Day 18: Canoe and Co. to Perkins Landing on Lake Memphremagog, Quebec (18.8 miles)

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.


The final miles of the Missisquoi were serene, although conditions were tougher on the North Branch, which leads to the town of Mansonville and ends this 74-mile upstream section.

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


Mansonville, where I lunched at the Owl’s Bread Boulangerie, is a pretty town founded in 1803 by Joseph Chandler and John Lewis. A round barn of Shaker construction, built in 1912, made an educational stop as I portaged through town.

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.

The barns of the Grand Portage add charm to a climb that takes you up about 670 feet to cross the Missisquoi/St. Francis divide into a new watershed. Going down was a breeze, and breezy, as I walked to Perkins Landing to find Sydney and Marji Aveson there to welcome me. They had already set up camp after taking a shuttle around the Grand Portage.

TOTAL MILES: 269.4 miles 

Day 17:  Grey Gables Mansion, Richford, VT to Canoe and Co., Sutton, Quebec (12.1 miles)

Roadside beauty…anyone know their name?

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.


Customs officers from both countries were helpful, not intimidating, and allowed me to leave my boat at the U.S. checkpoint while I just took my passport to check in with 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.


Day 16:  Campsite just before Twin Bridges on Missisquoi River to Grey Gables Mansion in Richford, VT (5.4 miles)

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!


Is a vegetarian pizza still vegetarian if you add bacon?
The Grey Gables Mansion B&B would be an amazing place to stay even if you weren’t coming off a muddy river! Owners Tim and Debbie say hello to all those through paddlers who are reading along.

Day 15: Missisquoi River from behind the Abbey Restaurant to stealth campsite just before Twin Bridges (16.2 miles)

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!

Finished with Map 4…signed the kiosk by the Bridge of Flowers and Light, but there was no one to take my photo. This beautifully landscaped old bridge, once used to carry milk to creameries, was saved by a group of local citizens.

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.


Caught by a thunderstorm and the lateness of the day, I stealth camped again, perched in a small clear spot right by a game trail. Before dark, I heard loud splashing and looked out my window. A doe was crossing the river right toward me. Suddenly, though, she whirled and ran back across the shallow water, pausing to look back, then snorting danger and disappearing.


Canada lilies always brighten up the miles of green river shore

Day 14: Stealth campsite near East Highgate to Missisquoi River behind The Abbey Restaurant (8.7 miles)

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.)

Wheeled along the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail for a few miles to avoid Abbey Rapids and ended up at the hospitable Abbey Restaurant for the night, camping down by the river.


Day 13: The Swanton Motel to a stealth campsite just past East Highgate, VT on the Missisquoi River (12.3 miles)


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.


A fine example of stealth camping after the second portage and before some rapids I will need to figure out in the morning. just enough flat dry ground under a tree to fit my tent and canoe hidden among the ferns. Goodnight!