As we came through the last lock of the Champlain canal, our ubiquitous friend the wind was back with a vengeance. It had whipped Lake Champlain up to 3-foot waves covered with blowing whitecaps. We’re getting used to this but don’t particularly like traveling under these conditions.
We rode up the lake, taking the waves to the bow so it wasn’t too uncomfortable. We passed some lovely farmland, Fort Ticonderoga and under the Champlain bridge. We were headed to the little city of Vergennes, Vermont, touted by itself as being Vermont’s oldest city and by the Waterway Guide as the smallest city in the USA, with a population of 2,500.
To get there, we had to navigate Otter Creek, which looked more suitable for a paddleboard or kayak than a cabin cruiser and we entered the creek slowly and with much trepidation. As described, there was plenty of water between narrow rocky shores which divided the creek from bodies of water on each side of it for the first mile or so.
The arrow is our boat on Otter Creek, the tan is land and the blue is water! We’re in a creek in a bay here! That’s a first!
A lightly bovine scented breeze announced the presence of cattle farms somewhere close by but this couldn’t dim the tranquil beauty of the tree-lined creek that meandered through forests to finally arrive at Vergennes. The free city docks sit at the foot of a waterfall which cascades down from the part of Otter Creek that is above the city. We docked in our 11th state of the cruise and went exploring as the sun was lowering to the west of us.
The town is charming, very old fashioned and nestled into rolling hills. We enjoyed appetizers and a beer at the Black Sheep Bistro and felt a little like we were in a tiny version of Paris in Vermont – must have been the wonderful baguettes and escargots we enjoyed.
If this town is 2500 souls, I think every one of them turned out with all their friends for the band concert in the park that evening. There was a strawberry shortcake fundraiser for the band and young, old and their dogs all enjoyed the tasty treat while the multi-generational band delivered renditions of Souza and more modern numbers. There was a feeling of community so strong that it warmed our hearts and we counted ourselves blessed to be a part of it for the evening.
The next morning, we headed out Otter Creek and it wasn’t more than a few minutes into the trip that Jerry noticed our port engine was way too hot. We tried shutting her down to bring the temperature lower but nothing worked. I navigated the narrow creek on one engine, passing deer and beaver lodges (we would see our first live beaver in Burlington) along the shore while he diagnosed a case of impeller failure. Our impellers had been replaced in October before we left but there was no denying the fact that this one was toast.
Fortunately, Jerry had the good sense to bring extras of almost everything with us and he had a new one installed in no time WHILE we were underway! He had never done this before and both of us were very proud of him when we started the engine back up and the temperature dropped back to where it was supposed to be. (For those unfamiliar with marine engines, an impeller pumps cold seawater through the engine block to keep it from overheating. When it doesn’t function properly and isn’t detected in time, it can permanently ruin an engine).
We made the short run to Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, grabbed a mooring ball, threw our bikes in the dinghy and went in to explore the town. It is amazing to see our boat against a really different backdrop than she is used to. Here she sits at the foot of a hillside city between the town and a breakwater, beyond which is Lake Champlain. On the opposite shore are the Adirondack mountains stepping back in ever lighter shades of purple mountain majesty.
The light is abundant here, creeping into the boat before 4:30 AM and not fully extinguishing until after 10 PM. In short, this is an absolutely lovely setting that reminds us of being in the cool air, warm sunshine and mountain surrounds of Colorado.
We love Burlington.
The bike trail runs along the water and a five-minute ride had us out in sunny fields of wild flowers and shady forests. There are beautiful coves with large sailboats anchored in them, sandy beaches with folks gathering their vitamin D against the long winter to come, campgrounds with dogs and kids all over the place and people walking, biking and swimming (the water is a temperate 65 degrees- so I know these were all Canadians!!!). We are getting close enough now that we hear lovely French accents and conversations on the radio and around us in town. It won’t be long until we are in a new country.
