Today was another day of rest spent out of the kayak. Notice I said - out of the kayak - not off the water. I did manage to end up joining Ken from Bay Creek Kayak on a stand up paddleboard for a quick run up the river behind the store. Besides playing around on the boards I took advantage of a bit of civilization to tune up the Ikkuma. I’d managed to tweak the skeg wire a bit but a few minutes of fussing (and some super glue to stiffen it) got it straightened out and almost as good as new. Hanging around at the kayak store made me home sick for Aqua Adventures. Like I said in an earlier post, it’s a great shop staffed by real kayakers who care. On this night they were running the weekly time trial race on the river behind the store. Finish times are carefully kept by Ken, with the most competition coming from the paddlers against their old best times. The “race” is followed by grilled hot dogs and beer served by the Bay Creek staff.
The rest of my day was spent still trying to hunt down maps for the western half of Lake Erie. Even the local West Marine didn’t have quite what I was looking for. I do have most of the eastern end of the lake covered so my plan now is to check stores further west with hopes that as I get closer to the lake stores might have charts for it. Surprisingly a Michigan state atlas was not hard to find and I spent a couple hours in the morning tearing out the pages I need (which is a lot with Michigan’s long coast line), now I just have to get there.
Sorry I got a couple days behind in the blog, I'm doing this double post to get caught up. As always it’s when I get around people that I get too busy to blog, and that’s a good thing. At the moment I’m staying at the home of Duffy whom I met, along with his friend and business partner Cathy, at the rough water symposium in Rhode Island earlier this month. After learning about this trip, Cathy and Duffy immediately invited me to stay at either of their homes for a little R&R when I made it to Rochester. Over the last couple weeks as I made my way across the canal we coordinated a way for Duffy and Cathy to join me on the water the last day into town. It turns out another local paddler, Marc (who I also met in Rhode Island) was also interested in paddling with me. So a few phone calls were made and the plan was hatched for the three of them to set up a car shuttle and meet me on the water in the late morning and paddle with me into the Rochester area.
Start: 11:00 AM - Palmyra, NY (Lock 29)
Finish: 5:00 PM - Pittsford, NY
Daily dist: 18 miles
Total dist: 4000+
Companions: Duffy, Cathy, and Marc
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high mid 70‘s, off and on rain showers
Notes: A later than normal start after the others dropped kids off at camp and set up car shuttle.
With kids to drop off at summer camps and a car shuttle to set up, we got a somewhat later than normal start. The extra time in the morning was fine with me as it gave me a chance to start to dry my gear from the soaking it got in the heavy rains that had passed through in the early morning hours. Once the gear was somewhat dry I packed the boat and secured it to a tree then walked a mile through Palmyra (the town where I was camped) to find a local restaurant and a heaping plate of breakfast. On the walk back to the park where I’d left my boat I took advantage of the old tow path trail that borders the old canal that runs through town which is now a bike/walking trail that runs, in sections, all the way across the state. The walk took a little longer than it normally would as I dove off the trail every few hundred feet to feast on plump black raspberries growing along the trail.
About a half hour after getting back to the park a conversation I was having with a local berry/fruit farmer was interrupted by the arrival of a truck carrying three serious looking kayaks and equally serious looking kayakers. After unloading the three relatively new, mostly unscratched, kayaks next to my Ikkuma it made it look a little warn after so many miles. A bit warn, but full of the signatures and stickers showing where I’ve been over the last 4000 miles and… still ready for more.
The four of us enjoyed a pleasant run toward Rochester into a tolerable headwind through intermittent rain showers mixed with sunshine. The sun shone bright through broken clouds as we took a nice lunch break in Fairport (how could you have anything but a nice break in Fairport). After lunch we paddled the last six miles or so to a somewhat interesting take out at the docks in Pittsford. It had rained the last hour we were on the water but as we reached the take out the skies cleared and it turned into an absolutely beautiful day.
