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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

Brooks Road

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The continued snow drought is keeping me in the higher elevations.  That said – the snow is still great up there!  This week’s ski is a winter variation on one of my running posts from last summer, the Sugar Hill Reservoir run.  Start this ski tour in the Brooks Road parking lot,which is found about a quarter mile from Rt. 125 just east of The Rikert Ski touring area.  This parking lot is a popular starting point for skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers.  I have also found that it is a great place to ski in low snow conditions, like this year, or early in the season before the first serious snow dumpings hit.  Once again, some of the best skiing is on snowmobile trails this season, and since the lower 2/3 of the Brooks Rd. climb is groomed for and by snowmobiles, this is where I started!

The first hundred yards or so were pretty rocky, so I made a mental note to make sure I was not going too fast at the end of the descent (a little literary foreshadowing there) so that I wouldn’t get hurt.   The snow coverage got a lot better as soon as the climbing started, however, except for a few short stretches where overhanging pine trees diminished the ground snow cover.  These few minor problems aside, it was a steady easy climb on skating skis due to the fast, granular snow which has seen a few freeze-thaw cycles and just enough traffic to keep it from icing up.  I knew the lowest 2/3 of the road would be fine, as this section is almost always well groomed for snowmobilers, and had planned on turning off the road towards the Sugar Hill Reservoir – following the route of my aforementioned summer run.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see that the upper reaches of Brooks Rd. had been groomed for skiing for the first time in my recent memory.  I presume our friends at Blueberry Hill have run their super-duper ski groomer Pisten Bully over this section at some point in the not too distant past, as this stretch is not open to winter motor sports. After about another mile of easy climbing, there was a slight descent to the end of the road.  Given that it had been a few years since I last ventured up here in winter or summer, I was a little bit surprised to see the road end prematurely, but I followed the less impeccably groomed trail beyond this point.  I quickly saw why the road had ended – apparently the old bridge up here had washed out at some point, and it was replaced by a nice little footbridge.  I am not sure when exactly this went in, but I suspect that it was another of the fixes necessitated by the massive thunderstorms which wreaked havoc on Hancock, Ripton and East Middlebury in August 2008.

brooks Road 002

Brooks Road Washout Bridge

Immediately past the new bridge,  the remnants of the old road funnel into a true trail, marking the entry into the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring Area, so continuation beyond this point leaves you morally and fiscally obligated to drop by the touring center and pay for use of their well-kept trails.  I have no objection to paying their very fair fee, but since I really didn’t have time to make full use of their trails, I chose to turn around and return to my car.  The return was fast and easy, and with the steady, but not too steep descent I thought I would use my GPS to see how fast I could get going.  The very lowest sections are the steepest, so this provided to opportunity to check my pace.  While my speed was not at all alarming, I wanted to see if I could at least break 20 miles per hour, so was skiing with my eyes on my wrist rather than the trail.  Just a little faster……A moment after I saw my speed break 20, (21 mph to be exact), I looked up and saw a small bare patch in the snow which was too late to avoid!  Note to self – old granular snow makes for easy gliding, while old granular dirt does not.  While my skis put on the brakes, the momentum of my body kept the rest of me traveling along briskly, with the expected result.  Ouch!  Fortunately, the worst bruises were to my ego as I got up, dusted off, and returned to my waiting car a short distance away.

This ski trip is 12 km (about 7.5 miles) round trip with about a 750 ft climb and descent.

Google Earth of Brooks Road

Google Earth of Brooks Road

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

Romance Mountain

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As promised, I am posting occasional ski tours over the winter.  I have been an avid cross-country skier even longer than a runner – in fact I started running in the first place to stay in shape for skiing, feeding my delusions that I was a nordic racer.  Some of my ski tours are within the confines of ski touring areas, while some are along less manicured routes.  Today’s post is the former.  There are two fabulous ski touring areas in the mountains above Middlebury, and the Romance Mountain route is part of one of them, the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring Center in Goshen.  A previous post on their summer race, the Goshen Gallop, described some of the same trails, albeit under very different conditions.   Blueberry Hill does charge a trail fee for use of the ski touring area, but it is well worth it for well maintained trails, gorgeous winter scenery, and includes homemade soup for lunch in the touring center lodge.

Since I knew the trails would be well groomed, I chose my skate skis for a little extra speed, but the well-set tracks would have been great for classic style skiing as well.  This tour starts heading behind the Inn and follows the road to the south.  After about 3/4 of a mile,  follow the trail with a sharp turn back to the left, where it climbs for a few minutes, before taking the next right.  After a few minutes of continued gradual climbing, this short section tops out in an open meadow with the best views of the day – the view towards the main ridge of the Green Mts. from the side of Hogback Mt.

hogback view

Hogback Mt. view

After a short descent, the trail joins a forest service road which continues to climb gradually along the south side of Romance Mt.  One of the trails heading off to the left has had a sign reading “Ned Gillette’s Dip” for many years, so while slurping my soup at the end of the ski, I asked the owner, Tony Clark, about the significance of the sign.  Ned Gillette was one of the world’s  most accomplished adventurers, a close friend of Tony’s,  and a frequent skier at Blueberry Hill.  Ned was senselessly killed in a robbery while trekking in the Karakoram in 1998.  Apparently, during one running of the American Ski Marathon, a 50 Km race formerly held at the area, Ned broke both skis simultaneously at the dip in the trail with the aforementioned sign.  Probably the only time I ever finished ahead of him in a race….  Shortly after this point, the forest service road dead ends, and the ski trail begins its serious ascent, marked by an ominous rusty yellow gate.

Rusty yellow gate

Rusty yellow gate

Over the course of the next mile, the trail climbs close to 1000 vertical feet.  Just keep telling yourself how much fun the descent will be.  The trail winds upwards through young hardwood forest (probably lumbered in the not too distant past) with so  many false summits that when you reach the top, you almost expect a sign saying “just kidding”.  When I finally topped out, I could tell from a few patches of yellow snow that I was not the first person to be relieved at reaching the high point!  The trail reaches about 2700 ft elevation, and this could be the highest groomed cross country ski trail in Vt.

The Rare Green Mountain Clipperbush

The Rare Green Mountain Clipperbush

As you might guess, the descent is fast, with several sharp turns, but in good enough condition that you can push it without fear of getting upended by rough spots, other than the occasional sitzmark.   Snowplowing is a horrible waste of potential energy!  After about 5 min of this more technical section, the trail settles in to a more gradual descent, making for fun fast skiing.  The second trail merging from the left will take you back to the ski touring center.  You can tell you have missed it, if you hit another forest service road, necessitating just a few minutes of backtracking.  After a short, fast final descent to the touring center, I was enjoying the day too much to call it quits, so I added on a short section below the touring center.  Cross the meadow below the  touring center and follow the obvious trail heading into the woods.  From here on, the trail is pretty flat and fun cruising.  Take the left turn onto the “Beginner Loop”, and this brings you back after a few fast miles, albeit with a few road crossings.  The full loop was about 11 miles, and took me about 2 hours with a few stops to catch my breath and take pictures.

blueberry hill 2

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