An October Weekend in Vermont

With the Canadian Thanksgiving making it a long weekend, only one local cyclocross race on, a weather forecast that was exceptional, Andrea and I took the weekend off.

We had talked about doing a trip to Vermont when we were at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago and the sun, moon and stars all lined up to make it happen. We packed Babe up on Thursday with the plan to get to around Prescott near the border and then spend the next four days exploring. Part of the plan included MTB riding in the Kingdom Trails around East Burke which had been described to us by some other riders as incredible. I can now say: Incredible! Part of the plan included a stop in at King Arthur Flour in Norwich. And part of the plan included taking photos of the fall colours… all the plans worked out great.

The weather this past weekend was as good as it gets; a classic Indian Summer. When I think back, Andrea and I have had a one other that was as nice (in a different way). That was 6 years ago and was a canoe trip to Herb Lake and Gun Lake. Beautiful, fun, relaxing and photogenic. Here’s a shot from that trip…

Canadian Thanksgiving, Gun Lake 2005

With all the stops along the way it took us all of Friday to make our way through New York and Vermont before reaching the campsite we had reserved on Burke Mountain… the last site available as it turned out and I include that in the good karma thinking.

The first night was the only one we didn’t camp as the place I’d hoped to use was closed by the time we got there. All the state parks in NY were closed for the season and while we were tempted to stay at one anyhow we pressed on. Ultimately we spent the night in a motel along the way, it cost more for that one night than all the rest combined. It was worth it though, the travel on Friday was a little more relaxed because of it (plus the waffle breakfast was plain and simple fun!).

Driving on Friday was great as we had all day to get to our destination and the scenery was spectacular. The fall colours are slow in arriving this year (I’ll let others speculate on why) however as we drove along we were headed a little north so they kept getting better. When we got to Vermont it really was nice, even though the locals thought they were muted.

Our first planned stop was in Montpelier to check out a few shops and have some lunch. On top of all the other things going on I happened to park in front of a display of Tim Burton “stuff”. A little playful composition and I was able to get the camper and the photographer reflected in the image… all a little weird and totally in keeping with the display.

A self portrait

More driving got us down to Lebanon NH for some shopping and then back to Norwich VT so Andrea could stock up on their great flour (there will be much bread baking this winter!!! Place your orders now!!!). Then finally up to Burke Mountain… I think it was around 8pm when we rolled in (in the dark). The GPS had directed us to the main ski lodge rather than the campground so Andrea went in to ask. The bar/restaurant was open and busy so once we knew where we would be camping we headed back for dinner there. I can highly recommend the local Long Trail Ale.

On the road in northern Vermont

Being on the side of a mountain made getting the camper level a bit of a challenge and since it was late we didn’t try too hard that first night. Still slept well though and got up to a cool and clear morning. Breakfast, lots of coffee, and then it was time to ride. Looking around the campsite it was clear that everyone was here for the same reason. I’ve only experienced that at major race events (like the 24 hour events, etc), never “just because”. Every campsite had cars with bikes… some were here for the downhill while others were looking to ride the single track. Everyone walking around was talking about the trails, the riding they were going to do or had done. Very cool feeling.

We drove out of the campground and pointed Babe downhill… put her in neutral and rolled all the way to town. Then we parked at the local bike shop at the trail head, went to the Kingdom Trails visitor centre to get our passes, and then began to admire the beautiful day we were having. It was barely 9AM and we were surrounded by smiling people basking in sunshine dressed in cycling clothes. Wow. The folks at the visitor centre had highlighted trails they like and thought we’d enjoy… less than 1/2 of the trails available in that part and well over 3 hours of riding. Most of it was single track, all of it was fabulous. Here are a few photos from the day, I only took the Lumix and the quality isn’t very good. Such is life… sometimes a snapshot is better than a missed great shot.

Secret Training… I loved this one!
Time to Roll! This was the first bit of single track.

At the bottom of Sidewinder… for the local folks, think Woodnewton times an order of magnitude.

Heaven’s bench, with Burke Mountain in the background

Awesome day… and 3 1/2 hours was all I could handle so we had the afternoon and evening to enjoy. Back at the campsite the challenge of the day was getting into the shower (one each for women & men, lineup got 6 deep at times, 75 cents got you 7 minutes so you can do the math). It was cool so we got a fire going early and enjoyed it all evening, as did most of the campground. And sleep came early… a campground filled with cyclists who spent as much energy on the trails as they had usually leads to a good sleep.

Babe bathed in moonlight

Sunday started much like Saturday except a little warmer. Beautiful, inviting, perfect for whatever you might like to do including riding! We spent a little less time in camp and got on the trails a little earlier with a plan to ride only trails we hadn’t ridden the previous day. It didn’t take long to feel the effort from Saturday and we both said it would be a shorter ride today (NOT). The plan of riding new (to us) trails worked great with one exception… the climb (Cat’s box?) up from the river is one to avoid. The trails we rode after that were awesome, and both days ended with the swooping romp down to town. Here are a couple of shots…

I definitely recommend these trails… I’m not a skilled technical rider and I was comfortable with them. I saw lots of folks out riding even more casually than me, smiling. And I saw hard core folks rocking it… these trails have it all. Go, try, let me know what you think!

Part of Sunday’s plan was taking photos and so when we ran out of steam we hopped into Babe and went for a drive. It reminded me of tripping around in 2008 taking photos (you’ll find some of those shots on my website) and it was also completely different. Only a few spots struck a chord and so I didn’t take a lot of photos. Still… I got a few good images.

A last night, a good dinner, a cozy campfire. And of course a shower lineup…

I think Andrea and I would have enjoyed a day or two more, wasn’t going to be though. So we packed up (there’s an ouch in there… I will figure out how to fix the top bed after my mistake (sigh)) and then we took a back road drive across the top of Vermont so I could get the photos I was hoping to find. I think I got a few, you can decide for yourself if you think they’re good… I have a gallery up on my website. Here are a couple of samples (there are ones up on FaceBook as well).

Through all of this… we saw one Vanagon along the way and there was one Eurovan camper from Quebec in the campground with us. Otherwise it was all bikes, no buses.

And it was a great trip, I’d do it again without a second thought!

Photo inspired by Andrea
Sun Dog; photo by Andrea

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