By Mary McGowan
I saw on the Champlain Area Trails (CATS) map that there is a town to town hike starting in Port Kent and ending in Ticonderoga. Well, Peter and I were game. Since we could not go to Spain and walk the Camino de Santiago, we decided to do el Camino de Ticontiago!
Looking over the map we pieced together the trails we would take and made a guess at the mileage. Choosing the number of days, we would walk lead us to what towns we would sleep in and where to eat along the way. Planning our meals to coincide with restaurants being open was a challenge.
Choosing a Tuesday as our start day, we drove to the Port Kent train station and parked the car there as I felt it would not be in the way since the train is not running. With a clear sky we started out with our trusty walking sticks, small backpacks of dry socks, toiletries, change of outfits, sweaters, light rain jackets, water and snacks.
We headed down Lake Road to Wickham Marsh Trails, Mace Chasm Road and Highlands. After about 10miles we rested and had lunch on the side of the road sitting in the shade on some large boulders. Onward through Willsboro on Middle Road to Essex. On our first day we clocked in 20.4 miles and arrived in Essex at 6:30pm. Our feet were hot and tired from being on a mix of dirt and paved roads.
We spent our first night at the Essex Marina. Our friend Barry let us stay there. The day before I dropped off food for our dinner as no restaurant would be open in Essex upon our arrival and we would need a good dinner.
The next morning, we met up with two friends, Tim and Missy. They wanted to walk the Essex to Westport portion with us and were most welcome. We all had breakfast at the Pink Pig. Yummy bagel and egg sandwiches, juice, and hot beverages. A good start for the day.
Off we went to Westport. Walking and talking and walking and talking. Down School street to Christian Road we approached the wooded trails of Three Creeks and a few trails that were closed due to hunting detoured us to the Art Trail, which added about 2 extra miles to our walk. Yet a fun trail with art! Passing an Amish farm stand we picked up jars of jelly and pickles. We ended up on Sherman Road near Lakeshore Drive.
Arriving at Barry’s home in Westport, where we were spending the night, we gave our host the jelly and pickles as a gift. Barry offered to drove our friends back to their car in Essex. Peter and I treated Barry to dinner at the Deer’s Head in Elizabethtown. A terrific meal and wonderful cocktails made the 16-mile day smoother.
Thursday Morning had an early start and we enjoyed pastries at Jambs in Westport. We also picked up a few extras knowing we would not have anywhere to purchase lunch along the way.
Before heading out of town toward Port Henry we stopped at the CAT’s office to say hi and have a photo opportunity with Chris Maron the Executive Director. As we started out, Chris’s words were, “It’s kind of uphill from here.” Thinking he was joking I laughed.
As we turned up Stevenson Road and onto Mountain Spring Road Trail, I realized, Chris was not trying to be funny! Uphill for about 5 miles… another 16-mile day ended on Spring Street in Port Henry at the Chateau Versailles. A beautiful B&B that I had arranged the week before due to the local inn being full. At the corner liquor store, we picked up a cold margarita 4 pack and headed to the Chinese food Restaurant. Even though it was the only place in town open, it was perfect! Next, hot showers and sleep were all we needed.
Friday morning was disappointing as we wanted breakfast at the local diner and were told it just closed for the season the previous weekend. So over to Stewart’s we went to pick up breakfast food and sandwiches for lunch. There we met Eleana who wanted to hike about 10 miles with us. Fun to have the company and she went 5 miles out and then back by herself. It was a lovely walk with beautiful scenery.
We did get twisted around outside of Ironville on the Penfield Pond Trail and Old Ironville Road Trail. Old logging roads, lots of hunting club signs, hearing shots occasionally, very little vehicle traffic, lots of small dead snakes that didn’t make it crossing the roads and one black bear. Yup, he lumbered across Breed Hill Road about 50 feet in front of us. It didn’t scare me. I actually felt like the intruder in the bear’s back yard. Being in nature as we were, was making me feel more and more a part of the wilderness surrounding us.
Drizzle started and we donned our rain jackets and hoods. Within a few minutes the light shower ended and we paused for lunch under a tree. This time we took off our shoes to rest our tired feet. Road signs are a little far and few between and we got turned around going past Buck Mountain and had to ask a few kind folks for directions.
Knowing we still had 3 hours to walk on poorly marked roads we tried to quicken our steps. I called the taxi driver who was to pick us up in Ticonderoga and take us back to Port Kent to my car. We were still about 3 hours out from our destination but wanted to be sure we had a ride as the sun was beginning to set. He had difficulty hearing as our connection was poor and said to call him when we were at the meetup point. We finally made our way down Warner Hill Road with the help of directions from kind local people who perhaps thought our travels a bit odd. They would say, “You walked here from Port Kent!?!?”.
The map seemed to have an error and Street Road did not exist where the map showed it to be. Darkness had set in and Peter flagged down a car to ask what the streets were to be sure we had made it to our final destination. As he waived his arm a car slowed to a stop. The driver let the window down and Peter asked what intersection we were at. The driver responded with, “I’m your driver. Just thought I would come and look for you since I had not heard back. “Joy filled our hearts and we jumped into the taxi. The drive back to Port Kent seemed like a blink of the eye after walking 24 miles to Ticonderoga.
What would I do differently? Perhaps give ourselves more time to walk the 75 miles. Why rush it in 4 days. We even talked about adding a day of rest every two days. Why not spend time in a smaller town like, Ironville and visit the Penfield museum and hike other local CATS trails not necessarily connected to the Town to Town route.
Yes, our feet were tired, our legs a little sore, but what a delight to not think of the time of day and have only one mission, to walk about viewing the beautiful region we live in. What a joy to explore new roads, talk about whatever came to mind and getting to know each other deeper, one step at a time.
— Mary McGowan lives in Elizabethtown. Photos provided by the author.