Bik­ing across Lake Cham­plain on an old rail cause­way

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Aban­doned rail lines have been con­verted into recre­ation paths all over the United States. But the Is­land Line Trail in Ver­mont is un­usual: It in­cludes a cause­way that runs across the open wa­ters of Lake Cham­plain, from the Ver­mont main­land to the is­land com­mu­nity of South Hero. And that cause­way in­cludes a gap to al­low boats through. So how do bik­ers and oth­ers get across the 200-foot (61-me­ter) gap, known as the cut? An in-sea­son ferry takes them from one side to the other. It's been more than a half-cen­tury since trains used the nar­row cause­way built on mar­ble and gran­ite blocks around the turn of the 20th cen­tury. A ro­tat­ing bridge once con­nected the cause­way's two sec­tions, with the bridge open­ing up for the boats that now sail through the gap, but the bridge is long gone.

The trip by ferry takes just a few min­utes. The unique trail across the lake is open for walk­ing, run­ning and fish­ing, but it's mostly used by bi­cy­clists, giv­ing them a chance to prac­ti­cally pedal across the wa­ter amid the sail­boats and mo­tor­boats. From one side of the cut, it's more than 3 miles (5 km) south to the main­land town of Colch­ester. From the other side it's just a few hun­dred yards to South Hero. New York's Adiron­dack Moun­tains are to the west while Ver­mont's Green Moun­tains stand to the east. On sunny sum­mer days plea­sure boats will dot the wa­ter on both sides of the cause­way. "It's ab­so­lutely gor­geous," said Julie Lussier, who rode the cause­way while vis­it­ing the Burling­ton area for a re­cent week­end get­away from Montreal. "It's bu­colic and I think that the land­scape is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing. I will rec­om­mend the trail, for sure, to my col­leagues here and in Montreal."

The only down­side to their after­noon on the trail was their choice of bikes. Lussier and Eric Gau­thier were rid­ing road bikes with nar­row tires meant for pave­ment while off-road bikes would have been bet­ter for the gravel path, they said. De­spite their choice of bikes, the trail made for part of a won­der­ful week­end of rid­ing and sam­pling beer from some of Ver­mont's many mi­cro­brew­eries. "We love the mi­cro­brew­eries," Gau­thier said. The trail can be nar­row in places and the sides steep down to the wa­ter, re­quir­ing pass­ing bi­cy­clists to show cour­tesy to one an­other. An­glers carry their tackle onto the rocks to cast their lines into what would other­wise be the mid­dle of the lake.

De­tour­ing rid­ers

The cause­way is part of the al­most-14-mile (22.5 km) Is­land Line Trail, which starts at Burling­ton's Oak Ledge Park and runs north along the Lake Cham­plain water­front at the edge of Burling­ton's vi­brant down­town. A por­tion of the bike path in Burling­ton is un­der ren­o­va­tion this sum­mer, de­tour­ing rid­ers onto the city's North Av­enue for about 2 miles (3.2 km). The en­tire trail is owned by the city of Burling­ton, the town of Colch­ester and, north of the cut, the Ver­mont Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife. The non-profit group Lo­cal Mo­tion man­ages the trail and owns and man­ages the bike ferry, co­or­di­nat­ing to make sure peo­ple who use the trail "don't even no­tice it has three dif­fer­ent own­er­ships," said Lo­cal Mo­tion in­terim ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Ja­son Van Dri­est.

"If you're out there rid­ing you just want a nice ex­pe­ri­ence." Rid­ers don't have to begin their jour­ney in down­town Burling­ton. There are lots of places to park and begin a ride, on both sides of the cause­way. For those headed north, from South Hero and Grand Isle, or far­ther on to North Hero, there are lots of quiet coun­try roads that offer peace­ful rid­ing that can be part of a loop back to the ferry.

For the am­bi­tious cy­clist, the Is­land Line Trail map sug­gests what it calls a "triple ferry loop" that in­cludes the cause­way ferry. North­bound rid­ers could then con­tinue north to where the ve­hi­cle-car­ry­ing Lake Cham­plain Trans­porta­tion Inc. ferry crosses Lake Cham­plain between Grand Isle and Cum­ber­land Head, New York. From there, cyclists head south along US. Route 9 to Port Kent, New York, where they can catch an­other ferry back the Burling­ton water­front. The to­tal trip is about 40 miles (64 km) with spec­tac­u­lar views of the lake from both sides.

Bi­cy­clists rest near a small bridge on the Is­land Line Trail bike path on an aban­doned rail­road cause­way between the Ver­mont main­land and the Lake Cham­plain is­lands.

Bi­cy­clists ride on the Is­land Line Trail bike path on an aban­doned rail­road cause­way from the Ver­mont main­land to the Lake Cham­plain is­lands.

— AP pho­tos

Bi­cy­clists wait to get on a special ferry across a cut in an aban­doned rail­road cause­way between the Ver­mont main­land and the Lake Cham­plain is­lands.

An im­age of a fish is carved into a piece of mar­ble used to make a now-aban­doned rail­road cause­way between the Ver­mont main­land and the Lake Cham­plain is­lands.

A bi­cy­clist col­lect her bi­cy­cle af­ter tak­ing a special ferry across a cut in an aban­doned rail­road cause­way from the Ver­mont main­land to the Lake Cham­plain is­lands.

Bi­cy­clists watch as boats pre­pare to pass through a cut in an aban­doned rail­road cause­way from the Ver­mont main­land to the Lake Cham­plain is­lands.

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