two thousand twenty
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STORY AND PHOTO BY: Robert Stopper, Lyons
John Stookey of Sheffield Massachusetts is celebrating his 85 Birthday by canoeing and hitchhiking the entire length of the Erie Canal- against the current.  John paddled out of Waterford and headed west in early May and hopes to be in the Tonawanda area sometime this fall.  He arrived in Lyons on Saturday, August 30, 2014.
John Stookey - Canoeist and Hitchhiker
John is travelling in a very light- weight Kevlar canoe. He is able to mount and dismount the canoe from his van without assistance; however, because the canoe is so light in weight, John places two 20 pound weights in the bow  as a “pretend” person to balance out the load.
So how does John really get from point A to point B? John canoes to a particular destination, chains his canoe to an available anchor sight, then picks up his hitchhiking signs from the bow of the canoe- “Elderly canoeist ahead” and “Seeks ride to car”. 
According to John, “People so far have been wonderful. They pick me up and offer to help me out in any way possible”. After several days of paddling against the current, John returns home for a few days to revitalize and study maps for a future paddle.
John is no stranger to canoeing and survival along waterways. John has paddled many miles in the Okefenokee Swamp. On another memorable trip, John and several friends spent 5 days and 4 nights paddling the waterways within the New York City Limits!   According to John, “This trip on the Erie Canal is a bit difficult going into the current and sometimes a challenge at the locks, but I think my favorite memory so far is canoeing The Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, 750 miles in length, begins in Old Forge, NY and ends in Kent, Maine.  Johns says, “Canoeing that trail and knowing that it was the waterway of native and Early American Settlers is quite an experience. It is live history!”
On behalf of Lyons, NY and the NYS Canal Corporation, “Thank you, John, for choosing the Erie Canal as part of your 85 birthday celebration- making 350 miles of history come alive. Congratulations and Happy Birthday!”  


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