Trying to find back to the Empire State Trail in Westport

After fishing the “Putt” with Sean, Jimmy and I were driving back to Westport on 9N and I noticed a big moon rising over the Vermont mountains on the eastern horizon. Forever farmland views provided an unobstructed view. I had to pull a U-turn and so did Jimmy. We stood on the side of the road and watched as the “Supermoon” rose into full view. Then we proceeded to drive into the darkness looking for the Westport Hotel & Tavern for dinner and a good night’s rest. This is actually when the “mix-up” started as I never found the Westport EST trailhead.

Luckily, while driving I called the hotel, Don the chef/owner was available and I asked about a dinner reservation. He told me that his tavern was “closed on Monday just like every other kitchen in town”. Then there was a long pause and he said “if you’d like I’ll cook you guys a cheeseburger platter”. Music to my ears. We spent the rest of the evening with Don and his bride chatting and enjoying crisp onion rings and root beer with our medium-rare provolone cheeseburgers, Don was our hero.

The next morning I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6 am, just as the pink clouds over Lake Champlain faded to tangerine. It was a beautiful morning. Intending to follow 9N as I’d done the day before, I turned left out of the hotel lot and started a long uphill climb. It was a quiet ride through a long farm valley, no cars, lightly filtered through high cloud cover and the road was all mine.
Eventually, I reached a big intersection where 9N went under 1 87, with no EST signs in sight. I realized there was a problem, I was off the trail.

Checking the EST website made things clear, the trail turns slightly east in Westport on to rt. 22 N and stays on the lake, 9N turns to the west. Next, I checked Strava, my mileage had reached 3.7, riding back to the trail confirmed my theory that I peddled at about 8 miles an hour. I reached the hotel at 6:50 am and had covered 7.4 miles, the only good thing was that I saw a lovely farm-filled valley and the second half of the warmup was downhill. By this time the light was hard on Don’s Westport Hotel & Tavern sign so I snapped a photo and coasted into town.

The route to Essex was also on lonely roads with very little traffic, shoulders were relatively comfortable to ride on and the scenery was spectacular. Large red barns, well-appointed country homes with tidy gardens just beginning to show spring growth, horses and cows in abundance.

As 22 N continued the number of towns I entered thinned to almost none between trailheads, there was one hamlet that stood out in my mind, primarily because of a large red building called the Wallonsburgh Grange. I stopped for a minute to admire the structure, clearly a community center that hosts concerts, dances, and summer activities of all kinds. Well maintained and sturdy, I was impressed and pleased to see that people can find a gathering center to commune in from near and far, I imagine that life near the Canadian border can get lonely, the grange must be a welcome change when functions light Wallonsburgh up.

Further up the road, I came to a rise that created another forever view opening up over The Town of Essex, NY. Late morning sun hit Lake Champlain in the distance, it was a welcome long downhill coast, into a village of magnificent lakeside homes. The Town of Essex is small but well equipped with a wine store, a coffee shop, a small cafe, and an attractive lakeside restaurant called “Old Dock House”. The trail rides straight through Essex taking a left at the “Pink Pig Cafe”, then heading north from the center of town, a short uphill ride as substantial homes pass and history seems to hold in place. The Town of Essex is definitely another jewel in the crown of Upstate NY.

By the time my Starva reported I’d traveled 31 miles and peddled to a 2100 foot rise it was 2 pm. We had a schedule to keep, Jimmy and I had Sean on the hunt for an afternoon trout fishing adventure. He pointed us to the Salmon river west of Plattsburgh, so we ended the ride and drove to the river.

It was a wider, faster-moving river than the “Putt”. A hatch was on and we had fun catching brown trout into the twilight.