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Fathers’ Day on Scrag Mountain

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Starting around 15 years ago, I began exploring the Mad River Valley while visiting family members who have a home in the area.  One of my first discoveries was Scrag Mountain, the modest peak which is nonetheless the most prominent geographical feature on the east side of the valley.  At that time, the main trail accessing the summit was at the end of Palmer Hill Road, and the first few times I ascended this moderately challenging peak, it seemed that the trail, while still easy to follow, was falling into some disuse.  For one, the landowners in the vicinity made it very clear, through numerous threatening signs, that they would not abide any cars parked in the vicinity of the trailhead, which apparently did not have any public parking spaces available for hikers.  Also, the summit had a fire tower for many years, giving an otherwise tree-enshrouded summit spectacular views, and with removal of the tower, the appeal of this pleasant hike was diminished.  I am not sure when the fire tower was removed, but a sign alluding to its presence (incorrectly) was still in place when I first ascended the peak.  Some of the history of the summit and the fire tower can be found online.

Fast forward to a year ago, when I set off to explore the summit, admittedly scouting out a potential trail run/blog post,  from the location of the original trailhead, which I had not ascended in at least 10 years.  While the trail was far more overgrown than my memories of it, as I neared the summit, I could see why this was no longer a commonly used trail – blowdown in the ensuing years had taken a pleasant half day hike, and turned it into a nightmare of climbing over, under and around a seemingly infinite number of downed trees, rendering the passage impossible to all but the most intrepid of hikers…..me!  After a seeming eternity of route finding, climbing, and badly scratched arms and legs, the blowdown subsided, and I found the original trail, which seemed oddly easy to find – and I was puzzled as to the use it was receiving given the ordeal I had to go through to achieve its higher reaches.  Nonetheless, once past the blowdown, the summit was easily achieved.  I was pleasantly surprised that the ancient fire tower warden hut at the summit was still standing, and from the look of the log book there, was a frequent overnight place for the young stoner crowd, who indicated the herb of their choice in the graffiti on the walls, and their ramblings in the log book.  I also noted that there were still a few limited views to the Roxbury (east) side visible from summit ledges through the trees.  On my descent, however, following the trail, I realized that the in my ten year absence, the original trail had been re-routed, so I followed its descent not really sure where it would deposit me.  In fact, upon reaching the East Warren Road after descending Sherman Road, I was relieved to realize that I was indeed on the correct side of the range, and not in Northfield, which would have necessitated a long drive by family members to recover me.

So, with these slightly confused memories only a year old, I thought I would try out this new trail as a run, on the late afternoon of Father’s day 2012.  It was a rather hot afternoon, so I delayed my departure until the late afternoon in the hope of catching some cooling temperatures.  Nonetheless, it was still in the low 80’s when I set off on my run, at least with a decent supply of water.  The described section of this run begins well above the valley floor at the intersection of the East Warren Rd. and the Common Rd., on the far eastern edge of the Mad River Valley.  There is a good parking lot here, with room for a few cars, and many runners, bikers, and walkers park their cars here to begin and end outdoor activities from this vantage with excellent views of the main ridge of the Green Mts, and the three ski areas in the area.

Heading south, the very first challenge was “The Dip”  a sudden drop and climb of about 200 vertical feet, which is a blast on a bicycle (or a car in neutral, if I must confess)  but a bit of a drag for runners on their approach to an already significant climb.  At the top of the hill, take the left into the high rent district of Vermont, aka Sherman Road.  The beautiful , expansive gentleman farms are reputed to have been the ski homes of members of the Kennedy clan back in the 60’s, when Sugarbush had much poorer skiing, but a much more evolved après ski and night life, leading to its “Mascara Mountain”  nickname.  After about a half mile of increasingly steep uphill running, I took a left turn onto Bowen Road, which gave me a breather as I traversed the hillside, enjoying the early summer  patches of that friendliest of flowers, the daisy. After about another half mile, noticing the little brown jelly beans, indicative of a healthy deer population, the semi-developed road turned into a wide double track trail and headed into the woods, angling up the hillside in a northerly direction.  After the first half mile or so, it became apparent to me that this was not the best choice for a “run” – the trail got steeper and rougher, forcing me to turn most of the rest of the trip into a fast hike rather than a run. About half way up, I came across a clearing with a beaver pond, and could see from the vantage point that I still had a fair amount of climbing to do!

