Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Construction Junction What's Your Malfunction

August 9: I was delivered like a package back to Bureau Junction a little after eight this morning. After a short stroll I found the entrance to Hennepin Canal, where my movements will take place over the next few days.
Hennepin is newer than the other canals I have strode along thus far, thanks to a short construction delay. Originally planned in the mid 1800s, the project was not finally begun in the following century and completed in 1908. Since unions did not exist or were laughably weak during this period we can blame the gap on either the contractor or the government.
What do I think? I'm glad you asked, but I shall demure and suggest perhaps they were all waiting for technology to catch up to their grand schemes. Hennepin is concrete, not cut stone like all previous canals. The lock engineering was also a model for the future. The Panama Canal is considered a technological stepchild of Hennepin.
Sadly, the opening came as the flow of progress was drifting downstream. Hennepin was only active until 1951 and never ran anywhere near capacity during this short life. As we know, by this period the railroads had long surpassed the river as the main national transportation artery.
On the upside, the canal is much better preserved than those I have previously visited on my journey. Many of the locks look as if they could operate once more given just a little bit of work. For the first time I saw an aqueduct still doing its job - passing the canal water over a river beneath. The canal is still filled with the liquid as well, quite a difference when compared to the I&M and C&O, which were silted up in many places. The surrounding forest also gives a treat to the eye, a major improvement over the farmland which dominates the plains region.
I finished fifteen miles on Hennepin today and quit the trail for the day just as I reached an area where a bridge was under construction. Sue has offered to put me up another night in preparation for my speech at the Rotary Club tomorrow. All I had to do was turn right and walk a mile to Wyanet, where my ride awaited.
After about three miles I realized that perhaps I was going the wrong direction. Fortunately, Sue was able to find and rescue me once again. The bridge work must have caused the path to be re-routed and I had therefore turned onto the wrong road. There was no sign indicating the name of the road where I had entered and their names change so frequently here I didn't think anything of it until I knew I must have gone way too far. Today's lesson: tired people are dumb and I am tired quite a lot.

15 miles/1267 total miles

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