There are no trails in southern VT
Unless you mountain bike, that is. I've written before about my paranoia about my road bike tires, so when we travelled the few miles north into Vermont today to see some Green Mountain majesty, we were disappointed to discover only dirt and gravel roads used as trails in the southern part of the state. We learned that the state's rail trails traverse only the far northern reaches of the state (or Northeast Kingdom) near Lake Champlain, which is more than a day trip for us, so we decided to forego riding in Vermont at least for today.
Our original destination was the Valley Trail in Wilmington, VT. We stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce office for a map, which is where we received the bad news about the type of surface on that trail, and in fact, on many of the roads in the state, which--believe it or not--are not paved. Unfortunately, the paved roads suitable for road biking also receive heavy use from cars and trucks, which adds a level of risk we chose not to accept.
We worked up an appetite after all the map viewing and deciding, so we ate lunch at the Valley View Saloon in Dover, VT, and then headed back south. The only unexpected sight along the way was near Brattleboro, VT, when a grey fox retrieved something in the road and ran back into underbrush. That was probably the most exciting part of our trip in Vermont, although I had really hoped to see some moose, which should have been prevalent if the warning signs we saw along the way were any indication.
The rest of the trip home from Brattleboro was uneventful. But not having had our urge to cycle satisfied yet, we decided to unhitch our bikes at the Shunpike Rest Area in Charlemont, MA and ride to the Mohawk State Forest along Rte. 2. This road is by no means an improvement over what Vermont offered, but at least it is closer to home in the event of an emergency. Fortunately we didn't have any of those, either!
The closest thing we had to an emergency occurred when we startled a porcupine as we entered the state forest. The little creature porcupine-waddled back into the trees, stopping once or twice to see if we were still around. Each time it did, I said something to it. (Seriously. Wouldn't you?) After I talked to it, it retracted some of its quills. But Bruce wanted nothing to do with conversing with a spear-throwing mammal, so he continued on up the trail.
The state forest is beautiful, and comprises property on the north side of the Deerfield River. There are a few rustic cabins for rent on higher elevations, and camping sites on the riverbanks as well as up in the hills. Bear boxes are scattered throughout the campsites and I was reminded of the stern warnings about bears when we camped at Mt. Rainier a few years ago. We didn't see any bears then, either.
We left the forest after a quick jaunt up and down the paved roads to the camping areas and stopped at the Hail to the Sunrise monument, a majestic bronze statue that honors the the five Mohawk Nations who inhabited western Massachusetts and New York State. There are stones and bricks at the monument with names of people from the various nations in Massachusetts, New York, and the surrounding states. The monument lacks an in depth explanation at the site, and I hope that more information for visitors will be available in the future. It really is stunning.
I decided I would ride home from the monument, as I'm still working on gaining some endurance for cycling these hills. I was rewarded with seeing a white-tailed doe and her fawn bound through the high grass down to the Deerfield River. Hopefully neither they nor any humans heard me squeal with delight when I saw them. (I just love the way fawns jump and hop!) That was a great way to end a ride on a day that seemed destined for an epic biking failure just a few hours earlier!