Vermont and the Lake Champlain Ferry Log

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Smoky

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Vermont Log

June 15

We woke up to excellent weather, so decided today to make our dash to Vermont, for just one day of New England exploration.  Our plans to explore all of New England gradually had dissolved over the last two weeks due to constant rain.

Before going any further, let me say at the outset, that we found no state roads in Vermont that would give a 40 foot motor any trouble other than the expected narrow route through Smuggler?s Notch.  After talking with locals and other migrating motorhomers throughout northern Vermont, we feel pretty confident that the major state roads (we are talking smaller than Interstate such as route 2, route 100, route 7, route 15,  US Route 302, Route 104, etc are wonderful roads for getting off the Interstate and exploring Vermont.  Even the ones crossing the mountains.  And 18 wheelers are all over those state roads.  We are keeping an eye, of course, on bridge clearances.  Not only do we use a trucker Atlas, but we also downloaded the bridge clearance locations from the Discovery forum and imported them into our MSFT Streets software.

In 2007, instead of spending 2 weeks in the Adirondacks, which we really enjoyed greatly, we will spend that same 2 weeks exploring New Hampshire and Maine.  We will take the same route skirting NYC by going up central PA and then over Rouse?s Point into Vermont, then settling on Route 2 all the way across to Maine, thus avoiding as much Interstate travel as possible.

We decided to enter Vermont via Rouse?s Point at the top of Lake Champlain, and then return to New York via the Champlain Ferry from Burlington to Port Kent.  Happily, Port Kent is just 15 minutes from our campground.

The first leg of our trip took us down Route 7 and then on toroute 104  through Fairfax and into Jeffersonville.  Such lovely country.

The first picture you see will be the Rouse?s Point New York side before crossing the bridge over northern Lake Champlain into Vermont.  I remember this point from the year 2001 when I took my boat up the Chesapeake, through the Delaware River, across to Cape May NJ, up the Atlantic Coast to NYC, into the Hudson River, through the 13 locks past Albany, into Lake Champlain, and on up to the top of the Lake where the Richelieu River begins.

On the other side, in Vermont, we picked up VT Route 7 and took it through the lush, hilly Vermont countryside down to St. Albans where we picked up route 104 heading east.  In Fairfax we stopped at a lovely little diner (photo) and we highly recommend it for inexpensive delicious dining.  It must be popular.  It was nearly full in mid morning, and the receptionist was taking reservations for dinner.  The list was already long and this was on a Thursday.

On the way to Jeffersonville we passed a waterfall/power plant.  How much was natural, and how much was engineered, I could not tell.  But it was photogenic.

Next stop near Jeffersonville was the Boyden Valley Winery.  Laugh if you will, the Admiral and I have taken a great love of local berry wine companies and this was one of the better ones.  Their Gold Leaf is pricey at $25 a bottle but the taste worth it.  Most bottles came in at the $8 to $10 range.  We ended up walking out with 4 bottles.

Also in Jeffersonville was a typical New England architecture church.  This is the first of many church photos I was taking that day.  I love this FZ30 camera.  I went wild this day, totaling 295 photos and a nearly full 1 gig card by the time I returned.

We have more pictures coming this evening and more adventures to relate.

Stay tuned!
 

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Smoky

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We finally got to the part where a motorhome can't go, the pass through Smuggler's Notch.  In the wintertime this place explodes in population as it is the premier ski area of the Northeast.  Everything from the village at Smuggler Notch (first photo) on down to Stowe on the other side of the pass is booked solid.  We were unable to take pictures of the pass itself, as there was little room to pull over and we had to pay strict attention to getting around all the switchback turns.  However it was an unusual combination of lush greenness combined with pretty serious boulders.  While the elevation of these Eastern mountains are significantly less than the western mountains, the grades are serious and the views are breathtaking.  After spending eleven months in the western areas of our nation I had forgotten how awesome and beautiful the mountains are in the East.

