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A family affair: Carol and Bill Burr, Ryan and Andy Sciarbba

It is not unusual for a story to generate a fair amount of feedback, but I rarely write a column that generates its own string of follow-up stories. Once again, thank you Michaela and Vicki Brew, as the story about your bicycle adventures around all 11 Finger Lakes has spawned yet another column.

The first spin-off column featured the “mother/daughter” theme, and highlighted the 200-consecutive-day hiking odyssey undertaken by Amy and Elizabeth Dawson. This week’s column revisits the “all 11 Finger Lakes” theme, and while this particular effort was completed some time ago, it, too, has a lasting influence on a local family (and will likely result in another story at some point).

When reading about Michaela and Vicki’s ride around all 11 Finger Lakes, I – like many others – thought about how many of the lakes I have driven around in a car or on my motorcycle. I have some vivid memories of some of the spectacular views and long, lonely stretches, but I willingly admit that I am not as intimately familiar with the lakes as Andy Sciarabba is, given he walked around each lake. Go ahead, read that again…

Andy told me: “My father-in-law, Bill Burr, got me into hiking, and in 2011 I decided to Rollerblade from Trumansburg to Ithaca. A lot of it was uphill, so I took off the Rollerblades and started walking. It was then that I decided to hike around Cayuga Lake, and that winter I planned to load up my backpack, take my tent and do it. My wife said, ‘Well, you have done crazier things. Go for it.’” 

“That effort,” Andy said, “was a complete failure and an eye-opener.” Asked to elaborate, he stated: “I was a novice hiker, I had a 50-pound pack, it was 85 degrees, I did not yet know how to take care of my feet, and a day and a half later and 15 miles north I was in a ditch with bad blisters and on the verge of heat stroke.” Sounds fun… Humbled, Andy said, “I called my wife, I went home, and eventually finished the hike in segments.”

Soon thereafter, Sciarabba said, “I set a goal, and it was ‘11 by 50,’ as I would attempt to finish all eleven lakes before I turned 50 years old. In 2017, on my 50th birthday, I took my last step as I finished a 4-day Canandaigua Lake hike.”

I asked if he had gotten smarter after that first debacle, and he said, “Well… somewhat. I did, however, somehow think there were only five Finger Lakes…” I also asked Andy to describe the other end of the pendulum, so to speak, and he said, “Lake # 7 – Seneca Lake – was my redemption hike for Cayuga. I took 8 days to complete it, and I had learned to use lightweight gear and to protect my feet. I learned that there are no continuous trail systems around the lakes – just way too much road walking – and you learn to live with blisters.” He also looked back with fondness at some of the hospitality he was shown during that hike. “I did have my tent,” Andy said, “but I slept on an Amish Farm, in the peach orchard at Fulkerson Winery – so it wasn’t a ‘Man vs. Wild’ thing.”

I asked Scirabba (who earns his living as a civil engineer) if he has racked up any big hikes since completing that impressive “11 by 50,” and he said, “No, a torn meniscus in 2018 put any hiking on hold, but I started writing a book about my adventure last year.” He also conveyed his pride that his 20 year-old son, Ryan, is making setting hiking goals a three-generation thing. Ryan, Andy and Bill have done some hikes on the Appalachian Trail and in the Smoky Mountains, and Ryan has also been bitten by the Big Goal bug. “Ryan hiked Canadice Lake with me in 2014,” Andy offered, “and he has been hiking sections of the Finger Lakes Trail. He also has a goal of ‘46 by 30,’ to hike the 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks before he is 30.”

 

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