Things ran a little late with the boat, car, and people shuffling involved with getting ourselves and the second half of the car shuttle sorted out. Ultimately I ended up at Duffy’s house to get cleaned up. A bit later Duffy, Cathy and I found a pub still serving food and enjoyed a great dinner a the end of an equally great day of paddling.
Today was my first full day off the water since I left Manhattan 15 days ago. I did manage to sleep in a bit (until 5:00 AM). However, the sound of waves lapping against the shore of Lake Ontario roused my curiosity to see what the winds we were having would make the lake look like. After deciding to stay on the Erie Canal and bypass Lake Ontario altogether on this trip, it is nice to still get my first glimpse of the lake and a tiny piece of what I’m missing. My mind right now is preoccupied with figuring out the run down the length of the south (and windy) shore of lake Erie and, as always, it’s the unknowns that cause me the most concern. One can assume what miles and miles of open water and wind will do, but it’s another thing to actually get a look at it. Figuring a windy day Lake Ontario is a pretty good indicator at what Lake Erie might bring me, I was anxious to have a look at it. The lake was beautiful and the 10+ mph wind was blowing up waves that would be completely tolerable in a sea kayak. If the westerly winds prevail (as I know they will) it will be a slower go than I’m used to but if this morning was any indication, I know it will be doable.
After spending the better balance of the day chasing all over town hunting down maps for the rest of the trip I ended up at the Bay Creek Kayak store where I met most of the crew. Bay Creek Kayak is the shop that helped Otto out with a kayak and paddle so he could join me last week. The store reminded me a lot of Aqua Adventures out in San Diego where I worked the last three years, it’s right on the water, staffed by a bunch of real kayakers who have a passion for the sport, and seems to be the epicenter of the paddling community in the area. When I met Duffy, Cathy, and Marc in Rhode Island they all spoke very highly of the store.
After hearing about my trip from Larry and Otto the guys at the store asked if I’d be interested in doing a slide show for the locals. Always eager to share this adventure, I was happy to oblige, and the presentation was scheduled to be held at the restaurant next door to the shop at 8:00 this same night. With getting my gear sorted and dried and preparing for the slide show in mind, I cut my visit to the store a bit short and returned to Duffy’s house to get busy doing just that. The bright warm sunshine, wind, and warm asphalt in the driveway dried my tent and gear in minutes. It was the first time everything had been completely dry since I left Manhattan two weeks ago. After the gear was re-stowed in it’s respective duffle bags, I added a few pictures from the Erie Canal to the slide presentation and was ready for the show.
About 30 people attended the presentation which went well and the Ikkuma was brought inside the restaurant so everyone could have a chance to put their signature on it. One could say that the Ikkuma has not only been far and to a lot of places, it’s also been IN a lot of interesting places. So far the Ikkuma has been in a middle school, church, health club, warehouse, friends dining room, college lecture hall, and now a restaurant. Lord knows where it will end up next.
Start: 5:45 AM - Clyde, NY (Lock 26)
Finish: 2:00 PM - Palmyra, NY (Lock 29)
Daily dist: 27 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high mid 70‘s, off and on rain showers
Notes: I saw more canoes than motor boats today.
With a group of ten canoes paddled by Boy Scouts, a pair of kayaks near a park, and two guys doing a multi day canoe trip, I saw more paddle powered boats than motor boats on the canal today. Besides that it was a fairly quiet day on the canal.
I’ll be meeting up with some friends late tomorrow morning so I positioned myself in camp this afternoon to be close to where they may put in tomorrow. I’m situated on the edge of a huge grassy lawn below Lock 29 that I thought was canal and lock property. I learned otherwise when the friendly owner of the property walked down just before dinner and did inform me that it is his land. He couldn’t care less that I’m camped here, he was just curious about what I am up to. It turns out that he’s currently living in Wyoming and is in town visiting his parents (who actually own the land). He was impressed by the trip and asked if I could send his young children a postcard from somewhere on the route. His daughter Lucinda signed the Ikkuma and I promised to send a post card from someplace interesting.
