Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Monday, October 15
Erie Boulevard.
Eric Boulevard
I had spent the weekend in a motel in DeWitt, five miles east of downtown Syracuse. The only connection to the Erie Canal which I could find was the six-lane highway on which the motel abutted, Erie Boulevard. In other words, it used to be the canal.
I was in the middle of a commercial area packed with retail stores and chain restaurants. In fact during the cab ride from Camillus, the cabbie gave me a running commentary about the twenty or so restaurants in the two miles before the motel. Which steak house was good, which Chinese restaurant had good drinks, which buffet could you get the most food, and most importantly, which fried chicken joint had a problem with food poisoning. I was in culinary hell!
Actually, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Two miles from the motel is the entrance of the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. This is a 36 mile section of the canal which runs from DeWitt to Rome. This stretch was known as the Long Level because of the topography of the land. In fact the route was specifically chosen because there was no need for a lock until the canal reached Syracuse.
Butternut Creek Aqueduct.
Butternut Creek Aqueduct
Yes, there were culverts and the Butternut Creek Aqueduct, but no locks. The remains of the aqueduct are at the entrance to the park.
The great thing about this park is that the entire section of the canal still has water in it, just as it always had. A dam immediately east of the aqueduct keeps the canal from draining. More than just a desire for historical veracity, there is a practical motive for maintaining a full canal. It functions as a feeder canal for the modern Barge Canal.
Old Erie Canal State Historic Park.
Old Erie Canal State Historic Park
Yet for me, walking along the towpath was a profound experience. The woods and silence enabled me to imagine that I was an old hoggee guiding a team of “long ears” hitched to a long tow rope which pulled a bullhead barge laden down with grain. The fantasy increased when I saw ahead an iron bridge spanning the canal. True to my job I called out “low bridge, everybody down.” Soon I realized that it was a change bridge, just like the one I had seen in the Macedon-Palmyra Park. Now I would have a chance to practice my teamster skills.
Low Bridge.
“Low Bridge”
I slowed the team down and pulled in the slack of the tow line while the barge glided toward the team. With a short line we continued on toward the bridge. As soon as we got to the bridge, I start uncoiling the line allowing it to slack while encouraging the team lead to go up the ramp. At the top, she had no choice but to turn and cross the canal, bringing her teammate with her. As I crossed over, I continued playing out the line. The barge glided forward propelled by its own momentum. Having crossed such a bridge several times in the past, the mule reflexively came down the ramp and turned again to pass under the bridge pausing only long enough for me to swing the line over her harness across her back. When the line becomes taut they are already in full stride. The crew on the bullhead barely feel a jolt.
Suddenly I was snapped back to reality when I heard someone shout “fore.” Through the trees off to my right a saw beautiful golf course. I have never understood the attraction of the sport. I know a couple of golf fanatics. They throw away a lot of money on expensive clubs only to throw them away in anger after missing a putt.
A Fair Fairway.
A Fair Fairway
It was a beautiful park but not the park I was looking forward to visiting. Halfway between Dewitt and Chittenango is the 2,100 acre Green Lake State Park. The park surrounds two unusual glacial lakes with bright green water.
They are meromictic lakes which means they are so deep there is no annual mixing of the surface and bottom waters as occurs in most lakes and ponds.
Manlius Center sign.
But I never made to the park. After about five miles I reached the cross roads at Manlius Corners. I could feel myself beginning to go hypo. Looking around the only establishment I could see was a computer repair shop. There wasn’t any type of restaurant or food joint. There wasn’t even a gas station with a vending machine. For the first time on this trip, I was scared. Access to the towpath trail was limited and according to my guide book the only place of sufficient size to be sure to find food was Chittenango which was at the end of my day’s trek. Sure, there was the park, but I wasn’t sure it there would be any concessions? If there were, were they open on weekdays? I couldn’t be sure.
As my hands started to shake, I reluctantly retrieved my emergency stash. I started with half a candy bar. Before gulping it down I tested my blood sugar. Then, I sat back to wait 15 minutes before testing again. The readings were again low. This made me even more nervous. Yeah, I had more candy with me, but did I have enough to last all the way to Chittenango? If not, I could hypo again. Without carbohydrates to raise my blood glucose, I would become weak and confused. I could even become unconscious. I couldn’t take the chance of miscalculating. So, I turned back.
When I got back to the aqueduct, I saw a man unlocking a parked car. He had been exercising on the trail. Being weak and still shaky, I asked him if he knew the number of a local cab company. The nice old gentleman kindly offered to take me to a motel. He, too, was a diabetic.
That night after I ate and rested I went on line to plan my next move. There was not a motel in Chittenango. There were two in Canastota which was the next stop on my route. I would have to take a cab to and from Canastota if I were to walk on a contiguous route. I started calling the few cab companies that weren’t located in Syracuse. I only found one that would travel outside its own area. The price he quoted me was $50—each way. I asked him if he would give me a special deal for the two days. He said no! When I tried to tell him about my project he said something obscene and hung up on me!
After I got over my anger I punched the speed dial on my cell phone. “Say, John, could you use $50?”
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