Trip report: Over Water Under Night

May 22, 2017

"Why don't you just take the bike trailer?"

It was 4pm and I was expecting 20-30 people to show up at the shop in two hours for a bike overnight. Our destination for the night was Law Island, and we needed a canoe to get there. The canoe piece was a fun and dramatic addition to the otherwise short and easy mini-adventure.

For weeks I planned to use a friend's car to drive the canoe and my gear out to the Colchester Causeway while the rest of the group rode their bikes out. Now the trip was to start in two hours and Laura, our Executive Director, made me wonder: Why hadn't I considered towing the canoe with the shop's Electric Xtracycle Edgerunner and our Bikes at Work trailer? Doing things with a bike that people think can't be done with a bike is one of my hobbies.

Two hours later I was just finishing tying the canoe down when people started rolling into the parking lot.

I was delighted to see a diverse array of bike packing methods. One of our goals for this overnight was to help people overcome feelings of intimidation around bike touring, some of which result from feeling like they don't have the right gear. By choosing a short and easy route, people could make due with whatever gear they had.

Some folks rocked traditional panniers, frame packs, Wald baskets, and handlebar bags. Others used whatever they had in their garage -- bungees, webbing, and trash bags. There were a few backpacks and one vintage suitcase. The many different set-ups affirmed that there is no one right way to go bike packing.

Riders' ages ranged from five to mid-forties. We had three young'ns with us, all of whom were down for the adventure. The youngest adventurer, Milo, rode his own bike from the New North End. It was the first time he had ridden on his own to a camping trip. Based on his steady enthusiasm throughout the trip, I'm certain it won't be his last time doing so.

We took off at 6:15pm and found our way to Burlington's waterfront bike path. People turned their heads as our pack of 18 bike tourers rolled en masse past the lake lovers, bike path strollers, sunset chasers, and skate park shredders. There were hoots and hollers, friendly beeps, and waves in response to the canoe. I became convinced that the sight of a canoe on a bike trailer might be exactly the medicine our society needs. It was a smile-making machine, and I was happy to be the one operating it.

Law Island is the first island you see to the left of the Colchester Causeway when you're riding north, making our bicycle journey a quick eight miles from downtown Burlington--and all flat miles, to boot. It's an approximately 45-minute bike ride. A few people remarked that they felt like it was the fastest ride to the Causeway they had ever experienced. Miles fly by when you're riding bikes with friends.

It wasn't until we reached our destination on the Causeway and everyone locked up their bikes that the realities of the canoe challenge hit me. We needed to get 20 people across the 500-foot crossing to Law Island and we had only two hours of daylight left. A handful of folks took to the challenge of loading the canoe strategically. They debated how to most efficiently transport all of the people and gear across, and others volunteered to be the taxi paddlers. It was a high school algebra problem come to life: "There are 20 people on a Causeway and one canoe. Three people can fit in the canoe, and one person must make the return trip. How many trips..."

The canoeing took a while, and I was concerned about too much idle time. But the scenery was gorgeous and watching the canoe go back and forth was wildly entertaining. Our group of overnighters were mostly strangers to one another, but everyone got along swimmingly. We all perched on the side of the Causeway, beers in hand, and talked about canoeing techniques, bikes, and the goings-on of Burlington as the sun dipped down behind the Adirondack Mountains.

We slowly populated the island with people. We made our final canoe trip at 9pm, just as the last daylight disappeared. 

Law Island offers two designated campsites, but we had the whole place to ourselves, and we took advantage by spreading out all over the small island. It's nice when you can go camping with a large group and still maintain a certain level of privacy and escape. Some people tucked themselves deep in the forest while others took advantage of the ample waterfront real estate.

We all sat around the fire, made hot dogs and s'mores (thanks, Liam!), and chatted late into the night.

Next morning folks made their breakfast and #coffeeoutside, and trips back to the Causeway started at 8am.

Excuse the video quality here -- these are clips from Instagram stories and they're cropped and funky. But it gives you an idea about how this trip was: fun, dreamy, and worth doing again.

Over Water Under Night: a short bike overnight to Law Island from Old Spokes Home on Vimeo.


Thank you to Liam, Hailey, and Tom for the photos.

Got questions? I'm happy to share more details about this trip or help you get set-up for an s24o of your own. Get at me by email.


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