Our scenic autumn driving voyage started today from a completely stopped “PARK” position in the VERY MIDDLE of Lake Champlain on the Vermont/New York State border! “How is that possible without drowning?!” you may ask. Well, we started our mini adventure aboard the Lake Champlain Transportation's ferry coming into Essex from Charlotte, Vermont.
It’s a beautiful crisp fall day! - A wonderful day for a scenic ride down the shoreline of Lake Champlain. We’re not out for a long drive but a short 12 mile drive to The Westport Hotel and Tavern, Westport, NY. There, we will spend thre nights enjoying all the Lake Champlain Region has to offer. There’s plenty to marvel at and to do just on the trip down. We have our 13 year old daughter on board who gets bored quickly on any car ride. But, there won’t be any reason for boredom today!
Upon arriving onto the shores of “the other side”, historic Essex, N.Y., one of the boat workers told me the Essex Ferry has been in operation from around 1790. Not only was that an interesting fact to us but, he also told us that EVERY structure in the historic hamlet of Essex is on the National Register of Historic Places! That fact alone demanded a stop to walk around. So immediately upon exiting the ferry, we parked the car. This quaint village, with its population estimated to be only 642 people, is a sight to behold. The backdrop: A beautiful and massive Lake Champlain on one side along with wooden and brick historic architecture on the other. My favorite was the 200 year old Essex Inn. It has the biggest porch of them all! We will have to book a weekend there someday soon!
Essex was once a hustling ship building town until the railroads came in the 1800’s. This time of year there are few people around except for the occasional leaf peeping tourist trying to catch a picture perfect autumn photo. They will find it in this town!
After spending over an hour strolling the sidewalks of historic Essex it was time to get back in the car to head south toward Westport. We heard there were some amazing views and hiking trails down this road, appropriately named ‘Lakeshore Road’ that connects Essex to Westport. The road runs parallel to the shores of Lake Champlain and beautiful Whallon's Bay. And I can tell you, it didn’t disappoint!
The drive kept us all in a state of awe. There’s just something indescribable about the beauty, wonder and feel of a sunny 68 degree fall day on the edges of The Adirondack Park and Lake Champlain! Watching the waves of the lakeshore gently swoop up the sandy shores, the colorful reflection of the trees onto the waters-pure bliss. To the right side of us, there are a number of vintage farm houses. Along with circa 1800’s estates shrouded with a forest of trees trading their lush green shade for a rainbow of color.
There are many pull offs marked as nature trail entrances. Houses are now scarce and the Adirondack trees in all their brilliance overshadow us. I was living my own adventure through the living scenery of my windshield and wasn’t keen on stopping again. Then I remembered my own dad saying to me, “You can’t see everything through a car window.” It was the truth and I knew it was time to stop to ‘smell the roses’. Or in this case, relax, enjoy the cool crisp air, and smell the scent of leaves beginning to mound on the damp soil below.
I’m not much of a hiker these days so I had hoped for a short trail. Usually hikes take planning. What to wear, equipment, the right shoes, and maybe a map or compass? We didn’t have anything but water with us. The trail was marked as “Rattlesnake Den Trail”, part of the Split Rock Wild Forest Trails. Off we went. The trails were well marked. The one we were on led right to the shore of Lake Champlain in just two miles. After traversing for about a mile the terrain was changing from rolling hills to steepness with some rocky ledges. My wife asked that we might turn back. My daughter reminded us that there’s usually a view at the end of a trail worth going for. So onward we went. From the summit, we saw the waters of Snake Den Harbor! Nice boulder sized rocks make great chairs tucked up tightly to the waters’ edge. We were all quiet as we digested the tranquility around us.
Once back in the car, we were only four miles from Westport now. Our drive continued through the winding canvas of glorified trees still adorned with their awesome displays of color.
About a mile outside of Westport, residential houses became more prominent. We knew our drive was just about to end, yet, the excitement and charm of what was awaiting us in Westport and our stay at the Westport Hotel and Tavern was just about to begin. We were all hungry! And we knew the hotel has a delicious fireside dining experience awaiting us. Tonight we will watch a Broadway style play at the neighboring Depot Theatre.
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