St. Albans, VT, to Orford, Quebec

Hey, hooligans. Rain is falling again all over these hills, so instead of walking I am going to sit here and write to you. With coffee. I have a Pavlovian response to hot drinks, rain, and writing;

it is delightful, and my stomach goes all warm and happy.

Anyways, here’s the digs.

* * *

I hitched a ride north on Memorial Day weekend with ole sister and bil, who decided to hike in the Green Mountains. They generously donated hours of their time to drop me off at the station (!! thankssss) and from there I tearfully took Amtrak’s Vermonter train to St. Albans, which is the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War.

(I guess the durn Confederates used Quebec as their sneaking grounds, and launched a surprise attack into Vermont from across the border.)

The Mississiquoi Rail Trail is a gravel pathway that leads 26 miles from St. Albans to Richford, VT. It was a beautiful walk, and included a chocolate muffin and pizza.

From there, it’s a mere 2 miles (?) to the border crossing, though you can continue on a gravel path to Jay, VT, which is the nearest town to the end of the Long Trail, our sweet, sweet, oldest-trail-in-the-nation-that-I’ve-not-walked-yet.

The Route Verte is a trans-Quebec network of bike trails, which runs either on the side of the road in designated lanes, or on paved/graveled trails like the above. I walked through the Richmond-Abercorn border crossing, got onto it (it’s just on the road there) and walked for 10… um…. miles. Or kilometers. Um…. it was ten. LOOK AT THESE FLOWERS

and walked into Sutton, where I stayed for six days like a small delinquent turtle. All I did was eat bagels, camp in some poor humans’ yard, and begin distinguishing French words from one other. It is a horrible process. All the consonants disappear! ARGH but I also was privileged enough to witness the glorious beginnings of a burgeoning bagel empire, have eaten the best bagels I’ve ever had in my life, met tons and tons of incredible folk, received a new book (“Tracks” by Robyn Davidson), replaced my comb which sister accidentally took the week before, and ate tartare for the first time ever, after playing piano for an afternoon in a microbrewery.

I am assuming they gave it to me so I would go away. Here’s a bagel, also:

I was lucky enough to attend an annual meeting for PENS, which is the organization that establishes and cares for the trails in that area. It was really cool to be able to see (kind of; it was all in French) how they run their things. This only makes four trail organizer meetings that I’ve randomly attended in my peregrinations so far.

They threw me onto their trails from there.

I then connected to Les Sentiers de L’estrie, which used to run from the Vermont border, but the section was officially closed down with the increased border security. Since the eastern townships in Quebec are full of privately owned land, establishing this trail is a constantly changing challenge of negotiating with owners, building trail, having folks rescind their trail permissions, maintaining and blazing and finding workarounds. It’s $45 CAN for an annual membership card, which supports their efforts and allows you access to all 160km of their trails.

Along their trails, I have so far found some snow; mosquitoes; really nice stairs; some chocolate that a Sutton human had secretly stuffed into my bag before I left (al;skdfjals;dkfjals;dkfjals;dkfjas;ldkjf); and mountains.

Always mountains.

Anyways, I’ve followed their trails into Orford, sometimes also on roads. There are areas where they no longer have trail permissions; and my maps are really old, so sometimes I end up walking out to a road crossing and then looking sadly at a sign that says depressing things, like, “Sentier ferme.” Trail closed.

Much cry.

Very sad.

But it’s ok, because there are woods roads. And the folks around here are very used to pedestrians/hikers during the summer- there’s a number of routes through the area, including the circuit de l’abbaye and the Sentier Saint-Remi, all of which use a mixture of trails and roads to get around.

Anyways, the rain has stopped for now. I’m headed up north, continuing through the mountains, back towards the Gaspé Peninsula, and the IAT where I left off.

Here are more pictures. Here is one of soap, from the Savonnerie des Diligences, best-smelling shop I’ve ever found at a trail crossing:

Happy June!


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