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The Moosalamoo Ultra

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Over the last year or so, I have become increasingly interested in taking on longer, more challenging runs.  After reading the book “Born to Run” by Christoper McDougall, I was fascinated by the world of the elite ultrarunners – they are a very quirky and adventurous bunch who find ways to push their bodies to physical extremes.  As I was learning more about ultramarathon racing, I stumbled across the podcast entitled  “Running Stupid”.  This podcast, published every few weeks by a 40-something, self proclaimed “back of the pack” (that’s the nice way of saying “slow”), overweight, but joyously funny ultrarunner named “Coach Ken” regularly describes the challenges, successes and failures of an average Joe runner, and provides a window on the world of the more elite runners from his perspective.  In short, reading this book, and listening to these podcasts had me hooked – I had to try an ultramarathon.

There was a problem with this dream, this check box on my bucket list – running long races requires a LOT of training.  My life is pretty busy, and I knew from past experiences that my body almost always breaks down if I attempted to train for long or ultralong events.  Over the last year, however, I discovered that I could do, and enjoy regular road marathons with far less training than is usually prescribed, as long as I got in one very long run (at least two hours) every week, and as a result was successful in completing and actually enjoying two marathons in the last year.  Could this same regimen work for an ultramarathon?  Could I finish?  Could I feel good enough that I actually enjoy the race?  Ultramarathons typically range from 50 km road races (about 31 miles) to 100 miles on road or trails, or even more.  I knew I had better look for one on the short side, for obvious reasons.

A few months ago, I noticed an announcement for the “Moosalamoo Ultra a 36-mile race to be held on the trail network of the Moosalamoo region on August 18.  This seemed like a great one to try – readers of this blog will know that I am quite familiar with the trails here, and it had the added convenience of being close to home.   In fact, looking at the race course, I had previously run almost all of the trails on the course at some point or another, and I described the course as “four or five great runs – all in one day!”  The race was being organized by John Izzo, a Salisbury resident and avid local runner, with the Blueberry Hill Inn as its base of operations and start/finish area.

So, I lined up at 8 am on Saturday with about 100 other runners, about half of whom were doing the still very challenging 14 mile version of the race.  Usually, in this blog, I go into a fair amount of detail on the route, but this particularly elaborate course pretty much defies a detailed description.  I am going to include a Google Earth projection as I usually do, and also make a link to the course map.  John clearly put a lot of thought into mapping out a great piece of running which covered pretty much every corner of the Moosalamoo region, with some very challenging climbs (the first loop up and over Mt Moosalamoo), an out and back section in the first half of the race, so that runners could have a feel for where they stood in the pack, some very muddy sections (yes, there is plenty of mud out there, even in this dry summer), and some particularly drop dead gorgeous sections of trail (the Chandler Ridge/Leicester Hollow loop comes to mind).  The course was also well supported with volunteers, many of whom were John’s family, at aid stations throughout the course.

In any case, as a first time ultrarunner, I brought the following with me on the course:

  1.  A 20-ounce water bottle that fit a waist belt.  Hydration, of course, is the single most important concern in a long, midsummer race.  With aid stations typically 3-5 miles apart, I usually tried to make sure that my water bottle was empty as I entered an aid station.  The one time I neglected my hydration, I paid dearly for it – the terrain between the aid station at mile 21 (on the Goshen Ripton Road) and mile 25 (Silver Lake), was almost entirely easy downhill, so I neglected to drink enough.  When I hit the next aid station, I topped off my water bottle without any extra drinking, and as a result ran out of water on the next segment – the arduous 5 miles on the Chandler Ridge.  I got rather severely dehydrated there, even feeling for a short while like I was not entirely in control of myself, so I took it slow, and took a much longer than usual break at the next aid station where I made rehydration a top priority.  Also, the two women (one of whom I found out later was John the organizer’s wife) had actually hiked in a mile carrying all the food that morning, so they deserved to have someone stop and chat for a while!
  2. Food – In almost all long workouts and races, I depend on the nasty, slimy, but wonderously rejuvenating little packets of Gu as my main source of sustenance.  I always ingest one packet after every hour of running, so I went through 9 Gu packets over the duration of the race.  Yup, I WAS out there a very long time – you do the math!  I am no longer feeling the love for the “Espresso Love” flavor!  The aid stations were supplied with lots of other calorie rich treats as well, and I found myself drawn to foods which otherwise would have made a typical 10 year old boy happy at lunchtime – PB+J sandwiches and potato chips.  I always eat PB+J when I go on day hikes, but had no idea potato chips would taste so good in the middle of a very long exhausting day.  I must have eaten a few bags worth.  In retrospect, it makes sense that a body would crave the chips – they provide a lot of calories (a typical ultrarunner probably goes through 5 or 6 thousand calories), and have a ton of salt to help that replaced through sweating.  I had one of the volunteers take the following picture at the last aid station on the shores of Silver Lake at mile 33, as I prepared to inhale a massive fistful of chips to power me to the finish line.  I also brought along some granola bars and these did not work very well!  While they are appropriately caloric, they are also very dry, so eating them required stopping long enough to catch my breath so I didn’t cough and choke.  They were also reduced to crumbs very early in the race making them even harder to eat.  Nope – granola bars are off the list!

More Chips at mile 33

  1. Camera.  I am writing a blog, so it made sense to bring it.
  2. Music.  I frequently run with an iPod, but never listen to it during a race – half the fun of racing is having conversations with people you meet along the way, and wearing an iPod tells other racers and organizers that you don’t want to communicate.  That said, given the paucity of runners and length of the course, I knew that there would be long stretches of solo running, perhaps many hours in duration, and musical motivation might keep me going better.  So, I put together the “jbr mix” (Jeff B running)  and brought it with me.  I ended up never listening to the music however – I had pretty steady company for the first two thirds of the race, and by the last third of the race, I was so depleted that I felt like I needed to pay full attention to my feet, my surroundings, and my general well-being in order to finish the race safely.
  3. Electrolytes.  I always drink Gatorade during long races, and since the organizers were only providing water, I purchased some powdered Gatorade, and filled about a half dozen plastic bags with just enough for the 20 ounces of water in my bottle at refills.  I used most of it, although by the end I was really sick of the stuff, and got my electrolytes from the aforementioned chips and from some salt tablets I had brought with me, and popped once in a while.

At Mile 1

 

The race itself seemed to have 3 distinct phases – the first third, including the run up and down Moosalamoo had the most challenging terrain, and I had other competitors in sight nearly the whole way, since the short race (14 mile) and long race (36+ mile) runners were all together.  This part went by pretty quickly.  Curiously, one of the few sections of trail that I had never been on before here was the “dimple” between the two summits of Moosalamoo, and this was the only time I got off course – I probably wasted about a half mile and 5 minutes getting my bearings back there.  I also saw two gentlemen hiking carrying what looked to be 100 pound bags of sand without the benefits of a backpack.  At first I was mystified, but then I recognized one of the two as someone training for another local ultra-endurance test – the even more masochistic “Death Race”.  Although this event had already taken place earlier this summer – perhaps they were training for next year already?

Moosalamoo Summit Views

 

The second third had what was probably the gentlest terrain in the race, and it was here that I met and ran with a few far more experienced ultramarathoners who kept me company, and answered my stupid questions.  We ran together for a few hours, and they did a very good job of mixing in running and walking so that we could maintain appropriate pacing for finishing.  Thanks Josh and Grant from NH!  I also knew that in the “long run” I would not be able to keep pace with these two experienced ultrarunners who were 25 years my junior.

 

The last third of the race ended up being, not surprisingly, the hardest part.  As well it should – prior to this race, I had never run longer than 4 and half hours, and I went into the last dozen miles already on my feet for over 6 hours.  I also bonked for a while due to dehydration, and the technical running on the Chandler Ridge also sucked a lot of the remaining life from my legs.  Curiously, at around 4:30 in the afternoon when I was coming up Leicester Hollow – I had one final surprise burst of energy, and was able to muster some real running for about a half hour.  I am not sure where this came from, but maybe my loved ones were thinking of me and sending some positive vibes my way right then!  However, other than this too brief reprieve, the last 12 miles were walked – I tried in vain to get my legs to turn over quickly enough to muster a slow jog across the finish line, but they couldn’t respond.  With one mile to go, even my GPS and camera were rebelling.  My watch proclaimed that it was “Low on Batteries”, and when I went to take a picture of this “No kidding” moment, my camera had a hard time opening its iris! Nonetheless, I did finish, and I wasn’t in dead last place (although closer to last than first!)

Well, Duh

 

What did I take from this race?  First of all – my modest training regimen is enough for a road marathon, but it really isn’t sufficient for a trail ultra.  I did finish, but I need to put more miles into my legs in training to keep a longer race like this fully enjoyable.  No surprise there!

 

I would also like to thank John Izzo and his extended family (as well as other volunteers) for the great job they did putting together this new race.  I would also like to thank Tony and the crew at Blueberry Hill for use of their facilities as a base of operation and start/ finish line.  I think the rest of my blogged runs this summer will be much shorter…..

Finally, my GPS measured the course slightly longer than advertised, at 37.5 miles (although about a half mile was spent off course) or about 60 km.  I agree with the estimation of about 3000 vertical feet of climbing and descent.

Google Earth Projection of The Moosalamoo Ultra

Moosalamoo Ultra altitude profile

The Ridge Trail

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The warm weather of the Memorial Day weekend gave me a great excuse to explore some more new terrain in the vicinity of my favorite local backcountry destination, Silver Lake.  Most of my trips into the Silver Lake backcountry have begun at the Falls of Lana trailhead, and have involved climbing, then finishing with a downhill.  The reasons for this are pretty obvious – on a longer run, it is easier to finish on a downhill than on a climb.   I had been considering starting a run into the Silver Lake environs from the uphill side, a popular trailhead in Goshen, which of course would require a significant uphill climb at the end of the run.  It seemed like a good day to give it a try!  To get to this trailhead, take 125 up to Ripton, but take the Ripton-Goshen road ( a right turn) shortly after passing through town.  Stay on this road, passing the Blueberry Hill Inn, until you get to the right turn onto Silver Lake Road.  Take a right turn here, and stay on Silver Lake Road until you get to the end of the road, where there is a pretty good sized parking lot.  I decided to make my first ever run along the Ridge Trail, which follows the ridge just to the west of Silver Lake, and return by the more commonly traveled Leicester Hollow Trail, effectively mirroring a run I did last year along the Chandler Ridge, the ridge just to the east of the lake.

Reaching this parking lot in the early evening hours on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, I was fortunate to sneak my compact car into the last spot in the lot!  I was greeted in the lot by the gentleman who was the host at the Silver Lake Campground a mile below, who was stationed at the trailhead to inform would be campers that the campground below was full.  I smiled, and pointed to my small fanny pack, and I think he understood that I was not planning to spend the night on the shores of the lake, but who knows?

I began the run with a short downhill on the Goshen Trail, the shortest route to Silver Lake.  within a few yards, I passed through the power line clearing – It is kind of funny that this wonderful semi-wilderness area is also a source of hydroelectric power, using the stored water in Silver Lake, and the power station below near the shores of Lake Dunmore.

Power Line near Goshen Trail trailhead

Shortly after passing the power line, the Ridge Trail takes and obvious, well marked turn to the left, heading south along the ridge. Much of the first mile or two of this trail is slightly overgrown and muddy, a reflection of the relative rarity in which it is traveled. While it climbed some early on, and had a few small ups and downs along the way, it was generally a downhill trip in this section. I was hoping to find views comparable to those on its eastern twin, the Chandler Ridge Trail, but saw none – this was “just” a run through the woods. At about 3 and a half miles, I came across a complicated series of crossing paths, but staying on the well labeled trail, I managed to stay on course. A short, easy descent alongside a small stream brought me to a lovely quiet country lane, where I assumed (correctly) that a right turn would connect me with the Leicester Hollow trail for my return.

Taking the right turn, the country road quickly met a forest service gate, marking what is probably the official start to the Leicester Hollow Trail. The smooth running on this hardened trail, met a bridge coming in from the left (and based on previous experiences, where the crossover from Chandler Ridge joins) and stayed on the runner’s right side of the rocky stream. The easy running soon ends, as the trail gets much rougher – NOT due to Irene (the usual blame for washed out trails these days) but due to flash flooding from the summer of 2008. After about a mile of rough going, in, out and around stream beds, the trail became easier going, with only a slight uphill tilt. The trail eventually entered a clearing, where the presence of old apple trees indicated human habitation at some point in the past. Examination of an 1871 Leicester map shows this site as the former home of one Mrs F. Glynn, who I know nothing else about!

Possible Glynn Homesite

 

 

 

At about a mile past this homesite, as my mind was wandering with the sense of timelessness that often accompanies a long trail run, seeing the sunset over Silver Lake, I realized that I should conclude this run soon if I did not want to have to complete it after dark. I could also smell the campfires from the happy campers in the full backcountry campground.

Silver Lake Sunset

 

Mindful of the time, I stayed on the trail along the east shore of Silver Lake, going a little faster now, until I joined the dirt road trail connecting the Falls of Lana parking lot below with the Goshen parkking lot above, aned took the right turn for one last climb to my awaiting car. This measured in at about 9.5 miles, with about a 900 foot descent and climb.

google earth of the run, from the west

Altitude Profile

 

(not so bad) Romance Mountain

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

In one of my winter posts a few years ago, I described a great ski route at the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring Area in Goshen, on the trail traversing the high flanks of Romance Mountain.  It has been claimed that this trail is “the highest altitude groomed cross country ski trail in Vermont”, and on skis, it certainly made for a challenging climb, and a fun, fast, and yes, slightly out of control descent.  After a few longer runs in the previous weeks, I thought it would be fun to try and haul my early season body up Romance Mountain from the Ripton side.  So, on a very cloudy and threatening Saturday afternoon, I parked my car at my favorite trail head on Brooks Road,the dirt road between Breadloaf and the Snow Bowl (for new readers).  This trailhead never ceases to amuse me – there are two great directions to go – up Brooks Road past the Forest Service Gate, or out on the Widow’s Clearing Trail, and then a seemingly infinite number of “loop” or “out and back” runs to be tried as the two major trails branch out and interconnect.  On this run, I chose the former, opting for the pretty serious climbing to be had along Brooks Road and trails beyond.

The run up this dirt road, was relatively uneventful – I saw a few moose tracks in the mud alongside the road, but none of the actual critters.  Despite the general leafiness starting to spread across the valley, things were still pretty brown on the ground and grey in the sky, other than a few small streamlets, which supported some of the lush golden green of early spring, bringing to mind a favorite  short Robert Frost poem:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

As a curious aside, when googling this poem to get the words right, I discovered that it “embodies the ambiguous balance between paradisiac good and the paradoxically more fruitful human good“.  Oh…and I thought it was about leaves?

Golden Green

 

If you look carefully in this photo, you will also see some of the first springtime ephemerals, the flowers which appear and disappear as the season progresses. If I am reading the great posting on this topic by my fellow blogger Tim over at The Middlebury Landscape blog, the tiny flowers shown in this shot are known as “Spring Beauty”.

A little further up the dirt road, I also came across the following shelf fungus, which was so big it was almost scary.  With a little careful cropping (and some imagination), it kind of looks like a duck bill, don’t you think?

Duck Bill Fungus

Eventually, after about 3.5 miles, Brooks Road came to an end, and I entered the true trail running segment. The first trail to the left provides a connection with the Long Trail, and it is described in another earlier post, when I ran up and over Worth Mountain and through the Snow Bowl from this side.  Bypassing this turnoff, I came to a T, and a ski/mountain bike trail which forms part of the Blueberry Hill trail network.  Now, I took the left, and this trail took me to the high point of the trail over the next 2 miles, in a series of gradual and sharper ascents.  I briefly contemplated bushwacking to the true summit, but looking up, I realized it would involve getting my head stuck in the clouds, which were starting to envelope the highest altitudes.  I took a moment to enjoy the limited view from my perspective.

High Point Views

I also did a quick search up here for a small sign proclaiming it “Cindy’s Summit”, which used to grace the trail at this point, and was disappointed not to find it. Curious as to the story of the sign and its demise, I emailed Tony down at the Blueberry Hill Inn, who told me that he had placed the sign there after promising a frequent guest named (surprise!) Cindy that he would do so if she could ski all the way up there. Alas, new Forest Service regulations involving place names rendered this sign contraband, so he had to take it down. So much for poor Cindy’s immortality on Romance Mt!

My return trip went much easier, of course, being almost entirely descent.  The long promised colder weekend rains began just as I returned to my car, so I got lucky this time.  This ended up as the most challenging run of the young ski season, with an 11 mile round trip distance, and about 1200 ft of climbing up to about 2700 ft- not bad for April!

Altitude Profile

 

Google Earth projection of the run

Goshen Gallop, v. 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Once again, on Saturday afternoon it was time for the popular local trailrunning race, The Goshen Gallop!  The good news was that this year’s relatively dry conditions would make for good footing onwhat were more typically muddy trails.  The bad news was that Saturday was HOT!  The temperatures were probably hovering around 80 at the start of the race, but this, combined with a lot of climbing, didn’t bode well for any personal bests from this middle-aged runner.  So, I donned one of my oldest t-shirts from this race, and drove up to the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen.  My Goshen Gallop t-shirts make up some of the oldest surviving t-shirts in my collection – I first ran this run race in 1989, when it was held in September, rather than its now customary mid-July running.  My first Gallop was a memorable race – the remnants of Hurricane Hugo had just passed through the northeast, rendering the usual trail course impassably wet – given the typical mud on this race course, I can’t begin to imagine what the trail conditions must have been like!  So, the race was forced to the dirt roads of Goshen.  Since then, however, the race has been held on the same course on the Blueberry Hill ski trails on every year that I have run the race.

The race started off heading south on the Goshen-Ripton road for about a half mile, before making a sharp left turn into the trail system.  As the trail switchbacked up the side of Hogback Mt., I had the opportunity to chat with another runner named Andy, who I recognized from previous races.  As it turned out, he had actually taken a chemistry course from me in my first year or second year of teaching, roughly 25 years ago. I had no memory of his enrollment in any of my courses, but he was adamant, and I know from experience that when I meet up with former students, they ALWAYS remember how they did in chemistry.  The race crested the hillside of Hogback Mountain as we ran past perplexed wild blueberry pickers ( the berries were wild, the pickers probably not), and pausing for a quick sip of water at the first water station, Andy pulled ahead never to be seen again until the finish line.  After the short descent to the water station, climbing resumed as the trail angled back towards the inn.  About a half mile before the 5 km mark where the race returned to the inn there was a very overheated dog lying there panting alongside the trail, looking like it was in trouble.  Apparently, the dog had decided to try and run the race, and had overdone it by this point.  Many of the runners alerted the workers at the half way point, so we all went on assuming that the dog would be tended to.

About half of the runners stopped at this point, planning on only running the 5 km race, making this an excellent introduction to the pleasures of trail racing for neophytes.  The rest of us took the sharp right turn, temporarily bypassing the tempting swimming hole, and headed immediately up the steepest climb of the run.  At this point, the heat was starting to get to me, so I had to do a few short sections walking, but I took comfort in the observation that I was not the only middle-the-pack runner in the same state.  The trail climbed steadily to the 6 km point, where it did a series of gentle ups and downs for the next km or so, before a pleasant descent on the Steward trail until it joined a the forest service road connecting the Sugar Hill Reservoir with the Goshen-Ripton road.  The race headed towards the latter destination, and finished with about a mile on this dirt road before ascending one last road climb up the the by now very welcome finish line in front of the inn.  There was no personal best to be had on this day, but it was fun as always, especially after a lot of water, for drinking, as well as swimming – the aforementioned swimming hole behind the inn beckoned!  I was also relieved to see that the running dog was being administered to, and was recovering.

Cooling off in the swimming hole

While this race was originally advertised as a 10 km race, then as a 10.2 km race, my GPS measured it at 10.6 km. This was fine, as nobody in their right mind would expect to run anywhere near their normal 10 km pace on a trail race like this, with all of its climbing, descents, and summer heat. The excellent post-race picnic meal, prepared by the inn’s kitchen finished off a great afternoon.

Google Earth of the Race Course, from the west

Altitude Profile of the Race

 

PS: After I posted this race description, I found another racer had posted her insights on the race. These can be viewed at: http://www.dirtinyourskirt.com/2011/07/moosalamoo-goshen-gallop-post-race.html

What Season is it?

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Only two weeks ago, one of the biggest snow storms ever to hit northern New England blasted us with about two feet of snow, but the relatively mild weather which followed made me wonder whether my weekend enjoying the mountains would be in the winter, the spring, or mud season?  Or all of the above perhaps?  After Friday’s wonderfully springy weather, I realized that if I was going to get in any last long ski outings,  I had better do them soon, as I suspected that the snow cover would be melting away quickly.  With that in mind, I set out along the Ripton-Goshen road on Saturday morning.  The road was fine at first, but is shortly became a series of frozen muddy ruts which made the drive rather adventurous for my low clearance front wheel drive vehicle.  By the time that I reached the Blueberry Hill ski touring area, I realized that I had been fortunate to arrive with my oil pan intact.  The ample snow cover was tempting, but I also realized that I needed to get onto paved roads before the frozen ruts melted into a quagmire with a high potential to suck my poor old Ford Escort into the Vermont equivalent of quicksand.  Thus, I decided to head back to civilization, through the better roads heading down towards the Goshen Village, and return to Middlebury via Forestdale – definitely the long way, but the right way back considering the road conditions.

Undaunted, I headed back up to the Rikert ski touring area, which was fully accessible by paved road.  While the snow cover was starting to get a little on the thin side in the field, there was a ton of VERY HARD snow in the woods.  On the limited trails where the Rikert staff had groomed, the skiing was actually pretty nice, especially for skating skis, but forays off the groomed trails led to very challenging and limited skiing.  As I was skiing along, however, I realized that the rather unyielding snow might be good underfoot for ….the first trail run of the year!  So after skiing around a variety of loops close in to the touring center, I vowed to return to the mountains on Sunday, in running shoes rather than skis.

Sunday, of course, ended up as a near perfect late winter/early spring/pre-mud season day, so I headed for the wide open and well packed terrain of Forest Service 59 ( also known as Steam Mill Road).  I have mentioned previous runs and skis on this road which is closed to car and truck traffic in the winter, but maintained for snowmobile use.  Rather than accessing it from the Rikert side, I thought I would try and reach it from the Ripton side, and looking at maps, realized it could be accessed from the Natural Turnpike.   For those who don’t know this road, it departs from Rt 125 to the left just after passing the Ripton town buildings, and weaves its way up into the decreasingly populated higher elevations.  While this road passes all the way to Lincoln in the summer, a forest service gate blocks vehicular passage at a convenient parking lot.  I have never seen this parking lot before, but it seemed like a good place to head into the forest.

While the footing might have otherwise proven a little slippery, given the thin veneer of corn snow on a rock hard base, my recent acquisition of the perfect running shoe for the situation made for sure-footed running.  Asics makes an amazing shoe called the “Arctic” which has small spikes in the sole for just these sorts of condition, which gave me confident footing throughout the run.  Joining the snowmobile trail labeled by the trailhead signage as “7A South” I quickly joined the far north end of the closed off portions of Steam Mill road.

Trailhead Signs

 

A steady climb on this wide snowy boulevard brought me to the Steam Mill clearing itself, the trailhead of the trail to Skylight Pond, and a wide open area with great views of Breadloaf Mountain to the left.

Steam Mill Clearing

As I was running along, I realized that I was not the only person who saw the potential to enjoy this route on such a gorgeous sunny day. I saw numerous skiers, hikers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers out as well – the only thing missing was a few dogsledders! After a little over 3 miles, I reached the Forest Service gate at the Rikert end of the road, so simply retraced my path for a 6.6 mile round trip. I also noted a variety of other trails branching off from this newly discovered trailhead, and I am looking forward to exploring them this summer on foot!

I am not including my usual altitude profile for this run, as the run had only a few small climbs and descents, and my GPS actually gave some odd results, indicating a nonexistant 500 foot drop and climb in the first mile – no need to scare off other explorers with spurious data!  The next question is – will there be more skiing?  Is it really running season?  Or will it be so much mud that attempts to take either off road will require a cleanup with the garden hose to rinse off before entering the house?  We will see….

Google Earth projection of the run

An Equally Grand Moosalamoo Traverse

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Given the myriad of routes through the Moosalamoo region, and the great running weather, I thought it would be fun to try yet another long run bisecting this region and concluding at the Falls of Lana trailhead.  My two lab assistants, Jack and Tyler, were also eager to explore some new terrain, so we decided to do another run involving a car shuttle.  The original plan was to commence the run from the Robert Frost trailhead off of Route 125, but upon our arrival, we noted barriers across the trailhead announced that it was closed to the public due to the ongoing road construction.  While signs of this type don’t necessarily dissuade me from exploration, the fact that the entrance was zealously guarded by Officer Obie of the elite “Hunter North” private law enforcement corp (complete with lights blazing on his vehicle in an example of comic overkill)  provided enough inducement for me to change our plans.  Is it just me, or does it seem that they are not really trying to fix Rt 125?  This road project seems to be turning into an ever-widening exercise in dust generation on dry days, and mudpie baking on rainy days.  I am beginning to suspect that at the end of the summer, they are going to announce that the whole thing is a big joke, and that there will be no new pavement, just the usual bumpy road.

The above rant aside, the unanticipated change in course led us back to the same trailhead as many of this summer’s runs – the Brooks Rd. Parking lot.  The first few miles of this point-to-point run coincide with the first segments of the run described in the Widow’s Clearing run, described earlier this summer.  In brief, we started up the Brooks Rd. (just past Breadloaf on Rt. 125) at an easy pace until we reached the right hand turn at about 2.5 miles heading to the Sugar Hill Reservoir in another half mile.  The crest of this side trail got us over the high point of this run, after about 500 ft of ascent.  While there were plenty of ups and downs after this point, the predominate direction was definitely down.

Sugar Hill Reservoir

Taking the sharp right turn onto the Blueberry Hill ski trail, still following the Widow’s Clearing route through the forest led to the point where this route branched off from previous runs.  About 1.25 miles after passing the shores of the reservoir, take the left split in the trail heading towards the gated road – a right turn here would continue the Widow’s Clearing run.  This left turn leads promptly to the Ripton-Goshen road, where a left turn is quickly followed by a right turn onto the well-signed forest service road heading towards the Moosalamoo campground.  The next segment of the run, while not challenging, is somewhat less pleasant than it could be due to the road construction of large crushed stone, which necessitated careful attention to ones feet to avoid loose stone, and the foot-bruising effect of an ill-placed footfall.  In other words, it is fine for motor vehicles (which we saw none of), but not quite as good for runners.  Nonetheless, this segment was worth the effort, as it led after a mile and a half to the glorious view at the Voter Brook Overlook.  This viewpoint peeks through a break in the mountains out towards the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks.

Voter Brook Overlook

Backtracking from this point, we reversed our steps for about a mile until we came to the point where the North Branch Trail crossed the road, and turned right into the forest.  Enroute to this trail, we also crossed paths with the Keewaydin Trail, but since our Moosalamoo Region Forest Service Map showed the trail in a totally different location, we were unwilling to take it.  As it turned out, the Keewaydin Trail and North Branch trail met up along the route, so either is a fine choice.  The North Branch Trail led gradually downhill, and was easy to follow.  Some sections were fine for running, but a few short sections required careful foot placement to avoid falls on slippery rocks and stream crossings.  Nonetheless, this was an aesthetically pleasing section of forest running.

The North Branch Trail eventually wound its way down to the Rattlesnake Cliffs Trail,where a left turn brought us shortly to the Sucker Brook stream crossing.  A well constructed footbridge over the stream at this point was washed away in one of the massive storms which plagued Addison County during the summer of 2008, necessitating a little rock-hopping to get across the stream.  This was followed by about a half mile on the Silver Lake trail, returning us to our cached car at the Falls of Lana trailhead, just outside of Branbury State Park.  My GPS showed a run of 9.8 miles at this point, so a few hundred yards extra on the road brought this up to an even 10 miles.  Overall,  while this run was shorter than the route of the previous posting, it took about the same length of time due to the greater technical challenge of running on these trails.  It is also a more scenically pleasing route, however, due to the great views of the Sugar Hill Reservoir and from the Voter Brook overlook.

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The Grand Moosalamoo Traverse

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, the region which encompasses many of the runs on this blog, is one of the wonderfully underutilized outdoor resources in the northeast.   This region, roughly delineated by Rt. 125 (the Middlebury Gap road) to the north, the main ridge of the Green Mountains to the east, Goshen and Brandon to the south, and Lake Dunmore to the west, provides a treasure trove of places to explore right at our doorstep in Addison County.  While it lacks the alpine terrain and rugged mountain scenery of the Adirondacks or even the higher peaks along the Long Trail, its smaller rolling peaks, and numerous lakes and meadows, forests and streams could provide a lifetime of outdoor recreation for most people.  In other words, with its less drastic,  comfortably scenic terrain,  it is an ideal place for trail running!

I have been eyeing my maps recently, looking for interesting “point-to-point” runs which might make for good runs with friends to share the driving at each end.   A free, detailed, and USUALLY (note foreshadowing) accurate map of the Moosalamoo Region is available, free of charge, at the Middlebury office of the Green Mountain National Forest, just south of town on Rt. 7.   I had some suckers, I mean fellow runners lined up to work out a car shuttle and accompany me on one of these runs, in the persons of a few of our summer research students at Bicentennial Hall.  Actually, since these guys are on the varsity cross country running, I had my work cut out for me.  Fortunately, I sort of knew the way, they did not,  and I refused to part company with my map.

This run’s goal was to run a complete traverse of the Moosalamoo region, without actually climbing Mt. Moosalamoo itself, for obvious reasons.  With this in mind, we started in the far Northeast corner of the region at the now familiar Brooks Road trailhead, right below the Snow Bowl, a short distance from Rt. 125.  The first few miles of this run follow the route described a few months ago in the posting entitled “A Tale of Two Weekends.”  As a result, almost all of the climbing was done in the first three and a half miles of the run, the ascent of Brooks Road.  From the start, my two young trail running acolytes were chomping at the bit to dash up the first ascent, but I reminded them at I was more or less the same age as their fathers, so they relented.  I also reminded them that it was my car awaiting us at Lake Dunmore, and I had the key.   Smart Kids!  The weather at the start was cool and partly cloudy, ideal for running, but as we proceeded up the dirt road, the rain began, and gradually increased in intensity.  By the time we reached the terminus of the Brooks Road, it was an all-out downpour.

Running in the rain

Heading back into the woods for true trailrunning, we turned right onto the Sucker Brook Trail for a few miles of gradual descent through the Blueberry Hill nordic ski trails.  This run would be more or less running parallel with the Sucker Brook over its duration, and we would run closely alongside it again at the run’s completion.  When the trail emerged from the woods onto the Sugar Hill Reservoir access road, instead of turning right to return to the start, we bore left downhill until we reached to Ripton-Goshen road.

At this point, we were heading into terrain where I had never traveled, so I was depending on my trusty Moosalamoo Region map for guidance.  Despite the fact that it was now quite soggy, it was still legible.  The map indicated that a trail leading towards our desired destination should be found immediately across the road, but we quickly realized that it was passable, but far more overgrown than we had anticipated.  It appeared to be more or less unused, since the previous editing of my trusted map!  Rather than loose face with my more fleet-footed young friends, I realized that a right turn on the Ripton-Goshen road should lead us to another VAST snowmobile trail, which in turn should get us to Lake Dunmore.  This time, my directions fortunately proved more accurate, and the desired trail appeared on cue after about a quarter mile.  A left turn on this well-marked VAST trail wound through some of the least traveled sections of the route, and after a few miles concluding with a very steep, but short climb, joined up with the dirt road connecting Silver Lake with Goshen, part of the first Silver Lake route described on this blog last summer.

While all of us were starting to tire a little at this point, the sun broke through for what promised to be a brilliant sunset, so rather than merely descend on this dirt road to our waiting car, we threw in one last short climb, taking a left turn until we reached to Goshen parking lot for Silver Lake, where we finally began the final descent.  The trail down to the Leicester Hollow trail was a little bit slippery from the rain, but taking it easy made for a safe trip.  A right turn on the Leicester Hollow trail, followed by a short stretch along the shores of Silver Lake and a final descent down to the Falls of Lana parking lot could have finished a great run.  As we ran alongside the Sucker Brook once again, we noticed the setting sun shining through the trees over the top of the Falls lookout, so we had to stop and enjoy the view.

Sunset over Lake Dunmore

After soaking up the early evening sun, we finally completed the run.  This ended up being one of the longest runs to date on this blog, measuring in at slightly more than 11 miles, with about a thousand feet of climbing, offset by an even greater amount of descent.  Needless to say, I am eyeing my map (a new copy, after all, it is free!) for other good point-to-point runs to report on later this summer.  The Google Earth/GPS track of this run really shows off the breadth of terrain covered, from the Snow Bowl in the Northeast corner, past several major bodies of water, to its conclusion near the shores of Lake Dunmore.

Altitude Profile