Aqueduct Trail in New York City