We rented a car (we are now frequent fliers with Enterprise) to explore the countryside for two days. The Boat needed a rest and we needed some land time. We played tourists, vising the Cold Hollow Cider Mill (the smell and taste of the freshly pressed apple cider reminded me of going to our local orchard with my Mom when I was little) and then driving over to Stowe and visiting the Von Trapp (think Sound of Music) Brewery and Bierhall.
The family still runs the Von Trapp Lodge, which is absolutely gorgeous and youngest son, Johannes is now realizing his to brew an American version of the lagers he loves in his ancestral home of Austria. The brewery started modestly but its beers were so well received (many have won numerous awards) that a new 30,000 square foot brewery opened in 2015, along the mountain bike and cross country ski paths near the Lodge. We enjoyed a flight of beers, liking their Helles and Kolsch beers best.
The scenery was amazing. We sat outside, surrounded by shimmering birch trees amongst the majestic pines. This must be an amazing place to cross country ski in the winter and it is equally as pretty in the summer.
Next, we held our breaths, driving the switchbacks up to Smuggler’s Notch state park where we watched crazy people climbing the sheer rock faces of the summit. It was a breathtaking drive and I love watching Jerry play Mario Andretti on these hairpin turns! He always wishes he was doing it on his bike!
See if you can find the three climbers on this wall?
Last on the tourist list for the day, was a visit to Ben and Jerry’s factory, where we took an amazingly interesting tour and learned how they make, package and ship their ice cream. Jerry and I don’t keep ice cream in our house but we have sure made up for it on this trip. I discovered B&J’s flavor called New York Super Fudge Chunk and Jerry loves the Caramel Almond Brittle flavor. Unfortunately for our waistlines, there is a B&J in almost every port we have docked and I don’t think we have skipped sampling their wares even once. We adored the flavor graveyard, where they inter discontinued flavors under their humorous gravestones!
The following day the weather cleared and we drove around the bottom of Lake Champlain in a dense fog and were glad not to be going by boat in it. We planned our arrival at Ausable Chasm for the park’s opening because there were heat warnings out and we wanted to do the physical part of this adventure before it got really hot.
We checked in and were immediately sent to do the Adventure Trail which is a ropes and cable course similar to the one we did in Puerto Rico a few years ago, minus the swimming in underground cave rivers. This was a Via Ferrata course.
This is an Italian term that was developed during the wars for the shortest route between two points. A protected climbing route was established in the Dolomites that allowed transportation of troops and munitions as quickly as possible from one place to another. Our course consisted of single wire bridges, cables along rock walls over the raging Ausable river and swinging rope bridges. It was a blast and Jerry and I put in a good showing for “old folks.” Yes, the kids on the tour with us actually stopped short of saying, “I hope I am still doing this when I am your age.” But we knew that’s what they meant! It’s kind of nice to be an inspiration to younger people and it was fun to share our other adventures with Jon and Angela and have them share some of the things they have done with us as well.
After the adventure trail we rafted down the chasm, marveling at the geology that makes up this magical place. It really was a great experience – just the kind we like – outdoors in the middle of God’s handiwork and grateful for every single moment there! So much fun!
We came home to meet up with new friends who have to cut their loop short this year, due to an injury. We helped them clear out their perishables, anything that contained liquid (including a bottle of Tequila!) and stuff that will expire before they resume their Loop adventure next year after a full and total recovery from knee surgery has been effected.
We didn’t think about the fact that we may be in trouble with customs due to all of the excess food and alcohol that is now aboard when we cross over the border. Tomorrow will tell! We will cross into Canada earlier than we thought we might. Our crossing will be on July 1 which is Canada Day or Fête du Canada. It celebrates the anniversary of the Constitution of 1867 which united the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I’m not sure what to expect so tomorrow will be an interesting start. We are now in Week 26 (half way though the planned calendar of the trip) and have covered 3,400+ miles. We are excited about this next leg of the trip as it will include Montreal, Quebec City (not by boat and if time allows) and a visit with some of our Snowtarians (Rotarians from Canada who have wintered at our club for decades)!