Baby it's cold outside!


We strapped on ice cleats and grabbed a walking stick to help us trek through the cold, snow and ice on the newly constructed Empire State Trail (part of Erie Canalway Trail) near Onondaga Lake, or "Salt Lake" as it was once known for its salty brine springs around the southern end. Syracuse was a major producer of salt, which was shipped east and west along the Erie Canal. The Empire State/Erie Canalway Trails lead to New York State Fair Grounds. 

New York State Fair grounds in background. 


Help Wanted: Weary Grandparents Seeking to Hitch a Ride on Erie Canal to raise CMV awareness. Plus, new discoveries on 750-mile Empire State Trail!

Jim and Lisa Saunders on Erie Canalway Trail/Empire State Trail off Warner's Rd, Camillus, in Jan., 2021.

Dear Folks,

A small boating magazine published our 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail walking challenge and desire to hitch a ride one way on the Canal so we can then return by foot to earn our miles. I didn't tell the editor how I abandoned ship on my last adventure (as told in my book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail). I'm hoping to gain a new reputation as a fearless voyager. Unlike the sea, canal travel is so slow I'm not likely to lose my mind imagining going down with the ship. 

Jim wearing adventure hat. We are below the old Richmond Aqueduct beside the current Erie Canal through Montezuma Heritage Park. 

If any of you have ideas for where we can publish our "help wanted" blurb (print, online, Facebook), please let me know. Trying to appear adventurous, this is what I submitted for publication in the Feb. 2021 issue of Messing Around on Boats:

Help Wanted: Weary Grandparents Seeking to Hitch a Ride on the Erie Canal

by Lisa Saunders

Although my husband and I are trying to walk the entire 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail in New York for my latest writing venture, we would love to boat through and photograph the locks along the modern Erie Canal. I am the author of the book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail and you can "meet" me in the film, "Mystic Seafarers Trail" by Gregory Pettys, with undersea explorer Captain Bill Palmer on the Thunderfish. Captain Bill shares underwater footage on the wrecks he dives such as German U-boat, U-853. My current project is a book tentatively titled, "Walking the Erie Canal Trail: Secrets of the 8th Wonder of the World, CMV and Pandemic Pizza"...[then I summarize what our quest is and why--see below my signature]. 

If you live anywhere in New York or are willing to travel here, you may wish to start your own hiking/biking quest, especially now the Erie Canalway Trail is linked to the newly completed, 750-mile Empire State Trail (https://empiretrail.ny.gov/), which goes from Manhattan to Canada and west to Buffalo. It officially opened in December. Because the Empire State Trail gained access to parts of the old Erie Canal that runs through private property, last week Jim and I got to investigate overgrown Lock 50, known as Gere's Lock, near the intersection of Gere Lock and Horan Roads in Camillus (my great-grandmother Mary Sisson McDowell was born in Camillus). The Camillus Erie Canal Museum region is great place to view all kinds of structures on the original Erie Canal (referred to as Clinton's Ditch) and the expanded Old Erie Canal, such as the only restored, fully operational Nile Mile Creek Aqueduct. 

According to NY's press release about the Empire State Trail, it is "the nation's longest multi-use state trail" and "spans 750-miles total, 75 percent of which is off-road trails ideal for cyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and snow-shoers. The new recreational trail, which runs from New York City through the Hudson and Champlain Valleys to Canada, and from Albany to Buffalo along the Erie Canal, will provide a safe and scenic pathway for New Yorkers...The Empire State Trail website provides quick and easy access to trail information including segment descriptions, access points, trail distances, parking areas, restrooms, and nearby amenities and attractions." Here is a map of the new part of the trail we are currently walking: https://empiretrail.ny.gov/rochester-syracuse/camillus-syracuse. 

I keep this photo of my Aunt Rebecca found dead in the Erie Canal on my desk to remind me I owe it to her to investigate how she got there. 

