The last nine days and 220 miles from Conway, New Hampshire, to Montreal, Quebec, Canada have had a little bit of everything…I checked out of my hostel in Conway and headed into the Appalachians on April 17th.
Highway 302, which I followed through the White Mountains outside of Conway, was not only beautiful, but had an absurdly large shoulder and minimal traffic. It was the perfect blend of solitude, natural beauty, and few people. Mother nature took it relatively easy on me, too. Highs were in the low-40’s, lows were in the mid-20’s, winds weren’t too gusty, and I only faced a few bands of rain and snow.
There was still up to a foot of snow off the highway though, preventing PJ and I from camping in the woods (he can’t make it through more than six inches of snow, the sissy). We managed to find a spot next to Harts Location’s town hall, which was little more than a teel colored double-wide with two doors and a handicap ramp.
After walking over Crawford Notch (at a modest elevation of 1,775 feet), we descended into Bethlehem, NH, complete with a number of beautiful churches, numerous nativity scenes, and light posts still adorned with Christmas decorations.
I lucked out with hosts on back to back nights in Bethlehem and St. Johnsbury, VT.
My host in Bethlehem was a man named Bill, who is one of the area’s bond commisioners. I stopped by the police station in town on a whim, and patiently waited for two hours (it was cold outside so I didn’t mind sitting inside on a bench) as the chief and his deputy dealt with three 20 year olds who had been arrested for underage drinking.
Bill showed up to handle the bond paperwork for the youngins, and invited me to stay with him for the night when he heard my story. I guess you could say Bill bailed me out of jail, considering the police officers were going to let me sleep on the bench in the police station!
I entered Vermont the following afternoon, and was greeted by a nice guy named Kyle. We connected immediately because he biked from Kittery, ME, to Los Angeles in 2015. He picked PJ and I up in St. Johnsbury at the end of the day and I slept on a couch at their family’s farm house. It snowed about three inches overnight!
I had one more blustery, cold, overcast Vermont day ahead after leaving St. Johnsbury. Highway 15 from Danville followed a snowpacked ridge, exposing me to maddening 30 mile-an-hour head winds. I eventually walked off the ridge and found a spot off the highway next to the Lamoille River to camp for the night.
Walking in the cold has been manageable…The only aspect relating to cold temps that has gotten to me has been setting up camp at night, and breaking it down in the morning. Defrosting (my collapsible poles kept freezing together overnight and I had to defrost them with my fingers and breath) and packing up frozen aluminum tent poles is officially on my pet peeves list.
After a week of clouds, inclement weather, and cold, I was greeted with crystal clear blue skies near Hardwick, VT! It was like I was given a double shot of espresso!
With sunny, dry, and warmer temperatures in the forecast, I hoped to cover a little over 100 miles in five days en-route to Montreal, where I planned on taking a rest day while staying at a hostel for two nights.
Signs of spring were finally upon me with warmer days. Grass seemed to get greener with every passing mile.
I left Vermont after crossing impressive Lake Champlain and walked through New York for about two miles. I arrived at the Canadian border mid-morning on April 25th.
I was a bit worried about clearing customs. I look like a vagrant with my three week beard, cart full of camping equipment, and walking stench. I explained who I was and what I was doing to the border agent, who sat in his bank-like-drive-up-window suspiciously asking me questions. I pulled out my camping gear and stuff sacks to show I wasn’t moving animals, people, or drugs across the border. I went inside and needed to pull up my checking account online to proove I had the funds to support myself for the five week stroll through Canada. I was convincing enough and customs stamped my passport.
Bienvenue a Canada! The landscape dramatically changed in Quebec. I was instantly transported to farmland reminiscent of Illinois in March. The flat, wide open spaces were covered with corn fields, homey farm houses, barns, and silohs.
I walked 33 miles the day I arrived in Canada, entertaining myself by deciphering French signs, mastering the conversion from kilometers to miles, and attempting to pronounce town names like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur.
I had difficulty finding a camping spot towards the end of the day (no stealthy spots and I wasn’t able to find a host, despite my best efforts) and walked an extra two hours after sunset. I eventually followed a snowmobile path into the woods and camped in a small clearing.
I made the final push to Montreal in the morning, navigating a series of bike paths, a few detours, and bridges in order to get across the St. Lawrence River. It was an overcast, showery day, but heavy rain only fell for the last two hours of the walk. Whew!
I checked into my 15 bed dorm style hostel room last night. PJ is safe and dry in a storage area the hostel shares with an adjoining restaurant.
I’ll be heading to Ottawa April 27th. The Canadian capital city is 115 miles away. Until then, I’m excited to explore Montreal!
Trip updates –
Days – 14
Miles – 285
Peanut Butter Jars – 8
Favorite Roadside Find – An unopened, edible-looking Hersheys Kiss found in Littleton, NH at 8 AM. I ate it….and it was delicious.
Roadside Change – $0.65
Favorite Pics –
Until next time! Walk on!