A Race Among Friends on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

By Karrie Thomas, NFCT Executive Director

PaddlePedalRace_Group2014_Richford (2)
Racers after the NFCT Missisquoi River Paddle-Pedal last September.

Do you enjoy a little friendly competition? Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s Walter Opuszynski assembled a small group of us last September for just that: a paddle-pedal race on Vermont’s Missisquoi River and the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail.

We were a group of friends and family. My husband Culley and I paddled together; Tim and Ben Hille, and Russ and Kent Ford formed father-and-son teams with Russ and Kent deciding to do a relay; Walter paddled with his friend Erik; and John Little brought his lovely friends from Pennsylvania, Jim and Barb Wakefield, to paddle as a threesome.

The group assembled at the Route 118 bridge in East Berkshire where we stashed our bikes and went over the race course. From there we drove north to Davis Park in Richford and quickly assembled a plan for how we would start and time ourselves.

Right out of the gate it became clear that there was a recreational class and a racing class. Culley has a competitive streak from his days as a cross-country runner that cannot be suppressed! Russ picked up on this right away as we stroked furiously away from the starting line, calling as he passed us, “I thought this was supposed to be a friendly race?” In our 18-foot Old Town Penobscott we were no competition for Russ in his solo Mad River Canoe Independence, but we had to try! We spent the next six miles trying desperately to close the gap…and failed.

The pedal back was a straight shot on the gravel Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail. Culley made up time there coming in just minutes after Kent, and myself arriving minutes after Culley. We all signed in upon completion using Walter’s cell phone – very official!

Tim turned right instead of left where the rail trail met the road to Richford and nearly wound up in Canada. Despite blowing his team’s clear third place finish, his son Ben found it hilarious and we all had a good laugh. I guess if the Northern Forest Canoe Trail ever wants to do this race officially, we will need some signage there!

Let us know if you like the idea of a paddle-pedal race. We had so much fun we may try to open an event like this up to a few more people next year! To be included in the invitation, send an email to [email protected].

Even if you don’t like to race, this section of the Missisquoi River is a beautiful Class I paddle with a nearly flat bike ride back to Richford almost entirely on the gravel rail trail. Richford has plans to extend the rail trail all the way into town which will make it an easy, fun and safe shuttle alternative.