Posted June 29th, 2009
Four hundred years ago, Samuel de Champlain became the first European to paddle the Almost Great Lake that now bears his name. This year, both states and the province bordering Lake Champlain are scheduling a variety of events to celebrate the Quadricentennial. While many events fall into the historic or cultural categories, several involve sports and recreation. For those interested in using this historic occasion as an excuse to hike, paddle, or bicycle, there are a number of events which fit the bill.
Lake Champlain Bikeways has planned a series of eight bicycle trips which will circumnavigate the lake. They created maps for all the rides, but only four are scheduled on specific days. Maps are available for all eight on the Lake Champlain Bikeways website and at Local Motion.
The scheduled rides come with assistance from the Green Mountain Bicycle Club. On July 12, riders can sample what is probably the flattest 60 miles in the area, with a trip leading north from Grand Isle to Alburgh, over the Rouse’s Point Bridge, and down to the Grand Isle Ferry, all on lightly-traveled roads in New York. Two weeks later, on July 26, cyclists can do a 50-mile trek that utilizes roads and bike paths south from Burlington to Charlotte, where they take the ferry across the lake, ride north on the New York side of the lake, and return on the Burlington ferry. On August 16, riders can top that by crossing the lake on three ferries, including the Local Motion bike ferry, for a 50-mile ride that coincides with the arrival of the Golden Re’Al, one of six early 20th century boats that will be docked in Burlington for the celebration. One week later, on August 23, a 60-mile ride goes from Charlotte down to Chimney Point, across the Crown Point Bridge, and back up the New York side before returning to Burlington via ferry.
For those wanting to circle the lake all at once, a more ambitious ride is set for July 26th. The Champlain 300K, sponsored by Audax Vermont, begins at 5 a.m. at the Old Spokes Home in Burlington. The route goes north through the Islands, across the Rouse’s Point bridge, down the New York side to the Crown Point Bridge and then back up to Burlington. Those not quite up to the 300K can shorten it to 200K by crossing back to Vermont on the Essex ferry to Charlotte. It is estimated that the 200K will take 13 and a half hours, while the full 300K will take 20 hours. The ride falls under the auspices of Randoneurs USA, and at this point, a group of almost 20 riders is expected. Because it is a sanctioned ride there will be a minimum of four “control points,” where riders get their cards stamped in general stores or post offices.
A number of treks are being held in conjunction with the Quadricentennial. The Lake Champlain Land Trust is leading three short hikes. The first was a guided walking geology tour on June 18, which went to Goodsell Ridge on Isle LaMotte, said to contain the most complete fossil record of the world’s oldest reef. The Ridge was conserved in 2005 by the Lake Champlain Land Trust and the Isle La Motte Preservation Trust.
On July 10th, LCLT will sponsor a short hike to Hoyt Overlook, which was conserved by the land trust in 1998. Lastly, the group will sponsor a hike at the Round Pond Natural Area on South Hero on August 8th.
One planned event almost did not take place. A “Great Champlain-Hudson River Sojourn” kayak expedition had been planned by the Hudson River Valley Greenways Council of New York, but the Council lost most of its funding and staff thanks to state budget cuts, and backed out of the Vermont section of the trip. Ruth Miller of the Champlain Kayak Club has revived that section with the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Kayak Expedition that takes place from July 2 to 11. The trip goes south from the Canadian border to Whitehall, NY. It will be self-supported, with paddlers staying at state parks and other venues such as Shelburne Farms and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The expedition will also feature guest speakers along the route. Paddlers can choose the full expedition or just join for a day or two.
So get out your hiking shoes, tune up your bike, and take your kayak out of storage. Celebrate the Quadricentennial with your favorite form of recreation.
Champlain Kayak Club—www.ckayak.com
Friends of the Winooski River—www.winooskiriver.org
Green Mountain Bicycle Club—www.thegmbc.com
Lake Champlain Bikeways—www.champlainbikeways.org
Lake Champlain Committee—www.lakechamplaincommittee.org
Lake Champlain Land Trust—www.lclt.org