New York

Well, we’ve started leaving our Green Footprints across the Northeast! I will be posting updates on the journey every couple of states as they are completed, as well as highlighting environmental issues that are especially pressing in that area of the country.

Most of my running in New York was done on my way down from Canada before I traveled east towards Saratoga Springs to pick up the first batch of seedlings. Crossing over at the Rainbow Bridge, I couldn’t resist stopping to see the misty majesty of Niagara Falls. From a distance it’s hard to appreciate just how much water is thundering down into the Niagara River, so I ran over to Goat Island to get a closer view. The roar of the falls was deafening and pretty-awe inspiring. As I gazed mesmerized into the thundering waterfall, I noticed one of the pervasive plastic ponchos floating in the wind, crumpling as it touched the waters of the Niagara river down below. And it wasn’t the only piece of trash floating in the river. Both on the island and along the river, this wonder of nature has attracted so much tourism and industry, it’s like a tiny Disneyland, complete with the throngs of tourists, gaudy gift shops and visitor’s centers clamoring for you to take their tours. Hopefully the visitors I saw that day came away with a new appreciation for the earth, rather than a new hat and t-shirt!

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Working my way east, the landscape became less endless lakeshores and more forests interrupted only by plots of farmland. Visiting in a little town just up from Buffalo, I was surprised by how many farms there were; it seemed to be the major source of livelihood, which I hadn’t anticipated being this far north. But it did make for lots of fresh fruit and vegetable stands at every corner!

Finally, after a morning run along the Erie canal trail, I made it to the Saratoga Springs tree nursery. I loaded two big boxes into Turtle, brisling over the top with fresh green-blue pine needles. Each Blue Spruce seedling consisted of a single small needle-adorned branch about 10-15 cms tall, with its own narrow, conical root structure of about the same length. I had done my research beforehand, but verified with the nursery that the best locations to plant them would be in moist soil, not too hard-packed, in areas with plenty of sun. Not exactly sure where to start, I drove until I found a local park with a healthy assembly of its own pine trees, figuring this would be as good a place as any.

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I hopped out of the van with my burlap-cardboard sack of seedlings, hunted out a suitable spot with plenty of sunshine and not too much undergrowth, and promptly smacked my hand across my forehead. How was I going to dig the holes? I retreated back to the van, hunted out a long spoon, and began digging. Twenty minutes later, covered in dirt and sweating in the blazing sun, I bent the mangled, twisted spoon handle back to its original position for the eightieth time and plopped the third seedling in the ground. Forty-seven to go. This clearly was not going to work. I headed back towards the nursery and asked what they used to plant their trees.

“Oh, we have tree plugs. Small devices that punch a round hole into the soil. But we don’t have any extras, and if we did, they are close to $100 apiece”. Yikes.

“Do you have anything else I might be able to use?” I asked, not mentioning my Sisyphean spoon-digging technique.

After a visit to the tool shed I was sent on my way with the handle of a broken headless spade, essentially a three-foot long dowel with a tapered metal end. It was perfect. Not only did the pole punch holes into the soil at the perfect depth and circumference for the seedlings, it also gave me feedback on whether or not the soil was soft enough for the little trees (by way of jarring my arm out of its socket and only penetrating half an inch into the ground).

As I had already done well over my fifty miles in New York, I worked my way east the rest of the day, stopping every so often when a suitable glade or park cropped up along the road to plant a few more baby trees. As the sun sank below the horizon, I plopped the last couple seedlings into their respective holes just before the state border. New York: check! Now onto Vermont.

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