8/23/23

Hiking the Erie Canal Trail: A Search for 7 Wonders, Bathrooms and Beer - and an End to CMV




My new travel video, "Hiking the Erie Canalway Trail, Vote on 7 Wonders..."   provides a brief history of the historic and active Erie Canals, what it's like for baby boomers to walk, rather than bike, the entire Erie Canalway Trail, and why and how we are persevering. To date, we have walked more than halfway (234 miles or 65%). (Video link: https://youtu.be/kbLp-lBz96U?si=D6pt_wEn77JC4aCg)

I would love to get the public involved in voting or commenting on which of the 11 Canalway "wonders" featured in the video should make the final list, "The 7 Wonders of the Erie Canalway Trail." Of course, folks may have more contenders to suggest before I finish my travel memoir on our adventure, which I plan to do, before the end of the Erie Canal's “bicentennial period” of 2017-2025.

If you would like me to present to your group, please let me know.

Below my signature is more information about the video (including the 11 "Wonders" found so far), helpful "Towpath Traveler" guides, images, and some media coverage about our quest. 

Sincerely,

Hiking the Erie Canalway Trail: A Search for 7 Wonders, Bathrooms and Beer

Challenges faced by baby boomers, how we're overcoming them - and why

We're over halfway there!

by Lisa Saunders


Baldwinsville, New York--Although most people bicycle across the State of New York on the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail, my husband Jim and I are walking it. Since commencing our quest in 2020, we have walked over halfway across the state (234 miles so far) by tackling new sections of the Trail about twice a month - in all kinds of weather. We've been chased by swarms of mosquitoes, biting flies and lightning. We've endured torrential downpours, blinding snow, chafing underwear, aching feet and swollen knees. We’ve faced snakes, floods, ice, and a smelly, dead opossum!

My video, "Hiking the Erie Canalway Trail, Vote on 7 Wonders, Stop CMV", now airing on Baldwinsville's Public Access Channel, features the history of the Erie Canal and challenges faced by baby boomers seeking to become "end-to-enders" - those who walk, bike or kayak the entire Erie Canal. It includes my investigation into how (and why) my great-great Aunt Rebecca drove into the Canal over 80 years ago, ending her life.

The video showcases the reasons the Canal was considered the "8th Wonder of the World" and its ability to unite a nation. Congress established the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in 2000 because the canal “facilitated the movement of ideas …like the abolition of slavery and…women's rights…across upstate New York to the rest of the country…” (Congressional Bills 106th Congress). Jim and I are determined to become "end-to-enders" because we have a "women's rights" issue to move from "upstate New York to the rest of the country" - cytomegalovirus (CMV). We are leaving #Stop CMV rocks along the Trail to comply with Congress' recommendation that "more effort be taken to counsel women of childbearing age of the effect this virus can have on their children" (S.Res.215 — 112th Congress, 2011). 

Our daughter Elizabeth was born with brain damage in 1989 because I contracted CMV just prior to or during my pregnancy. I might have prevented that had I known to lessen my "risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children...not sharing food, utensils, or cups with a child" (CDC.gov/CMV). In 2022, “Elizabeth’s Law,” named in memory of our daughter, was passed in New York. It requires the provision of CMV educational materials to child care providers and pregnant women. But there is still a lot to do to raise awareness, so we keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

The 200th Anniversary of the Erie Canal is being celebrated during the “bicentennial period” of 2017-2025. If we push harder, maybe we can finish our 360-mile Challenge in 2025  - exactly 200 years after the Canal was completed. As Jim and I continue our journey across New York, we're collecting contenders for "The 7 Wonders of the Erie Canalway Trail," which will be included in my upcoming book. 

You are welcome to send in your vote on which of the following "Wonder" contenders discussed in the video, "Hiking the Erie Canalway Trail, Vote on 7 Wonders, Stop CMV",   should be declared "The 7 Wonders." If you have another site that should be considered, please let me know! 

