A radio conversation with veteran journalist Dennis Webster, WJTN, myself, and the venerable Maggie, on the banks of Lake Chautauqua, Maple Springs, New York.
Paddling through the pandemic to see the country from water level “up close and personal at this interesting time.”
You can read Corey’s entire expedition interview at The New York Times here.
Paddling to the Statue of Liberty: Neal Moore’s grand, bittersweet finale
By Birney Imes
Two years ago as he was beginning a canoe trip that would crisscross America, Neal Moore called a friend, a fellow paddler, who lives on the Hudson River just above New York City. He wanted to know the best time of year to arrive in New York by canoe.
The friend, Ben McGrath, a New Yorker staff writer, said he would consult with a neighbor, who was a more seasoned paddler, and get back with him.
At the time McGrath was completing a book on another long-haul canoeist — one who gave Neal the idea he could travel across the country by connecting rivers and who spent a night in Columbus doing such himself.
The neighbor and Ben agreed, December would be best, after the winds of November and before the snows of winter.
Armed with that information Neal continued the journey he had begun on the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon, with the vague goal of saying hello to Lady Liberty in New York Harbor sometime in December 2021.
Along the way Neal — an expatriate who in his 30 years abroad was a Mormon missionary and an art dealer in Cape Town and an English teacher in Taipei — met Americans of every stripe.
They told him their stories; gave him rides to a store for provisions; provided warm meals and a place to sleep. Some even gave him the keys to their cars.
Occasionally his hosts would paddle with him, an afternoon, a day or several days. Neal invited these kindred spirits, these lovers of nature and flowing water, to join him in New York at the completion of his trip for a celebration.
They could, if they wished, paddle with him on his final lap around the Statue of Liberty.
“I chose to end at the Statue of Liberty because her hand is extended to every American,” Neal told a reporter in Pittsburgh. “We as Americans know if we fall we have the strength to get back up. I want to find what unites us. Because we all know what divides us.”
Neal’s welcoming personality and listening skills draw people out. He makes you feel as though you are part of his journey.
There must be scores of people like friends of Beth’s, who met Neal briefly while he was here, who now follow him on his blog (22rivers.com).
When Neal tied up at the dock near the Riverwalk in early April, he was 6,000 miles into his 7,500-mile journey. He said then he was on schedule to reach New York by December.
Neal’s arrival in Manhattan earlier this month was less than auspicious.
Passing under the George Washington Bridge on an ebbing tide, a strong wind turned his canoe around.
Unable to reposition his boat, he paddled the four miles to his destination backwards, which, as he said, was appropriate “because the whole (west-to-east) journey has been the wrong way.”
When waves splashed water into his boat, he put the Coast Guard on notice he might need help.
“They sent a New York Police Department boat that just went roaring right past me and never came back. It just threw one hell of a wake,” Neal told “Adventure Journal.”
On Tuesday morning at Pier 84 at West 44th Street, nine kayakers, outfitted in wetsuits and dry tops to insulate them from the 45-degree water of the Hudson River, prepared to launch.
Neal, who turned 50 just before reaching New York City, would be paddling the 16-foot red Old Town Royalex canoe he has used for the entire trip. He bought the boat on Facebook Marketplace in San Francisco while he was still in Taipei and had a friend pick it up for him.
Along the way, he’s asked benefactors and people he’s met to inscribe the white interior of his canoe with a Sharpie he carries for that purpose. He said those inscriptions, which now cover the canoe’s white interior, helped sustain him during his long and sometimes trying voyage.
Five of the nine kayakers who paddled with Neal had hosted and paddled with him when he passed through their towns.
Among their number was a registered nurse from Kansas City; a retired educator, who is now an environmental activist from Louisville; an educator from Pittsburgh and a Mississippi River guide from Clarksdale.
The morning was unseasonably warm with a slight breeze.
The paddlers would escort Neal down Manhattan’s lower west side before crossing over to the New Jersey shore, past Ellis Island and on to the Statue.
Two motorboats would accompany the group, one for the media and a rescue boat, one of which would take Neal back once he circled Liberty Island.
