Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Obsoletely Fabulous

Trains. Throughout the night in Macedon, what I thought would be a nice quiet night of camping was periodically broken by the rumbling of freight travelling on the railway and horns sounding as the engines approached the village's level crossings, rousing me from sleep or colouring my dreams with earthquakes and near collisions with trucks. The railways most likely spelled the demise of the Erie Canal, and the noisy intrusion against the peaceful gurgling of water through lock gates is a rude reminder of it. Above it all, of course, is the constant unceasing din of the highway....

One of the things I've gotten to appreciate about the Erie Canal is its no-nonsense industrial look and feel. It's a bit rough around the edges, the concrete lock chamber walls sometimes crumbling as I grab a hold. It is staffed by weathered down-to-earth men who look like they could be truckers or machinists if they had to make another choice, as compared to the chipper college students on the Rideau Canal. It's not a criticism or favouring of either, just an observation. I do however like the fact that non-motorized craft travel the Erie at no charge, and without discrimination. Lock Masters dutifuly operate the locks even when I'm the only one inside, and when I expressed to one that I really appreciated what he was doing for me, he replied, "It's what I do, I'm just doin' my job." They have been incredibly helpful, even calling the next lock ahead to expect my arrival.

This section of the canal east of Rochester is more overgrown, cattails and berry bushes softening the banks. While towpaths in the western part look like a mule can still drag a barge alongside the canal, here it is has been obscured by the woods. The foliage is lush, a Carolinian forest mix that is skewed to the brighter, yellowish greens, as opposed to the dark blue greens of the boreal forest i'm used to closer to home. I hardly see any pine, spruce or cypress but it is peppered with sumac and wild grape.

I didn't quite like ending the day by paddling yesterday, as it is a much slower mode and it is frustrating trying to hurry to get your goal as the sun is coming down fast. After paddling from Macedon to Lyons, about 20 miles (32 kms), my arms say no more. In a small park I switch to towing mode, but not knowing where the canal bike route was, I just took the highway (NY31) which had really nice wide shoulders. It is a rolling road, and there were some good hills that got into my lowest gears at times.

The canal bike route leaves the functioning part of the canal in favour of the old alignment that is now dry in some parts. I head for Weedsport, which has not been a port of call for canal boats for a very long time. The canal was realigned several times in its history, leaving some communities high and dry, other places such as Rochester and Syracuse requested to be by-passed, as they saw the writing on the wall for a waning technology.

Droplets of rain convince me of staying indoors tonight. Batteries need recharging, mine as well as the computer's.


  1. Glenn,
    Where do you end (Albany?) and how do you get back?


  2. I just read your latest log entry, and if you don't mind my saying it; you are a very good writer! In my part of the canal it is only rocky shorelines that we see. I am glad that east of Rochester the canal becomes more "natural" with overgrown plants and trees. Have a great day tomorrow. Paul

  3. Doug, I am ending in Albany, then I'll be taking the train to retrieve my car in Buffalo.

    Thanks for the compliments, Paul, I'm glad you like the writing. There are definitely more rustic sections in the central/eastern parts of the Canal Trail, simetimes down to singletrack. Hope you get a chance to explore it in the future.