Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh, Can-a-da!

Mississquoi Valley Rail Trail

My husband is the organizer of this September trip to Canada. We are in love with our neighbor to the north's Route Verte system of bike trails. They are well signed, do not leave you slumped over your handlebars, wondering whether to turn right or left, and in Canada a bike tourist is not an oddity. Many folks bike tour.
Our four day trip, on a map, was shaped like a lollipop, out and back on the stick end in northern Vermont with a loop into Canada.
 With a car parked in St. Albans we pedaled the 26 miles of the Mississquoi Valley rail trail to the Canadian border then followed signed back roads to the city of Bromont. We were befriended by a wonderful man who found us, for once, consulting the map. He offered his lawn for tenting. Little did we know that we'd end up sleeping in his tree house, complete with electricity and bunk beds. It was the best accommodation of our vacation!

A 6' by 6' treehouse

The second day was very hilly, but we whooped up and down the gravel roller coaster of trails in Mount Orford National Park. We'd wanted to end the day with a quick ride into Magog, and find camping, but there wasn't any close accommodation. Located on the northern shore of Lake Memphramagog this little city rivals Burlington for waterfront trails and lakeside dining. Reluctantly we left for a lovely, but tiring ride south to Lake Massawippi (love that name) and set up the tent in a campground near the lake. I'd been there 14 years ago. At 2 a.m. we awoke to scratching noises. Two raccoons pawed around our bikes. My husband threw my shoe at the rascals, then we tried to sleep, but were awoken again. My husband looked at me to deal with the next round, but I gave him that whimpering look and he crawled outside again. Andy had discovered our trash bag was ripped into. He brought that into our tent and we slept soundly. Thanks, hubby!
Camping at Lake Massawippi

The third day was a beautiful cruise south on Tomifobia Nature preserve's rail trail. Beaver, a crane, herons, and many Canadian geese cruised the nearby waterway. I had stumbled on this little trail (20k) with a quick Internet search only two days before our trip. It turned out to be a highlight. At the border crossing in Vermont at Beebe Plain the border guard told us the trail continued into Newport. The next five miles was a lovely cruise next to Lake Memphramagog, by plush waterfront homes, but the no-lake-access private signs were disturbing. A public rail trail without access to the water, or signs of where to gain access, left me with feelings that the owners might have reluctant of the rehabilitation of this right of way.

In Newport we enjoyed lunch at a health food store, warming in the south facing windows. It was hard to leave knowing we had to have had hills ahead. We lived in Vermont, after all, where the green Mountains cut the state in half, north to south. Struggling up hills west of Newport we decided to head northwest with hopes of finding a campground or bed & breakfast in North Troy. In North Troy a resident offered his lawn for tenting, but we did locate a campground back in Quebec only a few miles farther, amazingly along the portion of the Mississquoi River that arcs for 15 miles into Canada before it runs south into Vermont. It put us in line for a shorter day for the 4th day, the return trip on the Mississquoi Valley Rail Trail. It was a miracle that we avoided crossing the Green Mountains near Jay Peak.

The campground was at the end of a 1 K dirt road, but unfortunately straight up a hill! We pushed our loaded bikes the distance to Au Diable Vert, had to take a breather before talking with the lady at reception, then decided on a campsite at the far end of a meadow with incredible views. The interesting part of this place was a huge Auberge (not sure it was currently open), they also offered tree house accommodation, cabins, and canvas sided square tents. All of this was on a high meadow with at least 15 k of trails. It looked like a nice place to ski in the winter. That night a storm rolled in, soaked the bottom of our tent, but ended by daybreak.

The last day was an easy cruise back over the border into Vermont, then retracing the Mississquoi Valley rail trail back to our car. There was light rain, but we stayed warm. Chipmunks had dug holes in the middle of the trail and occasionally popped their heads above ground. Watch out for the chippys! We also saw deer, foxes or coyotes, not sure which, scampering across from one cornfield to the next.
The biggest surprise was how far the Mississquoi River meanders from it's source before it empties into Lake Champlain. I still can't believe there was a way to avoid crossing the Green Mountains. I'll remember that for the future.

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