We spent the day in this small canal town, home of Nathan Roberts, one of the lead land surveyor/engineers responsible for designing and overseeing the construction of the Erie Canal. Roberts is known for many accomplishments, but particularly the 60 ft rise of five double locks at Lockport. We went to the Canastota Canal Museum where we met museum docents Marie and Joe, who shared many details about the canal in central New York. After returning to our hotel, and much to our surprise, Marie called us at the hotel and offered to take us on a car tour the next day of notable Erie Canal sites such as the dry docks at Chittenango and then on to Syracuse where we will stay for two more nights. We couldn’t refuse such a generous offer so we are off with Marie on Saturday morning to tour the area. By the way, Chittenago is the home town of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. I understand there is a yellow brick road there. I hope we get to see it too!
Today we walked 14 miles to the town of Canastota. This was also the day we would pass 650 or so bicyclists on the annual “Bike the Erie Canal” ride, which begins in Buffalo and ends in Albany. The morning sky was clear and blue. As we dried the tent before packing it away, we were alone at the lock, except for our constant companions, the Canadian Geese. We set off at about 7:30 am.
We passed many farms and corn fields.
This area is known as “The Long Level.” I think you should be able to read why in this picture.
Around noon, the sky let loose and soaked us to the bone. Luckily, we had had the sense to stash our electronics in our packs and put our backpack covers on before the rain began. We only had time to don rain jackets before we were totally soaked, shoes and all. We are spending two nights in Canastota just to dry out. My sleeping bag got wet from water running between me and my pack. We passed many soaked bicyclists too…all with big smiles. Seems we should get soaked like this once in a while. Once we accepted what was happening, and that there was nothing we could do but keep going, it was kind of fun…kind of.
We will go to Syracuse in the morning and stay at the youth hostel there for two nights.There’s an Erie Canal Museum we’d like to visit. Canastota has one too that we’ll visit today.
Thank you for all your comments and words of support. They always uplift us! This is a challenging walk, peppered with some amazing places and people, which we have said, more than once, “make it worth the effort.”
We decided to take a short day and walk only 12 miles from Rome to Lock 21 where there are designated hiker/biker campsites. Interestingly, Rome is where the building of the Erie Canal began. The flat land gave the builders a place to begin that was relatively straightforward before tackling the more complex engineering through the mountains. Temps were in the nineties and humid as we set out. There is no potable water at the locks available to hikers so we carried 3 liters each, which is heavy! It was a lovely walk to the lock and we arrived there at about 2pm looking forward to resting, reading, and just enjoying the area.
On the way to the trail, we were helped by a man who was cooking ribs at a road side food truck to find a shortcut to the trail. The shortcut took us past an old heritage site named Erie Canal Village. It is no longer open but must have been a place where life on the Erie Canal was recreated and reenacted. I have asked various people along the way if there are any ‘packet’ boats to see or even a replica of one and everyone has said no. WELL, we found one at this abandoned place. I’m sure it’s a replica, but gives one a sense of how they looked. They could seat between 40-100 passengers traveling between New York City and Buffalo. They are said to have been quite luxurious. Passengers could ride on the top and had to duck when passing under a low bridge. As the song goes, “Low bridge, everybody down! Low Bridge, for we’re comin’ to a town…”
We also heard this chorus of what we believe are frogs. This was a new frog sound for us.
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Once at the lock, we rested in the shade to cool off. We played a few hands of cribbage and watched the geese squabble with each other. The thunderheads had been building all day. I think we were enjoying the shade they provided rather than assessing their growth. Well, once they broke, we had about 3 minutes to set up out tent and get all the gear secured. We managed it but not without a few bumps such as totally forgetting how to set up a tent we are fairly familiar with. This first storm was the short one. We were forced into our tent again for a very long and intense and beautiful thunderstorm. Anytime I got nervous, as the wind tried to tear our tent from its stakes, I would just peek out across the lock at the geese who hadn’t a care in world. They soothed my anxiety. This is a short video of light rain.
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After the storms, the sun came out and we saw this boat come by, another highlight in a day of highlights.
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Finally, by the end of the day, the sky cleared, the geese took one last swim on the calm water and all was well.
One of my favorite poets, Wendall Berry, wrote an amazing poem called The Peace of Wild Things that is a balm for the soul. I would encourage anyone to look it up.
Thirty-five miles! Wow! We are really becoming fast walkers! Actually, we took a local bus from Little Falls to Utica. In most of this stretch, the trail isn’t complete and you must road walk on a very busy hiway. We had already done that earlier on the walk and we’re not at all comfortable with it. We ended up walking on back roads for about 3 miles, which are fine. We walked for 18 miles after the bus ride. The day was very hot and luckily the trail along the barge canal was shaded for the most part.
Here’s a picture of “Clinton’s Ditch” or the original canal. It’s all overgrown now and home to critters like the one below.
