Day 18 – Lake Champlain Loop

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Day 18 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

What a surprise…I awoke to rain, albeit a sprinkle relative to the last 24 hours.  Today I planned to complete a portion of the Lake Champlain Loop, driving from Whiteface Mountain all the way to the Canadian/New York/Vermont border and then south through some of Vermont’s islands in the lake.

Whiteface Mountain

Beginning at Whiteface Mountain, I hoped to take the gondola ride for an overhead view of Lake Placid.  The chalkboard at the desk indicated a temperature of 46 degrees and visibility of 100 feet.  While visibility of 100 feet I great for SCUBA diving, it is far from ideal for mountain top.  As a result, I didn’t go. Instead, I snapped a photo of the falls nearby the ski center and navigated north along the Lake Champlain loop to Ausable Chasm.

waterfall in lake placid

Ausable Chasm

Aside from down right COLD and RAINY weather, Ausable Chasm was awesome.  I skipped the “tour of nature” in the rain, I simply snapped a few photos from the roadside bridge. Looking down stopped me in my tracks…dizzying! The canyon’s sandstone walls are between 100 and 200 feet high, and the river, especially with all the rain, raged beneath the bridge almost creating a whirlpool.  I can see why Ausable Chasm was one of America’s first tourist attractions. It’s a magnificent site.

Ausable Chasm on the Lake Champlain Loop

City of Plattsburgh

Further north along the Lake Champlain Loop stand the City of Plattsburgh. While the weathermen predicted the rain would clear out by the afternoon, yesterday’s optimism for elusive pleasant weather evaded me today. Ye of little faith didn’t wait for sunshine and settled for city walk with the mutts in only a light sprinkle. 

First, we stopped at the obelisk across from city hall that commemorates the last major naval battle during the War of 1812 which resulted in a victory for the American fleet.  According to Reader’s Digest, the obelisk is a tribute to Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s imagination. He used “a cat’s cradle of anchors and winches to pivot his ships completely around in order to deliver double broadside to the British fleet.”

Obelisk in the City of Plattsburgh

From the obelisk, I took a picture of city hall. I couldn’t resist. As a former public finance banker, I spend countless hours in buildings like these. Once we were even held in lock down while it was thought an active shooter was in the building. Anyway, I had to at least commemorate one municipal building, especially since  I have seen some neat city halls driving through all these small towns, of late. 

City Hall of Plattsburgh

Before I left Plattsburg, I enjoyed a coffee at the local coffee shop, Koffee Kats, and provisioned VANilla with meals for the next week at Price Chopper.  So many elders shuffled through the aisles, I thought the store might be offering a blue hair special. The man in line behind me determined that it was the first of the month, and everyone had received his/her social security or unemployment check.  As I left the store, I noticed a parking spot reserved for customers with children located right next to the handicap. What a great concept!  

Along the Lake Champlain Loop

A bigger surprise was to pass by a Kmart on my way out of town.  I thought they went out of business. Perhaps, just in Texas. Another roadside attraction along the Lake Champlain loop between Plattsburgh and Rouses Point, was a farm that must have had over 50 John Deere tractors lined up in a row in the field.  It reminded me of the Cadillacs half buried upside down in Amarillo.  By the time I remembered to snap a photo, I had already passed about half of them.  I dedicate this pictures to Brook, an ex-coworker from Southwest Airlines who collected models of John Deere tractors.

Row of 50 John Deere's on the Lake Champlain Loop

Fort Montgomery

As I crossed the bridge from New York to Vermont in Rouses Point, I took Reader’s Digest’s suggestion to look to the left for a “glimpse of the stone ruins of Fort Montgomery”.  Its nickname is Fort Blunder as it was accidentally built on Canadian soil.  I took a picture while driving, so it’s blurry, but I thought the blunder was worth recording.  How many people can say they accidentally built something in the wrong country!

fort montgomery on the lake champlain loop

Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

At about this time, miraculously the rain stopped, though VANilla’s windshield wipers kept going due to road the spray.  Once I reached Vermont and the other side of the Lake Champlain loop, a nature walk called my name in Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.  Scout, Petey, and I followed trail, sometimes through inch deep water, that looped through the forest, past a pond, and over marshes.  It continues to baffle me to see purple and yellow wildflowers in a field aside forests of fall colors.  For you Texans out there, can you imagine seeing blue bonnets in October?

purple flowers at the missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

St. Anne’s Shrine

After our soggy walk, we ventured South along the Lake Champlain loop to Isle La Motte, known for St. Anne’s Shrine.  St. Anne’s Shrine is the site of the first white settlement and the first Roman Catholic Mass in Vermont, held in 1666.  The site is very large containing historical markers about the French fort, gardens, and different areas of worship. 

St Anne's Shrine on Isle La Motte


After a brief visit to St. Anne’s, I continued my quest to geocache in every state and just before I left Isle La Motte, I picked up another.  It was hidden in a tree just off the shore of Lake Champlain.  I didn’t even notice all the ducks hiding in the marshy area until they flew away.  It was clearly a hunters paradise as I stepped over a shotgun shell in search of the cache.

Grand Isle State Park

Continuing further south, I ended the night at Grand Isle State Park. Despite earning state park of the year and being geared toward camping with mostly non-electric sites, the park wasn’t hosting many campers tonight. I suspect the crummy weather forecast had something to do with that. 

After checking, I left my computer to charge with a helpful ranger named Ashley as I took the obligatory two loops around the grounds to select a campsite. I picked site 3 that seemed relatively dry and went for my final hike of the day with the mutts. 

I mistakenly left my camera behind, but most of the time, I was concentrating on not busting it on the slick boardwalk or taking slight detours as to not wade through small streams running down the path!  At least it wasn’t raining. 

Back at the campgrounds, I am proud to say that I learned how to operate my refrigerator on propane. Additionally, today I purchased a mobile charger that utilizes VANilla’s second battery while it charges my computer. I get a few hours out of it before it drains. As a result, I have a few more camping options. Signing off and praying for no rain. ETB.

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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