Over the next four weeks, I will be exploring a hiking trail in France with my wife, Michelle and for the first ten days, with our 16-year old son Tommy. Many of you have likely heard of “Walking the Way” which is the Camino del Santiago trail across northern Spain. Maybe you’ve seen the movie starring Martin Sheen. Well, trails in France lead to the Camino so we are walking part of the French Way, starting in the town of Le Puy en Velay. When I saw this picture I thought “I can’t imagine France ever looking like that.” But, I guess it does and we’ll certainly find out.
In many places I visit, I marvel at the area’s beautiful scenery and way of life. And then I come back to the Champlain Valley, reconnect with the beauty here and think of Gil Butler’s comment as we stood on Middle Road in Essex when he said, “I’ve traveled all over the world and this is the most beautiful place I have ever been.”
When I hear people talk about hiking from town to town, it’s always in England; or New Zealand. But get this…France has 37,000 miles of trails! It has national trails, regional trails, and local trails—most of them well-marked and featuring places to eat, sleep, and enjoy at the end of each day.
I am looking for lessons there…to see what we can do to bring people here to “Hike the Lake.”
I recently talked with Ray Johnson, who donated a conservation easement on his 77 acres in Champlain to us. He mentioned a biking version of “Hike the Lake.” He and his wife, Lola, simply walked out their front door, put on tiny packs, hopped on their bikes, turned right and spent the next five days biking around Lake Champlain. A year later, they walked out their front door, turned left and did it again.
Walking will take longer and we have some work to do. Yes, we need the trails and believe me, we are working on that. Just as important, we need the businesses along the way—the places of comfortable lodging—the cafes serving real food from Champlain Valley farms—the pubs to enjoy warmth along the way—the shops to purchase gifts for friends, family, and even yourself.
So, I’m off to France for a month to see how they do it. Meanwhile, Bill Amadon, our stewardship coordinator will maintain trails, scope out new ones, and plan for our crew of “Volunteer Vacationers” in early October. In the office, you’ll find Gail Testa, our operations manager, available to help with questions you may have as she keep CATS going with her organizational and communication skills. You’ll get to know Gail as she writes these emails while I’m gone.
It’s been a great couple of months and again, I want to highlight our two interns, Theo Bakewell and James Gilmore, who will soon return to college. We are so grateful for their hard work, enthusiasm, and good cheer. Working with Bill and Ed Wojcik, they have cleared trails, built bridges, represented CATS at farmers’ markets, and offered great ideas. One was to create “Go-Pro” videos of a few trails. The videos are almost done and soon you can take a virtual hike to Penfield Pond, Cheney Mountain, and the Wildway Overlook.
Meanwhile, check out the great hikes coming up. Join us to visit new trails and learn about this amazing Champlain Valley. Please visit our website for more information and to sign up!
- September 12, 2015 – On the Trail to the Monitor – Historic Hike at Penfield Museum and CATS’ Penfield Pond Trail, Led by Morris Glenn
- September 27, 2015 – Art Farm Trail Opening Hike
- October 17, 2015 – DaCy Meadow Farm Trail Official Opening and Harvest Lunch (All proceeds go to our “grant match” fund.)
- October 24, 2015 – Owl Prowl – Black Kettle Farm Trail, Led by Gregg Van Deusen
Click here for more information on these events and to register.
CATS Executive Director
- Depot Theatre Gallery Reception for Ron Nolland Exhibit (essexny.us)
- Stinky Mink Featured n Mountain Lake PBS (mountainlake.org)
- Lake Champlain Winterscapes (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)