Monday, August 23, 2010

Flooded In and Locked Out

Due to my own sloth I didn't turn my boat upside down and I discover that the epic rain storm had filled it to overflowing. What a stupid thing to have neglected, and I pay for it by having to pump all the water out. On the plus side I had left out my paddling gloves and they now have a rain-fresh scent instead of the dead rat smell of funky neoprene.

Apparently there was at least 4 inches (correction, I heard that 7 inches fell in some places) of rain that fell all at once wreaking havoc to the entire region. As I was eating breakfast at a diner, all the talk in town was about fixing washed out driveways and cleaning up downed trees and flooded basements.

I find a spot on the swollen Mohawk River to put in the kayak, near an abandoned section of old canal that had sprung back to life with excess water. The small creeks (or "cricks" as some locals say it) are torrents of brown muddy water, dumping raft loads of twigs, small branches and leaves onto the river. I only get as far as Lock 18 in Jacksonburg when I call the lock master on my cell phone and he says "Sorry, I can't let you through, the canal's been closed due to high water." I am disappointed as this is one of the sections I really wanted to paddle, and the next lock at Little Falls has the highest vertical lift in all the Erie Canal system at 40 feet.

I chat with the two lock masters for a bit, trying to find out when the canal might reopen but news from headquarters in Albany is hard to come by. I push off for the trail in light drizzle, looking past the nice rocky shoreline and thinking how nice it would be to be on the water.

Past Little Falls, the trail goes on what appears to be an old railway, with deep cuts into the rocky hills. it is nice and flat, but extremely wet and sometimes muddy. Parts of the trail were washed out in the storm, some still had overflowing streams flooding the surface. My wheels are caked in mud, and what started out as a clean rain-washed kayak is now a dirty mess.

I might as well be boating in this pathway
I stop at Lock 16 to see if there was any updated news on the waterway, and found Tim the lock master puttering about his chores. No news, but he said he would have let me through if I was on the water. After talking to him quite a bit, it's getting late in the day and still drizzling and he tells me of a marina up ahead in St Johnsville.

Tim's jeans are a virtual resume of the work he does in the locks,
right down to paint swatches and grease specs.
At the marina, the Harbour Master has gone home but someone points out a shed where I could pitch my tent out of the rain. Apparently the water level was so high earlier that the boats were practically floating on top of the docks and they laboured all night to keep them away.

I am so hungry, I bike out to the local drive-in and have a bowl of clam chowder, a burger, fries and a large chocolate shake and still feel just decently refilled. I take a hot shower, and the shed camping complete with electrical outlet seems downright luxurious. All that is missing is wi-fi. I fall asleep to the pattering of rain on the metal roof.


  1. We were driving through that rain on Sunday on the way back from Delaware. It was awful enough driving in it! As we passed through the area I was thinking you were holed up somewhere.

    When do you expect to be back?

  2. I should be back by the weekend. The rains have caused far more damage than I thought!