  1. Flight of Five”: The c. 1862 “staircase” locks are seen alongside two deep, consecutive modern locks (34 & 35), Lockport.
  2. 1850 Syracuse Weighlock Building, last remaining structure of its kind (houses Erie Canal Museum).
  3. Lift Lock 17, "One of the highest lift locks in the world," Little Falls.
  4. Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, only restored, navigable aqueduct in New York, Camillus.
  5. Lift Bridges (there are 15, but the Fairport Lift Bridge, an irregular decagon, is the contender).
  6. Movable Dams (there are eight - not sure which one should be a contender).
  7. Richmond Aqueduct, Montezuma Heritage Park (though on the active Erie Canal, a slight detour is needed from the Canalway Trail to see it). 
  8. Drydocks (the active Lyons Drydock or the historic dry dock complex in Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum).
  9. "Upside-Down Bridge", Lockport. A railroad bridge with the truss upside-down.
  10. Tiny Locktender’s House, Jordan.
  11. Mural Mania: "longest mural trail in the world of over 85 miles along the Erie Canal.”
Email me at LisaSaunders42@gmail.com with "Wonder" preferences or to present to your group. For more information about my work: www.authorlisasaunders.com


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Photo caption: Jim and Lisa Saunders pushing Mary Ann Avazian on the Erie Canalway Trail in DeWitt for a photo shoot for Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Photographs by Call of the Loon Productions.


Photo caption: Jim and Lisa Saunders at Camillus Erie Canal Park. Photo by Jim Saunders. 


Media coverage of the purpose of our walk

  1. Spectrum News: "Couple pushes for law in memory of their daughter" (Houghtaling, J., Jul. 01, 2021).

  2. Finger Lakes Times: "MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Couple brings awareness to threat to infant health: CMV", (Buchiere, S.,June 4, 2021).

  3. Syracuse Woman magazine, "Fighting CMV One Step at a Time (p.28)", (Vallelunga, E., May 2021) 

  4. The Citizen, "Challenge for Change: Walking across NY to raise awareness of CMV", (Wilcox, D., Mar 31, 2021)

###

Helpful “Towpath Traveler” Guides 

Maps: online and paper (helpful for parking, restaurants, lodging, historical sites, etc.):

Folks on these Facebook sites have been helpful:


About CMV:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “CMV is the most common infectious cause of birth defects in the United States. About 1 out of 200 babies is born with congenital CMV. One out of 5 babies with congenital CMV will have symptoms or long-term health problems, such as hearing loss” (cdc.gov/cmv). “You may be able to lessen your risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children...You can avoid getting a child’s saliva in your mouth by, for example, not sharing food, utensils, or cups with a child” (CMV Fact Sheet for Pregnant Women and Parents or CMV pdf).

National CMV Foundation at:https://www.nationalcmv.org/

Other: 

4/29/23

Amsterdam

Lisa Saunders

1/28/23

HELP ME SOLVE AUNT REBECCA'S DEATH MYSTERY--Suicide or Murder?


Aunt Rebecca. Probably taken in the 1930s.

An Erie Canal Mystery: Aunt Rebecca's Death: Suicide, Murder or Accident?

Rebecca C. Whyland of Hamlin (Brockport) went missing on a Sat., Nov. 8, 1941 (just weeks prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor) and was found in her coup the following Wednesday - underwater in the Erie Canal

As yet, I have not seen the 80-year-old coroner's report on my Aunt Rebecca. I woud like to know why the coroner determined she died "by suicide while temporarily insane." How did he know she wasn't murdered and driven into the canal or that she wasn't the victim of a hit-and-run? 

Aunt Rebecca  went missing on a Saturday, Nov. 8, 1941, and was found underwater the following Wednesday. My local librarian helped me find clues, like the Brockport newspaper article headlined, HAMLIN LADY FOUND DEAD IN SUNKEN AUTOMOBILE, stating: "A 37-year-old Hamlin woman, Mrs. Rebecca Whyland, who had been missing from her home in the Chase Road since Saturday was found dead in her automobile, which was located at the bottom of the Barge canal, last night, between the Lake road and Sweden-Walker road, about two miles east of this village. Lester Whyland, her husband, reported to Sheriff Skinner that she left home, Saturday, on a shopping trip and when she did not return, that evening, he reported her missing. Following a "hunch," Mrs. Whyland's brother-in-law, Ray Conley of Hilton searched along the Canal bank until he noticed tire marks going into the Canal. The sheriffs office was notified and for an hour a boat hook was used along the bottom of the canal. Finally, it struck the car in the center and a tow truck was called. When the car was raised, Mrs.  Whyland's  body was found jammed under the steering wheel and the top of the automobile was crashed as  though hit by passing barges. The body was taken to the morgue where an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. In an effort to clear up the case, Sheriff Skinner stated that he would continue his conversations with Mr. Whyland and Mr. Conley today.."