Ferry traffic increases in the afternoon and accordingly the waters in that stretch of the Hudson grow more turbulent, the guides for the trip said.
As the group approached the Statue around 1:30 p.m., Neal paddled his canoe out ahead of the flotilla.
Describing his mixed emotions as he approached the Statue, Neal said initially he was ecstatic. “The whole trip came back to me in rapid flashes.”
“And then I was crying,” he said.
“It’s been so much more than a physical trip,” he said. “For the biggest part of the trip, I thought it would go on forever.”
Later that evening about 35 people gathered for a reception at the Manhattan Kayak Club.
Ben McGrath, the “The New Yorker” staff writer who gave Neal scheduling advice, was one of several who spoke. Ben’s piece about Neal’s trip was published in the magazine’s Dec. 20 issue (“After 7,500 Miles, A Long-Haul Paddler Floats Into Town”).
Ben noted how Neal had brought together our geographically disparate group, most of whom did not know one another prior to this event.
We were from Mississippi, Oregon, Montana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York.
“He connected us all and made us friends,” he said.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
By John Ruskey
Now we Paddle for the People, for all Creation ~ by John Ruskey I am the river but I am lonely where are the people? where is creation? 1 A young man set off in a red canoe to find out, to paddle for the people — and all creation in this great nation, from sea to shining sea stroke to the east, stroke to the west leaving the waters of the big whales following inland watery trails he started up the big river Woody Guthrie sang about “Oh, it’s always we’ve rambled, this river you & I All along your green valleys I will work until I die” I see wind surfers and ocean-going freighters but where are the salmon? And those who followed the fish? The First Nation peoples traded up and down the coast and the big rivers of the west in their dugout canoes carved from western red cedar and the Mississippian people carved theirs from cinnamon cypress and did the same up and down the meandering muddy waters of the great heart of this continent, connecting big bony mountain ranges on either side, and the salty sweet Gulf of Mexico in her belly The people of the North Woods stripped giant birches of their skin and crafted the sleekest, fastest, and finest vessels ever European sailors entering the St. Lawrence Seaway were amazed at how nimble the birch bark canoes scooted over the water and now in a red canoe named Shannon, derived from that same tradition a young man starts chopping his paddle left and right back & forth, north & south, east & west stroke to the one you love the best, stroking with unrefined, but dedicated determination and rhythm, and swirls, up and down the same rivers and now we paddle for the people, now we paddle for creationContinue reading “Now we paddle for the people, for all creation”
You can read Jeff’s entire expedition interview at Adventure Journal here.
By Neal Moore
It was always going to be a schlep. While the odyssey’s contorted route – from west [the Pacific coast] to south [the Gulf of Mexico] to north [the Great Lakes] to east [Lady Liberty] – was selected to follow the seasons, to have the chance to be continuous, to make it so, there would inevitably be places where one would need to heave-ho. And the Erie Canal was invariably going to be one of those places.
I got word back in July of this year that the Erie Canal was going to shut down navigation early, on October the 13th. And so, I made the calculation – a barter with myself, and with this voyage – to paddle half of the 350-mile Erie Canal and to portage half.
A balance in all things.
So I had the pleasure to paddle between Buffalo and Syracuse, 170 miles. For the remaining 170 miles, from Syracuse to Waterford, New York – where the Mohawk meets the Hudson – I’d portage along the old Tow Path and the Bicycle Trail.
Which I thought was appropriate, being the spot where mules and horses once hauled barges of goods back and forth before and just after the advent of the nation’s first railroad, which ran and rattled along this very corridor.
Forty-three miles into the march, when I got to Rome, New York, the spot on the map where the first shovel full of earth was dug for the canal on July 4, 1817, the place is known as “The Oneida Carrying Place”.
One can trace the history of this ancient path back in time.
For centuries Indigenous Americans, traders, soldiers, and travelers have crossed over this very path. It is here that goods and ideas were exchanged.
As it turns out, the boats of the Oneida and the European fur traders who came after were flat bottomed, making it easier to lift, to drag and to roll underneath with logs.
