Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Monday, October 1
North Tonawanda
North Tonawanda.
The original Erie Canal came between Tonawanda and North Tonawanda where it turned south to Buffalo. When the Barge Canal came into being, the canal was redirected to the west where it empties into the Niagara River.
Because of the canal, North Tonawanda became an important center for lumber milling. The number of boats coming in with felled tress and leaving with milled lumber earned the area the moniker Lumber Port. In fact, in the latter part of the 19th century North Tonawanda was the largest lumber port in the world.
Tonawandas Gateway Harbor Park.
Today the port consists of the confluence of the Barge Canal, the Tonawanda Creek, and the Ellicot Creek forming the Tonawandas Gateway Harbor Park. And a beautiful park it is, populated with kayakers, canoeists and boaters. The landscaping around the park is beautiful and an esplanade along the canal is furnished with benches and picnic tables.
So inviting was the park that Jerie and I altered our plans and a picnic brunch rather than a restaurant breakfast. Jerie and I had a peaceful meal watching people at play on the water. So relaxed were we that the thought of walking 365 miles seemed like an over whelming goal. But I have walked longer routes on three previous occasions. I knew that once I got into a rhythm I would be okay. Jerie wasn’t so sure. She didn’t want to go back home to Massachusetts and leave me to my wiles just yet. Instead she suggested that she stay an extra day. Her plan was to scout out a motel and we would rendezvous in the town of Pendleton at the end of the afternoon.
But first, we went down to where the canal meets the Niagara River for the obligatory “before” photo. Then we synchronized our watches, I threw on my backpack, and started out filled with the spirit of high adventure and optimism.
Dudley at the Niagra River.
Dudley at the Niagra River
Within about a thousand yards the canal began to twist and wind and I realized that in this section the canal and the Tonawanda Creek were one and the same. (Creek in this neck of the woods is pronounced “crick.”)
The crick meanders back and forth toward the town of Pendleton. Theoretically, this shouldn’t have been a problem since all I had to do was follow the path. Well, there wasn’t always a path. Sometimes it was a road. I had an awful time determining where I was and which road to take. The sketches in my guide book were not drawn to scale and didn’t include a map.
I actually got lost in the first hour of my trip! At one point the trail was blocked off. When I asked for directions, a worker told me to go in a specific direction where I would run into the road I was seeking. Fortunately Jerie called me on my cell phone. When I told her of the detour, she scouted out the area and found that I was headed in the wrong direction. She came by, picked me up, and drove me back to the place where I had committed my error. Like a mom watching her child leave for the first day of school, she pointed me in the right direction and saw me off, again. After that she would call me every hour or so to see how I was doing. I insisted that I was a big kid and that I could take care of myself.
For the first couple of miles the trail was on the shoulder of the road which hugged the southern bank of the canal. At various place s I realized that I was walking along the creek instead of the canal which would be on the other side of an oxbow or island. About six miles from the village of Amherst, the road veered away southward but a path continued along the side of the canal. This path went through the woods, along corn fields, and crisscrossed country roads, but always in close proximity to the water. Sometimes the path was dirt, sometimes gravel, and other times stone dust, depending upon the whim of the community or volunteer group which maintained the particular section.
Eventually the trail ran out and I had to climb up the berm to the road. There I saw the sign “Entering Pendleton.” My day was over. I put in a call for Jerie and told her that I was ready for pick up and that I had had a good day. Hers had not been so much fun. It seems that Amherst is the location of the Buffalo campus of New York University and she spent a lot of time trying to find a decent motel for a reasonable price and had a vacancy!
Since she was farther away than we had planned it was obvious that it would take her a while to pick me up. I told her not to worry that I would “catch some ZZZ’s on the newly mown grass. While I lay there contemplating the meteorological and spiritual significance of the clouds, I heard someone call out: “Hey! Are you okay?” A driver passing by stopped and backed up to check up on me. I assured him that I was all right and thanked him for his consideration. Back home nobody would have bothered.
When Jerie finally did come I could hardly get up—all my muscles were aching.
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