When my editor suggested a story based on a “one-day road trip” across northern New England, I just laughed. “One day?” I replied incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?” Fortunately, I have a good relationship with my editor, and he didn’t take offense. But I was serious — I couldn’t imagine why anyone would try to cross the northern tier of the region in the span of 24 hours. My wife, Lauri, and I typically put aside three days to a week to do it right. That means packing the bikes (two gravel bikes, two mountain bikes and an extra set of “road wheels” with 700-by-28 tires for asphalt), hiking boots, a good pair of swim trunks (for paddling and pond jumping), and plenty of extra energy bars.
So the following is a composite trip, where you can pick and choose the activities that interest you most.
Starting in western Vermont, up by Burlington, the Island Line Trail is 14 miles of pure bliss (28 out and back), encompassing the Burlington Pike Path, Colchester Park and the Allen Point Access Park. Pedaling along the shores of Lake Champlain is one of life’s great pleasures. Even less crowded is the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, a ribbon of gravel that winds through Vermont’s spectacular northern rural farmland from St. Albans to Richford for more than 26 miles.
Taking the short jaunt southeast of Burlington on Interstate 89, I always have a decision to make when we get to Waterbury. If I drop south onto Route 100 along the Mad River Valley, I can get my fill of fat-tire fun on the super-secret singletrack trails in Waitsfield and Warren (yes, you’ve got to invest some time in the local shops, getting some intel). However, the wonderful loops at Blueberry Lake off Plunkton Road in Warren — an International Mountain Bike Association “Gateway Trail — are well-marked and well-maintained, with enough switchbacks to make you dizzy. For a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding foliage, treat yourself to a glider ride with Sugarbush Soaring in Warren. You won’t regret it.