Hike with CATS this winter

Contributing writer Chris Maron is the executive director of Champlain Area Trails.

Winter is a great time to enjoy the Champlain Area Trails (CATS). They offer a range of outdoor experiences with easy to moderate routes good for cross-country skiing, some short climbs to beautiful views, and extended excursions through forests, fields, and along streams.

The wide variety of CATS trails include wonderful excursions in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness west of Ticonderoga, a lakeside outing along Penfield Pond in Crown Point, a walk across the Champlain Bridge to and from Vermont, a hike to three overlooks on Cheney Mountain in Moriah, the extensive trails at Split Rock Wild Forest in Westport, the amazing views from Wildway Overlook Trail in Essex, a trek along the Boquet River on the Riverside Trail in Willsboro, and explorations of marsh habitat at Wickham Marsh in Chesterfield.

To explore the CATS trails on your own, pick up a CATS trail map at various locations or contact the CATS office at (518) 962-2287 or email info@champlainareatrails.com

CATS events in 2019

This winter, CATS is teaming up with Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine for a couple of outings and hosting several on its own. All are open to the public, some have a small fee which is primarily to gauge the number of participants, and a few are paired with post-hike gatherings at local taverns.

Friday, January 18 at 5:15 p.m. 

Take part in a moonlight hike at DaCy Meadow Farm Trail in Westport. Enjoy a cross-country ski, snowshoe, or hike through the fields and forests of DaCy Meadow Farm on Route 9N, halfway between I-87 and Westport. Depending on the snow cover, the hike will be 2 to 4 miles in length. The post-hike gathering will be at Ledge Hill Brewery in Westport. Cost is $5 per person. Register at the CATS website.

Saturday, January 26 at 9:30 a.m. 

Learn about animal tracks on a hike at Poke-O-Moonshine led by naturalist Elizabeth Lee and co-sponsored by Friends of Poko-O. Meet at the Observer’s Trailhead on Route 9, about 1 mile south of the old campground. Dress to stay warm for a 3-4 hour hike with many stops to identify, follow, and discuss tracks and the animals that made them. Snowshoes are highly recommended. This workshop is free and open to all.

Saturday, February 2 at 9:30 a.m. 

Backcountry ski exploration at Poke-O-Moonshine, co-sponsored by the Friends of Poke-O. Meet at the Observers’ Trailhead on Route 9, 1 mile south of the old campground, to explore old logging roads west of Poke-O. This ski trip is for those with at least intermediate skills to manage steep, narrow terrain. The arduous ski will last 3-4 hours.

Saturday, February 2 at 9:30 a.m. 

Snowshoe, ski, or hike on the Wadhams Trail this Groundhog Day with a trek on the Field & Forest, Wadhams Overlook, Long Valley, and Art Farm trails. Depending on the snow, the relatively easy hike will be 3-6 miles. It will begin and end at Dogwood Bread Company in Wadhams. The cost is $5 per person. Register on the CATS website.

Saturday, February 16 at 2 p.m. 

Explore the Sophie’s Lair Trail in Willsboro. There are 3-7 miles of easy trails on mostly level terrain through a variety of forest communities. Meet at the Florence Hathaway Park on Route 22 in Willsboro. You’ll ski or hike through this town-owned nature park to access Sophie’s Lair Trail, which has a long loop trail with subtle hills and enjoyable glides. The hike is planned for participants to get drinks and dinner either at Turtle Island Café in Willsboro or Essex Inn in Essex. The cost is $5 per person. Register on the CATS website.

Saturday, March 16 at 2:30 p.m. 

Snowshoe, hike, or ski the trails at Blueberry Hills in Elizabethtown. There are miles of trails to explore and we’ll have a route that will likely include a fabulous view of Elizabethtown. The hike will be easy to moderate depending on the conditions; for skiers there will be some challenging hills. We’ll judge the weather and snow conditions to determine what type of outing it will be. Meet at the trailhead on Lords Road, a quarter mile north of Route 9N on the west side of Elizabethtown. The hike is planned for participants to get drinks and dinner at Deer’s Head Inn in Elizabethtown. The cost is $5 per person. Register on the CATS website.

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. CATS is also an accredited land trust working to conserve natural communities, farmland, clean water, and scenic vistas. Information on future CATS events and activities is available on the website at ChamplainAreaTrails.com and by following CATS on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Please call (518) 962-2287 for more information.

The CATS trails connect communities, so places to eat and sleep are never far from the trail.

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