Scrag Mountain Beaver Pond

Resuming my labored ascent, made all the worse by the heat, I came to a section of trail where my passage was further complicated by the undergrowth and debris hiding sections of the trail, necessitating some route finding, further slowing my progress.   I knew I was near to the summit, as a look to my right showed mostly blue sky through the trees rather than hillside, but at this point, my increasing dehydration, and time limitations (not wanting to miss the upcoming Fathers’ Day feast!) after a few more minutes of messing around making slow upward progress, I decided to forego the summit, and return for the pleasant evening in front of me.  Turning the corner back on to Sherman Road, I took a short pause to enjoy the sun starting to approach the ridgeline over the ski areas in the distance.  I also met the funny, inquisitive looking musk ox hanging out at one of the gentleman farms previously alluded to.  I suppose he looked somewhat like me, when a haircut is overdue, at least if you ignore the horns.

In the end, this hike/run/climb ended up covering about 6.5 miles, with1500  feet of climbing, counting the extra descent and climb in The Dip.   While the distance sounds modest, I actually covered a few more miles and climbed more vertical feet, having begun my run farther away, and further down the valley, but chose not to include this considerable extra mileage on the roads in a trail running post.

Scrag Mountain Run, looking East

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

Silver Lake Inspirations

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

With more great weather this weekend it was time to take to the trails again.  I had yet to visit one of my favorite locations, Silver Lake, this season, but I prefer not to blog the same runs too frequently, unless there is some unique perspective to be presented.  Last summer, while exploring the Chandler Ridge Trail, the trail traversing along the ridge separating Silver Lake and Lake Dunmore, I noticed the high-quality recent trail maintenance, and speculated that the formerly very rough and unrunnable trail circumnavigating Silver Lake might also have seen similar sprucing.   So, I set out on this run with my camera and GPS, planning on running around Silver Lake, hoping that the lack of leaves on the trees might provide a unique perspective on this popular locale.

Arriving at the Silver Lake trailhead near Branbury State Park, I was surprised to see the parking lot almost full.  Apparently, I was not the only person looking to get out in the woods on a warm early spring day!  After about 1.6 miles of climbing this well worn trail (actually a dirt road, suitable for small 4-W-D vehicles, but closed to them) I arrived at the dam marking the outlet to Silver Lake, and took the trail leading over the dam to the west shore.  The early going on this trail was fine as expected, but when I reached the point where the trail up to the Chandler Ridge diverged, and chose the lake shore trail as planned.  It very quickly became obvious that this trail had not seen the tender loving care which I had hoped it had.  In fact, as I was listening to that great old blues song, “Try a Little Tenderness” which happened to pop up on the day’s running mix, the song proved prophetic, as I stubbed my toe on an ill-placed rock.  I don’t think that was the sort of “tenderness” that the songwriter had in mind – Ouch!

So, I decided that my planned route was not what I was looking for, but had my first inspiration, on my now improvised run.  According to my memory of the Chandler Ridge from last summer, the views were limited by the deciduous forest cover.  However, with the trees still totally bare, the views on both sides of the ridge should be spectacular, so I backtracked a few hundred yards, and took the trail leading up to the ridge, and was not disappointed by the views.

Silver Lake from Chandler Ridge

After enjoying the sights from this ridge for a while, I retraced my tracks back to the shore of the lake, where I came across a lone pine tree, sentinal-like, on a rock near the lake shore that I had never noticed before.

Sentinel Tree

Returning back across the dam, I stayed along the shoreline until I reached the small beach, were I saw numerous families out fishing and enjoying the day. At this point, I had felt like I had explored enough, and was planning on heading down the trail back to my car. Shortly after beginning my descent, and still in sight of the lake, I saw a curious sight- I had been noticing the total absence of budding leaves on the trees at this higher elevation, but there was one small eager tree which was trying to get its leaves out in advance of its competitors.

