Messing About in Boats, Boots, and Byways:

Archive of all Erie Canal Journal entries for 2003


Sunset on the canal.

    One of our favorite destinations is the Erie Canal, which originally began in downtown Buffalo, and later when the canal was widened and renamed the Erie Canal Barge Canal, the canal began, and still begins, at North Tonawanda on the Niagara River where Tonawanda Creek empties into the river.

    We have biked in five-mile bites from Lockport to Brockport, and we've rowed a time or two, too.



Ducks anchor empty canal in mid-winter


    Two views: Ducks rule the roost at the Medina Lift Bridge on a sunless day on the Erie Canal.


    04 January 03: We stopped off at the Medina Lift Bridge to take some pix on our way to Lakeside Beach State Park to do some snowshoeing. I'm determined to take a set of pix of the Erie Canal in all weathers at roughly monthly intervals.


A cold time was had by all

This is the downstream of the two lift bridges in Brockport. The view is to the north.


While I was taking pictures, three men were working down in the canal bed. They were installing scaffolding. Don't know why.


Looking downstream through the girders of the lift bridge.It was 18 degrees F., and a brisk wind was blowing, too.


Telephoto shot of the upstream lift bridge at Brockport. That's a work barge under the bridge.
    25 January 03: It was a cold day on the canal at Brockport, but that just made for some great pictures. More pix and text here.


Suddenly, snowmobiles at 50 mph

I'm new to the habits of the Mountain Ash and am fascinated that the red berries are still hanging from the bare trees. These trees are on the edge of the escarpment in Lockport near the downtown district.


We check in on the canal at Middleport and find the snow deeper than last month.


OK. That blur of powder is a snowmobile doing about 50 mph on the towpath.


A collision of rock, snow, and tree; or, Three Textures in Search of Harmony. You get the idea.


Camera serves up 6X telephoto view of the canal looking downstream and east at the launch ramp below Middleport. The telephoto heightens the sweep of the curve in the canal and deepens the drama.


Dead but not forgotten.


Not dead but only resting.


    15 February 03: The Reverend and I went up to the Erie Canal at the launch ramp below Middleport this afternoon to take pictures for a monthly series we've been developing of this spot in all seasons.

    It was bitterly cold -- 12 degrees F. when we left Buffalo and 15 degrees F. in Lockport on the way home. The wind was fresh, too, so being out for long was chilling to the core. The canal was lovely as ever, and we saw from the packed foot of snow that we could snowshoe there now. While we were there, though, on the south bank of the canal, a snowmobile flew by on the towpath on the other bank. It must have been going at about 50 miles per hour. I would hate to meet a maniac like that in that spot. The letter of the law is no motorized vehicles on the towpath; the reality is that people with their own ideas break the laws concerning snowmobiles and the occasional personal watercraft doing far in excess of the 10 mph. water speed limit. Still, snowshoeing sounds exciting; we just don't know which bank would be safer.

    The main change in the canal is a greater depth of snow in the bottom of the canal as well as on the banks. The canal in winter is beautiful in ways we didn't expect until we started making trips to see.


The Ides of March: Be there!

    Shakespeare says, "Beware the Ides of March."

    I say, "The Ides of March -- be there!"

    15 March 03: We went up to the Erie Canal at Middleport Guard Gate for our monthly photo op. It was a sunny and warm (!!!) day, for a big change. There is still six inches of packed snow on the south bank of the canal, but the north bank is largely snow-free. The bottom of the canal is still choked with snow, and the snowmobilers have been having some fun there.

    It is heart-warming to realize that the canal will be filled in about six weeks from now. We have some melting and warming to do before then, but I'm sure we'll get there if it don't get dark on us ... .

The dock below Middleport on the canal offers a contrast to the regular line of snowmobile tracks in the canal bed.
I love the sweep of the bend in the canal downstream from the dock.
Our first robin of spring hops along on the north towpath across from the dock.

The Middleport Guard Gate stands in the same configuration it has had since last fall. You can see the snow still in force on the south side and the thaw in progress on the north side of the canal.

I took a picture of this derelick boat a few months ago when we went showshoeing at Hamlin Beach State Park. Couldn't resist taking another pic today after we left the canal and took the Lake Ontario Expressway toward Rochester.


Canal passes monthly checkup

    12 April 03: We took a ride up to the Middleport Guard Gate for our monthly check of the canal. Compared to last month, with its packed snow and icy wind, today's trip was a lark. Temps of 50 degrees F. or so and light and friendly wind made for a pleasant outing.

    In a few weeks, the canal will be filled again. The state Canal Corporation has announced that the beginning date of the navigation season is May, weather permitting.


