Sue and Mo kayaking Otter Creek
It is hard to describe the feeling of freedom that accompanied our drive out of New Jersey. When we left early on Sunday morning, both of us felt a bit of apprehension. As I may have mentioned previously, sometimes navigation conversations can get a bit testy, especially when things are complicated in an unknown area.
Our destination for the next two days was my long-time friend Jeanne (mentioned often in this blog) and Alan’s lovely home on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain near the village of Vergennes.
Map of our route leaving New Jersey
We were happy that we didn’t have to get anywhere near New York City on the route north that we chose, and within an hour or so, we had escaped the mixed-up confusion of bridges, onramps and offramps, freeways, interstates, and toll roads for the beautiful open vistas of the Catskill Mountains in New York.
Map of our route from New Jersey to Vermont
Have I mentioned that we have come to love the toll roads? They are fast, usually with good pavement, and often much less crowded than other options, and worth every penny. Although there were a few times on our routes in New England that we had no clue what we were paying to drive these mostly lovely roads, and simply did it anyway. It just takes a bit of maneuvering to be sure to get the right lane with a green x that also accepts cash. One time we missed it and flew right through the EZPass lane. We are still awaiting our bill-by-mail for that one and so far not a word. I suppose it will show up eventually.
Driving through the Catskills in New York State
We were accompanied on our beautiful drive through the Catskills by soft rain, cloudy skies, and blessed green open space. We planned a route that took us east into Vermont near Ticonderoga. It was a good thing I called Alan to check in and give them a time of arrival. Our chosen route required a ferry crossing that would take a long time, cost a bunch of money, and worst of all RV’s aren’t allowed on that ferry! Alan talked us through another route to the lake house and in no time we crossed into Vermont, thrilling at the verdant countryside dotted with small farmhouses and miles and miles of green. It was so beautiful it took my breath away. The last time I visited this part of Vermont in 2014, the fields were already plowed and the trees were almost through with their fall colors.
A gorgeous example of a farm in Vermont
We were a short half an hour from Vergennes when Mo said she couldn’t drive another mile. I was completely wiped out as well, and we looked at each other and pulled over to the side of the road by an old abandoned house to rest. It is the first time in 15 years of motorhome traveling that neither of us could drive. We were completely exhausted. I called Jeanne and Alan and said we would be a bit later than expected. I crawled into the back and napped on the bed with Mattie while Mo curled up in the dinette and fell immediately asleep. Ten days in New York City had completely wiped us out.
Jeanne and Alan’s welcoming house on Lake Champlain
I think we rested about an hour before continuing our final short meandering leg to Jeanne and Alan’s house. They were waiting with hugs, open arms, and help with setting up the MoHo near their garage. We had blessed quiet, dark nights, and power. Alan gave us a tour of the lake house, which has 3 or 4 guest rooms, a bunch of bathrooms, and tons of room, offering a room of our choice. However, with a new motorhome of their own, Alan especially understands the desire to sleep in one’s own space and said he wouldn’t be the least bit offended if we chose to stay in the MoHo instead of the house.
Jeanne relaxing with a perfect martini
My feet up in a lounge chair enjoying the lake view
After settling in, Mo and I walked out to the chairs at the lakeside while Alan brought out some excellent cocktails. Alan was cooking our dinner, which turned out to be what he called “lake food”, probably the best burger I have had in a very long time.
Alan showing us his plates lined up for burgers
Jeanne has visited us in Grants Pass, but I haven’t seen Alan since their wedding back in 2014. Alan is Jeanne’s Prince Charming, and she is the love of his life. They are so much fun to be around, and we were thrilled to have the next several days in their company. None of us are night owls, so it was easy to retire early to the MoHo for the best sleep either of us had in many days
Jeanne leading the way down to Lake Champlain on Otter Creek
The next morning was a treat I had dreamed of ever since I visited Jeanne at the Lake House in 2014. We planned to kayak part of Lake Champlain and Otter Creek. It was a thrill to wake up to brilliant sunshine that morning knowing that the temperatures were just right for our paddle.
Mo and Jeanne on Lake Champlain
Jeanne decided that she would paddle across the lake from their place and meet us near the boat launch on Otter Creek, not far as the crow flies, but about half an hour from the house by way of the meandering roads around Vergennes and the creek. Jeanne and Alan have a dock, but the lake edge is very rocky by their place and there is no way I can enter and exit my kayak from the dock as I did back in 2014 when I kayaked this route with Jeanne on a chilly fall morning. Hence the official boat ramp and an easy launch for us.
