Here’s a little info on the “Three Stages of the Erie Canal.”
We saw our first lift bridge in Spencerfort and had lunch here before walking on to Adams Basin.
The day dawned blue and clear promising temps into the 90’s. Fortunately, the humidity was low and we made good time walking the eleven miles to the canal side village of Spencerport. We had lunch at Cafr Machiatto and then the nice ladies who made us an amazing lunch, let us stash our backpacks behind the counter while we walked over the market to get a picnic dinner. We are staying about 3 miles west of Spencerport in Adams Basin tonight at the historic B and B, Adams Basin Inn, situated a stone’s throw from the canal. The house is reportedly the last remaining original tavern and inn on the original Erie Canal…one of 1500 taverns in operation when the canal was used for transporting cargo. Our innkeepers, Dave and Pat, have run the inn for the past ten years. They were exceedingly welcoming to us despite our dusty shoes and sweaty brows. The house and bar have been restored, giving one an authentic experience of days gone by. Dave treats all his lodgers to a history lesson about the house and the canal in general. Pat is very nutrition conscience and creates wholesome delicious breakfasts, She also treats her guests to homemade chocolate chip cookies. We feel very fortunate to have lodged here. There is a lift bridge right on the canal at the inn. There are sixteen lift bridges on the barge canal. The one at Adams Basin is the third we’ve seen. There are two up ahead in Brockport and one at Holley where we will camp on Sunday.
We met and were passed by numerous joggers, walkers, and bikers as we set out from Bushnell’s Basin to the canal side area of Pittsford, approximately three miles west, where we planned to have breakfast. The increase in trail users is another stark contrast to the walk east of Syracuse, where we could walk for miles and miles and not see another person. Much of this stretch, known as The Great Embankment, is where a 70-foot embankment was constructed in order to carry the canal above the Irondequoit Creek Valley. Another feat of incredible ingenuity, to say the least.
After leaving Pittsford, where we had a yummy breakfast at Coal Tower Cafe and were showered with much appreciated accolades about our walk, we set off for our city walk on the trail through Rochester. It was hot and muggy and only getting hotter and muggier with rain in the forecast. But we had some neat experiences and views despite fairly challenging weather. We saw this boat that I believe can be chartered. It seems such a peaceful way to travel.
We passed by Locks 32 and 33. This is 32 draining to allow two tiny boats traveling west, to enter.
This last boat was a real treat as it was the paddle wheel boat we saw days ago while camping at lock 21. I got excited and tried to tell them that we had seen them before. I’m not sure they understood me but we were very happy to see this sweet little boat go by us again.
We had a few bikers tell us to use caution as we went through Genesee River Park in Rochester, that it might not be safe. I’m sure this park, like all big inner city parks can be dangerous at times, but we found it to be an oasis in the midst of freeways, airport, and trains. The Genesee River runs north-south through Rochester, while the Erie Canal runs east-west. These two waterways intersect in the park.
We’re staying at a hotel just off the trail near the airport. For dinner we had the traditional Rochester, NY dish called “garbage plate.” It consists of meat, home fries, and macaroni salad all smothered with gravy. It was fabulous, especially after a long walk! Between the park, the canal, and our ‘garbage plate,’ we’ve had a real Rochester experience. We’ll walk to Adams Basin tomorrow and stay at the historic Adams Basin Bed and Breakfast.
We’ve been able to camp the last couple nights, which makes it more difficult to write. Even though we’ve tented at campgrounds with wifi, the dynamics of camping require my focus elsewhere. I’ll attempt to catch up a bit here.
We took a taxi (no public transportation) from Weedsport to Lyons and then walked on to Newark. This is another section of unfinished trail where you are directed to walk on a busy hiway for about 20 miles. It is exceedingly uncomfortable for me to have semi trucks barreling at me 6 feet to my right, and since we came to walk the trail, we decided to bypass the hiway bits. We still walk on country roads in many places. Plus we got to meet Hank, our taxi driver, a single dad of a thirteen year old boy. His wife passed at an early age, leaving him and his son. Hank’s story and desire to raise an upright and well-rounded man was moving and inspiring.
