After a wet and rainy June and July it was nice when August finally gave us a hot and sunny Saturday so we could take a trip down to Burlington, Vermont to do the Burlington -South Hero section of the Island Line Trail. With the bikes strapped to the Vibe we left Bromont just after lunch and stopped for a take-out lunch of chicken sushi and calamari salad that we ate on the road while we drove the 2 hours to Burlington.
We started the bike ride at Burlington Bay where the Echo Center lake Aquarium is. There is parking for $5 right at the entrance to Burlington Bay so it’s a breeze to get to from the Interstate 89, exit 14 West and then down Main Street past the University of Vermont and the Church Street Mall to the waterfront…even after 6 pieces of chicken sushi and some iced-tea we could find it without a map!
Burlington Bay was gearing up for the Dragon Boat Races and with the hot sun overhead there were a lot of people on the bike path; roller-blading, walking, jogging and riding. The start of the trail is all paved so there are more crowds here as you wind through the park where the Dragon Boats were preparing to launch. The trail heads North along Lake Champlain which you can see through the trees to the left.
The path is nice and flat so we didn’t have to get any burning leg muscles from major ascents. The trail takes you along nice waterfront views where sailboats and motorboats drifted and we could see swimmers and the beaches were crowded on this first real summer day in August.
There is an old train trestle bridge over the Winooski River that some kids were jumping off into the water. There were two kids in the river egging-on some other kids who were just a bit to afraid to jump off the 40 foot high bridge…I was almost tempted just because it was so hot and the water looked refreshing but we decided to continue and find a place to swim later on the trail.
The Causeway section of the trail was awesome. It is an old train track that goes right across Lake Champlain. It was built in 1900 by The Rutland Railroad and is incredible to see! There are 6 miles of causeway build on huge marble slabs and boulders. The white marble makes it look like you are riding on a line of huge sugar cubes! The white square pieces against the blue of Lake Champlain is spectacular and every once and a while there is some strange Marble Inukshook built by someone to signify their passing.
At the 12.5 mile mark we came to “The Cut” which is a 200 foot wide break in the causeway to accommodate boats…as we approached “The Cut” I wondered how the boats were crossing from one side to the other…I thought maybe there were a series of locks to let boats through and bikes across. Instead there is a Bike Ferry to take riders from one side of the path to the other. Two ferries go back and forth every 5 minutes or so so there isn’t any real waiting involved…time for a Kashi bar and some water! The cost is $5 per person round trip. We decided to just take a break and not ride the Bike Ferry as we had already done 10 miles one way and just took a break and watched the sailboats cross through “The Cut”.
The Bike Ferry is currently only running during the weekends in August and the Labor Day long weekend in September. Check the Local Motion website for details on having the ferry run full time: http://localmotion.org/
One the way back we had the wind in our face so that was about the hardest part of the ride…it was flat but with the causeway being right in the middle of the lake we really felt the full force of the wind. Once we got to the mainland there was no problems and we headed south towards the Bay…hoping to find a nice spot to swim.
The path winds through some nice residential areas. Burlington has nice neighborhoods and the trail took us on a street that was having a block party…the road was closed off and there were kids and balloons and music and the grown-ups were wearing Hawaiian colors and they were listening to The Beatles…wild!
We finally stopped for some swimming at Leddy Park. There is a quiet little spot at the far end of the beach that we found that was perfect! The water was incredible with the heat!
When we got back to Burlington Bay we had a snack at the take-out wagon at the parking lot. I needed a Jumbo Hotdog after the 26 kilometer ride and both DD and I were fully tired out and our legs were like Ramen Noodles…we had no more energy left… no more juice in the tank, well, except for a Sprite and a Jumbo Weenie!
For maps and guides of the Champlain Valley Biking Trails including the Colchester-South Hero Causeway and Burlington Bike Path visit : http://www.champlainbikeways.org/maps.htm