13 Weird & Wonderful Things To See, Eat and Do On The Island Line Trail (aka the Burlington Bike Path)
I biked the 32 miles and you should too
“Just like a ship
Without a sail
Just like a ship
Without a sail
But I'm not worried because I know
But I know we can take it
I know we can shake it”
Eighteen months ago, at the very beginning of the Now Times, myself and two buddies contrived a way to socialize, process, and recreate while also safely diffusing our potentially poison coronovapors. We met once a week and rode a chunk of the Burlington Bike Path, it’s not a massive overstatement to say that this ritual became a lifesaver. Over the past year and a half we’ve discovered nooks and crannies and all kinds of nuggets of joy along this exceptional use of public space. Here’s some of those crans, thirteen to be exact. (And boom, a map for those of you playing along at home…)
At mile 1, we already have a banger. The world’s first universally-accessible treehouse (!) is an imagination fountain. The fantastic storytelling via architecture is by the Treehouse Guys, a whackadoo crew from the Mad River Valley.
It sits in Oakledge park which alone could consume an a entire day- swimming, meandering rocky paths, tennis courts, a playground, and my favorite, a pseudo-secret members-only bocce club.
Not recommended as a destination but you’ll know it when you smell it. Built in 1953, the plant obviously serves a crucial purpose in our community (and leaves A LOT of room for improvement), but the fact that our lakefront was basically a sewer and junkyard until the 80’s shows the mind boggling mismanagement of this amazing resource (not that we needed a reminder). Go, future us! Do better! More bike paths! Less poop rivers!
No more doom and gloom I promise. Here’s a cat, not an overflowy sewage plant:
A fitting tribute to a beloved local DJ and pillar of the Burlington community, Andy “A Dog” Williams. Over the years, my kids, on push scooters and decks, have hung tight alongside the tatted out skate chicks and cool dads. A welcoming oasis, surprisingly diverse, which is a testament to the thoughtful people who worked so hard to make this happen. They even left a little beach access point on the north side to sneak a joint. How kind.
I love this giant tree (black walnut?) on the southern tip of Lakeview Cemetery. It’s majestic and shoots magic.
You feel this bridge before you see it I swear to god. I’m not a geologist so my completely unresearched theory is that the ground cools the rocks under the bridge, the wind is channeled through the aperture which then blows past the cold rocks and transmogrifies the whole deal into a gigantic weirdo natural air conditioner. Take that Marfa Lights.
UGH THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I STARTED THIS PROJECT.
I’ve biked past the unassuming trailhead approx 100 times and always thought, “I wonder what's back there” but then I just carried on living my life. I blew it. This place is amazing.
I could spend a whole newsletter here. Owned and maintained by the Episcopal Church in Vermont, the 130-acre wilds have well-marked winding cliffside trails, sneaky lake views for days, multiple secret swimming bays, an outdoor chapel, stone staircases, rock climbing, direct access to North Beach, cabin rentals, and brick buildings intriguingly marked “NOT FOR PUBLIC USE” all hiding right in the middle of Burlington. This is my new jam and I’ve been here twice in the 24 hours since discovering it, true story. Three cheers for the Episcopalians.
Dog beaches rule.
Oh Charlie. What a gift you were to the world.
Charlie passed in February of this year but the community and legacy he built is Hall Of Fame material.
Perched at the end of one of the most schizophrenic streets in Burlington (seriously, you should plop down to this termination of North Ave sometime), Charlie’s is an institution in every sense of the world. Historically, you could get a “Charlie burger,” buy penny candy from a giant jar, rent a kayak, catch a sunset on the squeaky swinging bench or scramble over the gnarled driftwood collection on the beach. It is a jaw-dropping “what is this place?!” kind of experience. As of this moment, the boathouse is in a bit of a purgatory while the family determines the future of the building and the business. I’ve been told they’re shooing off predatory developers and hoping to find a way forward that honors the legacy of Charlie while still serving the community that has found respite here for decades. Here’s hoping.
If you’re intrigued, my buddy Myles David Jewell has been working on a feature-length documentary about Charlie and the boathouse for the past 3 years. It’s still in production but I encourage all of you to click through to this gorgeous five minute teaser. RIP Charlie. You were an anchor.
We have a running joke that all parts of America can be found in Colchester. Exhibit #29: The Cape Cod Of Colchester. These 5 little streets off of Colchester Point Road take me all the way back to Massachusetts. Each terminates in a private beach but these humble shambolic bungalows aren’t your typical overbuilt pinterest-bait. I would live here, easy.
(Technically this isn’t on the bike path but I usually take this quick detour on the way back from the causeway. Variety y’all.)
Another little hit of Colchester joy-drenaline, this house is a Pizza Hut on acid. Burning man Snoopy vibes too? 100% would sled.
The crown jewel of the bike path, hands down. I can’t recommend this 6 mile round trip ride enough. Yet another example of inventive industrial transformation (rails to trails, rise up!) we are in rare air here. Bisecting a bucolic section of Lake Champlain and buttressed by massive blocks of white marble, the crushed stone path is a masterwork of public space. I can think of nowhere else where a dedicated bike lane is entirely surrounded by water. The ashes of a broken industry live to serve again. Exquisite.
Shortest ferry ever (196 foot gap!), when I got my ticket the nice lady said “you know it just goes right there, yeah?” The price is right ($5 suggested donation one way) and anything that supports the further exploration of the causeway is aok by me.
The ferry ride north opens you up to an entirely new vibe- hello Champlain Islands. Technically, the bike path ends at the intersection of Route 2 and South St, about 4 miles due north of the ferry and that’s where you’ll find Lola’s. Their sign offers Latin Food, CBD and homemade chocolates so we’re definitely in the weird zone. Head dudebro Albert, convivial and accommodating, was slinging toffee and coffee and I was a little sad I ate tacos down the road because this whole situation seemed like it would’ve been way more in my lane. I see you, Venezuela Arepa with Barbacoa Beef…
I left a pile of stuff off the list here so I reserve the right for a part II. Hit me in the comments if I missed a biggie. And yes, I know about The Earth Clock. 😬
Thanks for reading, bike strong, love you talk soon bye