Whitingham to Wilmington and Back
Whitingham to Wilmington and Back
This ride requires considerable endurance.
Whitingham to Wilmington and return via paved and dirt roads, old rail bed, single track, and abandoned farm roads.
This ride circles Lake Harriman between Wilmington and Whitingham, VT. I've included alternate routes so riders can either eliminate some hard climbing (and great downhills) or make the route easier to follow. It is 26 miles long and features about 3000' of climbing. I would expect to spend the better part of a day completing the circuit, but shorter "out and backs" would take considerable less time.
Ride: Park behind the general store or school museum in Whitingham on Route 100. The store sells a variety of beverages and foods which is helpful if you have forgotten anything.
Head west on RT 100 around the bottom of Lake Harriman until you come to a paved road on your right. This leads into the Harriman Dam. Continue on the paved road to the lower parking lot, and then head north across the dam (about 3 miles). Riders who are less strong or adventurous can go right at the end of the dam and follow the old rail bed north. You will rejoin the riders on the more difficult section just before Wilder Brook.
Those who enjoy climbing and the resultant downhills bear left and head up the hill, following a rough track which becomes an abandoned dirt road. At the end of the rough section of dirt road riders have a choice of either continuing on west and picking up a good quality dirt road which will take them to the top of the ride, or they can turn NE and follow the road to an isolated farm house. At the farm house please stop to see if it is occupied. If it is, ask the owners for permission to cross their property. Circle to the east of the farm house then head due north through an old apple orchard to an old farm road which will take you up to the road at the top of the climb.
The road at the top is a category 4 town road neither plowed, nor maintained. Head N and enjoy a rough downhill until you pass the alternate downhill on your right and then the cemetery on your left. After the cemetery follow the road N until you pass a sizable ledge of stone in the road, followed by what looks like large puddle in the road, but which in reality is a deep mud pit. I've been caught! Either take a right which will bring you out to a power line, or continue N until the road hits a "T". Turn right and follow this downhill to the rail trail; a fun downhill. Stop and inspect the old stone foundations and sheep folds on your left; great stone work.
Follow the rail bed N to Wilder Brook. The brook portion of the trail can get pretty tricky depending upon how wet it is. Use the wooden foot bridge to cross the brook if the water is high. Follow the trail N for about 50 yds. then take a right on a short trail which will bring you back to the rail trail. At the rail trail you can walk S to the end of the embankment. A small, very steep trail on the left leads down into a little gorge with great pools for soaking on a hot day; great for the legs and a good place for a snack. Follow the rail bed N (go around the locked gate) to the bridge over the river and Route 9. Turn E toward Wilmington and turn right (S) at the traffic light. I usually like to stop here and get lunch or a beverage and watch the tourist go by.
Head S up the steep hill. About 2/3 of the way up riders can bear left and follow a good road S where it will "T" into the road leading to the public recreation area; toilets and changing rooms for a swim. Follow the beach to the right and around a small bay and you'll come to the nudist beach. Be sure of your preferences! The beach is segregated by mutual unspoken consent.
The route I use is to head directly over the hill and down by the lake. At the end a bit of a climb will bring you to a scenic outlook, a lovely modern home, and a locked gate. Too your left you will spy a very faint track which will head E. Follow this until a trail appears on your right. Follow this trail S and it will come to a pretty ritzy housing development with dirt roads. This part is difficult: follow the dirt road and on your right after about 1/3 -1/2 a mile you should see a break in the woods to the right (when I was there last, a winter blow down had obscured the trail behind it. Follow this in and you will find an old snow mobile trail (single track) which will take you S to the recreation area parking lot. If you miss the turn just continue on and you'll come to the road you could have taken back in Wilmington.
Follow the recreation area road back toward Route 100, but before you get there take a right just before the stables and follow the dirt road to the end. At the end of the road follow the tractor path south as far as you possible can. You will end up on pavement and a long climb back toward the start. Follow the road and you will get back to Route 100 just E of Whitingham, or in Whitingham itself. You'll be done!
This is a very long ride. Expect to spend the better part of a day completing it.
Submitted by Don Myers