Grandparents Walk New "15 Miles on the Erie Canal": Camillus-DeWitt


Take the Erie Canalway Challenge/ Wheelchairs welcome!

Mules you'll meet along the way. Mural on Weighlock building, which houses the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse. 

Jim and Lisa Saunders in Camillus near Reed Webster Park on Warners Road. ("Selfie" photograph by James P. Saunders)

My husband and I just finished walking the newly connected and constructed Empire State Trail from Camillus to Syracuse and Syracuse to DeWitt, a total of "15 miles on the Erie Canal." We walk small segments of the Trail at a time as we tackle the 360-mile Erie Canalway Challenge between Buffalo and Albany. Still in our first year taking the Challenge, I wonder if we will ever finish--but at least this new section of Trail made finding bathrooms much easier! Plus, I learned a lot about Syracuse and the Erie Canal through the signage along the way. We commenced our Erie Canalway Challenge on April 21, 2020, at the Camillus Erie Canal Park where we found the first "Wonder" of the Erie Canal (I'm searching for "7 Wonders")—the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, the waterway bridge for conveying barges over the creek. According to the Park, it is "the only restored navigable Aqueduct in New York State."

When we learned about the new Trail through Syracuse this winter, we strapped on ice cleats and grabbed a walking stick and trekked through the snow and ice from Reed Webster Park in Camillus to downtown Syracuse then onto Butternut Creek Aqueduct in in Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, DeWitt. Along the way, we came upon the ruins of Lock 50, known as Gere's Lock; enjoyed the side view of the New York State Fair Grounds; heard strange, loud machinery from Crucible Steel; crossed over the highway (690) to stroll above and beside Onondago Lake to its southern end; crossed the new pedestrian bridge over CSX's railroad tracks from where we watched bald eagles feeding at the Lake; imagined the warm bathrooms from our view of the largest shopping mall in New York, Destiny USA; learned about Syracuse's salt mining industry from path signs on the connecting Onondaga Creekwalk beside Inner Harbor; watched ice skaters at Clinton Square, where there are still remains of the Old Erie Canal; headed to the Erie Canal Museum, housed in the only surviving Weighlock building in the world (which I consider a second "Wonder"); strolled in the center of Erie Boulevard, once the Erie Canal itself, where we imaged barges floating by the fast food restaurants and dollar stores, came upon a strange, lock-looking structure with a stone etched, "Kasson--1848", which we learned from locals was the Erie Canal Monument made from old Lock stones (it had its plaque stolen); took a left on Bridge Street then onto Tow Path Road, where we could see remains of the Old Erie Canal again; then crossed over another highway (481) to the spectacular ruins of Butternut Creek Aqueduct in DeWitt. From there, we are heading to Rome--where construction began on the first Erie Canal over 200 years ago on July 4, 1817.

Jim, now a retired Pfizer scientist, has been sharing in my latest adventure in hopes of raising awareness of another "C-virus" plaguing the country, cytomegalovirus (CMV), the leading viral cause of birth defects (our daughter was born severely disabled by congenital CMV and died at 16 in 2006). Will our fight for a revision of the current CMV law in New York be as tough to pass as the legislation to build the original Erie Canal of 1825? Will Jim and I agree on the 7 Wonders and find enough bathrooms on the Trail to trek on--to impact the country, much the same way the Erie Canal did? I believe by walking the Erie Canalway Trail, we can share with Erie Canalway/Empire State Trail walkers and readers our belief that women have a right to know how to protect their unborn babies from CMV.

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...".

As I blog about our Erie Canalway Challenge while commenting on our progress toward revising the CMV education bill, I hope CMV awareness will become a movement, like women’s rights, that will "spread across upstate New York to the rest of the country" to help prevent birth defects caused by congenital CMV. I believe the recent connection of the Erie Canalway Trail to the 750-mile Empire State Trail may just make that possible.

See you on the Trail--wheelchairs are welcome!

