Every summer my wife, Jean and I celebrate our anniversary by taking a day-long bicycle ride. This year we took two rides, each in opposite directions starting from where we married in 2001 in Thousand Island Park.
Trip One: Two Ferries
On our trip to Howe Island, we arrived at the border before it got busy. It was a nice touch, both going and coming back, that officials invite us, as cyclists, to the booth together, rather than one at a time as they do for motorcyclists.
The first section of the walkway over the Canadian Span of the Thousand Islands Bridge was inconveniently narrow for our mountain bike styled handlebars; at 26 inches, mine just exceeded the suggested maximum. Fortunately the path widened before we became dispirited, and we were soon on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail beside the Thousand Islands Parkway. (One day we’ll follow the cycle path away from Gananoque, where it extends to within 12km/7.5 miles of Brockville.)
King Street in Gananoque was bustling as we passed through, but things got quiet as soon as we turned towards the Howe Island Township Ferry Road. Once known as the Foot Ferry, this now carries up to three vehicles and provides free transit for bicycles and, on the island side, a handy portable toilet.
Signs, albeit with a different logo, told us that we were still on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail; had we all the time in the world... it could take us to Sault Ste. Marie ON. (only 1,032 KM or 641 M)
The road was quiet, and we waved at the few motorists we passed. Most of the houses seemed quite new and very well kept, though some buildings were clearly from the 19th century. St. Philomena’s Church is evidence of Irish settlement during the 1845 Great Famine.
As we pushed into the wind coming off Lake Ontario, more cars started appearing—perhaps in connection with a baseball tournament and barbecue taking place that day on the Island.
En-route to the County Ferry, we were intrigued by a sign for the Howe Island Trail, which follows the course of Baseline Road for a couple of miles and connects into a short cycle loop on the western part of the island.
The larger, two-cabled, ferry closer to Kingston, also provided free passage for cyclists. Amenities at the dock included a portable toilet (of course), a well-ventilated and apparently working 20th century telephone booth, and a memorial bench to someone from Belfast: in this case, not a refugee from the Great Famine.
Trip Two: To the Vineyard...
A week later we drove over the American Span of the Thousand Islands Bridge, stopped at the shiny new Visitor Center, and then peddled off to sample the Maréchal Foch at Venditti Vineyards.
Our route took us south from Route 12 to Omar, NY, then eastward on quiet roads to the edge of St. Lawrence County. The map is full of lakes hereabouts, but our first indication of their existence was a faster cyclist who passed us, apparently following hand-written signs for a “Homemade Tri”. If this was indeed a triathlon, he must have been swimming somewhere!
Eventually we were treated to a glimpse of Lake of the Woods. Entering the town of Rossie, we glided down some beautiful new blacktop to meet the Indian River as it meanders through water-meadows on its way to Ogdensburg.
Venditti Vineyards is part of a property that extends down to Muskellunge Lake (another lake that we never saw). We enjoyed a conversation about the Indian River School District, while tasting tiny samples of their wines as we still had a long way to ride. It turned out that they don’t grow the grapes for their Foch, so I also bought a bottle of the Marquette that grows right there. Perhaps it was the hot and humid weather, combined with the weight of wine in my backpack, but I arrived in Theresa thirsty enough to pay Manhattan prices for a soda and snack.
After a delightful ride along the Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail to Lafargeville, I returned to Thousand Island Park via the walkway over the American Span; this proved easier than the narrowest portion of the Canadian Span for walking my bike with its 26-inch handlebars!
[By way of a coda, a few days later I cycled into Clayton and visited the Thursday Farmers’ Market. In a lovely chat with the representative of Northern Flow Vineyards, I learned that Foch grapes do not grow in the North Country, and that I couldn’t buy a bottle because they no longer make theirs. With luck, they will respond to public demand and offer it again in future.]
By Stewart Dutfield
Stewart Dutfield has been coming to the Thousand Islands since 2000. At Thousand Island Park he divides his time between kayaking, swimming at the rocks, running in the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, and riding old Indian bicycles.
This is Stewart’s third excursion for TI Life. The first two were in his kayak. Be sure to see Indian Takeout by Kayak, July 2017 and Well-Preserved and Well-Refreshed, September 2018.