Start: 5:15 AM - Baldwinsville, NY (Lock 24)
Finish: 3:30 PM - Clyde, NY (Lock 26)
Daily dist: 37 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high mid 70‘s, off and on rain showers
Notes: Today felt more like work after yesterday
Compared to yesterday, today was a bit of a routine day on the water. A highlight was seeing another section of aqueduct that used to carry the old Erie canal over the Seneca River that is now part of the canal. It still amazes me how such an engineering feat was pulled off in so short a time when the canal was first dug.
I could have stopped after 31 miles of paddling but I didn’t want to get stuck behind the next lock before the 7:00 opening time. So I pressed on, in a steady rain, another six miles so I could lock through and be above it and ready to go early in the morning.
The rain that had persisted through my last three hours on the water graciously let up long enough for me to put up my tent. After a hearty meal of ham and rice, I’m ready to fall asleep trying to read a book once again.
A tired but excited Jake called me (his brother Luke) to post a quick update. Things are going great as Jake put in a 48 mile day today. He set out to paddle Lake Oneida but finished at noon and decided to press on. When he called me he was sitting in the Baldwinsville Diner preparing to order yet another burger. Jake hopes to get a complete blog post covering his awesome day on the water tomorrow.
Start: 4:45 AM - New London, NY (Lock 22)
Finish: 5:45 PM - Baldwinsville, NY (Lock 24)
Daily dist: 48 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 80, west wind 5 mph
Notes: It was so nice I didn’t want to stop
Wow, what a day!
Every once in a while everything seems to fall in place resulting in such an enjoyable time on the water that I just don’t want to quit. Today was one of those days. After getting up very early (even by my standards) I was on the water and well across Oneida Lake before the winds had a chance to catch me. It was really more worry than was necessary as the winds never did build past 7 mph all day. With such light winds I made great time and made the west end of the 26 mile long lake by 11:00 AM. An hour later, even after stopping for a soda, I made it to Lock 23 which had been my destination for the day.
Because it was so early, and because I was still feeling strong and full of energy, I figured I’d press on to the next lock which happened to be 19 miles away. It was in lock 23 that I met a man named Lyn Morgan who was captaining a large pontoon boat. He noticed that I didn’t look like I was out for a day paddle and asked where I was going. It turns out that he’s on a big loop trip of his own. Putting on almost 100 miles a day, starting in early May he’s already come from the TennTom waterway, around the Gulf, up the Intracoastal, and so on to where he crossed paths with me in lock 23 today.
It wasn’t much further on that our paths diverged as he turned right and went north on the Oswego canal toward Lake Ontario and I made my previous decision a reality by turning left and continuing west on the Erie Canal. My original plan was to head up to the lake then west toward Niagara. However, the Erie canal was dug for many reasons that still hold true today. The canal will give me a couple hundred more miles of sheltered water before I have no choice but to deal with the wind on Lake Erie. In addition, and probably most importantly, the canal takes me up and around Niagara Falls, the several hundred foot road block that cut Great Lakes shipping traffic off from the Atlantic until the Erie (and later the Welland) canals were dug.
People had offered to help me get my boat and gear around the falls (I checked you can’t take a kayak through the Welland Canal) however, I decided that it would just be simpler, if not more pleasant, to stay on the canal. As it turns out the Erie Canal will be one of the few waterways I paddle in it’s entirety on this trip. So far I’ve paddled half the Mississippi, half the Gulf coast, and two thirds of the Atlantic coast. It will be nice to paddle ALL of the Erie Canal.
After I turned my back on the Oswego canal (and lake Ontario) option, I blazed out another 13 miles into Baldwinsville just to be sure there would be no changing my mind. Baldwinsville, I must say, was one of the most pleasant and boater friendly river/coast/canal town I’ve seen on this entire trip. The town was clean, people were friendly, and everything a boater could possibly need was within a short distance from the public docks. It only took me minutes to find a great place to get a burger and a few doors down from there I found the worlds largest “small” ice cream cone for only $2.00. What a great town!
