Getting Lost (sort of) on Snake Mountain

This  weekend provided some more unnaturally warm fall afternoons, and I was thinking about a good place to run.  While the leaves in the big mountains are falling quickly, there is still a lot of foliage left in the Champlain Valley, so the day called for a run up one of my favorites, Snake Mountain, the long ridge running north and south, just to the west of Middlebury.  A few years ago, a Middlebury student, “Greg K.”  who read of my interest in Snake Mt. from this blog, sent me a map including the major and minor trails on Snake.  This map, included below, can be enlarged by clicking on it in most browsers.  I was particularly interested in exploring a minor trail, which appeared to run along the south ridge of the mountain, and seemed to have at least one overlook.  All the better for a busy day, when the main summit could have hundreds of hikers over the course of the day.

Greg K’s Snake Mountain Map

Setting off from the popular West Side parking lot, I saw a young couple I could commiserate with – they had two young children, one in a backpack, and the other hiking, and both were crying. I joked with them how I used to bribe my daughters with Tootsie Pops at the summit, and they joked about their Gummi Bears, as I wished them good luck and started off the run. The first section of the run went through young hardwood forest with a lot of birches and their yellow leaves, with small amounts of sun filtering through the thinning canopy.

Birches in the Hardwood Forest

After about 10 minutes of gradual uphill running, I came to the first T in the trail, and took the obvious left turn for the steepest section of climbing until the trail bore right, arriving at the trail junction about halfway up the mountain. At this point, most of the hikers go left, following the old summit carriage road. Going straight would have brought me down to the lesser used parking lot on the east side of the mountain. The trail I was looking for, the weakest of the three was the right turn which I knew would bring me to the overlook on the southeastern flanks of the mountain.  I was a little bit wary about taking a less frequently used trail during the fall, when the trail would be covered with leaves.  I knew from experience, back in the days when I was working on my Adirondack 46’ers credentials (#5439!) that fainter herd paths, easy to follow during the summer months, are often obscured and more challenging after the leave fall.  The first short section was easy to follow however, as it was wide, and got enough traffic to keep the path partially cleared.   After about .3 miles, I got to the lookout, and had to to myself.  Here, a very curious thing happened – I stopped to take this picture for the blog:

Views from Snake Mountain, Southern Overlook

 

and as I was taking the picture, I felt what I assumed was a bug on my leg. I didn’t worry too much about it, assuming that I had just attracted a random cluster fly, and knew that there weren’t too many nasty biting insects out and about at this time of the year. As I was focusing the camera, I felt another little tickle, and then another…and starting to get concerned I snapped the picture and looked down – to see my shirt and legs crawling with ladybugs! I casually brushed them off, and as I did, more and more of them seemed to find me attractive – at one point I probably had 20 or 30 of them alighting on me! I have no idea what they found so attractive, and they weren’t bothersome, so I took a picture of a few of my visitors on my shin and decided to let them have their view to themselves!

Ladybugs on my Shin

Heading south beyond this viewpoint, the trail got fainter and more difficult to follow, as I suspected it would. I was not worried about finding my way back should the trail start to get erased by the leaves, as the topography of the mountain is pretty simple, and running along the southwest ridge, there were short intermittent views through the thin forest cover. But, to be honest, I have gotten myself in a little bit of trouble in the past in the mountains due to a simple fact – I don’t really like simply retracing my steps if there is another possible way back. Sometimes that other way back isn’t as easy to find as one might guess….

Thin Forest Cover on the South Rim.

Sure enough after a little more than a mile on this ridge trail, which only showed occasional signs of recent use, like the easy to read indentation on logs across the trail where mountain bikers’ chain rings have dug in, the now very faint trail turned left, away from the edge of the mountain, and headed inward. After a short distance, the inevitable happened….the trail disappeared! I could have retraced my steps, but instead started bushwhacking towards some clearings I saw in the distance…and sure enough, here was a trail….but wait, it started turning around in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. Puzzled for a moment, I decided to bushwhack my way back north again, and in a few minutes, I found another faint trail, and briefly thought that I had found my original trail, and would soon be back along the west rim of the mountain – after all, trails always look different when you are running the other way, right? I knew I was heading north, or at least was pretty sure of this, but as I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the mountain top ridge, I realized I had an entirely different trail, which sure enough, after about a third of a mile, also disappeared. At this point, I could see that the ridge that I had initially followed was a few hundred yards off to my west, and much higher than I was, so I continued to bushwhack north, or what I thought was north and was beginning to wonder if anyone had ever been there before, when I saw an old steel cable laying on the forest floor, still, with no obvious trail in sight!

Old Steel Cable

Finally, surveying the woods around me, I spied something that looked like some switchbacks heading up the ridge to my left, which I followed – and this was clearly another little used trail, which brought me back to the original trail, a short distance from the viewpoint. Whew! Once again, one of my shortcuts ended up taking about 5 times as long as the original route. Some of my hiking friends will certainly appreciate that observation, as this was far from the first time that one of my shortcuts hasn’t worked out that well. Back at the original viewpoint, there was a young couple there – swatting away at the persistent ladybugs. After a few short comments, I headed on, until I finally got back to the main summit trail. A short way further, I passed the young family from the parking lot, presumably munching on Gummi Bears, until I got to the summit. As expected, the summit was very busy, and I heard some people talking about the concrete slab, and saying how it was the result of an old hotel. I resisted the temptation to correct them – I have been trying to find out about this slab, and it seems that the only printed source mentioning it – the 5th edition of “50 Hikes in Vermont” said it was the aborted home building project of a young man who died in a car crash in Europe at some point in the 20th Century, which matches the story I heard from a few other old-timers. One version of the story says that he was a race car driver, who died in a race in Europe. I knew, however, that the old summit hotel was actually back in the woods – a modest stone foundation all that remains. One of my old-timer friends told me that the hotel, while in ruins, was still standing in the early 1960’s until it’s wood was burned during the winters by snowmobilers seeking fuel for their bonfires.

