On June 16, we were still at the campground located in Verona Beach. In the morning, it rained heavily and by afternoon, the wind started to pick up. The following day, however, we were able to leave Verona Beach and cross Lake Oneida. The conditions were superb and the crossing went smoothly. We arrived in the afternoon at Lock # 23. We had already planned to spend the night there. When we arrived, we were surprised to learn that locks 23, 24 and 25 were closed. No traffic was allowed because of the very high level of water. We also learned that at the lock 24, two kayakers had died the previous week. They were two brothers out fishing. They approached too closely to the dam. One of them got sucked up and the other tried to help. They were not wearing life jackets. They had no chance to survive. It is a sad story that reminds us the importance to respect the water, know our abilities and to always wear a life jacket.
While we were looking for ways to move beyond the 50 miles separating us from lock 25, the lock master of Lock 23 contacted his employer, the New York State Canal Corporation (NYSCC), and informed them of our situation. The next day we had transportation provided by the NYSCC. Early morning, Mike drove us to Oak Orchard Marina & Campground, located just after lock 25. On our way, he gave us lots of information about the canal and the villages we passed. Since the beginning of our journey into the Erie Canal, we have met only good people and dedicated employees working for the NYSCC. A big huge thank you to NYSCC and its employees for their help, their service, and kindness.
On June 18 and 19, we camped at Oak Orchard Marina & Campground. Once again we were very well received. Our neighbours took great care of us. Jasmine received a box of biscuits. The owners of the campground also gave us hot dogs. Like the rest of the region, the campsite here was flooded. Fortunately, we notice that the water is receding rapidly day to day.
The morning we left the campground on June 20, we found that an important piece of our equipment was missing. We forgot the axles we use for our portage system in the pickup truck. They must have moved during the drive and probably got under other equipment in the box of the truck. We tried to contact the person responsible at NYSCC but, being the weekend, we had to resign ourselves to wait until the following Monday. So we started paddling with the intention to get to lock 27 located in Lyon. When we arrived at Lock 26, we learned that this lock was also closed. We had to make a long portage, the traditional way!
At Lyon’s lock (# 27), we had the pleasure of locking with another canoe. On board was a 99 year old lady with her two sons. She explained that she had always lived in the region, on a farm located 3 miles west of the lock. She saw the evolution of the canal, but never had the chance to go through a lock. Her sons helped her to realize her dream.
During the day, it was very hot. In Lyon, we were able to get to the grocery store and buy, among other things, a watermelon. What a treat! We set up camp in a park adjacent to the lock. The police gave us permission to stay for the night. We even received an offer to camp at the fire station where we could use the showers. Unfortunately, portaging in the streets without our wheel system was too laborious.
The next day, we left under a bright sun for a very hot day. We stopped at Lock 30. The park is really nice and there is even a boat ramp. There is also an interpretive trail teaching about butterflies and birds. We stayed two nights at this place. In the morning of June 22 (Monday) we were able to contact the person that could help us at NYSCC (Paul). They had found and kept our precious pieces of equipment. The next day, we finally retrieved our axles. What happiness! Thank you to Paul and his team and again, congratulations to NYSCC for the quality of its service and its employees!
In the afternoon of June 22, we had the great pleasure of getting to know Ena & Myrko, two Germans, who like us, decided to sell everything and head out on a journey. They started cycling in Germany two months ago. They have a pretty good idea of where they want to go and hope to pedal for the next 3 years. We had a lot of fun with them. We wish them great adventures and hope to be able to meet again one day.
On Wednesday June 23, at lunch time, we started paddling again. We went in at Lock 32 (there is no lock 31 on the Erie Canal). We only had a small distance to cover, but because of the strong wind and the current, it took a long time. Our camp was located between the bicycle path and the lock. This allowed us to make nice encounters, like the one with Mr. Kirby. This nice gentleman gave us plenty of information about where we could stop to camp along the next section of the canal.
Thursday, June 24, we passed through several pretty villages with murals on the bridge piers. In Brockport, at the Welcome Centre, where we stopped for the night, we were warmly welcomed. We camped on the lawn next to the Centre. We had access to all the facilities. The village is charming, the people are nice. It is definitely worth the trip to Brockport.
We left Brockport to get to the village of Medina. On the way, we saw a lot of deer and fish, including smallmouth bass. This fish species is native to the Great Lakes and it is only since the opening of the Erie Canal that the smallmouth bass has been found in this region.
In Medina, we camped right downtown. Although we were on the edge of the water, we were also behind the buildings of the main street. There was a lot of action at night and we did not sleep much. The city is pretty and we treated ourselves by buying good bread from an artisanal bakery.
On June 26 (Friday), we got to Lockport. We stopped at the public marina located just before the last two locks (34 and 35). We received the okay to set up camp. We know that the next two days will bring a lot of rain and strong winds, so will probably spend the weekend here.
By late afternoon, we had the pleasure of meeting Jim. We loved our conversation with him. He offered to drive us to his cottage on Lake Ontario to spend a dry weekend. Then we met another canoe enthusiast, Joe, with his 3½ years son, also Joe. Joe, Marnie and their son Joe came to visit in the evening. They had it all planned to spend a wonderful evening with us. We had a lot of fun and have many common interests. Marnie also gave me a pair of pants (mine have holes everywhere with so many repairs). What a joy to have met them. Thank you to the three of you for three wonderful evenings, your help, your kindness, your hospitality and all the nice surprises!
Today, June 27, we set up our camp in the morning and strung our tarp. The rain started at about 10:00, and the winds intensified in the afternoon. Jim came back to make sure we were doing fine. He brought us very good hot soup and reiterated he was there to help us. Thank you very much Jim!