Why Kayak the Erie Canal?

The idea to kayak, or at least make my way across New York state via some non-motorized method actually started when I moved away.

In the spring of the year two-thousand I took a job with Intel in Massachusetts. Back then my now, wife and I were only dating. Sometime within the next few month I proposed and we began planning the details of our wedding, which would still take place back in Western New York. From the end of summer, through fall, winter and the next spring we must have made the six hour drive hundreds of times. Getting to travel and see other parts of New York was fun, the seasons added some changes between trips but eventually the 65mph behind the wheel journey became a little boring.

Seeing the little towns along the way and view of the Mohawk River sections of the Erie Canal made me think about a slower pace of life. Exploring the quaint little villages and taking in their history. Back then I don't think I had even given kayaking a try, although the idea for a non-motorized trip was forming in my head.

Over the year there were times when I would dwell on it, researching and pulling data, trying to map out all the details. After transferring my job with Intel from Massachusetts to Oregon in 2003, I finally took to the water with borrowed and rented boats. I had plenty of new waterways to explore out here, but the idea of paddling the canal, now some 3000 miles away stayed with me. In summer of 2006 Sea Kayaker Magazine ran an article from NYS outdoor recreation author Sue Freeman. I was less than a year from my first sabbatical (eight weeks of extra vacation earned every seven years), although a two year old and soon to be 2nd child on the way the next year left little room for big adventure.

In the time between the first sabbatical and second, the number of adventures I sought out had increased, many with the kids joining me, snowshoeing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, camping. I'm proud of the little adventurers they are becoming.

My job changed a few years ago, working twelve hour shifts though the night. I have little human interaction and my mind wanders more and more each passing day. Checking the weather, seeing what friends are up to and planning the next outing. As the fourteen year mark with Intel approached and a chance to escape to the outdoors for a lengthy period of time it was clear what my plan should be.

Camp Night One, Paddle Day Three

Written by Kayaker Chip on . Posted in The Erie Canal 10 Comments

Slept pretty good last night. No one, human or otherwise bothered me. Woke up at 7am to pouring rain, fog sweeping through the canal with a 7mph headwind. So I’ve been taking my time breaking camp, making breakfast and loading the boat back up. I tossed a small handful of blueberries from my yard that were dehydrated into some oatmeal and then attempted some potato pancakes while the berries rehydrated. Pancakes never really browned, but I did forget to pack some cooking oil and water wasn’t cutting it. I’ll try to grab some in the next town. And coffee. I guess I managed to consume my first weeks supply on the drive out from Oregon. more...

Low Bridge, Everybody Down!

Written by Kayaker Chip on . Posted in The Erie Canal

Chip MacAlpine, Erie Canal, Kayaking, Sally Supernova, Wilderness Systems

On the western end of the canal between Buffalo and Rochester there are sixteen lift bridges, there is on additional lift bridge in Fairport, just the other side of Rochester proper. The Erie Canal that exists today is not the same that was originally built in 1825, in fact it was enlarged twice. The first time between the years 1835 and 1862 and the second time in 1918. Each time, the canal was widened and deepened to allow larger cargo vessels and in some places the path was changed, abandoning the previous incarnation. More modern technologies in 1918, allowed the canal to overlap with natural waterways that could now be controlled with the locks, control gates, dams and diversions. more...

Misadventures on the Erie Canal – Day One

Written by Kayaker Chip on . Posted in The Erie Canal

So what does the start of the Erie Canal look like? Well, it was going to take me a couple extra miles of paddling the opposite direction to find out. Of course I did, in order to make it official!

New York State has a lot of information out on the web and in print, although most of it seems geared towards boats of the motorized variety. Docks and moorings sit high above the water where a motorboat can rope up and the crew can step from their vessel to dry land with ease, while a kayak stares on wondering how to get out. more...