Anticipating the 2016 Grand Hike to Essex

Reminiscing about the Inaugural Event

Contributed by Chris Maron, executive director, Champlain Area Trails

Early morning sun

May 2014 - At dawn for the first year’s Grand Hike, the dark sky loomed ominously overhead with a faint drizzle that soon cleared for a fabulous day of hiking. That year, it was a gentle, orange sun rising up over Lake Champlain—a perfect day to hike thirteen miles from Westport to Essex.  I snapped a quick photo at the Westport Boat Launch and then checked on final preparations for the hike. The five oasis were ready to go.

 Grand Hike year one


A quick ride to Essex and things were all set there with John Bingham ready to tell people where to park so they could catch the Willsboro School bus to the fairgrounds in Westport. Then back to Westport where Sheri Amsel was setting up her registration tent for participants.

The first bus pulled up and many people with matching gray T-shirts emblazoned with the words, “Inhale Love, Exhale Gratitude,” filed out and gathered to register. That was the group Rebecca Palmer and Melissa Maki had recruited for the hike. Meanwhile, cars pulled into the lot and it was obvious that the hike was about to begin. 

Group arrives for Grand Hike

All of a sudden, it seemed like the Indianapolis 500 after the proclamation of “Gentlemen and women—start your engines.” The Grand Hike had begun and now we were in it for the long haul — until the last person traipsed down the hill into Essex. 

People strolled down the fairground track heading for the first trail, aptly named, “Woods and Swale Trail.” They emerged onto Sherman Road and headed for the first Oasis, sponsored by Ernie’s Market. It was a party! Happy hikers descended on the food table, gobbling up the orange slices, apple wedges, and muffins.

Then on to Oasis 2 at the beginning to Bobcat Trail. Happy Anne Lincoln clapped her hands as hikers arrived. Even the Grand Hike’s only llama hiker was enthusiastic.

Sole llama hiker

Everyone was congratulating each other for hiking the first three miles. I wanted to photograph that kind of joy out on the trail, so I went to Oases 3 where I could walk “against the traffic” back to Oases 2 and see peoples’ faces instead of their backs. Sure, enough, happy smiling faces greeted me as we approached each other.

 Grand Hike 1

 Then, onto the Block Party where people grinned as they bonged the gong at their arrival.

Bong the Gong upon finishing the Grand Hike

The band was already playing, people were relaxing with restorative yoga and massage provided by Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness, kids were painting at the ECH Studio art table, and others were eating the great food provided by the Essex Inn. The party spilled out onto the sidewalk and street—truly a block party in Essex and a fitting end to a great day of hiking on Champlain Area Trails.

Fast Forward to 2016

I’m hoping the skies on Saturday, May 14 will host a bright sun coming up from behind Camel’s Hump for the 3rd Grand Hike to the Essex Inn. We’re hiking from Wadhams to the Essex Inn, starting a little later—between 12:30 and 1:30 so we all arrive about 4 p.m. for the Block Party. Parking in Essex is our best recommendation, then you can take the shuttle to Wadhams and hike back to your cars. And, of course, you won't want to miss the Block Party featuring great food, drinks, restorative yoga, massage, and blues-boogie played by the Russell Bailey Trio. Cost of the hike and party is $20. Only coming to the Block Party? It’s free. Register at www.ChamplainAreaTrails.comIt will be a day to remember!

Spring birding on the Adirondack Coast
Listening to the sticks and stones