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Beat the blahs on the trails of CATS

— Even if the thermometer won’t get out of the red numbers, sometimes you need to get outdoors and explore.

However, if that exploring does not include a trip up a high peak, Champlain Area Trails, along with other town and community trail systems, offer the chance to get into nature and hike without the extreme conditions that come with higher elevation excursions.

“The trails are great in the winter,” CATS Executive Director Chris Maron said. “When you get some good snow cover, they are excellent for cross country skiing and they are also great hiking trails because they are fairly level.”

The CATS trail system spans from Crown Point in the south to Essex in the north, and from New Russia to Westport. The goal of CATS is to create a 30-mile trail loop between Westport and Essex, extending its reach to neighboring towns and eventually connect them to trails in the Adirondacks, Vermont, and Quebec.

Maron said he enjoys winter hiking and the sights that come with it.

“There is nothing like walking in the woods when you get a hard crust under your feet that also covers the logs so you do not have to step over them,” Maron said. “Seeing the ice formations on the creeks and in the woods is always amazing.”

While none of the CATS trails are major expeditions, Maron said that hikers should remember to dress and prepare accordingly for the conditions.

“You should dress in layers and have a good pair of hiking boots,” he said.

Maron said a lot of the trails have easy access points for hikers and skiers, with the biggest issue in winter being whether or not the parking areas are plowed out.

For more information and locations of CATS trails, visit the website champlainareatrails.com.

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