A week later, on November 20, the newspaper reported the following: Coroner Issues Suicide Verdict Funeral Held Saturday Coroner Davide H. Atwater, after a thorough investigation, listed Friday, the death of Mrs. Rebecca Whyland of Chase road, Hamlin, who was found Nov. 12 in her car at the bottom of the Barge canal, as "by suicide while temporarily insane." Besides her husband, Lester, Mrs. Whyland is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Chamberlain; two sisters, Mrs. Wilbur VanDorn and Mrs Harold Brown; two brothers, Arthur of Rochester and Irving of Hilton;  and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services were conducted from her late home, Saturday, afternoon at 2 o'clock. Internment took place in Parma Union cemetery.

Wouldn't a barge have reported that they hit an object in the canal? My local librarian told me the stretch of road she was reported to have driven in from: “Lake Road is called Main Street in Brockport and Sweden-Walker Road runs parallel to Main (Lake) Street. The road that follows the canal is called East Canal Road. I've driven it and it's very picturesque with no guardrails or anything to stop a car from running off the road. That stretch is about four miles,” said Jacquie Owens, Adult Services Librarian, Baldwinsville Public Library. Owens questions Rebecca's suicide verdict along with me and hopes that as a family member, I may be able to get a copy of the coroner's report (see note below). She says, "In the back of my mind, I did a double take when I saw the suicide by reason of temporary insanity. What was the reason for the insanity? Was there any evidence that she was acting strangely or did the coroner just assume she was because it looked like a suicide? Also, they said that the car was crushed as if a barge passed over it. Didn't the barge, if there was one, think to report the scraping, especially since it damaged the boat? And did a barge even pass by between the time she went in and the time she was pulled out?"

I uploaded the above articles and my photograph of  her on Find a Grave at: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/153574329/rebecca-c.-whyland  


###

Notes: Monroe County's Office of the Medical Examiner offers the ability to get coroner's reports if you are entitled to it. The hours for record information requests are Monday through Friday (10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.). Autopsy Authorization Request: include a $40 check or money order payable to Monroe County, and send to Office of Medical Examiner, 740 East Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY  14623" https://www.monroecounty.gov/health-medicalexaminer#Archival. The New York State Archives may be an easier way to get a hold of the report.

My husband Jim wants to know if she was wearing the "yellow diamond" ring when her body was found. According to my cousin Laura, her family feared there may have been a curse around it as two of our family members who owned it died at age 37. Prior to Aunt Rebecca, my great-grandmother Alice Lee owned the ring and died from leukemia at 37. Prior to her, my uncle Frank owned it and hung himself (he was in his 20s--but I think he shot himself). According to Cousin Laura, Uncle Frank "bought it and proposed to a lady who turned him down. He was so distraught and depressed that he hung himself in the barn." (My Cousin Laura's family sold the "yellow diamond" ring in a Tiffany setting and learned that it was actually a yellow sapphire.)

I'm also looking into the 1826 case of the missing, probably murdered Freemason William Morgan who was trying to publish a book exposing Freemasonry's secrets. The "Morgan Murder" caused division in my 19th century family who lived along the Canal per a letter I recently read from my 4th great-grandfather, banker William Sisson of Lyons (a Freemason), to his brother-in-law, my distant uncle, Justus Gale, of Rochester, who supported the Anti-Mason movement.

If you have any Erie Canal stories or tips on how to solve old "Cold Cases", please let me know as I'm currently working on a new book, “Walking the Erie Canal Trail: Secrets  of the 8th Wonder of the World, CMV and Pandemic Pizza". 











11/27/22

Hiking the Erie Canalway Trail: A Search for 7 Wonders. Benches, Bathrooms and Beer on Way to Stop CMV



Jim and Lisa Saunders  of Baldwinsville, New York, are hiking the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail Challenge and are over halfway there! They leave #Stop CMV rocks along the way to raise awareness of the leading viral cause of birth defects, cytomegalovirus. (Jim and Lisa on the Erie Canalway Trail in Amsterdam, New York, in November 2022. Photo by Lawrence Chester.)

Updated 8/23//23:


Why Walk Across New York State on the 360-Mile Erie Canalway Trail

Challenges faced by baby boomers Jim and Lisa Saunders and how they've overcome--they are over halfway there!

