September 2009: Coon Mountain Preserve

Westport, New York

Coon Mountain, with a handful of small rocky summits, has been a local landmark on the western shore of Lake Champlain since settlers arrived. The first colonizer of the towns of Willsboro, Essex and Westport, William Gilliland, perished on the mountaintop in February 1796 after becoming disoriented in the snow. Local lore tells of the Coon Mountain panther that cried like a damsel in distress, luring men into the deep woods where it would spring on its victim. Many dogs were lost to the panther in attempts to hunt it. When the ornery cat was finally shot in mid-pounce it fell into one of the small pocket ponds on the summit and was never found.

Local teenage volunteers carved a one-mile nature trail to the top of Coon Mountain. This is a relatively easy purchase of spectacular views of Lake Cham-plain and the surrounding valley. Limited parking increases the odds you will be enjoying those views only with your dog.

Take I-40 to Exit 317 and take Hwy. 127 north for 46 miles. Turn right on Highway 154 and travel another 12 miles to the park entrance.