Last Saturday, more than 200 people came out for Champlain Area Trails’ first Grand Inn-to-Inn Hike from the Westport Hotel & Tavern to the Essex Inn. About half completed the entire route; those who hiked part way took vans provided by Pok-O-MacCready Camp back to their cars. Many attended the Block Party celebration at the Inn with music by the Wadhams Waddlers Band, restorative yoga and chair massage from Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness, and commemorative photos by Overtime Photography.
“The day was amazing,” said Chris Maron, CATS executive director. “It accomplished everything we wanted. Local residents joined with hikers from Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, Peru, Saratoga, other upstate communities and as far away as Long Island and Connecticut to hike on trails and our scenic back roads. I met several people who had never been here before—and they were blown away by our beautiful landscape. My favorite part was seeing all the smiling faces and genuine joy.”
CATS organized the hike to support its goal of having trails link communities, connect people with nature, and promote economic vitality. It partnered with the Essex-on-Lake-Champlain.com and College for Every Student (CFES) to publicize the event. Their effort was rewarded by being picked up by the Associated Press which led to articles printed in the Wall Street Journal and several other national publications.
“The Grand Hike advanced the vision of people hiking on trails between communities and patronizing local businesses,” said Rick Dalton, the owner of Essex Inn and president of CFES. “I thoroughly enjoyed the hike and see it as an important step in attracting more people to visit here.”
Peter Welling of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania was impressed with the hike. He said, “The hike was so well organized. I especially enjoyed the oases where everyone was so friendly. Thank you for a seriously fun day.”
Naj Wikoff of Keene noted that Champlain Valley hiking is different than in the High Peaks because of the varieties of natural communities, the walks along the roads, the open fields, and working farms. Another difference is that the following day, his legs weren’t sore.
“As I get older, I really do appreciate hiking for 14 miles and feeling fine the next day,” he said.
Katharine Preston, board chair for CATS, said “We were pleased to have our local assemblyman, Dan Stec, hike the whole route. He is a 46-er so having him hike here was an honor. I especially liked the comment he wrote because it sums up what we heard from everyone, ‘Great Hike!!! Thanks!’”