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June 5, 2014

Grand Hike gives grand time

Inn-to-inn Grand Hike attracts hundreds

WESTPORT — More than 200 hikers, walkers and a few runners took part in Champlain Area Trail System’s first-time inn-to-inn Grand Hike, which meandered from Westport to Essex.

The Trail System, known as CATS, coordinated with the Essex Inn, Westport Hotel & Tavern and other local businesses to host the May event. 

The recent 14-mile sojourn, which began in Westport, traversed CATS hiking trails and scenic back roads, and culminated with a block party featuring the Wadhams Waddlers band, restorative yoga and chair massage provided by Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness and a photo booth to commemorate the event.

While about half the participants traversed the entire route, others joined or ended at one of four rest stops and rode a shuttle provided by Pok-O-MacCready Camps. 

The oases, staffed by volunteers, provided refreshments, water and maps. Dogwood Bakery of Wadhams, the Village Meat Market in Willsboro, Lakeside School in Whallonsburg and Ernie’s Market in Westport each sponsored an oasis.

‘BIG IN EUROPE’

Planning for the venture began months earlier when Rick Dalton, owner of Essex Inn, and Chris Maron, executive director of CATS, discussed following up on last fall’s hike from Wadhams to Essex. 

They wanted a hike to showcase local lodging and eating establishments, bring attention to the area and promote economic vitality. 

Jim and Jane Vance, proprietors of the Westport Hotel, also liked the idea, and things took off from there.

“Inn-to-inn hiking is big in Europe and even across the lake in Vermont. So why not here?” Dalton said. “We have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world and gorgeous places for hikers to stay.”

“This went off better than expected,” Maron said. “There were people who came from Connecticut and Long Island. 

“This played a big part in attracting people from out of the area to come to the Champlain Valley and use it as a destination.”

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