Against the backdrop of the stunning springtime scenery of the Champlain Valley, the fourth Grand Hike to the Essex Inn is coming up on May 13. Hosted by Champlain Area Trails (CATS), the 12-mile “Town-to-Town” hike travels CATS hiking trails and scenic back roads from Wadhams to Essex. This event becomes more popular every year—last year had over 250 people coming out to hike through forests and farms. This year promises to have similar numbers of hikers and supporters, many of whom will be returning participants.
It’s easy to see why: the Grand Hike is great fun. After parking at the Essex Inn, hikers ride free shuttle buses to Wadhams to begin the full hike back to Essex. Shuttle buses start to run at 11 a.m., with check-in across from the Dogwood Bakery in Wadhams from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Walking the full 12 miles isn’t required though: hikers can start or stop at one of the four oases sponsored by local business. The shuttle will run during the day so people can park in Essex and take the shuttle to an oasis; or park at an oasis and take the shuttle to their car after the hike. Water refills, snacks, a porta-potty and first aid supplies are available at each oasis, some of which are “themed” (look for the luau party oasis).
Upon arriving in Essex, hikers celebrate their accomplishment by striking a gong as they get to the Essex Inn. Then they will join a rocking block party, 4 to 7 p.m., with music from the Zip City Blues Band and a delicious buffet dinner available (at an extra fee). As in past years, there’s restorative yoga and chair massage courtesy of Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness. For the younger set, there’s an art table hosted by Erin C. Hall Studio. And, to commemorate the day, there’s a free photo booth provided by Overtime Photography.
“The Grand Hike is a huge success,” says CATS Executive Director Chris Maron. “We began with the goal of having CATS trails link communities, connect people with nature and promote local economic vitality. It’s worked, and I see lots of smiling faces out there.”
Evan George, CATS Board Chair agrees. “The Grand Hike brings residents and visitors together, young and old, serious hikers and folks just out for a stroll. The block party in itself has become an eagerly-anticipated celebration of our area.”
Everyone is welcome for the hike and block party (where non-hikers are also welcome). The fee is $20/person with pre-registration before May 7, $25 afterwards, or on the day of the event. Children under 17 are free, as is the block party. For more details or to register, visit the CATS website at www.ChamplainAreaTrails.com or call 518-962-2287.
Champlain Area Trails (CATS) is a nonprofit organization that creates and maintains hiking and cross-country ski trails in the Champlain Valley, with the goal of linking communities, connecting people with nature and promoting economic vitality. For more information on the Grand Hike and all of CATS programs, visit www.champlainareatrails.com or call the CATS office at 518-962-2287.