To take the Challenge, visit: eriecanalway.org/explore/challenge

To join our journey, visit my blog at: Authorlisasaunders.blogspot.com or Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/AuthorLisaSaunders


Lisa Saunders

P.S. I just interviewed the president of Mural Mania who showed Erie Canal murals from Newark, Lyons, Clyde and Savannah, for Baldwinsville's public access channel, PAC-B TV. I will continue to interview him about Mural Mania as he has many more murals in canal towns to share!

P.S.S. As of March 26, 2021, we have walked 40 miles of the trail form Port Byron to Green Lakes Park. These four maps below, #14,, 15, 16 and some of 17, show the route we've walked so far, or you can check https://empiretrail.ny.gov/map


My husband and I live in Baldwinsville (near Syracuse) and are trying to walk the Erie Canalway Challenge between Buffalo and Albany to raise awareness of the leading viral cause of birth defects, congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV.), and how to prevent it. The CDC acknowledges June as National CMV Awareness Month. (We recently moved from Connecticut where my CMV advocacy work can be watched on News 8: “Mystic mother raises awareness of CMV, a risk for pregnant women and their babies”, 2018).

Why Jim and I are taking the Erie Canalway Challenge and how you can, too!


Erie Canal: Baldwinsville, near Syracuse, between Rochester and Rome, NY


We live in Baldwinsville, NE of Syracuse, at Lock 24 on the Navigable Erie Canal. Canalway Trail, which largely follows the Old Canal, can be easily from Camillus, south of us.  The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, was the "longest artificial waterway and the greatest public works project in North America." (https://eriecanalway.org/learn/history-culture)

Author Lisa Saunders is seen on the Seneca River, along the modern Erie Canal, in  Baldwinsville, New York, where she now lives with her husband Jim. The sign welcomes boaters coming from the direction of Buffalo to Lock 24 where they will be lowered 11 feet, as in an elevator, to the next leg of their journey eastward toward Albany.  Lisa and Jim love strolling beside and above Lock 24 to watch boaters from all over world make their way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. (Lock 24 is the second busiest lock on the modern Erie Canal. 

Images of Baldwinsville

Here is the metal drop gate down in the water. It's usually high in the air and rusty looking on the side coming from the  Buffalo direction.


Who stole Erie Canal Marker? Mysterious structure on new path from Camillus to Syracuse Weighlock to Butternut Creek Aqueduct

My husband, Jim Saunders, grateful to rest on a stone bench--no matter how cold--on the new Empire State Trail on Erie Boulevard in Syracuse. 

Who stole Erie Canal Marker? 
Mysterious structure on Trail from Camillus to Syracuse Weighlock 
to Butternut Creek Aqueduct

Stone engraved, "Kasson--1848" but no other clue to structure on Erie Canal/Empire State Trail on Erie Boulevard (former route of Erie Canal) at intersection of Teall Ave., Syracuse. I posted my question about it to the Facebook group, "Reflections on the History of Syracuse, NY and Onondaga County." One commenter said, "Joseph Kasson was an architect for the Erie Canal." One posted a flickr page stating the marker once there read: "Along the route for a century the Erie Canal opened in 1825. The products of the New York State fields and factories from Lake Erie to the Hudson River were carried on it. This monument was built with stone obtained from various locks that were located within the City of Syracuse. Erected by the Department of Parks and State Education Dept 1930's."

Jim and Lisa Saunders on the Old Erie Canal in Camillus. They are facing the newly built Erie Canal/Empire State Trail at the intersection of Warner's Road. Lisa regularly updates: "Walking the Erie Canal: Secrets of the 8th Wonder, CMV and Pandemic Pizza."

My thoughts on the new Erie Canal/Empire State Trail that opened December 31, 2020

It’s winter of 2021 and we’re still walking the
Erie Canalway Challenge of 360 miles.
One foot in front of the other,
no fancy equipment, no bicycles, and there are some trials.

On December 31, 2020, the Erie Canalway Trail was connected
to the Empire State Trail.
Should we tackle all 750 miles of the nation's longest state path--
or is it too early to think about that, perhaps our zeal will grow stale?

The Empire State Trail provides more off-road walking along
the Old Erie Canal that once ran through private property.
The Trail now heads from Camillus toward the ruins of Lock 50 or Gere's Lock--
recently groomed by volunteers, I bet they removed trash and at least one tree.

