The heat is on

Mohawk River in Utica
Looking down on the Mohawk River in Utica, N.Y.


Friday was a different day.

Due to the distance we had to go, our location in Rome that was nowhere near the trail and the fact we were already tired and looking at unpleasant walking weather … we called a cab to take us to the trailhead, cutting off some three miles of city walking, much of which we had already seen. It was 10 bucks well spent.

En route, we had an interesting visit with our Elite Taxi driver, Jennifer.

Like most upstate New Yorkers, she wants people elsewhere in the country to understand that residents here and life here is nothing like New York City, which is only a 5-hour drive away. In fact, she said she had only been there once … well, twice back-to-back.

She said she was actually making her first visit to the Big Apple on Sept. 11, 2001, when the terrorists attacks took place. Fortunately for her, she was driving. Though it took her several hours to work her way out, she eventually got home.

However, as an emergency medical technician with the local department, she simply gathered her gear and returned with others from her area to help search for survivors and victims of the bombings.

The 9/11 tragedy affected our entire nation, but this was not the first time I have had the opportunity to understand that people who live so much closer to New York City had a more intimate and rawer relationship with the event than those of us hundreds of miles away.

Jennifer dropped us at the trailhead and we headed out before 8 a.m. We’re starting much earlier now that the weather has warmed up. Even so, the humidity had us sweating in no time.

Regardless, we felt good. The day off Thursday had our feet feeling light and pains were minimal. There also weren’t many distractions and we set a good pace.

There was one stop though. A lone bicyclist was approaching us. Our practice when meeting others on the trail is for Leah to slip in behind me to give everyone room. As the guy neared us, I spotted a snake lounging across our side of the trail and I stopped short, reaching back to take Leah’s hiking pole in order to prod it to move on.

Meanwhile, the cyclist rolled to a stop and commented on how he has to be on the lookout to avoid hitting snakes and other critters. I decided the snake was dead when it didn’t respond to the pole and the three of us talked for a few minutes.

We mainly learned two things from the cyclist. He had worked with some airline in the past and he hadn’t driven a car in 11 years.

One other thing … he visited Texas once while driving cross-country to California. He drove through the Lubbock area. His remembrances were that you could see forever and that residents got around in airplanes instead of pickups. We didn’t bother trying to make him understand what a small sampling of Texas that was.

Anyway, once he rode off, I resumed to move the snake just so its body wouldn’t startle anyone else and, lo and behold, it was alive … just very, very still.

After six miles following the old canal, we emerged in Oriskany. Across the street was the Oriskany Diner where we had kind of planned a lunch and rest room break, but our early start and quick pace got us there too early. Hey, there’s no bad time for breakfast, so we reloaded. I had biscuits and gravy.

Soon, after a half-mile roadside walk north, we were hoofing along the trail again but we were back alongside the active canal. However, our feet were no longer light nor our pace as lively.

The temperature was rising through the 80s and the humidity had not slipped enough. Undoubtedly, our second breakfast wasn’t helping any, either. We only had eight miles to go when we left the diner, but they dragged by.

To compensate for the conditions, we drank more water than we had been.

Now, staying hydrated has been a tricky thing for us. We know we need to be drinking, but there are many times finding a place to pee is downright challenging. So, we tend to just sip water as we go to balance out what we’re sweating and try to keep from building up too much in our bladders.

The struggle is real, my friends.

Also, water is heavy, so we’ve both been not quite filling our bottles because we had not been needing it all. Less weight to carry, don’t you know.

Friday, though, we were downing water faster than usual. We both continued to try and spread out our supplies but knew we were cutting it close. We were less than two miles from our destination, crossing a railroad track, when we spotted a bottle of water on the ground.

Hamming it up with found water
Hamming it up with found water.

I suspect the tracks jostled it loose from some biker and we both hoped he or she was carrying more. The bottle cap was sealed but the contents were hot. No surprise because our water bottles were pretty warm by this point.


We were tickled to have it, as Leah’s hammed up photo illustrates our physical state at the time. As it happened, we did not use the found bottle, but simply having it as a reserve made it less challenging mentally.

We made it to our air-conditioned room, shower and fresh water not a minute too soon. Instead of walking an additional mile or so for dinner, we had pizza delivered to the motel.

I’m writing this Saturday morning and we have another rest day. Due to the way the schedule came together – building it from multiple spots instead of along a single timeline, we were/are off Thursday, Saturday and Monday. When we start walking Tuesday morning, it will be on the last eight days of our trek.

On one hand, it’s difficult to believe we’re already on Day 25. But then, I looked through some earlier photos for something and it seemed like the things there happened three months ago.

Oh, an update on our kayaking friend from earlier. I’ve been following her on her Instagram and last night she pitched her tent about six miles further up the canal. This is the first time we’ve been close since we met her because she had to stay on the water and our trail led us away from it the past few days. With us taking off today and Monday, I’d say it’s unlikely we’ll meet up again unless she does the same.

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