A Slice of Pizza

Written by Kayaker Chip on . Posted in The Erie Canal 3 Comments

Chip MacAlpine, Erie Canal, Kayaking, Camping, Lock

The previous night I camped at Lock 28B. It was a bit of a challenge getting Sally to come with me. Most of the locks have a small floating workman dock, somewhere. It could be before the lock chamber, after it, or up above the concrete wall and out of reach from the water. Before I started this trip I was asked if portaging around the locks would be an option, I think most people assume that they won’t operate for a lonely kayaker.  I want to pass through each of them, but for whatever reason, timing, safety, etc. I wondered too. I’m going to say, “NO”, or at least doing so would be very difficult. Then again, isn’t that the definition of portage? Each lock has approach walls on both sides, concrete, straight up. If there was a place to get out of the water it would be set back a ways from the chamber. Since the locks are there to account for elevation changes, there are usually stairs or a steep hill. I’m not saying it would be impossible, but wresting a seventeen feet of kayak and a couple hundred pounds of gear either at once or in multiple carries across dry land for a quarter mile or so is way more intensive then locking through. Luckily Lock 28B’s floating dock was before the chamber, right where I needed it.

Getting myself out of the kayak and onto the dock wasn’t a problem. From there I could see that the ropes holding the dock to the approach wall had a bit of slack in them. I undid and re-secured them so the dock held closer to the wall rather than floating outward as much as two feet as I would attempt to move the kayak and her contents all at once. With the distance from the dock to the top of the wall still being a good three feet up, if the dock were to move away during the process some quick math told me that the hypotenuse of that triangle, me, would end up doing a split and falling in. I could have tried to work Sally up sideways onto the platform which was half her length and then emptied her and carried all my gear in batches but instead I grabbed the safety lines and pushed and pulled her stern up into the wall. I carefully worked her belly over the crumbling edge of the wall, her nose at first sinking into the water until I had pushed enough of her onto the wall and the weight of the gear on the dry side of the fulcrum was greater and I she came to rest half floating in the air. After that the trolley wheels went back on and after walking the length of the lock I would find my home for the night next to the mechanicals building.

Packing and unpacking a kayak is a process, one that takes time. It is also suited well for my OCD tendencies. Even though I have a lot of volume between the three hatches, it is a tight fit for enough food and gear for a three week trip. One out of order item or wrong orientation and I either unpack and start over or find something riding in my lap. The order that things go in or come back out isn’t necessarily representative of the order they are needed to setup camp either. Long skinny items such as tent poles and stakes fit best at the far reaches of the bow or stern meaning the are some of the last items to make it out, certainly after lighter, bulkier items such as my pillow. I’ve tried to make adjustments where I can, packing a small bag of food for upcoming meals, that can fit into the day hatch rather than still being part of the much larger food cache. Without this adjustment food would find itself in the two largest dry bags needing to emerge from the smaller hatch opening at the bow that happens to be covered by the spare paddles. It has eliminated some of the rifling I have to do, and allowed for shorter lunch stops and getting a meal going quicker while I setup camp.

That night at the lock was cold but uneventful. Even though I asked permission from the lock operator before he went home for the day, I still felt out of place. I guess that first night back in Lockport really set the tone for me, leery of people around me. It is just something I will have to try and get past. Most nights I just squirm my way into my Sea-To-Summit Reactor Liner. Rated for 10 degrees of warmth it would normally be used layered inside of a sleeping bag, although until now it hasn’t been all that cold, with temperatures still in the mid-forties. Instead I have been taking my Sea-To-Summit Micro III bag and open it flat to partially cover myself rather than a mummy encasement. With temperatures down about ten degrees or so into the thirties I went for the layered approach, slipped on a long sleeve fleece and my hat, and slept soundly through the night.

Morning came and brought with it fog over the water, yet clear blue skies above and a warm sunrise glow in the beyond the lock. I think it has been a week since I’ve seen the sunrise, as the weather previous mornings didn’t permit it. There was also a pterodactyl (Great Blue Heron) sitting down in the lock chamber. It was drained and left in a low water state overnight and I guess he figured the fish stuck in the shallows of a 328×45 foot box were easy pickings. There were three or four boats that passed through before I was packed and back on the water. Each time the lock would undergo a drain-fill cycles he would let out a Jurassic squawk, fly out of the chamber, wait and then return. Just like cormorants, ones tends to see numerous Great Blue Herons when traveling by kayak. Back in Oregon they must figure they are hidden better from passing paddlers as here in NYS I generally can’t get within fifty yards before they stretch out there giant wings and take to the air. Of course they only do so to embed themselves a short distance down the canal, repeating the process on my next approach. If I had less than one hundred such encounters today I’d be surprised.

The stretch of canal from the town of Newark to Clyde was once again a straight “tunnel” like waterway. However, unlike the section near Lockport and the western approach to Rochester, the walls were a dense forest. There were embankments of dirt and underbrush, but there was also small flat “beaches” along the way. Much easier for one traveling by kayak to use to escape the confines of the boat for a lunch break or just to stretch. The shallow slope wouldn’t be good for an overnight camp though as a passing motor boat wake would quickly yield wet sleeping conditions. The positives changed in terrain in this section were undone by the wind. It was a constant, strong, headwind. It might have been stronger the day before but I think it was the sunshine and clear skies today tricked me into thinking so. It made these straight sections tough to push through physically and mentally. I still paddled the 23 miles I set out for, a push beyond the estimated fifteen miles per day I set out with and, I was only an hour behind the time I figured it would take. The next few days (until Monday) are supposed to warm up, although the strong winds are also supposed to continue. I’m not looking forward to that.

For some reason I do want a slice of pizza though. I craved it all day. LOL.