Since we began this new part of the trail in January 2021,
we stretched ice cleats over our boots and grabbed walking sticks.
At least the cold means we don’t have to pack bug spray—
no fear of ticks.

Mule statue across from Erie Canal Museum in the Weighlock building. 

We walked off-road from Camillus to Syracuse, our nation’s former salt production capital,
to the Erie Canal Museum housed in the only surviving Weighlock.
We imaged it weighing cargo for toll collection in its reconstructed barge—
seen from the outside, it’s a time travel glimpse at a once busy dock.

Gere's Lock.

Along the way from Gere's Lock to the Syracuse Weighlock, the path ran beside Crucible Steel, New York State Fair Grounds and Onondago Lake to its southern end.
We crossed over train tracks on a pedestrian bridge from where we saw bald eagles
perched beside its ice-free edge--made so by warm water pumped from a plant around the bend.

Standing in the cold, deep snow on the bridge,
we could see the largest shopping mall in New York, Destiny USA.
We could imagine the food, bathrooms and warmth inside,
but kept trudging toward our goal, not wanting to be lead astray.

Clinton Square. 

We soon reached the Onondaga Creekwalk,
now joined to the Erie Canalway and Empire State Trails.
We read signs about salt harvesting and drying as we headed toward Clinton Square
and its stone remnants of the Old Canal—a familiar scene on postcards sent in the mail.

An "Erie" imagination is needed when walking from the Syracuse Weighlock
toward the Butternut Creek Aqueduct in DeWitt.
Gritty buildings and dollar stores line the way, 
but that stretch of Trail is not without benefit.

Several bathrooms, benches and restaurants can be found--
enjoyed lunch at the funky Mello Velo Bicycle Shop & Cafe.
Then walked through the center of Erie Boulevard,
where we imagined barges floating by, as though it were yesterday.

We came upon a strange, lock-looking structure that seemed too neat to be ruins, 
but the stones were old and one was etched "Kasson--1848".
Locals told us it was the Erie Canal Monument--
made from old Lock stones, its plaque had been stolen, an insult to the State. 

The Trail takes a left on Bridge Street then onto Tow Path Road--
relief from the whizzing cars along Widewaters Pond.
The Old Erie Canal could be seen again in East Syracuse,
overgrown with little water, it is still a sight for which I've grown fond. 

Lisa above the Butternut Creek Aqueduct.

What a reward to reach Butternut Creek Aqueduct,
now that is a site for sore eyes.
From there its 38 miles of off-road Trail all the way to Rome,
That's just a few more miles than the crow flies. 

In Search of the “7 Wonders of the Erie Canal”

Now that my husband Jim is retired, I’ve been searching for the “7 Wonders”
of the Trail with him at my side,
So far, we’ve conquered the mosquitoes, snakes, sun, snow and foot pain—
we are starting to glide.

I think the “7 Wonders”, which should include at least one lock, bridge and aqueduct—
so many structures in the running.
Will the public help us decide,
will people find our choices stunning?

Digging through mosquito and snake-infested swamps
must have been a miserable task.
Blasting through rock with gunpowder was a dangerous thing, 
especially if addicted to the whiskey flask.

The overgrown stone locks that once raised and
lowered boats can still be seen.
The modern Erie Canal boasts bigger, fancier locks--
made of concrete, they have lots of metal parts that gleam.

I stay inspired to press onward because the Erie Canal is considered the 8th Wonder of World--
with its restored towpath, walking has been made easy for us.
When the men of old overcame rock, swamps and rivers,
they made our journey almost as simple as taking a bus.

To stay the course, we've overcome our fear of loud gunshots, 
rain and violent wind cracking trees all around.
We’ve endured because of the pleasant echoes of nearby trains--
and because we haven't yet drowned.

Mostly our biggest worry is,
“where will the next outhouse be?”
But Jim’s lucky—
he can go behind a tree.
It drives me crazy how long it takes Jim
to gather supplies for his backpack,
But I sure do thank him when we rest and
he pulls out a water and a trail-mix snack.

