Erie Canal Trail
10:00 am
Mon July 7, 2014

A Different Way to Traverse the Erie Canal: Veteran Through-Hiking It

Scott Armstrong plans to walk the entire Erie Canal trail this summer.
Scott Armstrong plans to walk the entire Erie Canal trail this summer.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

CORRECTION: WAER HAS UPDATED THIS STORY TO CORRECT  THE NAME OF SCOTT 'ATLAS' BENJAMIN.

The last time we brought you stories about the Erie Canal we were following bicyclists making the journey from Buffalo to Albany. This Fourth of July weekend we found the story of a man who’s traversing the same route – on foot.  Scott 'Atlas' Benjamin is a veteran who injured his back in the Army…but finds he can hike long distances.  And he finds the Canal can be an entry for others into hiking because it’s mostly flat.

“The more I think about it I think how wonderful that is for people having trouble dealing with the extreme rises and falls of some of the other hiking trails.  First time hikers, older hikers, people just trying to get into figuring out if hiking is something they want to do, it gives them an opportunity to experience what hiking is without having such extreme physical trauma to their bodies.”   

Benjamin says growing up in Western New York, the history of the canal always fascinated him.  There’s also great scenery – but another feature appeals to him most.

“The scenery is beautiful.  It’s been nice to see some orchards, and fields and wild animals running around.  But you can only see so many geese before you get tired of seeing geese.  But it’s always the people; it’s the random encounters; it’s coming across a little house in Amherst and going ‘wow, this place looks pretty cool, let me stop and talk with these people.’”

Scott 'Atlas' Armstrong on the Erie Canal Trail in Western New York.
Scott 'Atlas' Armstrong on the Erie Canal Trail in Western New York.
Credit Scott Armstrong

  He also emphasizes the value of the quest itself.

“When you complete something like a through-hike, whether it be a shorter trial like the Erie Canal at 400 miles or the Appalachian trail at over 2000 miles, there’s a sense of accomplishment because with each and every aching foot step you’ve taken, there’s a part of your mind that’s going, ‘man I could be sitting at home on my recliner right now watching a football game.’  Whereas when you finish that goal, you’ve really accomplished something.”

Benjamin expects to average 10-to-15 miles a day on his journey.  He spent Sunday night near Macedon…and continues on the trail this week.  You can follow his progress on his blog at trail-journals.com.

His trip is being promoted as another use for the trail by Parks and Trails, New York, which publishes materials for people to utilize the trail system.