Tag Archives: Abbey Pond

Return to Abbey Pond

One of my posts, almost 5 years ago, involved a run up the Abbey Pond Trail.  Much to my surprise, this has proven to be the most frequently accessed post on this blog, speaking to the popularity of the Abbey Pond Trail.  This trail, the closest and most convenient trailhead leading into the National Forest for Middlebury runners and hikers, was one I had always wanted to explore, but hadn’t gotten to in my then roughly 25 years living in this community.  After running it, I found that it was a more challenging run than I expected, and that there were some sections where the footing was too much “rock hopping” and not enough trail to maintain any sort of running pace.  It was also a very pretty trail.  I had heard that in the last few years, some trail maintenance had been performed, and thought I would check it out on a beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon, shortly after the college graduation.

To access the trailhead, head east from town on Quarry Road, and take a left, north, on Rt 116.  In less than a mile, a trailhead sign leading onto a dirt road will be on your right, and take this turn, following trailhead signs for about a half mile to the small parking lot at the end of the road.  From this point, the trail is very easy to follow, and well marked all the way to its conclusion at the pond.  The trail starts out pretty easily, going from flat to modest incline until you cross a bridge, leading over a brook, where the outlet stream from Abbey Pond, far uphill at this point, cascades down a steep defile in the rocks, creating a waterfall both above and below the bridge.

Abbey Pond Trail Waterfall

Abbey Pond Trail Waterfall

 

Continuing past the waterfall on increasingly steep trail, I noticed a steep embankment to my left, and I did a quick scramble up this to see where it led. I should not have been surprised to see that it brought me to the brink of one of the many gravel pits operated by the Carrara Concrete Company up against the west face of the Green Mt escarpment in Addison County. I have always assumed that the sandy soil of this geography, atypical for Addison County which is largely clay, was the result of its being the former beachfront property on Lake Champlain as its waters receded following the last ice age, although I have not confirmed this with my Geology Dept. colleagues.  One thing about this vista had me scratching my head however – I can’t for the life of me figure out why they would park a few old school buses in their gravel pit!

Gravel Pit View

Gravel Pit View

 

After this point, the trail veers more aggressively uphill, first on the north side of the stream, then crossing over to the south side. When I described this portion of the trail a few years back, I confessed that I had to take a breather, and slow down to a walk for a while due to its relentless climb. This time around, I didn’t find that necessary, so I guess I am a stronger runner, and I know I have lost about 20 pounds since then, making the hills even easier. Isaac Newton was right – F = ma.

After the steep section of the climb, the rumored trail improvements came to sight.  My memory of this section was of a lot of rock hopping on a badly eroded trail, where I had the sneaky suspicion that the water flowing between the rocks was part of the stream beginning at the outlet of the lake.  Even though it was pretty close to flat, the footing was really to precarious to do anything resembling running.  Now, the trail has been re-routed off to the side on slightly higher ground and for the time being at least is very nice single-track running.  Looking into the origins of the new section of trail, I discovered something about its history.  During the summer of 2013 the local section of the Green Mountain Club performed this badly needed maintenance in memory of a father and son, David and Levi Duclos, who passed away prematurely in 2004 and 2012, respectively.  Both of them passed away while enjoying the outdoors.

After about a mile of pretty flat terrain on the recently re-routed trail, I got to the shores of this modest little pond in the mountains.  The peak in the background here is Robert Frost Mountain, the subject of another of my postings.  Several years ago, I came across an older map which showed a trail connection between Abbey Pond and the trails leading up to Robert Frost Mountain, so I explored around the lakeshore to see if I could discern any trails beyond the pond, but within a few hundred yards, the modest herd path diminished and disappeared into the swamps, and I was not wearing attire appropriate for bushwhacking.  It was also getting late in the afternoon, and I suspected that the evening insect attack would begin soon, so I took a picture of the pond from a less commonly viewed perspective, and backtracked to the maintained trail.

Abbey Pond and swamp

Abbey Pond and swamp

There were a few small tufts of various wildflowers alongside the shores as well, and I spied one that I had never noticed before – it had rather large hanging bulbs about an inch across, and I am including a picture in case someone could identify them for me.

