New York's Champlain Valley has a little piece of Paris, according to Westport resident Elizabeth Lee.
While walking around the Montmartre neighborhood in Paris, which surrounds a cathedral-on-the-hill called Sacre Coeur, she noticed many similarities to the hiking trail at Coon Mountain in Westport. Upon her return, she decided to enter the Champlain Area Trails (CATS) Travel-Writing Contest.
There were several strong essays, which made the work for guest judge Brian Mann especially challenging. In the end, the Adirondack Bureau Chief of North Country Public Radio Bureau chose "This Could Be Montmatre" by Lee, earning her the first-place prize of $500. "I liked that it linked two incredibly disparate places in meaningful ways," Mann explained. "Reading it will elevate the way people see things as they walk in both places."
"The vicinity of Coon Mountain is as beautiful, as charming, and as artistic as Montmartre. As spiritual, as cultured, and as ancient," Lee writes in her winning piece. Describing the similarities of the land around Coon to the neighborhood around the church of Sacre Cour, she writes: "We have orchards and vineyards and dusty bookshops. We have goat cheese and heirloom grains. We have historic stone churches and libraries." And like Sacre Cour, the ancient rock of Coon reigns over the land, "with turkey vultures for gargoyles and white pines for spires."
When Lee visited Paris in March, she immediately felt a connection to her home. "Within the first few steps of my visit to the park I saw parallels to the sights I see—and need—in my daily life," she recalled. As an outdoor guide, Lee specializes in day trips in the Champlain Valley that focus on natural history, so her visits to Coon have certainly been plentiful. As for Coon Mountain, it speaks for itself, she says. "I have never taken a trip to Coon that has not been special."
When presenting Lee with her prize, Chris Maron, CATS Executive Director, told the attendees at its Celebrate Champlain Area Trails Event that Lee concluded her story by writing that "Montmartre, like Coon Mountain, is a landmark that both anchors us and watches over our daily errands, witnessing our troubles and our happiness."
With 148 votes, the winner of the People's Choice Award was "Turtle Crossing" by Jen Zahorchak of Essex. For having the most online-votes, she takes home $250. In her article she describes how her family decided to move to the area and live where turtles continually cross the road in front of their house. She notes many local businesses and Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm, which her children attend. She concludes her article by writing "we came for the wilderness but stayed for the community. And the turtles." More than 420 people took part in the on-line voting.
Contest Coordinator, Gretel Schueller noted, "The contest spawned eleven strong stories accompanied by many beautiful pictures. It was great to read about people's connections to the land here—and I learned about new treasures and places waiting to be explored. All the stories—which include the two winners—can be viewed at the CATS website."
There will be plenty more opportunities for others to share their Champlain Valley stories—and to win $500. The next CATS Travel Writing Contest will begin soon. So as you enjoy your summer, we invite you to hike, visit businesses and local communities, and then write about your memorable adventures. Details about the next contest will be posted to our website at www.champlainareastrails.com.
CATS launched this series of travel writing contests with the purpose of promoting economic vitality through outdoor-recreation-based tourism. "We want people to see these articles about New York's Champlain Valley and get inspired to come here, enjoy the outdoors, patronize local businesses, and tell others about this beautiful area," said Chris Maron, executive director of CATS. "We are grateful to the J.C. Kellogg Foundation for underwriting this contest."
Champlain Area Trails is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to develop hiking/skiing trails that link Champlain Valley communities, connect people to nature, promote economic vitality, and protect habitat and scenic vistas. For more information, go to www.champlainareatrails.com or call 518-962-CATS (2287).