We have been following the original Erie Canal for miles and miles but at Lyons the trail rejoins the modern barge canal, the Erie Canal’s third, and so far, final evolution. We had parted ways with the barge canal at lock 21 where it continues north to Lake Oneida. The old and new are actually paralleling each other now. That means that we see more boats and go through more towns with harbors and canal side commerce. I want to say a bit about the area we bypassed before moving on. This area is now called the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and is a major flyway for migratory waterfowl on the east coast. During the building of the Erie Canal, however, it was called the “Great Cayuga Swamp.” Workers on the canal contracted malaria from mosquitoes and the disease proved fatal for approximately one thousand workers.
This is a sign we saw coming out of Camillus. I forgot to post it on the last post. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any stowaways.
We camped in Newark at Whispering Winds RV Park. It was quiet and clean. Newark has a nice harbor for cruisers on the canal. Here is our campsite in the early morning with low lying fog.
Heading west out of Newark, we came to an area called the “wide waters” which appears to be a fisherman’s haven. Many houses dotted the banks, each with a dock.
We found a little cafe right off the trail in Palmyra, appropriately named “Muddy Waters.” East of Lyons, a trail side cafe would have been rather rare but since rejoining the barge canal and being in closer proximity to major metropolitan areas, we have enjoyed this convenience a few times. Anyway, Palmyra is the 1820’s birthplace of Mormonism, where Joseph Smith unearthed golden plates containing the Book of Mormon. Palmyra was dubbed the “queen of the canal” in its heyday. We camped at Red’s RV Park just west of Macedon, NY, having walked a whopping 18+ miles this day.. Red had an awesomely refreshing in-ground pool!
We walked about 14 miles today to a suburb of Rochester called Bushell’s Basin just east of Pittsford. There was an abundance of canal activity today and I managed to get Coral, my mini iPad, out of the pack in time to take some videos. I hope they stream well for you. The first is a canal cruise line boat. This is the first of two identical boats going east.
This is women’s crew team practicing on the canal. This was a real treat! Girls rock!
We had lunch in Fairport, a canal side village dubbed the “Jewel of the Canal.” Fairport has wisely capitalized on the charm of the canal. Shops and restaurants line the canal way and the whole area seems very welcoming and prosperous.
Fairport has a “lift bridge,” which historically enabled the passage of tall loads being moved on the canal. During lunch, we were treated to two liftings of the bridge. The first video shows the bridge lifting while the second is the boat that came through. It is a very low bridge, typical of the bridges of old. There was construction going on in front of the cafe, hence the men without shirts. ( :
After Fairport, the canal meandered through posh residential neighborhoods.
Jusr before we exited the trail to find our hotel we met Norm and Larry, two residents of Fairport. They were both in their 80’s and passed us a couple times as they sped up and down the canal trail in their motorized scooters. When they stopped to talk to us, they told us how proud (yes, proud) they were of us that we weren’t taking our ability to walk for granted. I had been feeling somewhat weary and just plain tuckered out earlier in the day, and their words were just the encouragement and perspective I needed. Not all trail angels provide food and drink for the body. Some give sustenance for the soul. Here are trail Trail Angels Norm and Larry.
Tomorrow we will walk through most of Rochester and stay near the airport. How’s that for a change of scenery? I have begun to miss Mexican and Thai food. Pizzarias are to New York as Starbucks are to Washington…one on every corner. We had a first today…a car with New York license plates actually stopped for us while we were waiting at a crosswalk…sorry New Yorkers, but it’s true. We still love and appreciate you. ( :
We left Syracuse at 6 am…to beat the sun or the rain, whichever came first. The village of Camillus is unrivaled in its dedication to restoring the section of the old Erie Canal that passes through their backyards. The museum was still closed when we came through but there is much to see outside. First of all, they have mileage markers, a real help when wondering where you are. This one indicates we are half way between Albany and Buffalo.
