Tucked away in the northern section of the Adirondack’s West Champlain Hills between Willsboro and Keeseville is a magnificent 273-acre lake known as Long Pond. It is surrounded by an intact, biologically rich forest that protects the lake and is the backdrop for homes on the Pond’s east side and Camp Poke-0-MacCready to the south.
A potential development in 2011 threatened the west shore of this beautiful and much-loved lake and inspired people to work with Champlain Area Trails to create a program called Long Pond Conservancy (LPC) that focuses on saving the lands around Long Pond. This will keep the water clean, preserve the amazing views, and connect people to nature in the Long Pond Watershed.
Starting ten years ago, CATS and its LPC program took on the challenging task of raising over $300,000 to cover the cost of purchasing and managing the threatened 48.5
acres. Buying this land would protect most of the lake’s western shore because the adjoining 167 acres of shoreline is already protected. With that as the goal, LPC and its committed supporters launched a multi-year fundraising effort and reached success in May 2020 when those private funds and combined grants from the Kelsey Trust and Cloudsplitter Foundation enabled CATS to buy and now own the property.
“This is a unique property,” said legendary ADK conservationist Peter Paine. “These West Champlain Hills represent one of the most diverse natural communities in the Adirondack Park. Protecting biological diversity and water quality are integral for people and nature. That’s why this land at Long Pond was worth saving now and for future generations.”
Like all CATS land conservation projects, this remarkable property will host a trail so that everyone can experience the wild and scenic beauty of Long Pond, forever.
Rising to approximately 1007 feet, and just west of the Village of Essex lies North Boquet Mountain. Part of the botanically rich West Champlain Hills, this Adirondack Low Peak is high in biodiversity and unlike any other place on the planet.
Following years of study, ecologist and author of the Northern Forest Atlas, Jerry Jenkins, discovered that the West Champlain Hills contain some of the richest plant communities in the entire Northern Forest. The dry calcareous oak-hickory forest community on North Boquet Mountain is unique and hosts several rare plant species.
“We live and work in the most biologically diverse region of the Adirondack Park,” said Chris Maron, CATS Executive Director. “North Boquet Mountain provided a great opportunity to expand the collaboration we have with private landowner Shirley Forest, a family-held corporation, which allows CATS trails on their properties. With their okay, we created a trail so everyone can enjoy this magnificent mountain. This will be a great example of how people connect with nature on our trails and then become ambassadors for protecting the valley’s natural areas and scenic vistas.”
The North Boquet Summit Trail is accessed from Leaning Road in Essex. As people hike one mile to the summit, they’ll enjoy a series of switchbacks and several magnificent views of Lake Champlain to the east. On the summit, they’ll continue hiking through grassy oak-hickory glades to a spur trail to the west side of the mountain that yields picturesque views of the High Peaks. They can return on the same trail or loop back via the Rocky Ledges Trail. Hikers can also get there from the Boquet Mountain Trail.
“This was my favorite and most challenging sustainable trail to build,” said CATS Stewardship Coordinator, Bill Amadon. “It was hard work but extremely gratifying knowing that many people will enjoy hiking here.”
View of the Champlain Valley from the North Boquet Trail
Champlain Area Trails makes the Champlain Valley a desirable destination to live and visit and inspires long term support of the overall economy in its communities. Our trails and nature preserves offer outdoor recreation opportunities which draw people to our region. They seek accommodations, discover great local eateries and ultimately support local businesses. And in some cases, CATS trails even inspire people to relocate here.
Early in 2020, as CATS was beginning to plan its annual Grand Hike, nobody expected that a global pandemic would force us to cancel this popular event and fundraiser. 2020 was the year of flexibility and creativity, so we decided to launch the first ever CATS Grand Challenge.
The Challenge encouraged people to get outside, connect with nature, and explore the Champlain Valley through hiking one of three designated CATS trails and earning a commemorative patch.
The three-month event inspired 210 people from throughout the Champlain Valley and beyond to take on the Challenge and show their support for CATS. We missed seeing everyone in person, but truly enjoyed the fun photos that they shared highlighting happy people, friends and families out in nature. This is exactly what CATS is all about. Thank you and stay tuned as we plan for future CATS challenges!