Early Buds

A few moments later along the trail, my next inspiration formed. In my many previous runs up to and near the lake,I had noticed a wide trail heading to the north, but had never taken the time to explore it – since it was not on any maps, I presumed it went a short way into the woods, and disappeared. My legs felt like the had a lot of energy left in them, so I decided to finally explore this trail. Much to my surprise, the trail kept going, and was soon joined by a high berm to my right, which I presumed was a pipeline coming from some other source, emptying into the spillway feeding Silver Lake from the north. After a short distance, the trail forked, and I randomly chose the left fork, which ended shortly in an open hillside meadow, which looked like it had been some sort of landfill once. I suspect that this may have been what remained of the dump for the long gone Silver Lake Hotel – and thanks to Gary Spaulding for putting together the short history of the hotel which I have linked to. After hitting this dead end, I doubled back and decided to explore the right fork of the trail to see where it might lead. I had long suspected that the source of the water for the Silver Lake spillway was the much smaller, and very rarely visited Sucker Brook Reservoir, shown on maps a little further uphill. After following this broad, easily discerned trail for some time (much of it bordered by the berm covering an occasionally obvious pipeline), I finally started to tire, and when the opportunity came for a trail which looked like it might take me home, a sharp turn climbing to the right, I took it, leaving the final discover of the trail’s final destination for another day. However, upon loading up my GPS track after the run, I discovered that I was probably only a few minutes from the Sucker Brook Reservoir, confirming my guess as to its role. My return trail actually followed right alongside the previous trail, surprising me that I had not noticed it on the way out. In the course of my return, I surprised a small flock of deer, who started as I grew near, proving far too Shy, lest I got too close.

Doubling back like this, I returned to the more developed campground and picnic area around the lake, and completed my final descent to my waiting vehicle below.  Upon completion of a far longer run (over 8 miles) than I had planned, I had one last moment of inspiration – I treated myself to a Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Peace Pop purchased at one of the several general stores between the trailhead and my home – a great way to end a great run!

GPS of the run

altitude profile

Exploring Pine Hill

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

In keeping with my observation that things just look different when the trees are bare, but the weather isn’t too wintery, I decided to re-explore an area which has been the subject of two previous posts.  In this case, I decided to go for a run in the terrain roughly delineated by Rt 125 to the north, and Upper Plains Rd. to the west.  The small peak which emerges from this corner is known on topo maps as “Pine Hill”, a curious name for this modest bump, which seems to be entirely covered in deciduous forest.  I described a run in this area as one of my first posts in this blog, entitled “Secret Meadow“, as well as in an early winter run entitled Snowy Scenic Sauntering on a Sunny (Almost) Solstice Sunday.   The high point of both of these runs is a little-known hillside meadow with outstanding westerly views.  The run described in this post was just a little bit more ambitious, covering some slightly rougher terrain with more climbing.

While there are a few appropriate places to park one’s vehicle closer to the trails, I chose to start the run on the Oak Ridge Trailhead, just above East Middlebury on Rt. 125, so that I could make it a longer workout.  I headed towards East Middlebury for a few hundred yards before taking a left turn on to Upper Plains Road.  This road used to have a “tree tunnel” feel to it, but recent “improvements” have involved removal of many of the trees which were encroaching on the  road.  Too bad!  After about a mile, a Forest Service gate on the left marks the start of the trailed section.  I couldn’t help but notice the rerouting of the path created by the incessant efforts of ATV-ers  – earlier paths were blocked off, leading to generation of new paths.  Be forwarned that the entry into this run off of Upper Plains Rd. is unposted private property, so please be particularly respectful of this, so that this lovely area can remain open to exploration.  But…I didn’t need to tell you that, right?

After getting past the gate, the next section of climbing was on a dirt road, which switchbacked up the hillside until it broke into the aforementioned meadow by a small pond.  As soon as you pass the birch grove on your left, take a sharp left turn, and veer back towards the forest to find the true trail heading north along the west side of Pine Hill, which now stands to your right.  There are quite a few other trails in this vicinity, which can be a little bit confusing.  In fact, if you look at my GPS track for this run, you will notice a short diversion to the right, which the result of mistakenly following a path which disappeared after about a hundred yards, forcing me to backtrack and choose another.  Not long afterwards, I reached the saddle between Pine Hill (to my right) and a lower summit to my left.  I also couldn’t help but notice one of the most spectacularly situated hunter’s blinds I have seen in my explorations.   It undoubtedly provides great views, and let’s face it, what kid, young or old, doesn’t love a treehouse?  Even the ladder had a whimsical, Dr. Seuss-like feel to it!

Tree Fort Hunters Blind

 

 

From the col, I decided to save the true summit for another day, instead taking a short bushwhack to the left to the minor northern summit. Despite the gray skies, the view here was excellent, and given the ledges and lack of foliage to the west from this vantage, I suspect that the view will not be badly hemmed in once the trees are in full leaf. This pretty little summit also had a lot of low lying bushes which I suspect will bear blueberries mid-summer, as well as many weather-twisted small trees which gave the summit a slightly haunted feel.