Here are a couple canal boats. The bouy boat was used by a canal worker to change out the kerosine lamps that lined the canal, allowing passage at night.
The village has restored The Nine Mile Aquduct and claims that it may be the only working aquaduct in the country.
We met these 3 gals, Holly, Bernie, and Diva. They were awesome.
These are for Nancy. We had lunch in her home town of Jordan. It’s a village really and very lovely.
Well, the rain came first, in bucketfuls, just about 1/2 mile from our lodgings in Weedsport. Our shoes are drying, once again, in the sun that came out just after the soaking rain.
Marie was born in Canastota and has lived all her life in the area. She was the school librarian for many years in Canastota at the very school she attended as a young girl. In fact, when she retired from teaching, she was working in the same room in which she had attended kindergarten. Now, that’s a story!
Marie picked us up at our hotel and proceeded south through town. She pointed out Nathan Roberts’s home on the the way to Chittenango. Marie took our picture on the “yellow brick road” in Chittenango, home of Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum. Yay!
Then we went to the Erie Canal Museum in Chittenango. Even though it was closed, we could see the dry docks where canal boats could be repaired. The triad of docks looked like three-sided swimming pools into which a boat could be moved. After a boat entered a dock, the water was drained out allowing the boat to rest on wooden supports while being repaired. When the repairs were finished, the pool was refilled with water and the boat was ready to renter the canal. The three pools could be operated independently of each other. These were the forerunners of the car pits mechanics work in today. I’m sorry we don’t have a picture of them. Here is the canal at Chittenango.
From Chittenango we went to see the Butternut Creek aqueduct near Fayetteville. The stone arches are what remain of this lovely aqueduct.
Marie then drove us right to the front door of our hotel. Imagine! We are deeply thankful to Marie, the latest trail angel in a whole host of angels, who have blessed us on this adventure.
We decided to change our earlier lodging plans in Syracuse. Instead of staying the youth hostel, which looks very nice, we decided to take advantage of an amazing grand opening offer at Aloft, on Syracuse’s inner harbor. We received a warm and welcoming greeting from everyone and when they found out that it was my birthday, they really astounded us. Aaron and were at the pool and here comes Matthew and Sarah with a huge basket, filled with local products, representative of the local bounty and industry. At one time, Syracuse was the salt capital of the country, so of course, there was Syracuse salt. There was also wine, candles, pancake mix, baked beans, root beer, garlic oil, chocolate syrup, ice cream, salad dressing, and a huge bottle of barbecue sauce. There were also free drink vouchers for use at the bar. It weighed more than my pack! Matthew said, “no problem, we’ll ship it home for you.” Minus the ice cream. 😊 Thanks to Michael, Heather, Matthew, Sarah, Kelsy, Sherry, Sherelle, and everyone else! Take a look what these very kind people put together for me.
Saturday, July 17…
We walked to downtown Syracuse this morning. The Creekside Trail runs from The Inner Harbor to Armory Square, the downtown area. The Erie Canal used to run down what is now Erie Street. Here is the city park that commemorates the canal. All those tall buildings are the banks that sprung up around the lucrative canal.
The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse is in the old weighlock building. It was a regular lock except for having a sling that would weigh the boat to determine the toll for using the canal. The toll was based on weight, type of cargo, and distance. There is a replica of a packet boat displayed in the old lock, although packet boats, who carried passengers, were not weighed. In this picture, you can see the pillars of the building and some of the boat.
I’ve had a great birthday here in Syracuse. We are both looking forward to getting back on the trail. Tomorrow, we’ll walk to Weedsport, hoping to see the aquaduct and museum at Camillus on the way.
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.
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.
After the storms, the sun came out and we saw this boat come by, another highlight in a day of highlights.
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.