A warm breeze hints at summer as a visitor from Sweden pedals ahead, leading his extended family along the quiet shoreline. We swing east off the lake, along smooth country roads that seem to impose upon rich green blankets of the landscape we’re riding through. The sounds of birds and farm animals fill pauses in our conversation as we soak in the beauty of it all, and the glorious weather. The air smells fresh, a combination of plants springing to life and fragrant blossoms that waft tantalizingly through the air. The deep blue sky highlights farm fields and weathered barns. You can’t help but want days like this to go on forever. It's May 28 of 2016 and the allure of summer cycling in Vermont is present in our first Vermont bike tour of the season.
Fields seem to roll as far as one can see, and ever present are Vermont’s signature Holstein cows who keep watchful eyes over their curious and playful calves. One of my favorite things about cycling in Vermont is the easy rolling terrain in the Lake Champlain Valley – the kind where you carry your speed on the descents and have enough momentum to almost make it up the next rise. When you get briefly bogged down near the top of those little rolling hills, it allows time to let your eyes (and focus) wander over fields of green that are punctuated with a blaze of yellow by dandelions, reminding farmers to make that first rich cut for hay.
Though our ride along Lake Champlain tempted us for a swim, we knew the deep waters of this stunningly beautiful lake to be a bit cold this early in the season, albeit crystal clear. Soon enough the big lake and smaller lakes nearby will warm sufficiently to invite a refreshing dip after a summer ride. Vermont’s mountain streams and swimming holes are legendary and it’s always fun to witness our guests’ exuberant reactions to some of our favorite hideaways. Jumping off your bike and into a Vermont swimming hole or lake on a warm summer day is something you need to experience at least once in your life.
Farm stands and general stores are still found in small towns along the way, and farmers sometimes deliver their harvest by tractor. During the summer, shelves overflow with seasonal crops and berries cultivated by a new generation of entrepreneurs who are revitalizing old farmland. July is the height of berry season in Vermont and there’s just nothing better than a handful of blueberries or raspberries picked right off the vine. Being the entrepreneurial state that it is, farmers are experimenting with growing varieties of hops in order to supply the proliferation of craft beer producers in the state.
You might be surprised to know that Vermont ranks first in the US for breweries per capita. Leading the way in notoriety is Hill Farmstead Brewery which is nestled among the hills of an old family farmstead. Four out of the last five years, Hill Farmstead has been ranked as the top brewery in the world – yes, world. That gives you an idea of the quality of craft beer being produced here in Vermont. Lawson’s Finest Liquids was just crowned the 2016 National Session IPA award winner for its delicious and eminently enjoyable Super Session #2. I could go on but you get the idea.
There’s no lack of great choices for a post-ride beer here in the Green Mountain State. And, if beer isn’t high on your post-ride list, perhaps a little indulgence in Vermont’s very own world famous ice cream is in order. Ben & Jerry’s got its start in an old gas station in downtown Burlington in 1978. Nowadays, visitors to the state will enjoy an abundance of locally grown products and liquid refreshment, not only of the alcoholic variety. Vermont's apple cider has long been coveted yet now kombucha and naturally flavored seltzer water have joined that category. After an invigorating summer ride, any of these might quench your thirst.
Although most visitors to Vermont, and many locals too, are attracted to the rich blaze of red and orange colors that explode along roadsides and hillsides each fall, I have to say that the late spring and summer are my favorite seasons in Vermont. Landscapes seem a thousand shades of green, sunshine sparkles off the lakes, and quiet country roads make you want to take your hands off the handlebars and reach for the sky in joyous appreciation. Picnic lunches in the shade of Vermont maple trees and evenings on the lake round out our miles on the bike. Days linger into dusk, casting a warm glow over the lake and in the sky above the silhouette of mountains. The gentle lapping of ripples on the shore are a peaceful invitation to nod off to moonlight peeking through the pines along a lakeshore in Vermont.
Sojourn is a boutique tour operator offering bicycling and active vacations in the US and Canada. Based in Charlotte, Vermont, Sojourn is known for its one-of-a-kind itineraries, top accommodations, exceptional tour leaders, and personalized service. Sojourn’s Lake Champlain Valley bike tour was named one of the top ten bike tours in the world by Frommer’s and one of the top five bike tours in the US by Forbes Travel Guide. Susan Rand is Sojourn’s founder and president.