With my boat tied up amongst the yachts on the public dock I checked in with the police to see if it’d be alright if I camped on the lawn right near there (kind of right in town). They didn’t mind and as it turned out, I wasn’t alone. A bicyclist named Rich already had his tent spread out on the lawn when I got back from dinner. Rich is in the midst of a ride from Chicago to Boston, like Lyn in the pontoon boat, he rides 80-100 miles a day. Unlike the pontoon, however, he’s not burning 50 gallons of gas to do it. With the sun already set and darkness closing in, Rich and I hastily set up or tents before the mosquitoes paid their nightly visit. Through the walls of our tents I bid Rich good night and good luck before I passed out after such a long day.
Start: 5:45 AM - Utica, NY (Lock 20)
Finish: 11:45 AM - New London, NY (Lock 22)
Daily dist: 19 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 80, west wind 15-20 mph
Notes: Had to stop short of Oneida Lake (too windy for exposed lake)
As far as I’ve counted, only three boats have gone through Lock 22, and one of those boats was me. Lock 22 which is outside of New London, NY is the last lock a westbound boater encounters before entering Oneida Lake. About six miles wide and 26 miles long, Oneida Lake is situated with it’s long axis aligned east to west. This east/west orientation means that the prevailing west wind has 26 miles of open water over which to blow before hitting land on the eastern shore. Consequently, it doesn’t take too much wind to whip up sizeable waves on the eastern shore of the lake… and today was one of those days. That means that nobody but the most hearty or impatient boater is going anywhere much beyond this lock today.
The buzz amongst the boaters at the park where I camped last night was that today was going to be windy. Too windy for lake Oneida. I had been planning on finishing up today somewhere on the eastern shore of the lake to make the run to the western shore on Friday as short as possible. However, the winds that were predicted would have made landing on that shore anything but pleasurable, so it was time for plan B. The alternative plan was to simply camp at the last lock, Lock 22, (a few miles inland from the lake) and then get up extra early to get a jump on the crossing before the winds build tomorrow. Hence that is where I ended a relatively short 19 mile day today.
Knowing that the wind would be up, and that storms could be in the area, I got an early start this morning and made is almost all the way in before the winds did build. The lock master at Lock 21 suggested camping at the mouth of a tributary stream just below Lock 22. Never knowing what I’m in for, I was delighted to see a quiet grassy area tucked behind the ruins of an old dam. About three miles from the nearest paved road, there is nobody else around and for the first time since the last week of May I have a camp site all to myself.
Start: 6:30 AM - Little Falls, NY
Finish: 5:00 PM - Utica, NY (Lock 20)
Time: 10:30 (2:30 spent in town w/ Otto and Larry)
Daily dist: 24 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 80, west wind 7-10 mph
Notes: Very nice camping at lock 20
As I was working my way north along the Atlantic Intracoastal from April through late May, one of the biggest challenges I faced at the end of many days was finding a suitable camp site at which to spend the night. With a fair dose of creativity I did manage to come up with fairly decent places to camp most nights. Sometimes, however, things didn't go so well and I got downright desperate to find a place to land for the night. Regardless of how desperate I may have been, a camp spot had to meet two simple criteria:
1) It had to be far enough above the water so that a large wake at high tide wouldn’t flood it out.
2) It had to be at least as big as my tent.
Those seem like simple enough stipulations but many times I had to stretch one or both of those rules in order to call a spot of land campable.
Ever since I began my run north on the Hudson River last week and now my travel west on the Erie canal, the bar by which I judge camp sites has been raised considerably. Now instead of viewing a 20’x30’ sand spit barely above high tide as home for the night, I have lock masters apologizing for not having hot water in the showers while I set my tent up on a lush grassy lawn. Last night promised rain so instead of paddling a few miles further Otto and I opted to camp under a picnic shelter. Tonight, rain is again predicted so I’m set up under a large park pavilion complete with a freshwater fountain a few yards away and an electrical outlet within reach of my computer’s cord. Those tiny sand spits seem like they’re a million miles away.