Summit Hotel Foundation

At this point, I had covered more terrain on Snake Mountain than I had ever incorporated in one run or hike, so instead of descending the main trail, I took the right turn to the other viewpoint near the summit. This set of cliffs is less well known, as it is closed for much of the summer to allow nesting peregrine falcons to have their privacy. Right behind the overlook, there is a small, mucky pond full of cattails, called “Red Rock Pond” on some maps. Another piece of old-timer trivia – this pond was once the swimming hole for the guests at the summit hotel. If you look carefully, you can see that it has a man-made berm around it, now breached, which once held a far more appealing body of deeper water.

The descent from here is much steeper than the main trail, making it less appealing for running, although you can tell that it is really a trail, as opposed to the carriage road origins of the main trail. Finally, it rejoined the main trail, and I descended further until I got to the final right turn, which I decided not to take, instead opting to go straight, along what I suspect was the original course of the summit carriage road, following it first through a short stretch of forest, then wild meadows, and finally farmers fields before joining Mountain Rd. Extension, with its very limited parking, and ran the last mile or so on roads, enjoying the views of the hay rolls, with the Adirondacks in the distance.

Country Roads

This ended up as a nice 8 mile run, with some delays due to poor routefinding and bushwhacking! I will revisit some of this next summer, after the leaves are pushed off through use. I guess this is my way of warning you from following some of the GPS track for this one – I am sure I could not!

Google Earth Projection of trails on Snake Mountain

Altitude Profile

Vermont Employer Highlight: Data Innovations

Did you miss the Vermont Tech Jam this past weekend? Not to worry, we went on your behalf and learned quite a bit about job opportunities in Vermont! In the coming weeks we will be highlighting Vermont employers, so if you are looking to stay in VT for a summer internship, or a full-time job opportunity, follow our blog to learn about the many options right here in Vermont!

Data Innovations is the world’s largest and most successful clinical and blood laboratory middleware company.

Founded in 1989, and headquartered in South Burlington, VT, Data Innovations (DI) has offices in the United States, Belgium, Brazil, and Hong Kong. DI provides laboratories around the world with solutions that range from connectivity to full workflow management. Standardization, flexibility, control and quality are some of the reasons why more than 6,000 customers worldwide have DI in their labs.

DI continues to grow and is hiring! You’ll have great co-workers, benefits, and a dog-friendly work environment! Check out their open positions on the DI website.

Systems Maintenance this Sunday, October 22nd

During our regular 6am – 10am EST maintenance window we have the following activities scheduled:

 

  • Wired and wireless network services will be unavailable for up to 15 minutes at the following locations while equipment is relocated.
    • Ross Dining
    • LaForce Hall
  • Wireless services for all VT and CA locations will be upgraded. There will be 2-3 brief wireless outages ( up to 10 minutes each) during the maintenance window.
  • The border firewalls in VT will be upgraded. There is no outage expected for this work.

 

We appreciate your patience as we continuously strive to keep our systems functioning optimally.

 

Regards,

Middlebury Information Technology Services

Midd/MIIS Travelers

The following employees have reported upcoming travel between Midd and MIIS:

From Midd to MIIS From MIIS to Midd
Mike Roy, Dean of the Library

Oct 17-18

Shirley Coly, Office of Advancement

Oct 18-20

Joseph Antonioli, Library

October 21-27

Beryl Levinger, GSIPM_DPP

Oct 25-28; Nov 13-17

Pam Berenbaum, Sociology/Anthropology

Oct 22-25

Jeffrey Dayton-Johnson, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Institute

Oct 19-20

ICC retreat group

•             Heike Fahrenberg – SA- Germany

•             Sanae Eda – SA – Japan

•             Kerstin Wilsch – SA – Jordan

•             Roman Graf – College- German

•             Catharine Wright – College – Writing Program

•             Sahie Kang – Director, Korean LS

•             Per Urlaub – LS Assoc Dean

•             Adela Langrock – Assessment & IR
Oct 19-23

Kent Glenzer, GSIPM

Oct 19-20

Sarah Stroup, Political Science
Oct 23-27
Leah Gowron, Alumni Relations

Oct 26-30

Pam Berenbaum, Sociology/Anthropology

Oct 22-25

Melissa Sorenson, Digital Learning Commons

November

Sheila Cameron, Office of the Provost

Oct 30-Nov 3

Bill McKibben, Environmental Studies
Oct 31-Nov 4
Sue Halpern, English & American Literatures
Oct 31-Nov 4

Tuck Bridge program on campus Oct 26

Tuck Business Bridge, held at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, is a total immersion business program designed to prepare top liberal arts and science undergrads for challenging careers. With a comprehensive business core curriculum, taught by the Tuck School of Business’s top-ranked MBA faculty, a capstone team project, and one-on-one guidance from the Tuck’s Career Development Office, The Tuck Business Bridge Program® can give you the skills and confidence you’ll need to get a job and succeed. All in just 4 weeks this summer.

Join us!  Tuesday, October 26 from 6-7 pm in Axinn 219