In time, with my expedition wheels fastened firmly underneath my canoe and gear, I made the confluence of the Mohawk and the Hudson River. I here pitched my tent, to take in the beauty, to make peace with the final river to be, and to say fare thee well to my old friend, the Mohawk. And with her, my tenure along the Erie Canal.
By Taylor Epps
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A taste of adventure is making it’s way to Buffalo this week, as Lake Erie gets a visit from a unique traveler. Neal Moore has been dubbed a “Modern Day Huckleberry Finn” for his adventures. Right now, he’s in the middle of a canoe trip from Oregon to New York City, crossing 22 states along the way.
“To explore how rivers, people and communities connect, in search of that which unites us as a nation,” Moore said. “To applaud America, our differences and our commonalities from the West Coast to the Statue of Liberty.”
It all started in February 2020 with the goal of listening, documenting and celebrating America. He is 19 months and 7,000 miles into a 22-month, 7,500-mile journey across America.
When the pandemic hit in 2020 he was already on his way to travel through 22 states. Wherever he is in the country, he wakes up at first light, and gets right on the water.
“It’s a moment of release and a moment of pure freedom,” said Moore.
When night falls, he’ll have a quick meal of freeze dried food and set up camp with his tent.
He’s now 19 months in to this routine. Neal will be in Buffalo for two days and will continue his journey on the Erie Canal.
“So I’ll slowly make my way across New York State to Albany to meet the Hudson, which I’ll have the pleasure of being able to come down to New York City,” said Moore.
Mother nature makes canoeing across country for about two years quite interesting. Moore has come across a bull shark, an alligator, a grizzly bear and more. But possibly the scariest is the water itself.
When he got to Lake Erie, he asked some locals in Westfield at Barcelona Beach for advice.
“What do you think about a canoe onto the open lake to make my way to Buffalo,” asked Moore.
The answer: get ready to swim.
He and a friend had to come to shore after waters in Lake Erie got rough a few days ago—so rough they almost didn’t make it in. The water knocked them down and pushed the canoe on top of them. They had to wait for a wave to set them free.
He’ll finish with a few scrapes here and there, but Moore says it’s all part of the journey.
“Nature is one part of it, but really it’s the people,” said Moore.
He says the real goal of this trip was to learn about this country through the people, collecting signatures along the way.
“Folks who I meet up with, new friends, they sign the boat and wish me good luck on the journey,” said Moore.
He’s met with people of all ages, races and origins and says when you piece it all together, you get the story of America.
“In this country we can all listen to, we can all learn the people around us can be our friends as opposed to our adversaries,” said Moore.
He’ll rest here in the 716 for a few days then embark on the next 500 miles. He estimates he’ll get to the Statue of Liberty around December.
By Richard Sayer
This past weekend a wanderer came through Franklin. A seeker really, a documenter, a man alone but among many; a former missionary on a different kind of mission, a paddler.
Neal Moore set out from Oregon on the Columbia River in a red 16-foot Old Town Penobscot Royalex canoe right around the time the Coronavirus was hitting the states. Being alone in a canoe was taking social distancing seriously, but that wasn’t his motivation. This world traveling ex-patriot author and super curious self-identified middle-aged man was going to explore his country of origin after having been away for so long.
“What I’m trying to do traveling across America is to listen and learn,” Moore said about why he is traveling in what would seem an erratic pattern of 22 rivers across the continental United States from Oregon to the Statue of Liberty where he hopes to land in the middle of December.
His stop in Franklin is 19 months into his journey. Along the way he has chronicled his encounters in dozens of handwritten journals, a blog on his website, and instagram account and countless stories that meander in and out of topic like the rivers he paddles.
In fact, he appears to crave meandering. From the swirls sent behind his paddle that mix and move with the current as they become one with the rhythm of the stream, to the mixture of bird calls intertwined with far off car horn reminders that civilization’s hustle and bustle hasn’t stopped during his journey.
“I think a lot,” Moore said about his average 25 miles a day paddling on the rivers. Each place he visits gives him even more to think about, more people to weave into the fabric of his memories, more conversations about life to ponder the similarities we share despite the differences we hold in our outstretched hand stopping ourselves from getting too close to one another. “Once we put the party politics aside we have so much in common,” he said about his many stops along the way meeting people of all walks of life and political ideologies. “I just try to listen, no judgement.”