The big bend below the Middleport Guard Gate and the boat launch ramp shows the remains of this past winter's heavy snowfall.
The snow that remains plays well against the darker rocks of the canal bank. Guard Gate in background.
To get a bit more specific on the issue of snow and rock ... .

Lines of snow that won't be there in the morning.

All it takes is a little water and a bit of sun for the reflective aspect of the canal to be back in force.


Canal full and ready to roll

Larger version of pic here.


    03 May 03: I checked on the Erie Canal a few days ago, and it was more than half-full. Today, we went up to Lockport to launch the Quark, and the canal was full. The official start of the Navigation Season is Monday, May 05.

    The Quark launch was less than successful.


I'm tying up the Quark at Widewater in Lockport on the freshly refilled Erie Canal.


The difference was in the dusk

    19 May 03: We went up to the Erie Canal at Middleport for our monthly check-in; this time we went close to dusk, and it was beautiful to behold. It was strange to be so near the water yet not upon it, but we are waiting for warmer temperatures. We were wearing coats, so it may be a while before we take the Harmonica out.

Setting sun catches fire in the trees beside the canal.
Gap in the trees casts its reflection in the water.
Middleport Guard Gate up and even, finally, after being up at left and down at right all winter.
Flowering trees were in evidence.
Cold but not too cold for a fisherman on the dock.


GPS says 1.4, 2.5 ... 3.5 wide open

    15 May 03: We went up to the Erie Canal at the Middleport launch ramp for our monthly check on the canal. It also was the first time that we took the Harmonica out this year.

    The Reverend, using her new GPS wristwatch, reported that the Harmonica topped out at 1.4 mph going against the current, 2.5 going with the current on setting 4 (out of 5), and 3.5 wide open (a practice that would drain the battery in about 45 minutes).

    The thing that was different about the canal this time was the presence of cottonwood tree fluff -- so much that the water was two-toned. We also came upon a gaggle of geese, with two drakes and a bunch of juvenile females.

    We received the usual shouted compliments from folk on the banks in their backyards; I often wonder if that will ever become tiresome. Somehow I doubt that it will, because it is sharply pleasant to be a blessing.

    I neglected to post the pix from our check-in of the canal last month. They are here, finally.

The Reverend checks our speed on the GPS.
Middleport Guard Gate from the Harmonica.
Cottonwood tree fluff flocks the canal surface.
The wildflowers were out. These are some sort of daisy.
We came upon a flock of geese, with two drakes and a gaggle of juvenile females. When they saw us, they formed a single file and moved slowly in the other direction.
More cottonwood fluff.
Big piece of driftwood has what appears to be a shark fin attached.
These were yellow iris, escapes from someone's yard.
These quail-like birds were doing a mating dance on the bank.
On the return leg of the trip, we encountered the geese again. This guy hissed at us.
Lovely ladies head for safety.
The shadows were deepening as we went back under the Guard Gate.
Another fine day on the water.


Dog day afternoon

    06 July 03: To cap our holiday weekend, we took the Harmonica up to Widewater and spent a few hours on the Erie Canal. It was fine and hot to begin but cool and lovely by the time we got back to the dock at dusk.

    We're still scheming on when we'll spend the night drifting on the canal. Soon, I think.

    I'm also realizing that we are beginning to repeat ourselves as far as put-in places go on the section of the canal that we like. It's still wonderful to simply be in a boat on the water, though.

It was a dog day afternoon, but in a good way. This bird dog was retrieving a ball for its humans.
And this little Scotty was topside in a big power boat form Boston, MA. Notice the wake that our little cork boat has to deal with when the big boats go by.
Reflections of plant and rock
Reflections with light variations.
Mirror image of rock and substantial rock reflection.


Dazzling dark, bright shadows

    18 July 03: We visited the Erie Canal at the Middleport boat launch for our monthly check on the canal. We had a free evening, which made for some beautiful sunset views and pix.

    The evening was cool. A sweater would have been a good idea.

    I was mesmerized by the diagonal ripples of the bow wake the Harmonica made, after dark, as we drew near to the dock.

    The yuloh that I made came along for its first trip on the boat; I have a lot to learn about its use, but it promises to be interesting and useful. I tried it off-center, with a big wood clamp to keep it in place. I'll work on that, too.


Three teenaged anglers hold down the dock at Middleport boat launch, with Guard Gate in the background.
Another substantial reflection.
Seconds later, the setting sun set the thing on fire.


We'll get there if it don't get dark

    30 July 03: We took a ride on the Erie Canal and stayed way after dark, which I love to do.

    From the launch ramp at Albion, we went up the canal to a big lake connected to the canal at Presbyterian Road, near Eagle Harbor.

