Yesterday I took a walk along the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail. This has been on my radar for a little while, as I’ve planned to start off this hiking season with a walk to start figuring out where my limits are, distance-wise. I’ve some post-retirement plans that need vetting.
I’ve been walking up and down the hills and mountains in New England my entire adult life, but those have usually been day hikes. While strenuous at times, they’ve rarely exceeded five or six miles in total distance. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done more than ten miles in a day- the last time was probably a Gulf Hagas hike with my son ten or so years ago. That was a beauty.
Yesterday’s logistics worked out well, as my wife had to go over to Burlington on an errand, and also wanted to stop at a few stores along the way. So she dropped me off at the trailhead in Richford, VT around 9:30 AM. My goal was to see how far down the trail I could travel before she came rolling back through on Route 105.
The Missisquoi River is interesting as rivers go. It’s about 80 miles long, with its headwaters somewhere around North Troy. The river travels north into Quebec, and then hooks around the end of the Green Mountains, returning south to the US, where it then runs generally west by northwest until it empties into Lake Champlain. The valley from the western slope of the mountains to the lake is amazing farmland.
I remember reading about the Missisquoi when I was young- early teens, perhaps. It was in either Sports Afield or Field & Stream, and was one of those ubiquitous stories about fish that couldn’t be caught where I lived. I think this particular story was about northern pike or muskellunge inhabiting the Missisquoi. It’s a good sized river, and I’m sure some big fish live there. I’ve still yet to fish it.
The Rail Trail is well maintained, and limited to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Snowmobiles are allowed in the winter months. It’s about 26 ½ miles long, with mile markers posted each half mile, beginning in St. Albans. The grade is mild, and there are benches deposited here and there for folks to take a break. And though the trail has the name of the river, and does generally follow its path, most of the scenery along the way is woods and farmland.
Once you cross from Richford into Berkshire, it’s not long before you go through the village and reach the first real stretch of river to enjoy. Just as you exit Berkshire into Enosburg, the trail snugs up against the Missisquoi for a time, and there I found a nice streamside rock to take a break and enjoy the views
Here are some more photos of the river.
As the trail approaches the town center of Enosburg, it again moves away from the river. It crosses Rt. 105 by an auto parts store and here there was a bench where I stopped for a few minutes to eat lunch. Then, onwards, down a slight hill and across an old trestle. I crossed Rt. 105 yet again (there are many road crossings) and headed onto what turned out to be the final section of the walk, through acres of farmland being readied for the new season.
A couple miles outside of Enosburg I heard from my wife, who said she was about four miles away. She collected me at the next road crossing, near the 13.5 mile marker. The tally for the day was 13 miles walked in roughly 4 ½ hours. Based upon these results, and my belief I had more left in the tank, I will continue with those post-retirement plans. More about that in a future post. I will say it’s heartening to learn some limits are further out than you might think.
Here’s a screenshot of the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail Map, grabbed from the organization’s website. It was a fun day, and I think I might well return, but next time with the bicycle, and perhaps a son.