 

Twisted Limbs Against the Sky

With the advent of a slight drizzle, I continued on the path, which got very muddy in places, before descending to an intersection with a more developed trail behind the hill. Here, I took a right turn to complete the loop, stopping to take a picture of the pretty waterfall found in the rather steep notch behind Pine Hill. I was always curious why the dirt road, meadow, and broad, well built trail reaching the waterfall were built in the first place, and while mountain biking last summer, I happened to meet the landowner who told me a little bit of the “back story” to this property. Apparently, at some point in the 60′s or 70′s (a seemingly generic way of saying “A long time ago, but not THAT long ago”) the man who owned the land had received federal funding to develop this waterfall as a rest area, as part of the National Forest. For reasons unknown, after the initial stages of the roadside development, involving roadbuilding and a few other modest improvements, the project was abandoned. Well, the waterfall and surroundings are still quite beautiful!

Grotto Waterfall

After pausing at the waterfall, the trail re-emerged from behind Pine Hill into the meadow, and by staying to the far left, I caught the short steep path returning me to the forest service gate, where it was an easy mile-long return to my car.  The total length of this run was about 4.25 miles, with a climb of 500 ft – not bad for the beginning of April.

I also decided to have a little extra fun with this run – with the advent of routine access to portable GPS devices, a new pastime has emerged known as “geocaching“.   Geocaching hobbyists leave hidden containers with logbooks, souvenirs, and sometimes even disposable cameras at locations of interest, and then post the GPS coordinates as well as other hints for others to find the site.  If you take a look at www.geocaching.com, you will see that there are many geocache locations in Addison County.  Since geocachers and trail runners both share an interest in discovering new places of interest, I thought it would be fun to set my first geocache on this run.  My geocache, which contains a logbook  and disposable camera for finders to share their experiences, as well as a small souvenir can be found without a lot of difficulty by someone completing this run.  The actual GPS coordinates, which will also be posted soon on the aforementioned geocache website are N 43 degrees 57.934′, W 073 degrees 04.248′.  Happy Hunting!

Google earth of the route, looking west

Altitude Profile

(Formerly) Secret Vistas in Middlebury March Madness

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Ok, what’s up with 70 degree weather in March?  While the ski season was a bitter disappointment, the lack of snow on the trails translates into an early start on the trialrunning season!  My running fitness is certainly not where it was last fall, but the running still feels good, and in many ways, this is an ideal season for running.  Many vistas which are well hidden by the leafy canopy for most of the running season open up into glorious vistas prior to the emergence of the foliage.  With this in mind, I chose my first true spring run to take advantage of the season.  On a few previous posts, I have described a great entry into the Green Mountain National Forest starting behind East Middlebury International Airport, a snowmobile train beginning near the 4-way stop sign on Munson Road and Schoolhouse Hill Road, just to the northeast of the airport.  Munson Road is a short road heading directly towards the base of the mountains to the east, and can be found about 2 miles south of the junction of Quarry Road and Rt. 116.  There are a few small turnoffs on Munson Road where a car (or perhaps a vigilant police cruiser) can park for those driving out of town to begin this run.

The run began with a short stretch of trail running adjacent to Burnham Drive, a residential street, before turning to the north.  The trail crosses a bridge over a small stream, before beginning the challenging climb in earnest.  This first hill climb of the season is always difficult, and this was no exception, but my efforts were rewarded by the emerging views to the west.  Half way up the day’s climb, I noticed scratch marks on the rocks, similar to what one would find in higher elevations resulting from climbers’ crampons.  After a second, I realized the source of these scratches – the snowmobiles which make use of this trail during the winter. They too, like the skiers, probably tried to have a little bit of fun in this snowless winter, and instead of damaging their skis on the rocky terrain, probably tried to drive their snowmobiles on the all-too-brown terrain, leaving their marks behind.

After a little over a mile of climbing, the views were temporarily  blocked as the trail entered a stretch of coniferous forest, and made a sharp turn to the right, heading more directly towards Robert Frost Mt.  A few hundred yards after the sharp turn, a small rock cairn appeared on the left, marking the turnoff to a wonderful, rarely visited, scenic vista which provides for great views to the west, even during the summer.  A few hundred yards on this easy-to follow trail brought me to a small rocky outcrop, the turn-around point for this run.  The famous OMYA pit, the world’s largest open-pit marble quarry, is one of the noteworthy sights from this point.

