I left my pretty riverside perch wicked early, after enjoying a Grey Gables muffin and coffee. I have adapted well to cooking in my tent vestibule and eating while protected from bugs and weather. I would have appreciated the chance, though, to thank Frank and Rochelle again for their hospitality and for their dedication to the NFCT. I had won my night of camping from many that they donated to NFCT’s silent auction. I particularly loved the small, clean real restroom behind their home. And Rochelle’s small daughter brought me bananas and an apple.
PADDLER’S NOTE (and evidence of my navigational challenges): A couple was fishing at the Mansonville takeout and I was so focused on not disturbing their fishing that I did not notice the two portage signs, which were also partially obscured by vegetation. If you reach small rapids, you’ve gone too far. By the timeI figured it out and returned, I had a lovely audience of tourists offering help and the fisherman still with his tackle and self on the wooden steps. Oh well
A fluid and flexible schedule adds to the adventure of the trail…and so I ate my braised pork on milk bread with caramelized onion and apple sandwich with salad and fruit custard (wow!) and debated whether to go on. The weather looked iffy but the nice manager checked and said I was good to go. A portage, a paddle, a steep takeout where I used the official Diorio Access and met a friendly cyclist who tried hard to convince me to go back to Mansonville and walk from there.
PADDLER’S NOTE: Chemin Peabody, which comprises most of the Grand Portage , is being resurfaced.
My dreams about breakfast at Grey Gables had been growing over the hungry miles of paddling, but chef Tim was up to the task. Fresh fruit with yogurt and granola, white chocolate cranberry muffins, banana walnut pancakes with bacon, orange juice and coffee. Fuel of the finest kind for traveling upstream and crossing the border into Quebec. It would be an exciting day!
After consulting with Tim, I planned to paddle the difficult six miles of the Missisquoi River from Richford to the Canadian border. After the surprise of meeting two other through paddlers (daughter Sydney and her mother Marji) who were portaging past, I hugged Mom and Dad goodbye.
I made it 1.5 miles, but the river was getting progressively shallower and the current faster. There were also rapids ahead and the Canadian border closed at 4 pm. Back to the road, very carefully around the edge of a corn field. At least there weren’t any “No Trespassing” signs where you could see them from the river!
Downhill (how could that be on an upstream section?), dangerous (almost flattened by a speeding motorcycle), and delightful (countryside), are my alliteration for this walk to Canada.
Back on the river, I finally found folks enjoying the river…tubing, swimming, kayaking, sunbathing. After waving “bonjour” to many, it finally hit me. I could stop for a rest. I could swim. It was blissfully cool and relaxing and I took several dips enroute to my campsite at Canoe and Co.
Yes, I only went 5.4 miles today, although it took me four hours. The current is picking up, the water is shallower, and (could it be?) I just may have been tired and needing a short day. Just past my improvised campsite, I passed under the Twin Bridges.
PADDLER’S NOTE: The Magoon Ledges, today’s biggest challenge, were definitely easier that the Samsonville Dam ruins yesterday. Also, Davis Park has a porta-potty, great if you end up camping there.
Mom and Dad met me here for a resupply and visit, so today was relaxing and there is not much to report. Back to bed until the famous Grey Gables breakfast!
After a shorter day yesterday, I was up and on the trail by 6:30 a.m., first continuing down the rail trail less than a mile to the North Sheldon bridge. Visiting last night at the pub had armed me with local knowledge, which, combined with rereading Katina’s description, led me to put back onto the river there, rather than walking to Enosburg Falls as planned. It was a great decision, although it took ingenuity to get the gear and boat in at that bridge, down a steep bank. The solution? Slide the canoe down through heavy weeds instead of the slippery path!
Muddy, monotonous, and marvelous…those sections of the river where you can just stay in the boat and paddle. Most of today was like that. (Muggy, too, later in the day). Great blue herons and spotted sandpipers led me upstream, as I amused myself noting all of the animal tracks in the muddy banks. My phone was on and working for a bit and Megan called. “So are there more people on the trail there than in Maine?” she asked. That made me realize that the only people I had seen in boats on this river in days were the group at the Highgate Falls Carry!
After leaving the easy portage through Enosburg Falls, I was hoping to find a restaurant meal. It was not to be, as I first missed a place recommended by Dennis at The Abbey and then tried to stop when I saw a true Vermont country store from the river. Pulling over to the easiest access from the bridge, I secured my boat and started walking up a tiny muddy stream. With every step, I sank deeper, until I was literally in mud to my knees, worried that if I lost a shoe I could never retrieve it. Humbly, I struggled back, clinging to the meager vegetation and paddled away, eating trail mix!
PADDLER’S NOTE: The most difficult challenge in this section is the Samsonville Dam ruins. It took me a long time to go the half mile (longer than descriptions indicate). Most of this was pulling and lining the boat, but the last bit was carrying gear and then canoe along the shore.
I’m glad I didn’t stay awake all night worrying about those rapids! Instead, I rested well and woke to bird song, as good as an alarm clock at about 4:15. The sun rose higher, stronger, conquering the early morning chill. And I conquered the rapids in a half hour, carrying my gear first, then lining the boat.
The river returned to its calm nature around a large oxbow. The multitude of birds, one with a flash of yellow, took me back in a flash to paddling into Lago Yojoa a year ago with Megan. Wow, does Honduras ever have fascinating birds!
Next up was the approach to the Sheldon Springs power facility. Remember not to rush, scout it well, and, yes, I made it to the regular low water portage that is totally wheelable. A friendly young man working there offered me a ride, but was happy to take my photo instead. (The rushing water in the background was the discharge that I successfully avoided.)
The welcome and accessibility at the hydroelectric projects in NY and VT reminds me of the North Maine Woods philosophy of opening wilderness roads and land for recreation. This facility, which actually produces way more electricity from a huge field of solar panels than from its run-of-river hydroelectric plant built in the 1910’s, lets paddlers camp on their grounds. (I learned a lot resting and eating my lunch in the shade of their lovely informational kiosk.)
This was a common view as I wound my way up the river, hugging that shore (and enjoying a great tail wind). My gift to myself was the whole morning in the motel and I didn’t get on the river until after noon. You can’t push all the time.
My companionship with the river’s shore brought me close to this Joe Pye Weed, the sweet smell of purple vetch, the surprising sight of a family of five baby ducks with no mother, and beaver, many beaver. Late in the evening, I came upon a family or colony of beaver, the two largest patrolling back and forth and tail slapping long after several little ones had slithered down the bank and plopped into the water. Very cool!
At the first of two portages (Highgate Falls), I met four Northeastern graduates who are section paddling the NFCT, going downstream here. They told me the portage trail was a mess (actually used stronger language) and I should have believed them! On and off the wheels three times and I still had to carry the boat at the end as a huge gully had washed out the road.
There is a pretty NFCT campsite at the start of this portage. John Mautner had signed the register and, in the comments, reported that a bear had swum across in front of his canoe. Now that is very cool! John is still about two days ahead of me.