It was the perfect day to take on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail from Morrisville to St. Johnsbury. The weather was smoky but sunny, it was Canada Day and it was Pat’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than to check out 50 miles of the trail we had never traversed. As we wound our way from Waitsfield to Oxbow Park, we were filled with nervous energy.. We partially filled two panniers each, checked the air pressure of the tires and covered ourselves in sunscreen. Our plan was to meet my sister, Jill, and brother-in-law, Dave, somewhere along the trail. They were starting from St. Johnsbury and didn’t intend to cycle as far as we had in mind.
The newly constructed portion of the trail is wide, 10 feet to be exact, and it is covered in gravel, though much more reasonable gravel than whatever they use in Iowa. We crossed bridges on the Lamoille River, passed several cornfields and marveled at the Fisher Covered Bridge reconstruction. We could see the backside of Wolcott and then cycled on to Hardwick. Fourteen miles in, we took a detour to purchase some snacks, grabbing a bag of cherries and a box of peanut butter crackers. My goal was to hold onto them until we reached mile 30. We noted the former Hardwick rail depot, also home to the historical society. and continued to skirt north. That’s when the real fun began. It might have been railroad grade but we never stopped pedaling through East Hardwick to Greensboro Bend to Walden. On either side of the trail we found swaths of forest and farmland and plenty of cyclists enjoying the downhill coast while we continued to push upward. At mile 28.5 I gave in; it was time for nourishment. Pat was ecstatic; “I’ve been starving for the last four miles,” he said. “Honey”, I replied, “the food was in your bag.”
The next six miles to Joe’s Pond became easier because of the food and because we had reached the top of the 16 mile climb. As we entered the trail around Joe’s Pond, we spotted plenty of watercraft and well-maintained lakefront residences. It was here at the public beach that we crossed paths with our family members. They had climbed from St. Johnsbury to West Danville and were looking forward to coasting all the way back with us to St. Johnsbury where we had reserved rooms at the Cherry House Inn. The trail was now more narrow, dirt-covered and grass grew in the median. We paid close attention at the road crossings, two of which crossed Route 2. Somewhere along the way, Pat and David disappeared from sight and I received a text that said flat tire. Jill and I went on ahead, determined to visit the St. Johnsbury Welcome Center before they shut their doors for the evening. While Jill predicted the flat tire repair would be at most 15 minutes, it took them 45 minutes because the tire refused to budge.
Presently, the trail ends at the bottom of the hill in St. Johnsbury. As we neared this end I slowed down, remembering that once upon a time, my former colleagues and I placed a imprinted metal riddle about our PATH Adventure on the trail. I wondered if it was still there; but I couldn’t remember where we had placed it. At the trail’s end there’s a steep rise to the road and then a dip down past a waste hauling company and one more gravel climb. Our accommodations for the evening necessitated one more relentless climb. I was doing my best not to be outdone by my younger sister but she sailed right by me. When I attempted to complain about the uphill to a gentleman sitting on a bench halfway up the hill, his response came out of left field. “Isn’t that an e-bike?”, he asked. “No,” I shouted.. “It’s all my own power.”
By the time Dave and Pat arrived, I’d already started my own happy hour with a beer from Virginia and some salty pretzels. The rest of the evening was pleasant; flat breads, shared salads and a chocolate chip cookie smothered in whipped cream to acknowledge Pat’s birthday. Thankfully, when we awoke to a downpour on Sunday, we were able to catch a ride with Jill and Dave back to our car in Morrisville.
50.3 miles in total. Next training ride on the trail; Swanton to Cambridge and back. No overnight.
Shevonne and Pat