LYONS — One year ago Brad Tallent from Baton Rouge, La. and Austin Graham from Dayton, Tenn. met in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail. On Sunday evening, Oct. 6, they tented on the banks of the Erie Canal in Lyons. Brad and Austin are currently paddling their kayaks on the Erie Canal as part of their 5,000-mile journey from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico.
Austin and Brad celebrated Father’s Day, 2013, by launching their kayaks in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. They began their long paddle at Cheticamp, Nova Scotia, on the Cape Breton Islands. They hope to arrive at their final destination, the Gulf of Mexico, by Christmas.
One day in an effort to capture predicted winds and hasten their journey, they mounted huge home- made sails on their kayaks. According to Brad, “That was not a brilliant move- when the winds suddenly caught us; we ended up over and under our kayaks”! They also have gained a new appreciation and respect of labels- just because the label says that the radio or camera is waterproof does not mean that it really is. Austin stated that he would advise future kayakers on the Erie Canal to “go with the flow” rather than fight the current. Brad mentioned that he was surprised how much he really, really missed his girlfriend!
When asked if they had any “ah- hah” moments in regard to the Erie Canal, Brad and Austin both expressed their awe relating to the following: a 150 year old double lock, so short and so shallow; the concept of locks opening and closing totally on water power; the apparent work ethic and craftsmanship involved in the digging and completion of the canal; the indescribable natural beauty along the canal banks; the awesome feeling of being a part of history, if only for a few days, while traveling the canal itself — the experience makes a person want to return and learn more.
Indeed, Brad and Austin are not traveling in a packet boat. Their trip is sponsored by Johnson Outdoors of Old Town, Maine. They are equipped with “Necky” Kayaks, “Extra Sport” life jackets, and “Carlisle” paddles. They drink a minimum 4 liters of water a day and carry provisions for 6-10 days. They tent or sleep “wherever”.
The Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the town of Nicolette, sleeping on the banks of the Richelieu River, hiking on the International Appalachian Trail, crossing Lake Champlain, entering the Flight of Five at Waterford, and kayaking the Erie Canal through the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge are all early chapters of the odyssey — yet to be completed is the Western Erie Canal, Lake Erie, the Michigan Peninsula, approaching Chicago, entering the Mississippi, and heading south to the Gulf of Mexico- all before ol’ man winter begins to show his presence.
While celebrating Brad’s birthday and waiting out a huge rain storm at McDonald’s in Lyons, the “Gulf Odyssey Guys” were intrigued to hear about local history — crockery in Clyde, peppermint in Lyons, roses in Newark, Erie Canal stores and Mormon faith beginnings in Palmyra, and mills and tanneries in Macedon. Brad and Austin are part of a new fast growing group- state, national, and international long distance kayakers experiencing history on the Erie Canal.
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