When he landed on the shore of the Allegheny near where French Creek comes in this weekend it was the same day an article appeared in The Derrick and Hews-Herald about his stop down river in Emlenton a day or two earlier. Oil City’s Gale Boocks, an avid paddler himself back in the day, saw this article and knew he wanted to meet Moore. The next morning he went to where an old paddler would think to find Moore, but no one was there. He, on a hunch, tried the local B and B appropriately named Peddlers & Paddlers and lo’ and behold there was Moore sitting on the front porch talking with new friends.
Boocks sat and joined the conversation and after chatting awhile it dawned on him that he had something he wanted to pass on to Moore. A paddle he used many times on many rivers that was a gift from a person that could be described as a forefather to the modern paddling world. Moore was very familiar with this legend. Verlen Kruger paddled over 100,000 miles in his lifetime, spoke many times about paddling all over the world and authored books on the subject. Moore said he had read Kruger’s books and admired him greatly. Boocks, a preacher, performed Kruger’s wedding vows.
Boocks invited Moore over to stay with he and his wife and sit out back to talk about life and the spirit that moves people to do what they do.
And that’s what they did.
Boocks presented a treasured paddle he had received from Kruger to Moore as a gift. Moore said he never met Kruger. This was quite an honor for him to receive this and vowed to use the paddle as well as eventually find a younger paddler to pass it along to in order to further pay this gift forward.
Moore departed the next day adding Franklin and his encounters to the list of treasured memories and his scratched notes in his journal.
His goal is to get up north while its still milder temperatures knowing it is best to beat the famed western New York first snows of the year on his way to the Hudson. He is hoping to reach the end of his journey, the Statue of Liberty, by December 14. “I’m approaching her from the American side,” he said, adding that this country is so filled with those whose ancestors approached her from the other side, and that many still are. Adding again to the fabric of who each of us are as Americans.
Moore might realize the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but straight lines are boring and zigzagging is more fun and allows more time for reflection and encounters. Making connections is exactly what this journey is all about for him. How we are connected by water, how we are connected by similarities and sometimes even differences, how we connect to strangers and friends alike. That is what hours alone with one’s thoughts can do, find those connections and add them to ones personal spirit that has grown from the experiences.
Moore embraces serendipitous moments, like meeting Boocks and adding him to his tribe. And he added several other Franklinites as well in his short time. Some, like Chamber director Jodi Baker Lewis also want to meet him again along the journey and join for a few miles of paddling and help him celebrate his arrival and end of this part of his journey.
Given his objective, his journey won’t end at Lady Liberty. He is on a journey to seek beyond his own tribe and try to better understand the tribe of humankind.
Understanding America’s heart and soul
Understanding who we are as a people with each stop along the way, Moore examines further the complexities and simplicities that makes Americans, Americans. Sitting on a patio in the back of Gale Boocks‘s house on a Sunday night, waiting for roasted corn and a couple of slabs of meat off the grill, Moore and Boocks shared an experience that can only happen when someone is accepting of a wayward stranger on a long journey. These encounters become beautiful to witness and experience. The many encounters we have in life we take for granted, family, friends, neighbors…. sometimes it takes a stranger to remind us of that we have so much more to learn about each other. And sometimes, how little we know about ourselves.
Moore is getting to know people and by doing so, he is understanding the culture of a place and how each place is different while being the same.
Carrying people with him and how to follow his journey
Moore has been collecting signatures on the canoe. Some have faded or washed off in the journey, but many remain. All who signed are with him in his strength to go on. He has written also a quote from Richard Bock, the famed auther of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “Bad things are not the worst thing that can happen to us, nothing is the worst thing that can happen to us.“
Moore tells a story like following a map of rivers with tangents and off-shoots. He has a penchant for describing adventurers of the highest caliber as “badass.” At 49 he is in the best shape of his life and his body and mind have allowed hime to stay focussed for thousands of miles of hard paddling. He is earning the badass title.Follow his journey on his website at https://22rivers.com/storytelling/ or on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/riverjournalist/?hl=en
Neal Moore is traveling 7,500 miles from Oregon to New York City — in a canoe.
