Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Saturday, October 6
It was 8:30 and my pack was snugly on my back. At the door I turned back to check the room. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t left my cell phone, the phone charger, nor my insulin kit when the room phone rang. Expecting to hear the front desk I was surprised to hear a familiar female voice—it was Jerie. She was worried about my feet and wondered if I shouldn’t take the day off. She could delay coming back to me by a day.
I assured her that I had been careful. I had cleaned the sores and applied an anti-bacterial cream to them. Also I had two pairs of socks. The inner pair was thin cotton and the outer pair wool. I was going to take special care to keep the boots tied tight so my feet wouldn’t slip. I was confident that I could cover ten miles.
Also, I had already made the reservation for a room in another motel. It was Saturday and a big college weekend in Rochester. Most of the motels were sold out. Those that had a vacancy were very expensive. The only one that was in my price range was about 10 miles southeast in Shortsville. It was imperative that she come and meet me tonight so I could be ferried to the lodging when my feet did finally give out. She said “Ok” but made me promise to be sensible and stop if my feet were troublesome. Going an extra ten miles is not a big deal in a car. As long as I stop at a place with street access, she could meet me anywhere. We struck a deal.
So it was 9 when I got back to the main road. I then had to hunt for a place to get a bite to eat. There were none of the usual tall signs announcing McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc. The interstate highway paralleling the canal was to my left and the entrance of the airport straight ahead. And to my right seemed like an endless succession of parking lots filled with cars and trucks. Suddenly I spotted the edge of a sign peeking out from behind a rental truck “ANT.” Having spent seven years in college and grad school, I deduced that, unless it was a financial company like ING, a restaurant was probably attached to that sign. The big question: Was the “ant” open? I’d hate to have to trudge a half mile for naught. Fortunately, it was open and I had a nice breakfast.
Back on the road I had to locate the canal trail. The map showed that there was only the interstate and then the canal. But as I was walking on the busy overpass, I spotted the small round sign indicating the Erie Canal trail. It wound down toward the canal and snaked along nestled between the canal and Interstate 390. It as a little disconcerting because in the distance the zooming cars were heading straight for me—an optical illusion.
Optical illusion.
Optical illusion
Just then a jet flew low right over me on its approach to Rochester International Airport. A little earlier I had seen an abandoned rail trestle, so the idea of the juxtaposition of hiking path, canal, railroad, highway and airport all together made me contemplate the history of transportation and how much we take for granted. It takes me five hours to walk 12 miles. Jerie can drive 300 miles in that same time period. Even more incredible is air travel—it only takes two more hours to cross the Atlantic!
A quarter mile down the path I came to the confluence of the Erie Canal and the Genesee River. There I entered a beautiful park which I later learned was designed by the brilliant landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. I knew that Olmstead had designed Central Park in New York City as well as Boston’s Emerald Necklace, a series of small parks. But a week ago I also learned that he had designed a park in Buffalo, now this park too. He was a busy man!
Bridge over Genessee
At the entrance of the park is a sign post delineating three trails. The first was the Erie Canalway Trail which I had been following. A second one, the Genesee Riverway Trail, circumscribes the city of Rochester and extends north for 13 miles to Lake Ontario. A third, the Genesee Valley Greenway heads south for approximately 60 miles. Plans have been made to extend the trail for another 30 miles to near the Pennsylvania border. I thought how lucky the locals were to have so many beautiful trails to hike. I made myself a promise to come back some day and wander those trails.
Homecoming regatta.
Homecoming regatta
It was a lovely park and since it was a weekend, there were many activities happening. Picnics, softball games, even an outdoor window. Also it was homecoming weekend for Rochester University and a regatta was being held on the Genesee. As I crossed over the river, a four man shell with a female crew glided under the bridge, three lengths ahead of their competitors. Their spectators on the bridge were cheering them on. Their enthusiasm seemed to be fortified by the adult beverages they were consuming. Sort of reminded me of the times in Boston when I went to the Annual Head of the Charles Regatta. Of course that crowd consisted of beautiful people who were above boorish display of emotion. Besides they would never drink beer! Only Brie and Chablis for them.