DeWitt Clinton was the New York governor who carried the vision of the Erie Canal. On the day the canal opened, he rode on a barge from Buffalo to Albany carrying a bucket of water from Lake Erie, which he poured into the New York Harbor, symbolizing the “wedding of the waters” and a viable means of connecting the interior of the US with the rest of the world. The Erie Canal made New York the greatest industrial port in the world.
Little Falls, is a gem in Upstate New York and home to some of the nicest people on Earth. It is also home to our new friends Teresa, Joe, Eileen, and Bill. This is a story worth telling as best I can after walking 18 crazy hot miles today from Utica to Rome.
In the beginning…
When Aaron and I were considering this walk, I began emailing campgrounds, harbors, and locks inquiring about camping possibilities. Teresa and I are not sure how she came to receive my email inquiring about camping at Rotary Park in Little Falls, but she did. Teresa is a true ambassador of Little Falls, committed to its growth and promoting its welcoming personality to visitors the world over. Given her involvement in and love for her community, is not difficult to understand why she ended up being forwarded my email and responding to me. She wrote back that camping was probably fine and sent the harbor master’s phone number just to be sure. Yay!
Six weeks later…
I received an email from a “pastoral council” about their upcoming potluck. I didn’t know who sent the email but thought it was from someone in Bellingham that accidentally included me on their email. Well, come to find out, Teresa accidentally inserted my email on her pastoral council’s email list. We all know how spell check or automatic insertion of words happens when composing a letter on a computer without even realizing it. I replied that while I was honored to be invited, I.would be unable to attend for obvious reasons and wondered if it were “divine intervention” that landed me on that list. Theresa and I agreed that it would fun to meet, if possible, when I were in Little Falls. It was left open knowing that our schedules were still in flux.
Five or six weeks later…
Aaron and I begin our hike. We are on day four, the day we missed Schoharie Crossing and went back 3 miles, knowing we may never pass this way again. After backtracking, we crossed the hiway to get a well deserved ice cream at Karen’s Produce and Ice Cream stand. For all practical purposes, we really shouldn’t have been there.
The next day…
I receive an email from Teresa, who wrote, in all caps, “I THINK I SAW YOU CROSSING THE HIWAY BY THE ICE CREAM STAND YESTERDAY…ABOUT 1:30PM! IS THAT POSSIBLE? She and her husband, Joe, were driving home and Teresa saw “two hikers” and wondered later if they were us. Mind you, we are the only “through hikers” we’ve seen on this trail. Well, I wrote back that that was definitely us, thinking the chances of us both being in that place at that time could only be attributed, once again, to “divine intervention.”
Happily ever after…
Aaron and I met Teresa and Joe for breakfast. They took us on a driving tour of Little Falls. They had us to their home in the evening for a summer cookout. They introduced us to Bill and Eileen, pastoral council members, who knew the story. They opened the hearts to us in a manner I’ve only experienced a handful of times. We all agreed it was a story beyond coincidence. What a joyful night it was. At the end, just before Teresa drove us back to the marina and our tent house, Bill said, “Its as if we’ve known each other all our lives.” It is difficult to imagine a greater gift than the one given to us by our new friends in Little Falls, New York.
We lodged at the wonderful White Rose Bed and Breakfast in Fort Plain last night and let ourselves sleep in and enjoy our innkeeper, Melissa’s, comfortable and welcoming home. She had greeted us with a warm smile the night before and then drove us to a local restaurant, The Table, for dinner. Melissa exemplifies the kind and generous spirit the people along the Erie Canal have shown us thus far, a spirit that has buoyed and sustained us. We are so very grateful.
After leaving the White Rose, we stopped at the grocery store for some supplies and then set off down the trail. The sky was gray and overcast but we didn’t get rained on all day and there were very few mosquitoes. We’ve seen a few Robin egg shells on the trail. This one was whole, blown from its nest.
We walked about 18 miles along the old Erie Canal, the newer Barge Canal, and The Mohawk River today. We startled up a hen turkey and her three chicks at one point. I should say she startled us! She was very big! Seeing her led to long conversation about the different names given to birds and their young, like geese/goslings, etc. In the end we really weren’t sure the name of a baby turkey so we settled on ‘chick,’ but that’s the way conversation on the trail goes…anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can lead to an in depth discussion.
Every once in a while, we glimpse a beautiful rock wall, made from massive cut stones. It has been almost swallowed up by the overgrowth of berries and vines, which look like wild grapes. We think this must be the original wall along the canal…at least that is what our imagination says. It is fortunate that New York realized the history and wonder of the canal before it was entirely swallowed up by nature and progress. Maybe you can see the wall peeking out in these pictures. They’re not especially photogenic.
We came upon a farm and this little guy was peeking out from behind his low roofed pig house. We were fairly sure that we could see, within the murky dimness of the pig house, the large teardrop shaped ears of his mother sow. I decided to take a picture, mostly for our daughter Sophie, who is raising pigs just like this one. Just as I focused my camera (phone) on him, he bravely stepped out from his hiding place, allowing me to capture him in all his cute piglet grandeur.