A crowned night heron on Otter Creek
We left around ten, with plenty of time to meet Jeanne. Once Mo and I arrived at the ramp, and began to unload the boats, we realized we had made a stupid mistake. We had locked the kayaks for our stay in NYC and had stored the keys in the MoHo. Oops. We were in the Tracker and the boats were securely locked to the top of the car. I called Jeanne and luckily her phone worked out on the water, and she said she would wait for us. We drove the half hour back to the MoHo to get the keys and another half hour back to the car where Jeanne was patiently waiting on the shore at the launch on Otter Creek reading a book.
Two ospreys at the edge of Otter Creek
By the time we got on the water, it was almost noon. No matter. It was a perfectly gorgeous day and the paddle was magnificent. We kayaked downstream with Jeanne to the lake where she continued back to their place. Mo and I then paddled upstream in the gentle current as far as what is known as the Otter Creek Dugway.
Mo enjoying some slow water on Otter Creek
There is some history around this artificial channel between Otter Creek and Fields Bay to the south. Alan shared the story with us about Benedict Arnold being crafty enough to understand that the British couldn’t take their huge unwieldy war boats up Otter Creek and he built some kind of smaller boat that was simply a platform with guns that could navigate the creek. He and his men went upstream and the British knew Arnold and his men would have to eventually return to the lake for supplies and simply waited. As the legend goes, under cover of night, his men dug the dugway overnight, and slipped out under cover of darkness to assault the British from behind, thus winning one of the great battles of the Revolutionary War.
Sue and Mo emerging from Otter Creek to Lake Champlain
Of course, there is much discussion about this story, with some attributing the dugway to some guy named Commodore Thomas Macdonough Jr., a U.S. naval officer who, in September 1814, defeated the British at the Battle of Plattsburgh. No matter, either way, it is a great story, and I loved that we found the Dugway on our way upstream before returning to the launch site. It was an easy exit for me, with pleasant water and a nice smooth bottom for me to roll out of my boat.
Aerial View of Otter Creek with the Dugway marked in red
We went back to the house where Alan told us, “Cocktails at 5, what is your pleasure?” What a great host! In addition to more delightful cocktails, including his favorite Manhattan with some kind of fancy Italian cherries, and a martini for Jeanne, once again Alan planned to cook dinner for us.
Alan takes us out on Lake Champlain in his fishing boat
But first, Alan wanted to take us out in the boat to show us some of the high points of the beautiful lake on which they lived.
Alan the Skipper
Mattie the Watcher
The Adirondack High Peaks in New York from Lake Champlain
I didn’t know that Lake Champlain was more than 150 miles long, and was pivotal in the history of the Revolutionary War. Jeanne opted to relax at home while Alan took us out on the lake. The air was nearly still and the water was calm as glass. Alan said he had rarely seen it this beautiful this time of year. Usually, it is much colder.
Mattie went with us for her first real boat ride. She is used to the kayaks, but the look on her face as Alan picked up speed on the water was priceless. I could almost hear her thinking, “what in the world is happening here??”
Amazing rock formations on the cliffs on the New York side of Lake Champlain
The views were spectacular, and Alan stopped at several points on the water to tell us stories of the lake, the marinas, the nearby Adirondack Mountains, and the geology. It was a great ride and I so loved the stops and Alan’s wonderful explanations of the surrounding area.
Alan telling the story of Benedict Arnold and the Otter Creek Dugway
It shows what kind of man Alan is. As Jeanne says, he is as comfortable in a tux as overalls, on a tractor as on an airplane, and he can race as fast across the lake as any guy, but also knows how to slow down and share the beauty of the place with us. It was a spectacular late afternoon.
Cecil and Tei enjoying the lakefront with Jeanne
In the meantime, Jeanne’s lifetime friend Tei and her husband Cecil called and said they would love to come by and visit while we were there. They live about 40 miles away, and I met Tei and Cecil at Jeanne’s wedding. It was great fun when they showed up, saying they wouldn’t stay for dinner, but bearing gifts of spicy peanut noodles and fresh local Vermont corn on the cob.
Jeanne set a lovely table for our supper
Alan convinced them to stay and we had another truly amazing supper featuring Alan’s signature grilled chicken, Jeanne’s roasted peppers and onions, and a yummy salad. Another perfect meal! This was getting to be a habit that would be repeated again when we traveled south to the main house near Dorset, Vermont.
The lake bed and dock at Jeanne and Alan’s lake house
But there was one more night of blessed darkness there at the lake, where I could see the Milky Way above us and listen only to the crickets as we fell asleep. Jeanne and Alan and their wonderful lake home was a lovely respite after our frenetic days in New York City. It couldn’t have been more perfect.