    It was a day for animals -- a chipmunk with the biggest cheeks and body I've ever seen, a woodchuck, and a friendly dragonfly. I got pix of all of these.

    The weather was perfect, and promised to be the last good day of low humidity for about a week.


The Guard Gate at Albion shares the horizon with a bridge just downstream, making for an interesting shot.
Looking back, the Guard Gate from the other side, with the bridge beyond.
I had good luck on this day with snapping shots that were fleeting. Here, a piece of dandelion fluff floats past the boat.
This chipmunk ran along the bank, from rock to rock, leading us up the canal for at least 200 yards. He finally went into the fields. He had the biggest body and fattest cheeks of any chipmunk I've ever seen.
Friendly dragonfly lands briefly on the Reverend's hand.
Reflections along the canal near Eagle Harbor Lift Bridge.
This is the Eagle Harbor Lift Bridge, with a blue ladder for painting the structure in place. All the lift bridges compete for awards based on appearance.
Tiny Methodist Church on the Tow Path in Eagle Harbor.
Big woodchuck suns self near Eagle Harbor.
Beautiful brick farmhouse on the south bank of the canal near Eagle Harbor.
Combine harvests wheat.
Combine again.
Angler tries one last cast as the sun sets. This is across the canal from a large lake connected to the canal at Presbyterian Road.
Setting sun lights the sky on fire at Presbyterian Road.
A few minutes later, the angler is gone and the tones have turned to pink.

Never a dull moment on the canal

    12 September 03: We have been checking the Erie Canal at the Middleport Launch Ramp and Guard Gate for about a year now, once a month, around the 15th. This time yielded a variety of images -- the usual reflections in the water, but also some fall color, a car on the towpath (strictly illegal), and a sunset of great beauty.

    The year is moving toward cooler days and nights, and the temperatures on this trip were almost perfect. It's always a treat to go out together in the Harmonica.

    We put in at Middleport Launch Ramp and headed downstream to Medina and back, about 5 miles total and three hours or so on the water.


Middleport Guard Gate in the afternoon shadows.
Car scoots down the towpath, which is reserved for biking and walking. Strictly illegal and extremely dusty.
It's the time of year for the beauty and the irritation -- goldenrod.
A spot of fall color.
Reflections in water and stone.
More reflections.
Maple sports its fall colors.
Evening light, strong shapes.
Rocky zig and zag.
Ducks in a row at dusk, framed by the Harmonica.
Water intensifies the sky's colors.
The reflection is so intense that it looks like the sky has been turned inside out.
Then there was fire and flames.
Blues yield to reds and yellows.
Another inside out effect.
The reflection sharpens the sky's image.
What planet is this, Sherman?
As the sun sets and the light show ends, the water begins rolling back to its usual appearance.


Fall colors drop in on the canal

    11 October 03: This marks about the 12th month that we've been visiting the canal at Middleport Guard Gate. The story this time was the fall colors and falling leaves.

    We put in at the boat launch near the Guard Gate and went upstream to the Middleport Lift Bridge and back, at dusk. It was a warm and beautiful fall day. After a week of frosty temperatures, this was an unexpected treat.

Red hues of fall offer a variation on the theme of reflections.
The color of the day was red; the yellows and oranges aren't in force yet.
The canal is never the same twice, and I never tire of its offerings.
Middleport Guard Gate with bicycles and red fall colors.
Rippling water reflects those reds from the bank.
More fall reds of reflection.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky, which made for a subtle sunset.
Looking east out the back of the boat while heading west.
The Reverend helps two boaters rescue their pumpkin, which had tumbled overboard. We were able to effect a rescue with a few strokes of the yuloh.
They head back to their boat, pumpkin in hand, on the towpath.
Orange finish to a red day on the water.


Canal -- drained but not tiresome

    28 December 03: We wanted to see the canal for a last photo op of the year 2003, and being blessed with a sunny, blue-sky day in the 60s, we chose Brockport in late afternoon.

    I didn't know what to expect, but the last thing I would have expected is what I found. A foot or two of water in the bottom of the winter-drained canal to reflect the strong shapes on the bank in mirror image.


Late afternoon sun lights up the canal, drained of all but a foot or two of water.
Strong diagonals mark pic of the downstream bridge in Brockport.
A little water and a lot of exposed bank just upstream from the upper bridge over the canal in Brockport.
This brick beauty towers over -- and under -- the upper bridge at Brockport.
The lower bridge tower and its brother reflect the afternoon sun.
A block in from the canal, this urban artifact still sells soap in story-high letters on an old brick building.
"Ivory Soap ... It Floats ... Lathers freely ... Rinses readily." Amen.



& Perkins

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