I still haven't seen a coroner's report on my Aunt Rebecca to see if I agree with the suicide verdict, but last month, when reading a genealogy book on my family, I did find out that two of my ancestors were engineers on the expanded Erie Canal--Jacob Leach (my 4th great grandfather) and his son Augustus (my 3rd gg) of Lyons, NY. Jacob was responsible for the Canal portion near us in Jordan (we regularly eat at Jordan's Towpath Pizza). An 1840 article in the Onondaga Standard Extra covered Jacob's committee meeting: "Mr. Jacob Leach, was the resident engineer and in the presence of the chief engineer, strongly urged to press his work forwards faster than he was going on with it. He was directed to excavate 10,000 yards monthly and had increase the number of laborers and had erected 20 shanties"(10/24/1840). 

In the 1850s, Jacob's son, Augustus, was employed by the corps of civil engineers and was promoted to overseeing the section from Syracuse to Buffalo. According to his 1901 obituary, Augustus "also invented and drafted plans for the drop gate for locks that were accepted by the state and have continued in use to the present time." There is a street and bridge named Leach Road in Lyons that crosses over the Erie Canal. (More info on Jacob and Augustus below my signature.)

When Jim and I are not overseeing Zoom school with our grandson or driving Mom to her appointments, I've been meeting with NY legislators over Zoom trying to get them to amend the current CMV law. I need to get public attention for this cause--especially if a new bill is submitted for voting on. One way to raise awareness is through publicizing Jim's and my Erie Canal quest!

I would love any advice you have on anything!


Lisa Saunders

Baldwinsville, NY (Lock 24 on Erie Canal, near Syracuse)

Author of history and children's books

PSA: "Had I known (about CMV)

  • “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

Summary of our quest:

"Walking the Erie Canal Trail: Secrets of the 8th Wonder of the World, CMV and Pandemic Pizza"

While searching for the 7 Wonders of the Old Erie Canal, itself considered the 8th Wonder of the World, an upstate New York plump baby boomer wonders if she’ll ever finish walking the entire 360-mile trail between Buffalo and Albany. So far, Lisa Saunders has endured swarms of mosquitoes, snakes, gunshots, violent wind cracking tree limbs above, aching feet and a dead possum. Will she find an outhouse in time? Will she uncover what truly happened to Aunt Rebecca whose body was found in a car submerged in the Canal? Lisa’s progress is continually interrupted as the global pandemic upends her life with demands from her regal mother held prisoner in assisted living, and by home-schooling two young grandchildren when her daughter leaves her job in a castle to work remotely. When deciding on the 7 Wonders, should she only consider the overgrown, stone aqueduct arches and locks hidden along the Old Erie Canal, or also the engineering marvels on the modern, fully operational Erie Canal?And, how will this latest writing project ever get Lisa thin and famous when the only food near the trail is pizza and ice-cream? Trekking alongside is her detail-oriented, rather fussy husband, Jim. They haven’t spent this much time together since their undergraduate days at Cornell. Now a retired Pfizer scientist, Jim is ready to share in Lisa’s latest adventure, hoping to combine their talents to raise awareness of another “C-virus” plaguing the country, cytomegalovirus (CMV). Will their fight for an amendment to the current CMV law in New York be as tough to pass as the legislation to fund the Erie Canal? Will they agree on what kind of pizza to order, find their “new normal” and overcome the obstacles along the Erie Canalway Trail to impact the world—much the same way the Erie Canal did?


Any ideas on what this is in Old Erie Canal?

Found it in the Old Erie Canal on the new Empire State Trail.


Old Lock 50, or Gere's Lock, on Old Erie Canal on new Empire State Trail: 1/17/21


Found old, overgrown Lock 50, also known as Gere's Lock near the intersection of Gere Lock Rd and Horan Rd (where we parked) in Camillus. Walked about two miles to New York State Fair Grounds, next to Byrne Dairy (and bathroom!). 



Learn more about Erie Canal in Camillus:


Lock 50 photos over the years: