On a beautiful October Sunday, during peak foliage season, it was a great day to enjoy my first trail run in a few weeks. October has been a fun month! Not only has my birthday recently passed, but I also ran my fastest marathon in 22 years (fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon) a few days before said birthday, and have found that my recovery was easy enough to continue my running without a long layoff! Chatting with fellow middle aged runners, especially those who have stayed fit for all or most of their adult lives, it seems that I am not unique in my ability to run long distances without the excessive training regimens usually associated with marathon running. I guess our old bodies have learned how to go the distance? In any case, I just wanted to get out and enjoy the color, the scenery, and the fresh air on this run, so I returned to an old favorite, the Silver Lake trail, with a few variations. October is all pleasure!
The trailhead for this run is at one of the most popular trailheads in Addison County, the Falls of Lana trailhead just past Branbury State Park on VT Rt. 53. Fall foliage weekends are typically among the busiest days of the year on Vermont trails, and this day was no exception – the usually overly generous parking lot was nearly full, and there were even some cars parked on the apron of the road. Nonetheless, I found a corner in the lot where my rustbucket vehicle would fit, and started up the Silver Lake Trail. As expected, I passed numerous parties heading up and down the trail – and who could blame them? Nonetheless, at one of the short trails connecting the Penstock (fancy speak for “pipeline”) trail, I veered to the right connecting this in order to avoid the other hikers on the main trail. Realistically, the trail wasn’t that crowded – it was nothing like the conga line seen hiking up to, say, Tuckerman’s Ravine in the spring, but given the option to run away from others, I chose it. I also enjoyed the softer ground, and the sounds of the longer end-of-the-season grass rubbing against my leg as I ran. After a short distance on the Penstock trail, I took a right turn up to the Lake Dunmore overlook, a short ascent under the power lines. The view here was great in both directions – west, out over Lake Dunmore, as well as back towards the main ridge of the Green Mountains back to the east.
After soaking up the views from this vantage, I returned to the Silver Lake Dam, and took a right turn over the dam to return to my old nemesis, the Chandler Ridge Trail. The Chandler Ridge Trail runs along the hills separating Silver Lake from Lake Dunmore down below, although some topo maps apply this name to the ridge to the immediate west of Silver Lake. Semantics aside, I refer to this trail as my nemesis due to challenges I had running it during an ultramarathon last year, which left me fighting a hip injury for many months. I have also wondered how the views would be from this scenic wooded ridge during the foliage season, so I gave in to my curiosity. I was hoping that enough leaves would have fallen to open up the views towards each of the flanking lakes, but the mixed deciduous/coniferous forests, combined with the still intact colorful leaves left most of the views partially obscured, but shrouded in color. After heading about a mile south, I turned around and retraced my path back to the shores of Silver Lake, and followed its shores to the right, and spent a few minutes enjoying the late afternoon sun dancing on the water of this back country lake.
Circling through the campground before descending on the main trail back to my waiting car, I noticed the following sign of the times on one of the usually well-maintained remote privies. Needless to say, I didn’t check out the TP situation!
Returning to my car, with the parking lot thinning out as the afternoon turned to early evening, this made for a roughly 6 mile run, with about 750 feet of vertical ascent and descent. While this probably also marks my last trail run before the leaves are gone, it reinforced my sense that yes, October is a great month for running, birthdays, and pleasure!