Of course, we spoke to him and as he inched towards us, about 10 – 12 brothers and sisters literally poured out of the house, some hiding behind it too.
The first little piglet was decidedly smaller than the rest and we quickly decided that “Blackie,” as we affectionately called him, was the runt and the reason he was outside while the others were curled up with their mother inside. Although the smallest, he was, without a doubt, the cutest.
Aaron took this video of me. For some reason he is forever entertained by my method of hoisting my pack onto my back. I am not crazy about having my picture taken, let alone published, but I’m afraid I’ll not hear the end of it otherwise. So, here you go…
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Just before Little Falls we came to General Herkimer’s home. He led the Battle of Oriskany in the Revolutionary War, a battle that proved to be a turning point for the young colonies. The beauty of the estate and the views of the surrounding area were breathtaking. General Herkimer, his family, and neighbors are buried in the cemetery here.
We arrived at Little Falls Rotary Park at 6 pm. We were greeted by Dave who showed us around and helped us get settled. We showered, washed laundry, cooked dinner, and went to sleep…the end of another amazing day on The Erie Canal.
I forgot to put this picture in yesterday’s post. We saw this sign as a we walked into Fultonville and had a chuckle trying to imagine the scenario that would have prompted the city to post such a sign.
There wasn’t anywhere to camp last night, so we stayed in a tiny motel in the tiny town of Fultonville. The rain began somewhere in the middle of the night and woke us as it pounded on the roof. We had breakfast at the busy Taste America Truck Stop down the road then set off during a rain-respite with full rain gear at the ready. We walked for about 1 1/2 hours before the thunder and lightening began to roll and flash, shaking the heavy, grey clouds. We walked in an absolute downpour for about 9 miles. If that wasn’t enough, we were chased by swarms of mosquitoes for much of the way. Luckily we had mosquito repellent and rain gear is also quite effective against mosquitoes. We ran up the steps of our cozy bed and breakfast in Fort Plain, NY just before the second downpour began
Aaron took some great pictures of different architecture along the trail and we thought we’d like to post some of those for you to see. We passed many more beautiful homes and estates too.
We plan on hiking to Little Falls tomorrow, probably in an exhilarating downpour being chased by hungry mosquitoes. 🐝 We will camp at their awesome Rotary Park and Marina and take a ‘zero’ day here, staying for two nights.
We finally found out what the beaver-pica-groundhog-marmot looking animals we’ve been seeing are…woodchucks! Isn’t that just so very special?! I can’t ever remember seeing a woodchuck. Sorry, no pictures. They are very quick to disappear into their underground burrows when we come near. “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck…”
The temperature was cool again today and we walked under grey overcast skies. We began walking at 6:45 am looking forward to stopping at Schoharie Crossing, the ruins of a 14 stone arch aqueduct, built in the mid-1800’s to carry the canal over Schoharie Creek. I am in awe of the ingenuity and fortitude of those early canal builders. The canal is sometimes referred to as the first school of engineering in America.
Despite frequent signs indicating the way, we managed to walk 3 miles beyond the ruins before realizing it! We made the decision to go back, adding 6 miles to our day’s walk. It was a good decision.
One of today’s highlights was the abundance of bright orange day lilies along the trails. I referred to them as Tiger Lilies in an earlier post but now I believe they are their cousin, Day Lilies. I hope you can see them in this picture.
Another highlight was walking along the old canal for most of the day. In one place an old lock is well preserved although now filled in with sediment and towering trees.
Ill finish this post with a short video Aaron took of a group of bikers as they whizzed past. It’s kind of fun to watch. 🚴🏻
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We hope to be camping the next couple nights so am unsure about Internet access. We’ll do our best.
We managed an early start from the campground. The walk began beautifully, flat and meandering next to the wide Mohawk River. The sky was low and overcast, which kept the temperature cool. The trail took us next to lush pastureland and ancient orchards adjacent to the old Erie Canal towpath on which we were walking. Just when we felt settled and happy at being able to spend the day in this pastoral beauty, the trail ended and we had to walk on a fairly busy hi way for 7 miles. That really tested my mettle. After that, we decided to skip over any areas with actual highway walking. Back roads would been fine but not highways.
We did pass a number of fellow trail users. There was a group of about 20 bikers all wearing the same green tee shirts going east. A man and woman on a tandem bike passed going west. They are long gone by now. One thing I know for sure after today is that the distance on google maps is much farther then it appears on your phone. ( :
Wendy from the Arrowhead Marina and RV Park drove to Scotia, about 3 miles, to pick up an ‘order to go’ for us. It was our dinner. Definite Trail Angel. Thanks Wendy!
Aaron and I walked out on the dock at dusk, returning to our tent after dark. The grove of tall trees surrounding our tiny tent was twinkling with fireflies. Many fireflies twinkling for a long time! They were still twinkling as we crawled into our tent. Goodnight moon…