Hiking events

Historic Scenes, Great Essex Hike on the Champlain Coast – The Daily Gazette

SUMMER 2022 TRIP – A day trip to Essex, a town of about 600 people on the western edge of Lake Champlain, is full of surprises.

Located just over 110 miles from Schenectady, the Northway trip leads the way as you enter Adirondack Park just north of Queensbury. A drive through tall, cool pine forests to admire the mountains and rocky escarpments welcomes a driver, especially on a hot summer day, until you head east at exit 31.

A quiet country road through open fields brings you the first delight: the roaring waterfall of the River Boquet at Wadhams. A stone’s throw away is the Dogwood Bread Company. Established 15 years ago, the company offers a small selection of health food products, Guatemalan coffee and their own breads, pies, quiches, sandwiches and pizzas to order every Friday night to eat in or out. outside.

Back on the road in gently rolling terrain, perfect for biking, you’ll pass The Hub on the Hill, a farm-to-market store. In a tight curve just a mile from Essex, there’s the famous Octagon Schoolhouse on the right, built in 1827 and restored in 2015. Then it’s into the town and Lake Champlain, with views of the Green Mountains from Vermont.

Essex was founded by William Gilliland, an Irish colonial, in 1765. The Mohawk people originally inhabited the land, which was later granted by King Louis XV of France to Louis Joseph Robart.

This was later lost when the British took control of the area in 1763. The War of Independence devastated the area, but after the war a farming community settled.

Within decades, a ferry across the lake to Charlotte, Vermont began, and by the 1800s stone quarries, tanneries, and shipyards had sprung up. Two of these shipyards produced the two sloops — ‘The Growler’ and ‘The Eagle’ — which Commodore Thomas MacDonough used for his Champlain Fleet during the War of 1812 and at the Battle of Valcour (near Plattsburgh).

In 1850 Essex was one of the busiest towns on the lake with a population of over 2,000 people. Many of the town’s wonderful period homes came from these eras.

But by the late 1800s, the city’s economy suffered and the population began to decline.

In 1969, the Essex Community Heritage organization was formed with a mission to preserve the remaining 150 buildings. Not only were they successful, but the town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
A walk in the main street gives many discoveries:

  • The Town Hall itself is a Federal-style structure built in 1790 and the town’s first tavern.
  • Next door is an 1840 Greek Revival house with unusual corbelled brick cornices and a manicured front garden.
  • A few steps further is the Essex Inn which combines Greek Revival with an 1810 Federal style. Still in operation, it has a wonderfully rustic dining room.

A brochure at City Hall provides a map of all the other 19th century architectural homes, all of which have views of the lake and Vermont.

To learn more about local history, visit the Willsboro Heritage Museum in Willsboro, about seven miles north.

“We mostly get hikers and bikers, or people who just got on the ferry from Vermont to walk around, said Alicia Kelly, city clerk for the past five years. “It’s a pretty area. We have hundreds of CAT (Champlain Area Trails) trails, and there is a bike shop behind City Hall and a bike rack.

A more adventurous hike is the 2.4-mile hike from nearby Poke-O-Moonshine which is rated as difficult, but the views of the Adirondacks are scenic.

Besides the Essex Inn, are there any other places to stay for a few days?

“We have bed and breakfasts,” Assistant City Clerk Donna Haynes said. “But housing is difficult. It was the pandemic. All the houses that were for sale were sold in two days. … like hotcakes.

On the way back, instead of immediately returning to the Northway, stay on that same road and drive approximately seven miles west to Elizabethtown. It’s a metropolis by comparison, but there’s the Adirondack History Museum, which opens May 28. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, it contains a wealth of information.

And if you want a reason to return to Essex, check out the Bike the Barns event scheduled for October 8. This is a 25-30 mile casual bike ride that visits area farms. The route begins and ends at The Hub on the Hill.

Travel 2022: On the way to summer

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Categories: Life and Arts, Summer trip 2022