We continued on down the other side of the pass and into Stowe.  Again we were having so much fun we did not get the chance to take many pictures in town.  We did capture some more church pictures and one of the trademarks of Vermont is looking across valleys and seeing the high white steeples of churches exploding through the trees.

The last picture in this messages is of a strange critter we saw mounted in the Stowe General Store.  Looks like some misguided cross-breeding to me.  ;D
 

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Smoky

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Two miles north of Stowe is the Trapp Family Lodge.  Sharon and I are great lovers of Broadway.  The von Trapps were the family members featured in the Broadway show ?Sound of Music?.  Unlike most Broadway shows, this one was based on a true story.  Georg von Trapp, a widowed Austrian aristocrat did marry the governess, Maria Kutschera. When the von Trapps lost their considerable fortune in a bank crash, Maria took over. With the help of a local priest, she took the family hobby?singing?and turned it into the family profession. Before long, the von Trapp Family was performing all over Europe.

In 1938, when the Nazis marched into Salzburg, the von Trapps were able to escape to America.  They continued to perform in America and became as popular there as they were in Europe.  After reaching America, the von Trapp family eventually settled in Stowe Vermont, because it reminded them of their original homeland.  The Trapp family first started welcoming guests to their 27-room lodge in the summer of 1950. 

Thirty-three years later the family opened its doors to a new 93-room resort with the same country charm of the original lodge. The Lodge continues to be owned and operated by the Trapp family.  The Lodge includes 2700 acres with sweeping mountain views.

We lunched at the Lodge Tea House and it was marvelous.

Attached are pictures of the surrounding mountains, the lodge itself, the gift shop, the tea house with The Admiral at lunch.  We also saw a lovely private coach. (photo).  At lunch the coach owner and two clients of his sat next to us.  We could not help overhearing their loud conversation.  It soon became evident that the husband and wife clients were from overseas and they had retained the coach owner as a professional driver to tour the United States.  From the Trapp Lodge they were headed south to Montpelier.  The license plate on the coach is from Alberta Canada, so they had come a long distance
 

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Smoky

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After a long and relaxing lunch at the Trapp Family Lodge Teahouse, we decided we better head for the Burlington Ferry to Port Kent.  We elected this most expensive and longest passage back because it would drop us off 15 minutes from ?home?.  The Plattsburgh crossing from South Hero Island is much shorter and about half the price, but the drive to get to the ferry would have been longer.  Besides, The Admiral misses our old boat greatly, and was looking forward to the longer boat ride.

We arrived at the Ferry location in downtown Burlington with an hour to spare.  We were worried because some times reservations are required and the ferry capacity is about 18 cars.  We were 3rd in line when we arrived, so that worry was over.  After awhile there was a total of about 8 cars.  Then we learned that the lady in the car first in line had a dead battery.  Apparently she had left her lights on and her radio running.  Of course, this spooked everyone else in line because we would all be affected if she could not get her car moving when the time came.  You never saw so much scurrying around to locate jump cables and get her going again! 

We also could see signs of the extensive flooding that hit New England the last two weeks.  The Lake was at an all time high and was flowing over on to the Ferry holding area as some of our photos demonstrate.

Another concern was the huge storm we could see crossing the lake.  I could see our Ferry approaching in the distance against a backdrop of dark blue to black background.  As he came in to port, the storm swept southward just missing us but producing a lot of wind.  The ferry captain had his hands full backing down and getting the ferry into its berth.

The next message will cover our Lake crossing.
 

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Lorna

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Smoky

Very nice pictures.  Are you going to Montpelier?  The capitol and the grounds are beautiful.  The town is very small but they really have some very neat old buildings that are used for government offices and also the visitor center.  Parking is free.
 

Jim Dick

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Smoky,

That critter looks like a Jackalope with wings. :) The home of the Jackalope is Douglas, WY, where Lucy and George Akers used to live. There's a huge statue of the elusive critter in town. They are very difficult to capture either live or on film
 

Smoky

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LOL Karl!  ;D

Anyone for a winged jackalope hunt?  Where is my gunny sack?

