Champlain Area Trails (CATS) finished its 2020 Grand Challenge on December 31st, 2020. Over 300 participants hiked one of three challenge routes described on the CATS website, and earned limited-edition commemorative patches.
“We had a fantastic turnout for the Challenge and are so grateful for all the hikers who showed their support of CATS and having trails in the Champlain Valley,” said Derek Rogers, CATS Development Director. “It was great to see the Challenge get people outside and connected with nature in a time when it was needed.”
CATS usually hosts its annual “Grand Hike” in May, a 10-14-mile long community hike and fundraising event that goes from hamlet to hamlet, combining CATS trails and some scenic backroads. Due to COVID-19, the plans had to be altered for safety concerns.
“We had to switch up how we did our Grand Hike this year,” said Chris Maron, CATS Executive Director, “So we decided to offer the Grand Challenge, a self-managed event where people can hike on their own, and connect with our magnificent Champlain Valley landscape. We had such a great participation this year that we’re already planning more CATS Grand Hike Challenges for 2021 and coming years.”
The 2020 CATS Grand Challenge began on September 21st as a fundraiser to support its mission of making trails, saving land, connecting people with nature, and promoting economic vitality. CATS encouraged people to register with a $25 donation and complete one of three trail loops. Participants who completed the challenge by December 31st received a commemorative patch designed by Willsboro resident and CATS Board Member, Rob Powell.
The Grand Challenge attracted many people from outside the area to explore new hiking opportunities in this region. Tom Beebe and his family brought along some out of town visitors on the Challenge, reporting back: “The weather was beautiful and the trail was in great shape and marked well. The view of Champlain as we walked down to Westport was spectacular. We’re hoping to get to the Boquet Ridge Ramble soon. Thanks for organizing this and what a great job considering the problem with COVID-19.”