Jim and Lisa Saunders of Baldwinsville are hiking across New York State on the Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Buffalo. Beginning the 360-mile Canalway Challenge in April 2020 at its midpoint, Camillus, they have since walked over halfway across the State (226 miles). They tackle a new section of the Trail about twice a month - in all seasons. Despite the challenges they've faced the last three years, becoming an "end-to-ender" (those who walk, bike or kayak the Erie Canal) continues to be their goal.

Lisa says, “Although walking a level path sounds easy, it isn't always! We've been chased by swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies. We've endured lightning, torrential downpours, blinding snow, chafing underwear, aching feet, and swollen knees . We’ve faced snakes, floods, ice, and a smelly, dead opossum!”

To learn more about the Erie Canalway Trail, how to overcome its challenges, and "join" Jim and Lisa as they search for "The 7 Wonders," benches, bathrooms and beer, click on Lisa's slide show, Hiking the Erie Canalway Trail: A Search for 7 Wonders. Benches, Bathrooms and Beer on Way to Stop CMV.

Congress established the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in 2000 because the canal “facilitated the movement of ideas …like the abolition of slavery and…women's rights…across upstate New York to the rest of the country…” (govinfo.gov). Lisa and Jim are determined to become "end-to-enders" because they have a "women's rights" issue to move from "upstate New York to the rest of the country": cytomegalovirus (CMV). Jim and Lisa are leaving #Stop CMV rocks along the Trail to comply with Congress' recommendation that “more effort be taken to counsel women of childbearing age of the effect this virus can have on their children” (Congress designated June as National Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month in 2011).

Lisa says, “Our daughter Elizabeth was born with brain damage because I contracted CMV just prior to or during my pregnancy. If I had been educated about CMV prevention, she might have had a healthy life.” Elizabeth died at the age of 16 in 2006 during a seizure.

According to the CDC, “CMV is the most common infectious cause of birth defects in the United States. About 1 out of 200 babies is born with congenital CMV. One out of 5 babies with congenital CMV will have symptoms or long-term health problems, such as hearing loss” (cdc.gov/cmv). For women of childbearing age to prevent CMV infection, the CDC states: “You may be able to lessen your risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. The saliva and urine of children with CMV have high amounts of the virus. You can avoid getting a child’s saliva in your mouth by, for example, not sharing food, utensils, or cups with a child.” (CMV Fact Sheet for Pregnant Women and Parents or CMV pdf).

In 2022, “Elizabeth’s Law,” named in memory of Jim and Lisa’s daughter, was passed in New York it requires the provision of CMV educational materials to child care providers and pregnant women.  Although delighted the law passed, Lisa says there is still a lot to be done: “I want all women across the U.S. to know about CMV before getting pregnant. In addition, all newborns should be tested for CMV to identify those who would benefit from early intervention and/or antiviral treatment.

To learn more about CMV, click on Lisa’s video, “Erie Canal Trail: Stop Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Birth Defects. Pass "Elizabeth's Law"; or visit the National CMV Foundation.

Contact Lisa Saunders at LisaSaunders42@gmail.com.

###

Oder version of our story:
"We have walked half way across upstate New York on the Erie Canalway Trail for the Canalway Challenge. How and why we are doing it!" 

by Lisa Saunders

Most 360-mile Erie Canalway Challengers bike or paddle the Trail, which takes about a week if they don't double back to their cars. To walk the Trail straight through, averaging 12 miles a day, would take a month. Jim and I can’t dedicate large chunks of time to the Challenge, and can only walk about six miles in a day. So far, we have averaged six miles a month, but I'm excited to announce we are finally halfway there!

We love analyzing the ruins and ditches along our route as we look for clues to the past. My 3rd great-grandfather Augustus M. Leach of Lyons, an engineer on the Canal, was said to have patented a drop gate--can any of his designs be found in the ruins? Also, will I ever find out why my Aunt Rebecca’s body was found in her coup submerged in the Canal in 1941?  

