Day 12: Knight Island on Lake Champlain to The Swanton Motel, Swanton, VT (26.1 miles)


Hero’s Welcome’s pastries lived up to their reputation and were a great motivator to get us up and on our way early, crossing from our campsite back to North Hero Island.  Peter and I said goodbye to Dan, who was not feeling well, and headed home.  Safe travels and awesome adventures in Alaska, Dan!  By the way, I had a chocolate pastry with coffee, a giant ham and cheese pastry for lunch, and took a peach scone for the road.


Peter signing in at the NFCT kiosk…fun to read who else is paddling and valuable for safety purposes

I learned an incredible amount from Peter in the two days that he carved out of his busy summer Celtic music and fiddle lesson schedule.  One huge discovery is that I am twisting my wrists too much, which is the likely cause of my numbness and pain.  Now to try to unlearn a bad habit.  Relax my hands, don’t have a death grip on the paddle, move my torso…lots to concentrate on as the miles go by.

As we started the 1.5 mile crossing from Stephenson Point to Clark Point, the skies let loose. “This would be the time to head straight for the closest shore,” said Peter. Luckily, we saw no lightning.

Our paddling today proved that we are both a little crazy, as we just kept going and going, warmed in the torrential rain by our exertion and stopping now and then to dump the water out of our boats.  Peter’s car was parked at the Rt. 78 bridge, but he offered to go a little farther, giving me a chance to get some advice on upstream paddling.


I love this photo which captures the spirit of a day of challenges and discovery. Did you know that putting on a warm, dry layer under a soaking wet jacket will really warm you up?


As we entered the Missisquoi River, which I will paddle upstream, we were in a wildlife refuge full of birds.  I was also on the lookout for the threatened Spiny Softshell Turtle, finally seeing and photographing a turtle after I left Peter, but I haven’t identified it yet.

So what did I learn about upstream paddling?  Hug the shore on the inside of curves and I mean HUG IT.  We wove in and out of trees draped over the river and paddled so close to grassy banks that there was barely room for a paddle.  This is also, I have discovered, a great way to see wildlife!

I left Peter at Louie’s Landing after washing my boat at the Clean-Drain-Dry Station that the NFCT installed there to prevent the spread of invasive species.  On to The Swanton Motel, where I don’t expect to leave tomorrow until checkout time.  I was on Lake Champlain only 28 hours!


Day 11: Comfort Inn, Plattsburgh to Knight Island in Lake Champlain (17.9 miles)

This morning I woke very early to take full advantage of the hotel amenities: a second shower, scrumptious breakfast, and quickly writing blog entries.  As some readers have noted, I have been behind but am writing from the perspective of that paddling day.

The taxi dropped me at my new friends’ house, where Nancy kindly offered to walk with me along the Saranac River Trail to the put-in for Lake Champlain.  Along the way we saw the site of the first building in Plattsburgh (corner of Green and Bridge Sts. near the put-in) and a neat old train station, still in use.


On the Saranac River Trail going through the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.
Great that Nancy was there to take this photo…finished with Map 3 and New York!

Crossing Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in the U.S., had me a little apprehensive and I was glad I would have company.  I would be meeting Peter Macfarlane (NFCT 2013) and Dan Brown (NFCT 2014) at Cumberland Head, which was 3 miles across a large bay.  Getting there turned out to be the scariest part.

The strong south wind would make it a real workout to reach the point.  I took the shortest route across, telling myself to just focus on the next few waves, the biggest about 3 feet.  By the end, I was reciting the 23rd Psalm, and the crashing waves hurtled me to shore, on land but still a mile up the shore against the wind to the point.  A call to Peter brought reassurance and I bravely headed out again as they paddled to meet me.

The Cumberland Head lighthouse comes into sight after you round the point – victory!
Dan was paddling his sea kayak, preparing for a wilderness trip to Alaska next week. Peter, a former kayak racer, had much to teach us both.

I tried a little surfing now that we had a tail wind, which would carry me up most of Lake Champlain.

My time with these friends was immensely helpful, both for my paddling technique and for practical stuff, like attaching my SPOT so it would stay facing upward.  Peter had also planned the camping logistics, reserving a site with two lean-tos on Knight Island

The forecast rain held off until late afternoon, then we headed for the island, blown along by the storm.  Peter seemed pleased that I was comfortable with the rougher conditions.  Truthfully, it was exhilarating and I loved it!  

And thanks, Peter, for taking all those great action shots.


Home for the night…you can see Peter’s canoe that he built and used for his 2013 NFCT trip, without taking portage wheels.