We learned the hard way not to walk the Trail after dark--
even in sparsely populated towns, evil can trot.
We won’t easily forget the zombie-like man
who charged us in a town parking lot.

Our Erie Canalway Challenge

Our Challenge began on April 21, 2020, at its mid point--
You can see remains of Clinton’s Ditch,
a replica of Sims' canal store, a house boat, artifacts and many signs--valuable to instruct.

Maybe because we are baby boomers,
our aching feet, back and knees often cry out for a bench,
One hot day, because there was only one bench around,
I was forced to beside a dead possum baking in the sun--my nostrils still hold the stench.

In the summer months,
we’ve learned that sunscreen and bug repellent are a must.
At the end of the day,
how we long for a shower to wash off those lotions and dust.

Of course we hit every ice-cream stand
we can find,
Not the best policy when our ever-tightening belts
keep us in a bind.

I wonder how many pizza parlors we
have found along the way.
Towpath Pizza of Jordan is one,
but with most canal towns serving pizza, we should count them some day.

It can be so tiring trekking our nation’s greatest public works
project named after Lake Erie.
Sometimes I stumble, my throat gets parched,
and I grow weary.

So far, we drive to different parts of the Trail
once a week and walk about one mile out.
At this rate, our quest will take years--
its so slow and not helping us get less stout.

Finding a parking space for the next leg of our journey
can also cause stress.
Sometimes it’s not enough to rely on satellite images,
maps and GPS.

We are grandparents with pandemic school closings and an aging mother,
leaving us always on call,
Will we ever finish the Erie Canalway Trail,
will we peter out to fail and fall?

Give a Grandma and Grandpa a Lift on the Erie Canal?

I would love to boat the Canal,
but we don’t have one nor does any pal.
So far, I’ve received no response from a magazine promising to publish my plea:
“Help Wanted: Weary Grandma and Grandpa Seek to Hitch a Ride on the Erie Canal.”

I didn't tell the magazine editor how I abandoned ship on my previous adventure,
as told in my book, Mystic Seafarer's Trail.
I'm hoping to gain a new reputation as a fearless voyager,
not a spineless women, with a propensity to fail.

Unlike the sea, Canal travel appears so calm I'm not likely
to lose my mind imagining going down with the ship.
Although the active Erie Canal follows rivers with currents,
there appear to be no unforeseen dangers, so few deterrents.

Although boating portions of the Erie Canal
rather than walking is "cheating,"
some portions of the 360-mile trail is on a busy road,
where pleasures seem fleeting.

If you, Dear Reader, are a boater wondering
if you should help us with any portion of the Canal by offering us a ride,
You can “meet" me in the film, "Mystic Seafarers Trail" by Gregory Pettys, with undersea explorer Captain Bill Palmer—if I don’t look crazy, then download the Erie Canalway Map and Guide.

What we are doing

Walking the Erie Canal:

Secrets of the 8th Wonder, CMV and Pandemic Pizza

by Lisa Saunders


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 Erie Canalway Trail between Buffalo and Albany. So far, Lisa has endured swarms of mosquitoes, loud gunshots, snakes, snow, violent wind cracking trees 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 Lisa 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 the State of New York be as tough to pass as the legislation to build the original Erie Canal, derogatively called "Clinton’s Ditch"? Will they agree on the 7 Wonders, what kind of pizza to order and overcome the obstacles on the Trail to impact the world—much the same way the Erie Canal did?

Note from Lisa: 
When we are not snowed in, running  “Grandma and Grandpa School”, or driving my mother around, you will find us on the Erie Canalway Trail—I hope you can join us. Wheelchairs are welcome!

Join the Fun!
  • Erie Canalway Map and Guide (map, p.4): https://eriecanalway.org/application/files/5715/9127/5496/ECNHC_MapGuide_2020_final-spreads.pdf
  • Cycle the Trail: www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal
  • Empire State Trail: empiretrail.ny.gov
  • Erie Canalway Challenge: eriecanalway.org/explore/challenge


Additional photos along new Erie Canal/Empire State Trail from Camillus to Syracuse Weighlock to Butternut Creek Aqueduct