When putting our feet up at the end of the day, Jim and I discuss what we still consider the “Seven Wonders of the Erie Canal” to be– should they include the crumbling aqueduct arches and overgrown locks of the Old Canal, or the movable dams and dramatically deep locks of the modern Canal? The Canal itself was once considered the "8th Wonder of the World", so it's been fascinating to learn why as we read the signage along the way. (Clicking on the Erie Canal Mapping Project makes it possible to know which version of the three Erie Canals you are walking along - Old Erie Canal (1825), Enlarged Erie Canal (1862), and/or the modern Barge Canal). 

It’s taken us two and half years to walk between Rochester and Herkimer. We began the Challenge at the center of the Trail, Camillus Erie Canal Park, near our home in Baldwinsville on the modern Erie Canal, in April 2020. As of November 2022, have walked 189 miles - 53% across the State of New York. 

Although walking the straight, smooth Erie Canalway Trail sounds easy, it isn’t always--especially if we ignore the weather! We've been chased by swarms of mosquitoes, biting flies, lightning, torrential downpours and blinding snow. We’ve confronted snakes, floods, ice, chafing underwear, aching feet, swollen knees, loud gunshots and a dead possum. And of course there is my constant worry - will I find a bathroom in time?  

In warm weather, we pack sunscreen, bug spray, extra socks and even shoes when we suspect there may be flooding ahead. In the winter, we pack ice cleats, snow shoes and walking sticks to manage snow or sheets of ice. 

This one-minute video about our quest, Erie Canal Trail: Stop Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Birth Defects. Pass "Elizabeth's Law", shows you why we are preserving. But if you want to learn more about what walkers experience across the the Trail, I suggest reading this couple's blog about their 26-day, one way hike: Bellingham Walks. While they walked 15-20 miles a day (with some break days), they did occasionally take auto rides to avoid some busy, on-road stretches. Unlike that couple, however, we are not able to walk more than six miles a day with our undependable knees and feet, and we usually have to trudge back to our car (more aching feet!). I suggest watching this man walk while he shares an honest look at all that can go wrong (including a romantic breakup!) in "The Erie Canal - On Foot". This walker has also biked and kayaked the Trail: Triple End-To-End: Talking about the trip and planning.

If you are like us and can't walk the entire Trail on consecutive days, then read below my signature for tips on parking, food, bathrooms and lodging. If you realize this 360- mile Challenge is not for you, there are smaller Challenges you can set and still get a certificate and other Canalway stuff! My mother, a great-grandma, completed the “one-mile” Challenge by having us push her wheelchair on a paved portion of the Trail. Create a free account with Canalway Challenge, which provides a convenient way to log miles and space for notes (such as where parked, stopped and started). Visit: https://eriecanalway.org/explore/challenge)

One question posed to me included: "Was a lot of your trek on the trail with direct views to the canal or on the road?" So far, we have mostly walked along the modern or old canal, so yes, we see a lot of flowing river or stagnant, Old Erie Canal water with ducks, turtles, blue herons, and an occasional old tire thrown in. Some of the Trail is on the road and not an old tow path, so we also experience trucks whizzing by.

The Empire State Trail map has good descriptions of the Trail broken up into digestible segments, including the recently completed 15-mile portion through Syracuse, near our home. When we learned about the new Trail a few winters ago, we strapped on ice cleats, grabbed our walking sticks, and trekked through the snow and ice from Reed Webster Park, Camillus, through downtown Syracuse, then to Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, DeWitt. Along the way, we found the ruins of Lock 50, known as Gere's Lock; the New York State Fair Grounds and Crucible Steel, where we heard loud mechanical thumping reminiscent of the Morlocks in the “Time Machine”; watched bald eagles feeding at Onondaga Lake; saw the largest shopping mall in the state, Destiny USA; learned Syracuse's salt mining industry from signs lining the connected Onondaga Creekwalk; watched ice skaters at Clinton Square and looked down on carefully preserved Old Erie Canal ruins nearby; headed to the Erie Canal Museum, housed in the only surviving Weighlock building (which I consider an Erie Canal "Wonder"); strolled directly down the center of busy Erie Boulevard, once the Erie Canal itself, trying to imagine barges floating by the dollar stores; then onto Towpath Road alongside the Old Erie Canal, over the highway (481) with its dramatic overhead view of Butternut Creek Aqueduct ruins in DeWitt. From there, the Trail heads to Rome--where construction began on the Erie Canal over 200 years ago on July 4, 1817.

One question not posed to me, but that should have been: “What would make your quest easier?” Answer: Having folks meet us on the Trail so we could shuttle with two cars and not have to double back! I smiled at the article, "A Hiker’s Guide to Car Shuttles," which includes this option: “Sweet-talk your loved ones: Convince your family or friends to drop you off and pick you up. Coerce them with promises of mountain views, good company, and half your post-hike pizza.” This has only worked for us twice so far. Although our post-hike pizza is always good, our company must not be! Eventually, we may just have to get comfortable using the new fangled way of motoring one way- Uber.

Jim, a retired Pfizer scientist, and I have a super good reason for pressing forward despite the obstacles on the Trail: We are trying to raise awareness of another “C-virus” plaguing the country, hoping to educate pregnant women on how to prevent congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV). Congenital CMV, the leading viral cause of birth defects, impacted our daughter Elizabeth's brain until her death at age 16 in 2006 during a seizure. According to the CDC, "About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection. About one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will have long-term health problems". Pregnant women who have or care for toddlers are at greater risk for contracting the virus. As we walk along the Trail, we are placing #Stop CMV rocks painted by Tabitha Rodenhaus of Buffalo, the mother of Kaia born with congenital CMV in 2016. On November, 28, 2022, the New York governor signed into law a CMV bill named in memory of our daughter's - "Elizabeth's Law" (A7560B/S6287C). It requires information be given to child care providers and women at their first prenatal visit. Next we will work on a law to get all newborns (not just those who fail their hearing screen) tested for CMV so they can receive early intervention ( to get involved, contact Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal's office at: 518.455.5802 or  Nick Guile, Legislative Director at guilen@nyassembly.gov). 


To help us decide on the 7 Wonders of the Erie Canalway Trail (and vote on an 8th Wonder), send me an email. Some of our images and insights into the Trail are at: authorlisasaunders.blogspot.com.

See you on the Trail--wheelchairs are welcome!

Walk the straight path!


Sincerely,

Lisa Saunders



TAKING THE CHALLENGE IN SEGMENTS


As a clumsy kid, I was the last picked for school sports, and throughout my adult life, have dropped out of numerous exercise and dance classes - but I can put one foot in front of the other! A benefit of taking on the Canalway Challenge in segments is that we never have to guess what to do when stealing away from family responsibilities. And, because we always have a car, we see the local sites before or after a walk. Before each trek, we have to decide whether or not to drive two cars, to get a hotel, or to brace ourselves for a long day of walking and driving. The Challenge is getting more "challenging" as the drive east or west to our next starting point is getting further away. As of today, we are having to drive almost an hour and a half one way to get to our next starting point.

Maps
I use the following online maps to plan each segment of our walk as each provides valuable information on parking, restaurants and lodging (warning: they are not always up to date):
  • Empire State Trail: empiretrail.ny.gov/ (click on maps then on the portion, "Erie Canalway Trail")
  • Cycle the Erie Canal: www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal/trail-map
  • Google Maps (it shows the Erie Canalway Trail - though not up to date - with a green line): www.google.com/maps. If you are looking for walking directions, plug in that you are a biker, rather than a walker, and it will usually suggest/show you the Trail. Click on this Google Map bike route between Buffalo Harbor State Park and Jennings Landing, Albany.
  • The Erie Canal Bike Trail of New York (useful info about each town along the way): bikeeriecanal.com/
  • Canal Corporation (more useful to paddlers who need to follow the modern Erie Canal, but the eastern and western portions of the Trail often follow the modern Canal): www.canals.ny.gov/maps/

Parking
Finding parking places between manageable walking distances has been a real challenge since we only want to walk about six miles. The Erie Canalway Trail offers a lot of parking along the way, but there aren’t enough for us. We carefully analyze Google maps for off-road spaces large enough for a car. Sometimes we are lucky and see a circled P on the online maps, but we often have to ask business owners if we can park in their lot (I've given some a #Stop CMV rocks as a thank you). We put a sign on our dashboard stating our quest and include our phone numbers in case we've irritated a property owner or highway department.

Bench availability
Jim and I like to sit every couple of miles and have found it's best if we carry our own seats since we can't always depend on finding one. Jim wears a backpack that turns into a stool (from Dick's Sporting Goods) and I bought a light folding stool at a garage sale that clips to my knapsack.

How long to complete each section of your trek?
It takes us about 20 minutes to walk one mile, then another 20 minutes to walk back to the car--it takes longer the more weary we are. We seem to average 2,000-2,500 steps per mile.

What cities/towns did you start and stop in?
We start and stop in any town with a bathroom, restaurant or brewery. This map provides very helpful information on the towns along the way: bikeeriecanal.com

How to find the next bathroom
Learn to use the woods. I carry special, forest-friendly toilet paper sold to hunters (in fact, a hunter bought it for me!). For a time, I even resorted to wearing women's diapers (just in case), but the elastic chaffs on long walks.

Restaurants
I check Google maps and Maps on my iPhone for food nearby.

Weather
Although I recommend walking the Trail in fair weather, we walk in whatever weather comes our way. That hasn't always been wise! Walking in a recent rain meant we were chased by swarms of mosquitoes. We've also been chased by lightning, torrential downpours, flooding and a blinding snow. 

Where exactly does the Trail begin/end in Albany and Buffalo?
I haven't seen the end/start points, and some have said the exact spots are hard to find. But, this is what I believe to be true after asking around:
Buffalo:
According to the Empire state Trail, the Trail starts at "Buffalo Harbor State Park on the shore of Lake Erie, where there is ample free parking, visitor services, and a formal “Gateway” marking the beginning/end of the Empire State Trail." Someone on Facebook posted: "Buffalo has mile 0 mile marker on the fence on Marine Drive between Commercial and Lloyd streets at the foot of the naval and military park."
Buffalo Harbor State Park: 1111 Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo, NY 14203
https://bikeeriecanal.com/buffalo.aspx


Albany:
Jennings Landing, 1 Quay St, Albany, NY 12207
https://bikeeriecanal.com/corning-city-preserve-albany.aspx

Join the Erie Canal Community
I get a lot of my questions answered from folks on the following Facebook sites:

Folks we've met along the way

We have met several interesting Erie Canal fans through our quest including doctors interested in our #Stop CMV rocks. Jim and I were intrigued by the murals of historic Canal life along the way so I contacted the president of Mural Mania, Mark De Cracker, who then included the images of my Erie Canal engineer ancestors in the next mural in Lyons and even let me help paint it! You can watch us paint and learn more about the Trail and the murals on the Travels with Darley Show at: 
https://journy.tv/watch/travels-with-darley/new-yorks-empire-state-trail/. To learn more about the murals specifically, go to about 11:45 minutes into the video. 

I've interviewed Mark of Mural Mania and others about the Canal for Baldwinsville's public access channel, PAC-B TV:

Where we camped/lodged
No camping for us, though I do hear that people do it right along the Trail. I've found hotels by analyzing Google maps for lodging nearest the Trail, though sometimes we will go a few miles for someplace more special like the Sunset Cottage at Sylvan Beach (Near Oneida Lake, its beautifully built and decorated by friends). It would be more interesting if we stayed in more B&B's, but so far, I haven't researched them. If you know of a place for us to stay, please let me know! Here is where we have stayed so far (or in the case of Little Falls, plan to stay):

  • Niagara Falls: Red Coach Inn
  • Lockport Inn and Suites
  • Rochester: Quality Inn and Suites
  • Newark Garden Hotel
  • Sylvan Beach: Sunset Cottage (Twin cottages if you have two families)
  • Oneida Community Mansion House
  • Canastota/Verona: Days Inn by Wyndham
  • Rome: Quality Inn
  • Utica: Holiday Inn Express & Suites
  • Little Falls: The Inn at Stone Mill (we plan to stay there as we liked our tour of this unique lodging)
  • Amsterdam: Microtel Inn & Suites

In 2000, Congress established the “Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor” because it was “instrumental in the establishment of strong political and cultural ties between New England, upstate New York and the old Northwest and facilitated the movement of ideas and people ensuring that social reforms like...the women’s rights movement spread across upstate New York to the rest of the country...” I believe by walking the Erie Canalway Trail, Jim and I can share our belief that women have the right to know how to protect their unborn babies from CMV. As I blog about our progress toward raising CMV awareness, I'm hoping our walk will become a movement, like the women’s rights movement, that will "spread across upstate New York to the rest of the country" to help prevent birth defects caused by congenital CMV.




Jim and Lisa Saunders pushing Lisa's mom, Mary Ann Avazian, on the Erie Canalway Trail in DeWitt, New York, for a 
photo shoot for Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Photographs by Call of the Loon Productions.