When Champlain Area Trails (CATS) postponed and then canceled its 2020 Grand Hike because of COVID-19, it lost not only a popular hike that drew people of all ages from far and wide but a significant fundraising activity for the organization.
“We were disappointed, of course, “ said CATS Executive Director Chris Maron. “But it wasn’t a hard decision because clearly, it was the right thing to do.”
Now CATS has come up with an exciting alternative fundraising event called the “2020 CATS Grand Challenge.” Early indications suggest it will prove as popular as the original Grand Hike. CATS invites people to register with a $25 donation and complete one of three trail loops designed to meet each hiker’s trail comfort level; thus hikers can choose from a 1.5-mile “easy” trail, a 5.3-mile “moderate” route, and a 8.3-mile “difficult” hike. Hikers who complete the Challenge between September 21 and November 15 will receive a limited-edition commemorative patch by mail.
People can get a preview of the “moderate” route on Saturday, September 19 as part of the “Free Range Adirondack Harvest Festival. ” CATS invites people to hike the 5.3-mile Westport Trail Loop anytime during the day. The hike begins and ends at Ledge Hill Brewery just west of the Essex County Fairgrounds in Westport where there will be food and beer from noon til 8:00 pm. Those who make the hike qualify to get the patch.
“We’re pleased to offer something that makes the proverbial lemonade out of lemons,” said CATS Development Director Derek Rogers. “The 2020 CATS Grand Challenge is a great way to enjoy our trails and support CATS and our local communities. By offering the three options, the Challenge appeals to people of all ages and abilities. We’ve received terrific feedback from people we’ve shared the idea with and are excited to get the program going. We think this first patch will be the beginning of a new tradition with CATS, even after this pandemic is in the rearview mirror. People will want to collect their patches to mark both their accomplishment and their record of support of CATS.”
The 2020 CATS Grand Challenge routes are the easy Wildway Passage Trail on Angier Hill Road in Westport, the moderate Viall’s Crossing to Woods & Swale Trail to local roads in Westport, and the moderately difficult Boquet Ridge Ramble in Essex. The trails take hikers through forests and fields during one of the most beautiful times of the year. They’ll be treated to spectacular views, especially for those who hike the new North Boquet Summit Trail that is part of the Ramble route.
Hikers can hike any of the trail loops and even do all of them. For added fun, hikers are invited to keep an eye out for an oversized picture frame located along each route, where they can take selfies and share them with CATS, their family, and friends.
Full details, including downloadable maps and directions, are available on the CATS website at champlainareatrails.com.