Disclaimer: This Touring Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom recap contains affiliate links…
My husband and I enjoy watching YouTube videos of cycling adventures, particularly on gravel. One channel we regularly watch is produced by the guys at Green Mountain Gravel who ride Vermont’s country roads. Wanting to tour Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, we found a route on Ride with GPS which they’d called The Spinney, named after a hard cider brewed by their sponsor, Wild Branch Cider.
The morning of the ride, under overcast skies we drove over an hour from our hotel in Burlington to the Craftsbury General Store where we asked permission to park for a few hours while we rode. We asked a few questions about the area and before departing the store clerks wished us a fun ride.
From Dry Gravel to Mud
What started out as a laidback relaxing tour of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, became a somewhat stressful adventure when the rain started falling and the mud started flying. I knew it would be tough with an average of over 100 feet of climbing per mile, but I like climbing and was up for the challenge.
Vermont’s gravel roads are amazing and well known by gravel enthusiasts for their hard packed and easy to ride conditions. There are; however, class 4 roads called Vermont pavé which are unmaintained and often practically impassable, yet still considered public roads and available to cyclists. This particular ride had one posted class 4 road and one that should have been because it most certainly wasn’t drivable by a sedan.
It was overcast and we weren’t expecting rain with only a 10% chance between 1 and 2 PM. However, the rain started right on time and continued off and on throughout the remainder of the ride. I tried to stay positive and let my mud splattered face and grit in my teeth add to the adventure, but in full disclosure, I cried at one point because I was so incredibly cold. The only way I could stay warm was while climbing and by this point in the ride the bulk of our climbing was behind us. I would shiver, freeze, and cry on the descents and warm back up somewhat whenever I’d pedal up a hill.
The route was scenic with beautiful views of Caspian Lake and Lake Elligo as we rode around much of both and had views from many different hilltops. The area was very rural and very primitive with little to no cell service. There were lots of dairy farms and farmland in general dotted with quintessential red barns and stone fences. From riding through beautiful dense forests to breathtaking views of mountains in the distance, around every turn we were treated to a gift of beauty even while looking through mud splattered sunglasses.
- • Ride Name: The Spinney
- • Location: Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom
- • Start/Finish: Craftsbury General Store
- • Course Type: loop
- • Course Surface: gravel
- • Bike: Salsa Warbird
- • Distance: 23.6 miles
- • Time: 2:28:50
- • Average Speed: 9.8 MPH
- • Maximum Speed: 28.6 MPH
- • Elevation Gain: 2,421 feet
- • Elevation Range: 890 to 1,978 feet
- • Weather: 52° and cloudy, climbing to a high of 58° with rain showers, before dropping to 48°
- • Ride with GPS: Link to turn-by-turn navigation cue sheet
- • Course Map:
Fun Pictures From Along the Way
Most of the following pictures were taken with my iPhone (affiliate link); however, a special shoutout goes to my husband who captured some stunning pictures with his small Fujifilm camera (affiliate link) he sometimes carries on our rides.
Leaving the Craftsbury General Store, we rode on pavement for about a mile and a half until we hit the first gravel of this mostly gravel route. Shortly before hitting mile two we started our first climb which lasted for just over three miles. I found the mixture of autumn leaves, pines, and ferns stunning and I couldn’t help but stop for a picture – look closely to see Lake Elligo peeking through below.
I eventually caught back up with my husband who had stopped to wait for me while capturing pictures of an open meadow framing the Green Mountains in the distance.
Taking the obligatory selfie…
We were still in our first long and brutal climb when we turned left onto an even steeper open road that eventually lead to this deceptive entrance into a tree lined and leaf covered area. We didn’t see a sign labeling this section as a class 4 road, but it had decent sized rocks and washed away sections where I had to bike hike in a couple of places.
Riding this section of beautiful primitive road was exhilarating (no pics of me bike hiking, though)…
Back on Vermont gravel and after over three miles, our first climb was over!
After the road flattened out we stopped to rest and refuel before enjoying some fun downhill on a section that included a paved road…
White Mountains and Mount Washington in the distance…
The 10% chance of rain 100% started as a light drizzle right on time at 1 PM as we approached the Hill Farmstead Brewery…
When the drizzle turned to full on rain, my water-resistant jacket eventually gave up and I not only got wet, but very cold. Timing is everything and it was at this point that we had some nice downhills coming up, always a reward after lots of climbing. I quickly discovered just how cold one can get while riding downhill at 20+ MPH in soaking wet clothes when the temperature is in the low 50’s. I was so cold that I cried several times.
Despite the wet conditions, the fall colors looked beautiful along Bayley Hazen Military Road before the class 4 road…
Rain had continued off and on since it began around mile 11 so by the time we got to the class 4 road close to mile 2o things were quite muddy. Leaves covering the road didn’t protect us from muddy water spraying on our faces and up our backs. We’d failed to attach our detachable fenders called ass savers (affiliate link), because… 10% chance of rain. When we finished our ride the backs of our shorts and jackets had a mud line up the middle.
Mud splatter also covered my face, sunglasses, the front of my jacket, my legs…
I’m smiling with a mud freckled face as we approach the country store where we’d parked. And yes, I risked getting mud and grit in my mouth while smiling. 😉
Wet and cold, we cruised back into the parking lot of the Craftsbury General Store. We rode around back to where our car was parked and cleaned up as best we could before going inside to order subs for lunch. There were picnic tables for outdoor dining, but we were too cold to sit outside and ate in our car instead.
While looking for apple cider to have with lunch, we spied The Spinney which is locally bottled in Craftsbury by Wild Branch Cider. It wasn’t until we purchased a bottle to have with lunch that we realized at checkout that it’s an alcoholic beverage, so we kept it to drink later.
Fitbit, Always Keeping an Eye Out
Back in the car my Fitbit (affiliate link) reminded me that my skin temperature was below my normal temperature range – the five health metrics it regularly monitors are breathing rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, oxygen saturation, and resting heart rate. I get a notification if any are out of my personal range – this was a first.
Post-ride Garmin (affiliate link)
Garmin map and graphs…
Final Thoughts on the Ride
While being wet and cold put a real damper on my spirit, I loved this ride from an adventure standpoint… more so after a warm shower than during the ride. I wold love to repeat this on a sunny warm fall day like the day Kyle rode this route in his video.
- • Have you visited Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom? ~ This was my first visit.
- • What was your coldest/wettest bike ride, hike, or run? ~ I remember one particular 20-mile marathon training run when it rained the entire time and the temperature hovered in the mid-30’s. My body almost warmed up, but my fingers froze the entire time.
- • Do you stop and relax occasionally to fuel or take pictures, or barrel on through when on a long run or ride? ~ Pictures, always pictures, unless I’m racing!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on the blue product link and then make a purchase, I will receive a small commission for referring you. You will pay no more or less for the product; however, Amazon will show their gratitude for my referral by paying me.