Trekking north, Randy rambles on
TURBOTVILLE It was Saturday morning, August 4, when we were contacted by Randy Watts who continues his hike from Fort Freeland near Turbotville, to Fort Niagara at the mouth of the Genesee River in upstate New York.
Our last communication was the previous Saturday near Muncy, along the trail Indians took as prisoners, 24 frontiersmen following the attack 239 years ago at Fort Freeland. Among the captured were two Watts’ brothers, relatives of the current hiker.
After spending the first night with son Matthew in Montoursville, the hiker took Route 87 to Loyalsockville, crossing the creek and eventually connecting with Route 14 at Trout Run.
Randy was onward to Canton where he planned visiting a former fellow wrestling coach, but Bill Holland was not home. Also in Canton, a stop was nixed to visit Betty, wife of former Muncy wrestling coach, the late Richard Neff. “I thought I’d better keep going as my speed is only 2 miles an hour when on the move,” Randy said.
The self-described ‘talker’ did visit the newspaper office at Canton, sharing his tale and informing them that the VanKirk family had been in residence there, and were relatives of the Watts’ prisoners.
And then, driving from near Lairdsville to surprise her brother, Julie Ritter failed to find him. Julie said, “I stopped at several places, first at a business at Trout Run where the woman said she’d seen Randy and took his picture.” At another stop, she was told her brother was headed for McDonalds, but she missed him there too. “I spent nine hours searching, then found Route 220 and returned home,” Julie said.
Having breakfast at McDonalds at Troy, the 69 year old hiker integrated himself into a group of men at the daily morning meeting place. In the meanwhile on his foot, Randy had developed a blister. “I called my son Micah who is in sports medicine at Mansfield. He came and tended the wound,” said the father.
Ice cream was the treat consumed at another stop for rest and refreshment. “In my backpack, I have a small zippered bag for my cell phone which somehow fell out without my noticing it. When realizing it a couple miles later, I knocked on the first door I came to, hoping someone would take me back to where I thought the bag would be.” Randy said.
Continuing the account, he said, “A woman opened the door only a crack and obviously called the police for soon a patrolman located me. I asked if it was against the law to walk along the road. We soon settled the matter, and a kind man, whose name I didn’t get, took me to get the bag.”
Later the hiker followed the Elmira and Chemung Rivers along a trail called the Sheshequin. One night he tented at a site used during Civil War days as a prison camp. “There I made a new friend, Jeff Weaver who told me I should return to visit a monastery on a nearby hill,” Randy said. The new acquaintance gave the journeyman a sandwich and drink.
Onward to Corning, the traveler was anxious to connect with longtime friends from back home, Leon Golder, a 1962 graduate of Warrior Run High School, and wife Sherrie Muffly of Watsontown. For many years, the couple has resided in Corning where they are deeply involved with the Heritage Village Museum. “Everybody ought to visit there,” Randy said adding that, “I had a shower, slept in the Ben Patterson bedroom and the Golders’ gave me breakfast.”
Randy’s plans for Sunday are to attend services at the Presbyterian Church in Bath. The choice seems appropriate as it was the faith of those captured settlers of long ago, their families having founded the historic Warrior Run Presbyterian Church.
During quiet times, the hiker shared, “I wonder what motivated the prisoners during their six week walk. Certainly the men prayed. It must have been super tough wondering about the plight of their wives and children.”
“From here on, I don’t have any contacts,” said Randy, who often remarks about the generosity of others. Next week, The Luminary will share his latest escapades and eventually learn more about the prisoner’s identities and fate.