2013-10-08 11.47.29
Leah and Steve Martaindale

To hear many of our friends tell it, we’ve devised a perfect retirement plan. Well, we’re certain it’s perfect for us.

More about that later, if you’re interested, but first for the topic at hand.

We are Steve and Leah Martaindale, a pair of 60ish Texans who plan to hike the Erie Canal, starting at the Niagara River near Buffalo in Tonawanda, N.Y., finishing where the Mohawk River joins the Hudson River in Cohoes, N.Y., near Albany.

Our plan right now is to strike out from the Niagara on the morning of Wednesday, May 4. If things work out, we’ll arrive at the Hudson on Tuesday, June 7. Thirty-one of those days we will walk, anywhere from 6 miles to 18 miles a day. Four rest days are included.

Along the way, we will snap photos, chat with people and, in general, soak up all we can about this amazing piece of construction from the early 19th century, as well as the towns along the way. A sampling of what we find will fill this blog during those five weeks.

Then, if there appears to be an interest, we will string together everything for a part guide book, part travel book. Slipping out of first person, here is more information, if you are interested.

More background

Steve and Leah have been married 38 years and are beginning their fourth summer living their retirement dream.

Leah taught in public schools for 25 years and Steve spent more than 20 years working in daily newspapers, among other things. He then started writing a series of murder mysteries, which he continues with Leah’s input and assistance.

From October 2006-February 2007, he had the opportunity to work in Antarctica writing about scientific research and life on the Ice. It was there he became aware of people who purposely worked temporary, seasonal jobs and used free time between said jobs to see the world.

Steve and Leah were still considering how to make their own magic work in the fall of 2011, when a tumor was discovered in his bladder. It was caught early and successfully removed and he continues regular checkups and is doing great.

That experience underscored the realization tomorrow is never a guarantee and it pushed them to take action. Leah was eligible for retirement by the spring of 2013 and they set their target date. They sold their little house in the country and bought a fifth-wheel travel trailer that’s now been their home for almost four years.

But they couldn’t afford to travel full time on one retirement check. Plus, they liked the idea of thoroughly exploring one area at a time. So, for the summer of 2013, they both got jobs working in Yellowstone National Park. The next year, they worked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Last year, they shifted gears and worked at a theme park in western New York, Darien Lake Amusement Park.

While exploring New York, they visited Lockport and rode a tourist boat through a couple of canal locks, they saw the towpath trail and, pretty much on the spot, decided to walk the canal. It’s actually to honor Leah’s upcoming 60th birthday. She had expressed a desire to hike the 100-mile-long Lone Star Trail as her birthday present. Cool, but the Erie Canal seemed cooler.

Neither of them had any desire to camp out or to carry all the gear and supplies that required, so they have cobbled together an itinerary with stops every night at a bed and breakfast or a motel. That also gives them more opportunities to meet other people along the way. When they finish the trek, they will return to work their second season at Darien Lake.

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