Monday, August 11, 2014

And on to Lake Champlain

A new trick (for me).  I drove to Lake Champlain at Port Kent, left my car there and took the ferry across. $9.  The crossing took 1 hour, during which I was free to read, look around and NOT drive. Pleasant. FYI there is also an Amtrak station in Port Kent, within walking distance of the ferry dock. Unfortunately the train is slated to take 10 hours to get there and it is only 6 to drive.  Given my previous report of Amtrak usually being an hour or more late, it was not appealing. But the FERRY! Highly appealing. The ferry is so large that you don't feel the swells and a bike doesn't need to be secured to keep it from falling over. So I packed all my panniers on the bike and off I went to Burlington, where I was to meet up with Jamie.

We stayed at North Beach campground, a Burlington park. This park does not have a "no turn away" policy for cyclists, paddlers or hikers, which is a bit of a travesty. When asked why not, the woman at the office exclaimed "If we are full, where would we put them?"  Answer; on the unused volleyball court. Really.  How many could there possibly be? I should write a letter... maybe tomorrow... We rode in to downtown Burlington to their fabulous Co-op to gather supplies. The easy thing about this route is that there are very good re-supply stores all along the way. We carried no stove for this trip. It is warm, neither of us drinks coffee and we usually bought a sandwich to eat for dinner at one of the numerous grocery stores. 
The Lake Champlain Bikeway map is a really good start, but the routing had many odd misdirections and mileage errors.  We should have kept better track of these and given them some feedback to correct the map, but we were ill equipt to do so.  Part of the problem is that the map is available in PDF only (no hard copy) and formatted at a really odd size for home printing, so it was difficult to keep in a map case.  Really, I do have no excuse for not making corrections right on the paper copy I had printed out.  It would help them to get the feedback. On the VT side, the bikeway is marked at regular intervals (though not necessarily intersections), but in NY it is marked as Bike Route 9, I believe. Other than those minor problems, the route is pleasant (but not the most direct- which is fine). Adding camping info would also be helpful.

The second night we stayed at Crown Point, a DEC campground. These DEC CG are staffed by really good, smart people, who are constantly thinking and analyzing.  The night before the ferry, I had stayed in a NY DEC CG and was looking to do some hiking, but wanted to get to the trailhead via bike, having driven for 6 hours. The attendant took the road surface, shoulders and type of trail into consideration and pointed me to a nice trail with great views.
Anyways, this time, the attendant knew the weather forecast and asked us if we wanted to pitch in the only available lean-to. No wet tents in the morning.  Sweet.  There was an amazing thunderstorm that night!
We spent the next night at Ausable Chasm (pronounced Aws-Able Chasm, with the Ch sounding like chicken).  Although this was a private campground, it was pretty nice.  You have to purchase a separate event ticket to travel on the Chasm trails and we didn't think it was worth it, considering we were there for such a short time.
The NY side of the lake is much hillier overall and the route we used was quite, shaded and heavily wooded.
My Bike Friday New World Tourist scored 11,000 miles. Kind of astonishing to me, though I have been watching the milestone approach for a while. Totally missed the 10,000 milestone. I think it occurred on a commuting day.

Plattsburg is working on being more bike friendly, but they have a ways to go. It is obvious they are working on a bike path that hugs the lake, but it is not yet complete.  All in all, I didn't feel harried going through the city, except at a construction zone, when I am sure the drivers also felt harried.  There were several bike tours we crossed paths with along the northern end of the lake, all inn to inn tours.
We crossed the mouth of the Riviere Richlieu, the outlet of Lake Champlain, at Rouses Point and could see the Canadian border crossing just down the road.


The bridge took us back into VT and we headed down to North Hero, hoping to camp at North Hero State Park, but the CG had been closed due to bad flooding a couple of years earlier. There was nothing else, public or private that we could find until way down on Grand Isle at Grand Isle State Park. Long day.  Our 50 mile day turned into an 80 or so mile day, but again, they found us a lean-to and again there was a thunderstorm during the night. That was pretty much the only rain we experienced (except another incredible, but short lived downpour when we had instant access to shelter).
Both the DEC and VT state CG hold a "no turn away" policy for hikers and cyclists. Nice job.

Last day: we left Grand Isle via the "bike ferry". We had some difficulty locating the beginning of the northern part of the causeway.

I had some weird idea that this was a pretty long jaunt, but it turned out that it was a tiny ferry ride to cross a gap in the old railroad causeway. The gap allows boats to move from one part of the lake to another.
Ignore the amateur finger in the photo- mind the gap. Really.  That is it. The dock on the other side is the ferry dock. I'm serious.

I understand the causeway was damaged by the same storm that took out the campground, but am unsure if there was a bridge previously. The ferry fee is by suggested donation; $10 (actually more that the Lake Champlain Port Kent to Burlington ferry, but I don't begrudge them the money). Then you travel along the rest of the causeway.  It was pretty heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists, but we were the only touring cyclists around. Lots of young kids.

We stayed at the North Beach campground again that night. All around a pretty decent place with a lovely beach.  We spent the next day renting paddleboards, which was way more upper arm work than I am used to.
Bike repair station with basic tools and a simple repair stand- on the Bikeway.  Very cool.

This finished our journey, which I had miscalculated the mileage for, leaving us 3 unused days.
We returned to Burlington and rode the 60 or so miles to Jamie's house and spent those extra days kayaking on Lake Champlain and camping at primitive paddling access only campsites.

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