Albany-Hudson Electric Trail offers views, surprises – Times Union

A pair of riders on the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail near Kinderhook Lake.
Alpacas near Stockport on the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail.
The Albany-Hudson Electric Trail runs between an orchard and village park near Kinderhook.
The view of Albany from the Dunn Memorial Bridge.
I’d been riding for a while when the first rays of light arrived. Heading east into a crisp, December sunrise was one of many unanticipated joys of the trip and I stopped to turn off my bike lights.
The genesis of the trip was an email from Dave in East Schodack, who asked if I’d considered writing about the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail — a newly constructed 36-mile segment of the Empire State Trail running from Rensselaer to Hudson. 
I thought about Dave’s question for a while. I considered driving to Rensselaer, but then I’d need to put the bike on my car and find a parking place. Instead, I elected to ride from my Schenectady home because I liked the sound of “Home to Hudson.” I knew it was roughly 20-some miles from Electric City to Albany but stopped doing math for fear of talking myself out of the trip. Instead of planning and math, I packed Clif Bars and bike lights. Lots of them.
The sun had been up for a few hours when I arrived at the northern end of the AHET in Rensselaer. I experienced “Stewart’s mirage,” where I’m very hungry and imagine every brown-and-white building is a Stewart’s. 
While most of the AHET is off-road, there are short segments of on-road riding. These segments are well-marked and generally on sedate streets. The northern end of the route winds through suburban areas which, happily for me, offered an actual Stewart’s and a cyclist’s “second breakfast.”
Somewhere near Nassau Lake, the AHET starts showing off, rolling by lakes and streams and through pretty, small towns. The miles between Nassau Lake and Kinderhook Lake are surrounded by horse farms and are bike heaven. Bicycling.com recently ranked the Empire State Trail the “Best Cross-State Ride,” and you’ll see why.
So, why would I write about a bike trail in winter? A few reasons. The first: Next week you might make a list of things you’re going to do in 2022 — try to define who you’re going to be. Maybe you’ll learn French, or convert your basement into a home gym or learn to make pottery. Consider adding a ride on the AHET to that list. You don’t have to ride a zillion miles. Just ride. Maybe bring a toothbrush and extra clothes and stay overnight in one of the towns along the trail. Since the invention of the bicycle, there has never been as much, or as good, bike infrastructure as we have right now. Plan to get out and enjoy it.
If your bike has been in the garage for years, now is a great time to fix it. Bike shops are busy in March and April, when the warm weather returns. They aren’t busy in December and January, so bring that bike in now. It doesn’t matter which bike shop, because they’re all good. No one opens a bike shop to be a millionaire, they do it because they love bikes and want people riding them — you’ll see.
I didn’t research the mileage or description of my trip because I wanted to be surprised and I was. Surprised at the pretty trail below Niverville, dancing with the Valatie Kill. Surprised by apple orchards with views of the Catskills’ Blackhead Range. Surprised when a pack of alpacas (do alpacas pack?) came to the fence to say hello. Surprised to see a man on a unicycle, decked out in winter gear, waving hello. Surprised to cross the Hudson city limits and the end of the AHET.
I turned my bike to head back north. I knew the route but the view was different. This is why I come out, no matter the season: to know this place better, to see it from a different direction. The day began to fade and the horses and lakes and streams looked better in the crisp sunset.
By the time I arrived at the northern end of the AHET, I needed bike lights again. I paused on the Dunn Memorial Bridge to take in Albany’s lights against the ink-black sky. From the bridge to the bike path is a steep, habitrail-like enclosure that I zipped through with a smile on my face, having more fun than adults are supposed to have. The Corning Preserve deer reluctantly stepped off the path as I rode, a silver moon reflected in the Hudson River beside me. I did the trip to find beauty and a challenge and found them both. Thanks, Dave.
Herb Terns is a Digital Ads Manager at the Times Union. He’s also a writer, adventurer and hypothermia connoisseur. For some reason, the Times Union has allowed him to write about the outdoors since 2009. You can reach him at hterns@timesunion.com or Twitter or Instagram at HJTerns.

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