From sea to shining sea: Cross-country canoeist stops in Baldwinsville
BALDWINSVILLE — For Neal Moore, the magic number is 22.
Moore, an outdoorsman and writer, is in the home stretch of a 22-month journey that has led him through 22 rivers across 22 states. His website, 22rivers.com, chronicles his 7,500-mile journey canoeing — and carrying his canoe from one waterway to the next — across the United States.
Last week, Moore stayed at the Baldwinsville Bed and Breakfast before embarking on a particularly grueling leg of his trek. Since the New York State Canal System closed Oct. 13, Moore must portage his canoe and gear 170 miles from Syracuse to Albany. He is scheduled to reach the Statue of Liberty in New York City on Dec. 14.
“I’ve been an expatriate for most of my adult life,” said Moore, who grew up in Los Angeles and spent 30 years in Africa and East Asia. “To have the idea to come back to my home country and really see her up close and personal was something that really appealed to me.”
The seed for this “from sea to shining sea” journey was planted more than a decade ago, Moore said.
“I previously canoed the Mississippi River back in 2009 during the recession,” he said. I met a gentleman at the Brainerd portage [in Minnesota]. …I learned from him that it was possible to connect rivers.”
Moore “unfurled the map of America across a table” and plotted his route. He set out from Astoria, Oregon, on Feb. 9, 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It’s absolutely changed it up,” he said of the pandemic’s impact on his journey.
Moore had planned to do more in-depth reporting and interviews during his travels, but the pandemic has limited his access to certain people and places.
“What I’ve been doing instead is just documenting the encounters with people of all walks of life,” he said. “What I’ve attempted to do is place my biases to the side and just listen to people and learn … the ingredients of what it is to be American, from Native American wisdom to, especially the last year, the African American experience to the immigrant experience. When you add up all of our stories, I will be left with this beautiful tapestry and the story of America.”
As the United States geared up for the presidential election in 2020, Moore was interested in seeing how Americans connect despite their differences.
“When we strip away our partisan politics just for a moment and we unite with a common cause or theme or goal … when we look to each other as human beings, as fellow Americans, we have a whole lot in common,” he said. “We have a lot more in common than we do the negatives that divide us, and it’s beautiful to see.”
Moore called his journey an “incredible adventure.”
“The first mode of transport in this land was the canoe,” he said. “The first thoroughfares … were built on these waterways.”
Between Syracuse and Albany, Moore must put his expedition wheels on his canoe, strap it to a harness, and pull it along the Erie Canalway Trail.
“I’m really looking forward to the Hudson River at Albany to be able to put my canoe back in the water,” he said.
Once Moore reaches New York City, he will reunite with a number of fellow canoeists — friends he’s made over the last two years.
“The strength is not with me as an individual. It’s with the people around me. It’s with the community,” he said. “We are incredibly strong when we are united.”