Lorna - We missed Montpelier.  It must be a good stop, as that where the millionaires next to our lunch table were headed next.  We were running out of time and had to bypass it.  Next year, instead of the Adirondacks, we have sworn ourselves to spend the rainy season in New England instead.  Hopefully that will include Montpelier.
 

Smoky

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We began our ferry ride just after a storm edged by us heading south.  Our route was northwest, from Burlington VT, across the Lake Champlain to Port Kent, a tiny sleepy town on the NY side.  All that is there are a few houses, the ferry landing, and a tiny train platform where passengers get on and then pay for their tickets on the train.  There is nothing else around there.

It is a marvel this route still exists as it averages only 8 vehicles a trip at this time of year (a little busier in July and August where reservations are recommended) and is the longest crossing (1 hour) of the three Champlain ferry routes.

We learned that they assign the senior captains to this route, as it experiences the most difficult passage due to the open waters exposed to weather, and the docking difficulties on the Burlington side.  In fact I stood and watched the captain bang the ferry rather hard as he docked in Burlington on the edge of a thunder storm.  I gave him a B+ on the docking as he was maneuvering in very high winds.

It is an interesting contrast, to depart from Burlington, a hustling, busy mod size town, and then arrive at Port Kent, which almost appears as a wilderness oasis.

The name of our ferry was the ?Valcour?, named after Valcour Island, which lies just south of the Port Kent landing.  As a youngster who spent every summer on Lake Champlain (Deep Bay just north of Plattsburgh, NY) over a 15 year period, I was very familiar with Valcour Island and Port Kent.  We frequently took both canoe and sailboat trips from Deep Bay down to Valcour Island.  It took a full day of sailing or canoeing to reach, and then we would camp for 3 days on the Island, which at that time was virtually unpopulated.  Now there are million dollar homes dotting the landscape.

I have attached pictures of the crossing, the captain at the helm, and the crew engaged in the docking line handling.  The young boys crewing are likely future commercial captains in the 100 ton master class.  One of the Coast Guard requirements for either a six pack or master class license is a required number of apprentice hours on a ?like? vessel.  I served my own apprenticeship on a 100 ton vessel but it was a commercial fishing vessel.  The ferry work looks a lot easier to me.  The captain is more focused as well, being completely separated from his clients.

The view was spectacular, despite the foreboding weather.  Valcour Island of New York to the left (South) of us and the Grand Isles of Vermont (North and South Hero Islands) to the right.

Because of the limit on uploading pictures per message, I have the crossing on this message and the docking on the next message.
 

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Smoky

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Here are the docking photos starring our two docking boys Lon and Harry.  Future sea captains I am sure after they have served their apprenticeships.

The final photo is the "Valcour" ferry, taken from land after we had disembarked.

For the next few days we will be incommunicado, as we wend our way through the heart of the Adirondacks on our way to Niagara Falls.  We debated the interior mountain trip versus the more northern trip along the Great Lakes.  We decided we still did not have our fill of the magnificent Adirondacks, so we will enjoy them another day on our way to Watertown NY, where we will overnight in the WalMart supercenter before going on to Niagara.  At Niagara, we will stay at the Niagara Falls campground instead of the KOA.  Mainly because people have already reported on the KOA and we wanted to check out another option.  But also because it is the closest campground to the falls.  The campground people have promised a 70 foot pull through with clearances for our sat dishes.  We shall see!
 

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Betty Brewer

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Smoky said:
The ferry captain had his hands full backing down and getting the ferry into its berth.

Smoky,
The ferries you are using are considerable bigger than the few we have seen.  I hate them just the same.  My home is  on that rig floating over whatever body of water!  And your captain has to land in a certain spot.  Our captains only had to hit land and then the big bull dozers could fix the landing area to fit the  places the captain could hit. Oh boy!!!

Betty
 
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