Before arriving at this great camp spot I had a great day of paddling that started with Otto just outside of Little Falls below Lock 18. It had rained all last night and the ground was soggy wet and squished water as we carried our dry gear from the gazebo under which we camped to our boats waiting at the boat ramp a few yards away. After launching (earlier than Otto would have preferred) we made our way west toward an eventual rendezvous with Otto’s day Larry Herrmann at the Ilion Marina eight miles away.
In lock 18 I found a bullfrog treading water in a notch in the lock wall. I scooped the tired critter up and placed him on the deck of my boat which is exactly where he stayed and watched me as I paddled. It was almost an hour later when the frog was either rested or figured he’d had enough of tolerating my boring stories and jumped back in the water. One can only imagine how much Otto may have wished he could do the same.
Like clockwork Larry was just arriving in town to pick Otto up as we pulled up at the boat ramp in Ilion NY. While Otto emptied his boat, I shuffled gear around in mine to make room for the goodies that had been sent with Larry and Otto from my friend Alicia in San Diego. Once I knew I could get everything in the boat without standing on the hatch covers, I joined Larry and Otto for a ride into town. There we found the post office where I mailed some gear back to Wisconsin and stopped a the Mohawk Diner in the adjacent town for lunch.
With a warm full belly and an overstuffed kayak, I said good by and headed west.
Start: 7:00 AM - Conojahari, NY
Finish: 7:00 PM - Little Falls, NY
Time: 8;00 (4 hours in little falls)
Daily dist: 21 miles
Total dist: 3700+
Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 80, rain late in day
Notes: Little Falls is worth the stop
Hi everybody, this is Otto filling in for Jake. He’s too tired to write tonight… I think I wore him out.
I woke up this morning at 6 like any normal person might, but of course Jake had already been up for two hours. After about an hour of preparation we hit the water leaving our lovely campsite island at lock 14. We made good time through the first lock of day, lock 15, as we paddled on placid water. On our way to lock 16 we decided to take a break near what used to be an aqueduct and walked through the shallow water covering it’s ruins.
Lock 17 has been my favorite of the locks, and also the largest of the ones I’ve traveled through. The lock had a different gate than other locks on the canal, instead of opening up outwards, this one raised and lowered the gates. After a forty foot lift we left the lock and decided we wanted to visit the town next to it. The seawall made it difficult to land near the lock, so we paddled a little farther to the municipal marina. There the employee told us of a good spot to camp at so that we could beat out the rain that would come later on in the day.
Excited about having a dry place to sleep tonight we set out to the town of Little Falls (mainly because Jake was craving ice cream). A quick walk led us to Ol’ Sals, a place that had a little of everything, so Jake could have his ice cream. After eating our ice cream we went out toward the lock to see the whole thing close up. Next to the lock are the Gneiss cliffs, which provided some fun rock clambering for a little. We met the lock master on duty, and had an interesting discussion with him. He left us with advice to go to this good pizza place in town. We eventually found the pizza place, but it was closed. As we walked down main street, we asked two girls where else we could get pizza. They both recommended different places (Jake thought they were cute). We ate pizza at one of the girl’s recommended spots then headed back to the marina where we had tied our boats up and headed about a mile to a boat ramp that has a large gazebo, and set up camp. Jake started dozing off as the rain lulled him to sleep, so he suggested I write the blog tonight. I did and I hope this isn’t too bad. All in all this was a great day on the canal.
Start: 7:30 AM - Lock E12 - Fort Hunter, NY
Finish: 3:45 PM - Lock E 14 - Canajoharie, NY
Time: 8:15 hours
Daily dist: 18 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Weather: Mostly sunny with a 10-15 mph head wind
Notes: Otto’s first time paddling a loaded boat.