He will cross 22 bodies of water, two of those in Pittsburgh — the Ohio and the Allegheny rivers.
As of Thursday, he had traveled 6,600 miles to date. His goal is to document America from the water.
Moore paddled 890 miles on the Ohio, averaging two miles an hour. He arrived Wednesday and plans to leave here on Monday and travel the Allegheny.
“Yes, it’s a little bit crazy,” said Moore on Thursday as he stood under the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. “The view here is spectacular from this vantage point.”
He said Pittsburgh’s rivers appear to be cleaner than they used to be.
“I want to experience my home country and experience it by seeing so many parts of it up close and personal,” he said.
He said exploring the waterways will give him the opportunity to connect with the people across the country in a unique way.
“Your body adapts to the river,” said Moore who will turn 50 on the trip by the time he finishes at the Statue of Liberty. “I feel like I am in the best shape of my life.”
Moore was raised in Los Angeles but moved to Africa as a teenager where he lived for three decades before returning to the states. People can follow his journey on Instagram.
He has packages sent to various parts of the country to people he has connected with –called River Angels. Items he made need such as a wet suit will be waiting in Buffalo, N.Y. when he gets there.
He eats freeze dried food and drinks lots of water. He said there have been times other boaters have offered him an ice cold beer or pop and “it’s wonderful.”
He doesn’t own a home and sells African art to make money. He has a cell phone and marine radio. He doesn’t have any family. His brother died when Moore was 13. His mom died when he was 19. He said he didn’t have a relationship with his father who died in 2012.
Moore began the journey on Feb. 9, 2020. Moore barely made it out of Oregon 30 minutes before the governor locked down the state because of the coronavirus. There was a nine-day stretch where he didn’t see anyone.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I could have sheltered in place because of the pandemic but for me sheltering in place was canoeing on the water.”
The plan is to dock by mid-December where he hopes to paddle around the Statue of Liberty. Along the way, he has stayed in hotels, camped and with others such as Trish Howison of McCandless, an avid kayaker who heard of Moore’s travels when she was on a trip from the Ohio River to Louisville. She invited him to stay with her.
“Complete strangers will help you out,” she said. “It’s about paying it forward. I love being on the water and I will follow his journey the rest of the way. This is in his blood.”
A kayak would travel faster but Moore likes the analogy of the open canoe. He said it was an early mode of water transportation. He paid $650 for his canoe which weighs 60 pounds and is 16 feet long. He uses paper navigation charts as well as Google maps.
Moore wears muck boots, shorts, a T-shirt, baseball cap and a personal flotation device.
People he meets along the way write messages in the vessel.
“Canoeing I have to endure everything that nature throws at me,” Moore said. “And I have been through hell and high water in it. When it turns the river can become wicked you have to be cautious and know how to read the water. I respect the water.”
New York seemed like the perfect place to end the journey.
“I chose to end at the Statue of Liberty because her hand is extended to every American,” Moore said. “We as Americans know if we fall we have the strength to get back up. I want to find what unites us. Because we all know what divides us. “
West Virginia Public Radio
This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about how we interact with water and our rivers. We’ll hear from people who make their living on the water — like Marvin L. Wooten, a longtime river boat captain. He started working in the riverboat industry in 1979. “I got two job offers the same day, and I took this job,” Wooten said. “My dad always said the river will always be there. So that’s what I’ve chosen to make my living at.”
And we’ll meet Neal Moore, who’s been canoeing for 17 months, on a journey that will cover 7,500 miles coast to coast. Moore hopes to wrap up his 22-month-long trip this December at the Statue of Liberty in New York. Recently, he made his way into Appalachia. “For many days, I’m in the canoe from from first light until last light,” Moore told Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd on a recent stop along the Kanawha River in Charleston, West Virginia.
“I sort of have to find my landlubber legs when I when I step onto a dock like this at times. But for the most part, I actually feel pretty strong,” Moore said.