As I said, it was a beautiful day and I’d stop frequently and smell the flowers. Actually, that is just my excuse for stopping and resting. But seriously, I was enjoying myself in spite of my sore feet.
At one point I saw a group of men bicycling towards me, chattering and talking jive. The lead me man started calling out “Look, look, its Gabby Hayes!”
I thought that anyone who knows who Gabby Hayes was shouldn’t be trash talking anyone. At least I wasn’t wearing one of those silly looking bicycling outfits. You know with the tight spandex suit which is not a pleasant site on a person over thirty years old or fifteen pounds overweight.
About an hour after the park, a dark storm cloud appeared and sprinkles started falling. Fortunately when the heavens opened up, I was close to where a bridge for the highway to Henrietta crossed the canal. I made a mad dash up the path to the protection of the understructure. When I got there I couldn’t believe how tired I was. I felt like the Energizer Bunny when his battery quits. In spite of my size I am not totally out of shape, after all I had just walked about sixty miles.
More likely, I was hypoglycemic. Sure enough, my glucose read was 70 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). That was low even for a normal person (should be 90 mg/dl), but for me, for whom 120 is a good reading, it was approaching a danger zone. I had begun to shake and sweat profusely. My thinking was beginning to be clouded as if I was in the early stages of inebriation. My response was to get some carbohydrates into me quickly.
In a situation like this a diabetic should follow the 15/15 rule. The 15/15 rule means to ingest 15 grams of carbohydrates and then wait 15 minutes and test again. This should be repeated until the reading reaches at least 90. I took out of my pack a chocolate bar and engulfed half of it. Usually I use hard candy such as Life Savers. They last longer, don’t melt, and since they have 5 grams of carbohydrates each, it is easier to control my intake. Also, it is easier to stop eating them. With a candy bar, it is tempting to eat the whole thing. After waiting 15 minutes, the reading hadn’t risen. So, I ate the second half. Another 15 minutes went by and the new number was up. The rain had stopped, my head was clearing—it was time to move on.
Around noon, I came to a lock, the first since Lockport. The Lock was #33 which meant that it was 31th lock from Waterford. The Erie Canal went through Cohoes which is on the south side of the Mohawk where it meets the Hudson. The Barge Canal started at the opposite site in the town of Waterford. This makes sense because the Erie had to be functional while the other was being constructed. (Lock #1 is on the Hudson at Troy) A sign at the lock indicated that the next lock to the east was only 1.3 miles away while previous at Lockport was 64.2 miles away.
Boat passing through lock.
Imagine, thirty-one locks along the next three hundred miles while only one from the previous sixty-five. In other words the land between Rochester and Lockport is so flat that the canal needs no locks to control the depths. What better demonstration to the geological condition which has become known as the Upper Long Level.
Lock being flushed.
There was a lot of boat traffic so I sat at a picnic bench and watch a couple of boats pass through the locks in both directions. The lock is big enough that two or three boats could go through at a time. It was fun to watch the geyser which would erupt as the water would be flushed from the chamber to bring the depth back to the lower level. After watching a couple of cycles of filling and emptying I had enough and resumed my trek. I had only gone a couple hundred yards, when a pair of bicyclists stopped me and asked if I were a diabetic. Such a question surprised me because I didn’t think that I was staggering which is the usual telltale sign of a diabetic going hypo. Perhaps it was because I’m old and heavyset which is a common attribute of adult onset diabetes. Talk about your medical profiling! I was ready to call the ACLU.
They told me that they had found a kit with insulin and syringes back on the trail. A quick hand to my pocket told me that it must be mine! They had left it back on a picnic table at the park next to the lock. I set out on a run back towards the lock while shouting out my thanks over my shoulder. I had visions of someone tossing the strange package into the trash. Fortunately for me it was still on the corner of the picnic table.