If you didn’t see where I mentioned him in the last couple of weeks, you may like to know who the mysterious Otto is. Otto is a friend and employee at Aqua Adventures San Diego. I met Otto and his dad when they were taking a kayak lesson with me about two and a half years ago. He was then a fourteen year old kid which in the sea kayaking world is very rare, and I was delighted to see such a young person interested in the sport. In the two years since his introduction to the sport Otto has fostered his interest in Greenland rolling while picking up well over a dozen types of Greenland Kayak rolls. In addition he has already earned his BCU 3 Star kayak skills award, and, as far as I know (at the age of 16) Otto may be the youngest Level 1 BCU Kayak Coach in the United States.
Despite all of the time Otto has put in on kayaks over his short, but busy, two year run with the sport, he hasn’t had a chance to go kayak camping. So, why not test the waters in another facet of the sport by spending a few days with a 5000 mile multi month expedition. Being his first day kayak camping, today brought a lot of first for Otto. First time packing a boat, first time paddling a loaded boat, and the first time paddling over 15 miles in a day. All of these firsts, of course, came along with the experience of paddling in a state he’s never been to before on a body of water that has such unique things as locks to ride through. It was quite a day to say the least. I never expected less and am happy to say that after his first day Otto did quite well. It was nice to have familiar company on the water and in camp.
Our route today first took us immediately past the ruins of an aqueduct that used to carry the old Erie canal across Schoharie River. Only a few of the many stone arches that once spanned the river still remain but it is still a sight to see and makes one marvel at the skill, ingenuity, and craftsmanship of the builders of the time. After the aqueduct the canal took us west toward Lock No. 13 where we were lifted about 11 feet to the pooled up Mohawk river above.
It was another ten miles upstream and upwind to the next lock where we planned to spend the night. After about an hour and a half of slogging into the wind we pulled over in a quiet cove to take a lunch break. Otto’s dad Larry had sent along a frozen package of sausage that are a specialty from Rochester, NY. They had already thawed and were not going to stay cold much longer so we figured we’d eat them for lunch. So we gathered up some dry wood and made a quick fire on the stone beach to cook up the sausage. It was only the second fire I’ve made on this entire trip and well worth the effort once we were enjoying the special taste treat.
Just after we got back on the river after lunch, we came upon a gentleman rowing a dory toward the east. As he passed I asked where he was going and he replied Manhattan. Another long distance traveler can’t go un-greeted so I paddled over and said hello. It turns out that this young man is from Ireland and is indeed on his way from Buffalo, NY across the Erie canal, down the Hudson, all the way to New York City. He had a rough go of it last week with heavy storms that destroyed his tent, but a stop at Walmart with a twenty dollar replacement got him back underway. He seemed to be in good spirits with the now glorious weather we’ve been having and was interested in learning more about the Mississippi River once he heard that I’d paddled it last winter. Apparently he’s already planning his next adventure before he’s finished with this one.
Otto and I ended our day at lock 14 where we were welcomed by the lockmaster, Chris. He actually had recommended that we continue on to Lock 15, not because he didn’t want us at his lock but because, as he apologized for, the water heater was broken and all we could get was a cold shower. In no real need for a shower, Otto decided that he’d rather stay here for the night than press on so we pulled out on the little mowed grass island that is wedged between the lock on one side and the dammed up Mohawk River on the other. Chris told us to make ourselves at home so we took advantage of a couple empty electrical sockets in the lock office to charge up some electronics. We then toured the facility a bit getting a closer look at the machinery that operates the doors and valves of the lock. It is really an ingenious system using gravity and control gates rather than pumps to flood and drain the lock chamber.
After checking out the facility, I subjected Otto to my cooking which tonight was Cajun red beans and rice with canned ham followed by pudding and cookies for dessert. As we washed up our dishes in the waning daylight of what was the longest day of the year fireflies began to emerge in the thousands. While I watched their twinkling green lights dancing in the trees on this warm summer evening, I couldn’t help but think back just six months ago when I was camped out alone on a cold sandbar in the Mississippi River on the first days of winter and the shortest days of the year.