The Traveling Lindfields Visit the Island Line

Lindfields.JPGAs fall approaches we begin to reflect on all of the amazing adventures we were able to cram into our short New England summer. It is probably safe to say few families have more stories to tell about the summer of 2016 than the Lindfields of Maine. Take a moment to read their epic journey from Maine to DC and back and see their amazing photos. One of the highlights of their trip? The time they spent in northwest Vermont on the Island Line Trail and Local Motion's bike ferry!

Trail - The Island Line Trail  - consisting of the Burlington Bike Path and the Colchester Causeway.
Location - Burlington to South Hero Island, Vermont, USA.
Distance - 45 kms (28 miles) return.
Terrain -  Asphalt for about half the distance and then compacted gravel.
Difficulty - Easy, this is a ride /walk you can take the family on.
Highlights - Cycling the Colchester Causeway and hopping on the Bike Ferry across the Cut to link up with South Hero Island
Website and map - Click here for a link to download a PDF map and here for detailed trail notes.

We have come to the end of our Washington DC to Maine (and back) road trip and cycling adventure. In our 43 days on the road we drove  4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles), and cycled 687 kilometres (427 miles). We explored 14 rail trails and bike paths, suffered 5 punctures, snapped 1801 digital photos, ate 23 soft-shell Maine lobsters and visited 9 historic homes and gardens.  My plan was to write in the evenings, cataloguing sightseeing and cycling as we went. In the event, exhaustion got the better of me. Most of the time I was too tired to write and many evenings we  simply collapsed into our hotel room at the end of the day, glad of a hot shower and a soft bed.

I haven't forgotten my promise to share the trails we discovered. Over the next few months, interspersed with our other travels, I will write up the bike paths we cycled.

The Island Line Trail
The Island Line Trail

The Island Line Trail

Of all the bike paths and rail trails we cycled, the best was the Island Line Trail, the second last trail we cycled. The trail consists of the Burlington Bike Path and Colchester Causeway and runs from Burlington, to South Hero Island in Vermont. We cycled the trail on a magnificent blue sky day. There is nothing in the world quite like cruising along next to the water with the sun on your back and the wind in your hair.

In the early 1900s the Rutland & Burlington Railroad built a rail line across Lake Champlain by means of a system of causeways and trestle bridges.  The line connected Rouses Point, New York on the north-western shore of Lake Champlain with Burlington, Vermont on the south-eastern shore. The last train ran in the early 1960s leaving a disused corridor part of which became the Island Line walking and cycling trail. 
The Island Line Trail: Burlington Bikeway

David, reading a history board on the trail.

The trail runs from just south of Burlington along the shore of Lake Champlain to Colchester, where it abandons the shoreline and strikes out across the lake in a narrow corridor along the Colchester Causeway. After almost 3 miles of cycle path, with water on both sides, the causeway ends - abruptly, at a 60 metre (200 foot) stretch of water appropriately named 'the Cut'. To cross the Cut cyclists and walkers board the Island Line Bike Ferry operated by the non-profit biking and walking advocacy group Local Motion. From the northern side of the Cut the trail runs another couple of kilometres where it comes to an end in the quiet back streets of South Hero Island.
We stopped at North Beach on the return trip for a rest and an ice cream. Almost everyone on the beach seemed to be French speaking holidaymakers from Canada.

Burlington to Colchester - 14 kms (9 miles)

The trail begins two miles south of Burlington at Oakledge Park on Flynn Street. The TrailLink website notes there is plenty of parking here, however David and I parked just north of Burlington and cycled a mile or so south to the beginning of the trail before doubling back and heading north toward the Colchester causeway and South Hero Island.

Between the beginning of the trail at Oakledge Park and Burlington we cycled along a corridor marred by graffiti and general ugliness but once in Burlington the drabness was replaced with lake views, waterfront parks, beaches, small boat harbours and brief stretches of woods.  For a while we even biked next to a working rail line. There is nothing like the sight of actual trains to drive home the fact that the network of rail trails throughout America owes its existence to the predominance of railways as a mode of transport in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Island Line Trail
There is nothing like a train coming to make you take notice of your surroundings.
The Island Line Trail at Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain -The lake views are lovely
At the seven mile point, we crossed the Winooski River trestle bridge and a few miles further on stopped to explore the Colchester Log Schoolhouse at Airport Park. The bridge was completed in 2004 to replace a ferry service joining the Burlington Bikeway section with the Colchester Causeway. The schoolhouse circa 1815 is now a museum and information centre with the interior set up as if the school day is about to begin.

The Winooski River trestle bridge.
Crossing the Winooski River trestle bridge.
Colchester Log Schoolhouse
The Colchester Log Schoolhouse

The Colchester Causeway - 4 kms (2.5 miles)

I have a soft spot for cycle paths which run alongside water - they are almost always scenic. Here on the narrow isthmus reaching out across Lake Champlain, I was in scenery heaven. The causeway is about 12 feet wide and with the lake stretching out on either side it was almost as if we were skimming across the surface of the lake.

The Island Line Trail: The Colchester Causeway
The Colchester Causeway
Upon arriving at 'the Cut' we were debating whether to board the bike ferry for a five-minute trip across to the northern section of the path, when we realised David's bike had developed yet another puncture. This was his 4th or 5th flat tyre, in a couple of weeks. After spending half an hour repairing the tyre, and with no spare inner tubes left, we abandoned the idea of the bike ferry and turned for home.

The Island Line Trail: the Cut.
The Cut - no cycling across this!

The Island Line Trail bike ferry.
The Bike Ferry we didn't go on!

Tips and tricks and things to know: -

  • The bike ferry across the Cut costs $8 for a round trip and $5 one-way. Season passes cost $40. Click here for a schedule and list of fares. Note: If you purchase your ticket on the causeway you will need cash.
  • The Island Line Trail is both a cycling and a walking trail. 
  • The Colchester Log Schoolhouse doubles as an information centre and is well worth calling in at. It is open Fridays to Mondays from 11am to 3pm.
  • There are plenty of places to park your car along the trail. Click here for a link to download a map with parking areas marked.
  • There is parking at the Mile 9 point, not long before the beginning of the causeway, if you just want the experience of cycling out into the lake.

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