Mystery Wildflowers

Mystery Wildflowers

Returning to my car was far easier, as is almost always the case. The run covered about 4 and a half miles, with an ascent and descent of about 1000 vertical feet. Five years ago, I rated this path “pretty for hiking, not really very good for running” but with the trail improvements of a few years ago it has become much more runable. I suspect I will be running it more often in the future, due to it’s convenience to town, and the fact that I suspect that it will be a cool place to run on hot mid-summer afternoons due to the fact that the most challenging part of the climb is in a shady defile in the mountains, cooled by the adjacent stream.

Altitude Profile of Abbey Pond

Altitude Profile of Abbey Pond

Google Earth projection of Abbey Pond Trail

Google Earth projection of Abbey Pond Trail

Abbey Pond

I haven’t made any new posts, and gone on very few runs in a while due to a combination  of mediocre weather (bring back September!) too many exams to administer and grade (although my students would prefer I went running, no doubt), and a nagging head cold which has slowed me even further.  Enough excuses.  I had the realization this morning that despite all the mountain biking, hiking and trailrunning I have done over the last 20+ years, I had never taken the time to explore the National Forest trail closest to town – the one leading up to Abbey Pond.  I am not entirely sure why I had not checked this one out – perhaps it was because I first heard of the trail in a conversation with some elderly members of the community, and I got the impression that it was too easy, or perhaps it was due to the fact that driving by the trailhead on Rt. 116, I rarely saw any cars parked by the trailhead sign, so I apparently assumed that it wasn’t anything special.  As you will see, I was wrong on both accounts, thinking I was in for a short easy run to get my legs working again.

To get to the trailhead from Middlebury, head east on Quarry Road until you get to Rt. 116 where you take a left, heading north for less than a mile, and look for a group of dirt roads on your right labeled by a forest service sign.  When I got to the sign indicating the trailhead, and requesting that cars not block the roads, there was a small cluster of dirt roads fanning in different directions, and two other cars pulled off to the side.  So I naturally assumed this was the primary parking lot for the trail, and began my run along the obvious dirt road through a maple forest interlaced with permanent plastic tubing facilitating the spring’s syrup harvest.

Trailhead Tree Tunnel

Trailhead Tree Tunnel

After running along this dirt road for about a third of a mile, I came to a much larger parking lot, with quite a few more cars, which was apparently the preferred parking area, explaining why I rarely saw many cars while I hurried by on Rt 116.  After this, the proper trailrunning began, with a very rocky path gradually but relentlessly snaking its way up the side of the hill.  After a few hundred yards, a bridge passed over the stream draining Abbey Pond, still far above, with a view of a small waterfall.

Waterfall

The climb continued, and I realized that either I wasn’t entirely over my cold, or this was a more serious climb than I had anticipated.  Probably a bit of both!  After about 3/4 of a mile of climbing, the trail leveled off for the remainder of the run to the pond.  This last section was not without its challenges however – a  stream crossing, lots of roots and rocks to step carefully around, and several rather substantial mud pits which rendered dry feet an exercise in futility.  Finally, after about a mile of this challenging footwork, Abbey Pond appeared.  It is a lovely, quiet and marshy spot in the mountains, and with the cold nights of the last week, covered in a thin veneer of ice!

Abbey Pond

Abbey Pond

The descent was just as slow as the ascent due to the frequent awkward footing.  Thus, this route is tough to recommend as a pure trail run for all but those with the strongest ankles – it is tough to really stretch out your legs at any time in the run, and I doubt it will be a regular part of my running routines in the future.  It is, however, a fun and convenient local hike leading to a attractive natural feature.  I am curious as to how Abbey Pond got its name, and welcome any historical insights.  Old USGS maps also show a trail connecting the far end of Abbey Pond with the trails described in my “The toughest 9 miles in Addison County” post.  I did not have the time to explore this connection today, but hope to seek out this possible route at some point in the future.

Finally, when I got home, and downloaded the run from my GPS, I understood why I found the run so tiring early on.  Long ago, I established my rule of thumb that hikes in which the uphill gradient exceeded 1000 vertical feet per mile were hikes which felt steep, and none of the runs in this blog thus far have exceeded that gradient for any substantial distance.  I felt much better about my sense of poor performance today when I realized that this trail gained most of its 1200+ vertical feet in about 3/4 of a mile!

Abbey Pond in Google Earth looking east

Abbey Pond in Google Earth looking east

altitude profile

altitude profile