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Champlain Area Trails extends fundraiser hike

Tom Bebee and family pose on the Viall’s Loop Trail for the 2020 Grand Challenge Hike. (Provided photo)

WESTPORT — The Champlain Area Trails has extended its 2020 Grand Challenge fundraiser hiking event to Dec. 31.

Participants can register on the CATS website, hike one of three routes in the Westport area and earn a limited-edition commemorative patch.

The Grand Challenge began Sept. 21 as a fundraiser to support its mission of making trails, saving land, connecting people with nature and promoting economic vitality.

CATS usually hosts an annual “Grand Hike” in May. This is a 14-mile long community hike and fundraising event that goes from hamlet to hamlet, combining CATS trails and some scenic backroads. Due to COVID-19, the plans had to be altered for safety concerns.

“We had to switch up how we did our Grand Hike this year,” CATS Executive Director Chris Maron wrote in a press release. “So we decided to offer the Grand Challenge, a self-managed event where people can hike on their own but still show their support for CATS while connecting to this magnificent landscape. People really seem to be enjoying this, and we would like the Challenge to become an annual tradition.”

The routes

The easiest is the short but sweet 1.4-mile Wildway Passage Trail loop in Westport. This scenic hike features streams, rocky ledges and is an important link in the Split Rock Wildway, a wildlife corridor connecting Lake Champlain to the mountain region.

The moderate route is the Viall’s Crossing loop, a staple in the CATS network of trails and a favorite in Westport. It goes through forests and fields with nice views of the area’s bucolic landscape. Hikers who plan right can stop at Ledge Hill Brewery, which is along the Challenge route, and enjoy their offerings.

The most difficult route in the challenge is the Boquet Ridge Ramble, which leads participants to the summit of North Boquet Mountain and has stunning views of the valley and High Peaks. Full details, including downloadable maps and directions of the described routes, are provided on the CATS website.

How to sign up

CATS encourages people to register with a $25 donation and complete one of three trail loops. Participants who complete the challenge by Dec. 31 will receive the patch designed by Willsboro resident and CATS board member Rob Powell. This extension allows for the chance to possibly use skis and snowshoes to complete the challenge, weather permitting.

“We’ve had a fantastic turnout for the Challenge thus far, and we are so grateful for all of the participants showing their support of CATS and their interest in getting outside and connecting with nature,” CATS Development Director Derek Rogers said. “We are encouraging people to send us their selfies, tag us on social media (@champlainareatrails), and use the hashtags #2020GrandChallenge and #ChamplainAreaTrails.”

CATS has constructed life-size selfie picture frames on each trail that people can stand in for photos while completing the Challenge.

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