Erick Tichonuk, Little Falls, NY
The Mohawk Valley is a beautiful series of lush green rolling hills cascading away from the river. It’s not uncommon to see Bald Eagles perched in trees or deer drinking from the river banks. Farm fields abound, and the landscape is only periodically cut by the occasional town or lock along the river. As you continue to gain elevation the hills get closer and the railroad and I-90 corridor close in, nearly touching one another, making the juxtaposition of three forms of transportation very poignant.
Nowhere is the closeness of the Mohawk hills more prominent than in Little Falls. Gneiss rock begin forming sheer walls where rock climbers find vertical bliss. Just when you wonder how a vessel could possibly climb this impasse, there, looming before you, is the mighty lock 17. This lock is the tallest in the system with a 40’ lift, and the only regular lock with a guillotine gate, raising vertically, dangling seemingly precariously overhead, but only to drip water on you as you pass under. The canal snakes along westward with cliff on the left, river on the right, and the picturesque community of Little Falls across the way. This is one of the few places where the 20th Century Barge Canal still follows the historic route of its predecessors.
Canal Harbor and Rotary Park in Little Falls has gotten a very good reputation amongst boaters and is now under the supervision of Harbor Master Mark Roy. The park is well kept with a cascading fountain. The former canal facility building has been converted into a boaters haven, with clean showers and rest rooms and a lounge. The Erie Canalway Trail follows a former rail bed and for the ambitious gives access to historic sites such as the Herkimer House. We welcomed aboard well over 400 visitors in our weekend stop in Little Falls, some of them old friends like Tom Ryan. Tom not only gave us a lift to the grocery store, he even loaned us his car so we could go back to Fonda to strip the running rigging from our masts, get them organized and covered until our return in the fall.
We were sad to see Jeff and Churchill Hindes, and our Maritime Apprentices Oliver Cole and Brandon Hanley pack up their bags, but the time had come for another rotation. New energy had arrived in the form of Americorp Member Matt Harrison, long-time volunteer Rosemary Zamore, and new comer from Moriah, Myles Madill. After an orientation and port safety briefing our newcomers were on the job, welcoming visitors.
The weather threw a heavy thunderstorm our way causing the Mohawk to rise a solid foot in just a few hours, but just as quickly it resided. It’s a dynamic and often challenging body of water, one this Captain will be okay having in the rear view mirror. As much as I love the scenery, the communities and the people, unpredictable weather like this year keeps your Spidey senses on alert.