Meg and I once again completed our longest self-supported bike tour yet: seven days of dirt roads, singletrack, surprisingly nice Vermont corner stores, and Heady Topper. I'm dividing this journey into seven posts, one for each day. This is day 5.
If you're trying to read these in backwards order (who am I to judge?), check out part 4 here:
If you somehow missed my post for day 1, check it out here:
At 7 AM, we finish packing the tent and the bikes are ready to go. A quick toothbrush-by at the bathroom later, and we're on our way out of the campsite.
But, much like our stay at Onion River, we aren't satisfied strolling out the front entrance, past the ranger. Instead, we have a full morning of mountain biking trails mapped out. Instead of taking potentially busy roads, we'll be hoofing it over downed trees, through poorly-marked intersections between trails named "Stonewall" and "Bear Run", and around trails closed due to landslides.
And that's just the way we like it.
We start out on a backroad that connects the "A" and "B" camping zones. Then we pull off onto a brutally uphill doubletrack route. Then the signage gets interesting: some trails are 2 way, but only one direction bans bicycles. Huh.
Eventually, we end up on a blue (intermediate) mountain bike trail, switchbacking our way uphill to the trail that will take us most of the way to Stowe. It's tough going with 30 kilograms of fully loaded bicycle, but we persevere and make it up the hill.
Next, it's gambling time: intersections with absolutely no signage at all. But thanks to a decent sense of direction and the occasional scouting mission, we figure things out.
Then we hit Ricker Farm, the start of the slightly easier doubletrack that we'll take the remainder of the way.
From here, we ride on an abandoned road that's mostly clear-cut biking. There's plenty of rocks, the occasional downed tree, a mixture of up and downhill... but it's mostly just beautiful forest.
Since we're essentially in a long crevasse on the side of a mountain, we largely travel uphill until we cross a stream, then downhill as we make our way back towards the reservoir.
The entire time, we only see one other soul: a brave gravel biker, trucking it as fast as he can to presumably win King of the Mountain on Strava.
The uphill makes for slow, but beautiful going. Halfway through the downhill, the rough dirt-and-rock path transforms into a smooth, recently renovated gravel almost-road. There are few things as satisfying as zooming down a well-earned hill, through the fantastic fiery fall foliage, towards a burrito & beer lunch.
Our journey continues with one last hill, and it's a big 'un. Over the course of 1.8 miles, we ascend from 700 feet to over 1400 feet. It's an intense climb, but the road is a perfect example of VT dirt, and the views at the top are straight-up gobsmacking. And the downhill goes by very, very quickly.
Our first stop in town: Idletyme, which we haven't visited since 2019. Meg was extremely excited (and not disappointed) by the poutine. The beer was decent. The weather was perfect. The bees were friendly.
Next up, we swing by PK Coffee for a caffeine hit. Our beverages are good enough, but they last only long enough to reach Alchemist Beer. Sadly, Alchemist doesn't do pours every day, so we settled for a 4-pack of the freshest Heady Topper in the state.
After Alchemist, our 2019 nostalgia trip continues with Stowe Cider, where we enjoy the fall seasonal sampler and some complimentary phone charging.
On our way there, we interrupted something truly haunting: a sphynx cat photo op on a bike path bridge. I'm not sure what's more horrifying: hairless cats, or the fact that this couple assumed they could take up the entire busy bike path bridge to take multiple fall photos. All I can say: if your animal gets so cold outside when it's 60 degrees Fahrenheit that you need to keep it inside your hoodie, I'm not sure it's well suited to a fall foliage photo op.
After our scarring naked cat experience, we fulfill my daily bike trip requirement: we stop for burrito. This time, it's not a new experience. Instead, we visit the first place I ever enjoyed a burrito in Vermont: Ranch Camp. The beer selection is rad. The burrito is rad. The service is slightly slow, because it's busy as hell. But the porch is a lovely place to hang out, and both the weather and views outside are beautiful. It's hard to complain.
After Ranch Camp, our route is simple and short: a few miles up the valley to Morristown. We arrive at our campsite with plenty of time to spare, and meet up with my brother Kevin and his wife for dinner and drinks. Thanks for hanging out! If you ever feel like live music, a local beer, and a classic chicken tender after a long day of mountain biking, I couldn't recommend Moog's Place more.
Our night wraps up late -- nearly 10 PM. It's crispy cold outside, and the nearly full moon casts a bright pale glow over the landscape. The stars are beautiful. Our bike lights (including my dynamo light, which doesn't require batteries at all) provide all the light we need. After a quick relaxing ride back to the campsite, we quickly fall asleep to the sound of yet another babbling brook.
Check out part 6 (whenever I finish writing it -- maybe I already have?) at Day 6 (Morrisville to Greensboro).