After I a quick prayer of thanks, I immediately cursed myself for being so careless. How could I have been so stupid? Upon reflection I realized that indeed I was stupid. Stupidity, if defined as the inability to think clearly, is a side effect of hypoglycemia. The fact that the case is dark blue probably made it difficult for me to see on the ground where I had set it.
One of my constant fears is that I will lose my kit or be caught without any insulin. In fact, a reoccurring theme of my dreams is that I can’t get any insulin and am about to sink into oblivion. Once I came very close to such a situation. On my first trek across Spain, I couldn’t find my kit. Since I had been to the post office earlier to send some stuff home, I was afraid that I had stuffed it into a box. Although I had extra insulin, I don’t know how much to take unless I measure my glucose levels with a meter. Since it was the eve of a national holiday, stores would soon be closed. After a panicky search through streets, I was able to locate a pharmacy and buy a second meter. The next morning when I loaded my back pack I found the first kit on the floor in a corner of the room. I’m positive that it hadn’t been there before!
So now I always carry an extra meter in my pack as well as an extra supply of insulin. Still, it would have been very inconvenient to have to buy another new meter. Most modern meters store the readings in an internal memory. These figures are helpful in analyzing trends which indicate whether or not my calculations are on the right tract. My new meter not only has a large enough memory to track more than a month, it maintains a 7, 14, and 30 day average. And an even better feature is the fact that I can download the data into my computer. In Spain I kept a log in a notebook, but because of my new present meter, I had abandoned that practice.
Got one!
After another mile and a half I came to lock #32. Just prior to it was a wideout, which is currently the focal point of a small park. Many people were fishing along the edge while others were in small row boats in the center. Families were having barbeques and picnics at the many tables along the canal. It was obvious to me that this park was a popular spot for people in the Rochester suburbs.
Proud of Daddy
About a mile later, the towpath was blocked by a fence which surrounded a canalside complex which apparently was the public works department for the county. A detour took me through a run down neighborhood. I couldn’t help but think that the placement of the facilities was chosen during a time when the canal was simply a transportation artery. After a week walking along the canal where the towpath was being touted as a recreational feature, this storage area seemed out of place.
It wasn’t long before the detour was over and the route took me back to the towpath. Another half mile further I came to a railroad bridge which passed over the canal. I was amazed to see that a small garden had been planted around the base of the support column. What a contrast to the graffiti sprayed across the blocks. The presence of trellises displayed someone’s hope to encourage plants to grow and obscure the unsightly “art.”
Village of Pittsford.
A sign informed me that I was coming to the Village of Pittsford. I was looking forward to visiting this spot because it was the location of Schoen Place. My guide book highlighted this spot as a “bustling group of specialty shops and restaurants right on the trail.” Although I’m not a shopper, I am an eater, and I was hoping to have a nice meal and a glass of wine while contemplating what I had just done the past week. I found a restaurant named Aladdin’s which had a double tier balcony overlooking the trail and the landing. Despite its name, the menu included Greek food. It advertised itself as a natural foods joint, but the food was good anyways. Although many items were vegetarian, I was able to find something that I could eat. (As a diabetic, I can’t eat most vegetarian meals—too many carbs. for me.) I had a nice dolmothakia appetizer followed by a Greek salad and a lamb dish. Accompanied with a nice Cabernet, it was a very welcome meal after a long day’s hike. My glucose readings were hovering. around 90md/dl which is the same as normal people. I took this as a sign from God as permission to have a piece of Greek pastry. Delicious!
After eating I went out to the landing and sat on one of the benches. I watched little kids feed the many ducks swimming in the canal. Some were so tame that they would jump up from the water and waddle right up to the toddlers. I had a thought that the natural foods restaurant could offer a really fresh dish—Erie Canal duckling. It would be good because these birds were stuffed with popcorn and stale bread.
Soon the sun was setting and the old fashioned streets lights came on. The kids and their parents left and soon so did the ducks. As dusk came, I dozed off. Some time later I was awakened by my cell phone ringing. It was Jerie, she was entering Pittsford and needed directions for our rendezvous.
Previous. Next.