I really don’t give Albany enough credit.
Part of it is because despite the fact that I spend the majority of my life working in that city, I rarely leave the giant concrete bunker that is The Egg. Which means that I’m familiar with a few restaurants within a few mile radius, but little else.
Part of it is because Albany doesn’t deserve much credit.
Let’s face it, Albany is pretty freakin’ ghetto. The large part of downtown Albany is rough, not a place you want to be walking after dark. (Or during the daytime, for that matter.) And there’s not really much going on in downtown. There are some restaurants, sure, and a few nice little parks, but most of it is comprised of either government buildings (since this is the capital and all) or cheap housing. And the cool shit that is going on downtown, great bars and restaurants and even a kickass beer garden, is scattered across town. There’s no centralized night life, and if you go downtown there’s not really anything to do. Not like there is in Saratoga Springs, where a stroll through downtown offers shops, bars, restaurants, parks, a carousel and enough small-town quaintness to choke a bitch. Ask anyone who lives in Saratoga Springs, and they’ll tell you that Albany suuuuuucks.
(Ask a large chunk of the people who live in Albany and they’ll tell you the same thing.)
Last week I found myself in Albany with some time to kill. Kyle had to be at work at 11am but my call wasn’t until 4pm, which means that either we have to drive in separately or I had to hang out in Albany for five hours. And Albany may suck, but I really hate driving to work. So hang out in Albany I would. I was looking to do a little caching, a perfect way to kill time in any city, and that’s when I discovered the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike trail. It’s a bike trail that starts in downtown Albany, a stone’s throw from The Egg, and runs along the Hudson River. There was an attractive number of good looking caches hidden along it, so I decided to give it a shot. Not knowing anything about the bike trail, I was excited about the caching but apprehensive about what a bike ride through Albany would offer.
Hopefully I wouldn’t get shot.
At first I was pretty disenchanted by the fact that path runs parallel to the interstate.
I mean, come on guys, really? I could actually throw a rock and hit the afternoon traffic. Not exactly picturesque.
But as the path pulled away from the heart of downtown, its proximity to the interstate stopped bothering me. There was just enough woods between the path and the highway that it mostly dropped away from view, only peeking in now and then. And even though I could still hear the rush of traffic, it became white noise that was almost soothing.
But the thing is, even if there hadn’t been the wooded buffer between me and the interstate I don’t think I would have noticed it anyway. Because even though the path runs parallel to the interstate, it also runs parallel to the Hudson River.
With views like that, they could have ran the path by a toxic waste dump and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Even the industrial buildings and equipment along the Hudson didn’t bother me.
Industry along the Hudson is old, and many of the buildings and structures have been there for over a hundred years.
Instead of looking like nature was razed for the industry, it looks like the buildings and the forest grew up at the same time. Like the industrial equipment is just another specie of tree.
The city also did a great job of making the best with what they had. Sure, they don’t quite have the land or the location for legitimate quaintness, but goddammit, they were gonna try!
With playful jogs in the path that look as if they disappear into forest teeming with woodland creatures, and possibly elves.
Rustic wooden fences overlooking a quaint forest stream.
Even a thoughtfully placed bench under a picturesque tree.
(Seriously, isn’t that bench just begging for a hipster in flannel and a wool cap to sit on it and thoughtfully chew the end of their pencil, sketchbook open on their lap, while they dream of a world where everyone appreciates Conor Oberst as much as they do?)
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would have liked to spend more time on the bike trail. There was a surprising amount to explore, and I’m not just talking about the caches! (Though I have to say, the caches along this trail were lovely; well maintained and not unnecessarily difficult. If anyone local is interested in getting started geocaching, I can’t recommend the caches along the bike trail enough!) It seemed like everywhere I turned, there was something else that caught my eye and made me stop. I ended up having to really haul ass biking back to work because my return trip took longer than I anticipated; about every quarter mile or so I had to stop and admire something else I hadn’t noticed on the way out!
Overall, the Hudson-Mohawk bike trail was a pleasant surprise. I went for a ride expecting a jank-ass stretch of desolate pavement winding through the ghetto and dodging the traffic flying down the interstate. When I found instead were miles of well-kept bike path that attempted to celebrate quiet moments of beauty among history and industry.
So congratulations, Albany. You don’t totally 100% suck.