OMYA pit

At this point, my early season legs had climbed enough, so I reversed directions and headed down the hillside. I ran into a friend who had chosen to undertake the short walk up to the bridge, and we exchanged pleasantries concern our fortunes, living in such a beautiful locale. At this point, I diverged from the main trail, taking a short uphill trail which ran adjacent to the stream, following in to a modest viewpoint, where I could see the brook cascading down the mountainside.

Chasm Cascade

After this short side trail, I continued on to the point at which the VAST snowmobile trail rejoined the road.  While this run was only a little over 3.5 miles round trip, it did include a 900 vertical ft. climb, making for a challenging early season run, undertaken at a leisurely pace.

Google Earth Projection of the Run

Altitude Profile

Tentative Trail Traipsing after the Terrible Tempest

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I, like pretty much everyone else, has been hearing of all the damage inflicted by the recent visit of Tropical Storm Irene.  Eager to get back up to the mountains, but unsure of the current condition of the roads, I drove up Rt 125 on Saturday to take a look at my favorite trailheads.   I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the road was fully passable at least all the way to the top of Middlebury Gap.  I could also see a caravan of large dump trucks heading over the gap to patch up the connection to our isolated neighbors in Hancock and chose not to explore beyond the summit so that I didn’t hinder the road repair efforts.  Not knowing what to expect on this run, I decided that my first few runs post-Irene should probably be on more straightforward terrain – I also decided to stick to “out and back” runs in case one of my circular routes had some new impediments courtesy of the storm.

With these stipulations in mind, I started this run from my favorite local trailhead on Brooks Road, just below the Snow Bowl on Rt.125.  Reading the trailhead kiosk, I noted the following bulletin – nobody should have been surprised by the arrival of this storm!

Warning Notice

 

I also noted that the Forest Service gate across the road was shut, prohibiting cars on this primitive road, indicating that it had seen some damage. I started up the road, wondering what I would find. Despite the road closing, I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the road – there was only one significant washout, which a motor vehicle could get around in a pinch, and a modest number of fallen trees, many of which had already been cleared already! It may well take a few months for this road to be fully repaired, but lets face it, the road crews have a lot more important things to do for a long, long time.

Brooks Road washout

After climbing up hill for about 2.4 miles, I took the side trail to the right towards the Sugar Hill Reservoir, wondering how this lake with its large earthen dam had fared. I was relieved to see that it appeared untouched, at least from the side of my approach. There was no sign of any water having flowed over its spillway, and more importantly, no apparent evidence of any weakening to my untrained eye.

Intact Goshen Dam

In fact, there was even one particularly promising sight – there were more Monarch butterflies in the meadows alongside the reservoir than I have seen in one place at one time in many years. Although the Monarch population is still officially in decline, their numbers appear to be increasing in Addison County this summer – I hadn’t seen a Monarch in years, and there were at least a dozen up in this meadow!

Monarch Butterfly in Repose

At this point, I doubled back to the Brooks Road, and continued my run to its terminus, where it joins in with the Blueberry Hill ski trails. My next concern was the bridge over the Sucker Brook, which had just been put in place after the August 2008 floods. Fortunately, this new bridge seemed to make it through Irene with no difficulties at all!  Relieved by what I saw on this run, I reversed my car, and ran the 3.5 mile descent to my waiting car, making this an 8.5 mile run with about 800 accumulated feet of climbing- I will hopefully be checking out some rougher trails for my next posting.

Intact bridge over Sucker Brook

 

Altitude Profile

Google Earth of the Route

Chandler Ridge and Leicester Hollow

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

While kayaking on Lake Dunmore, I have often admired the rugged looking ridge to the east of the lake, starting from the tower in the north, and heading south towards Forestdale in an unbroken, but undulating ridge.  Consulting my Moosalamoo Region National Recreation Area map, available for free at the forest service office just south of Middlebury on Rt. 7, I noticed that there was a trail which followed this ridge, named “Chandler Ridge Trail”.  This looked like it could make up part of a potentially spectacular, albeit long run.  I was a little bit apprehensive at first however, as access to this trail required some running along the less traveled west shore of Silver Lake, and my previous experience with this trail indicated that while it was scenic, it was very rough, rocky, and not really suitable for running.  I could only imagine what the even less traveled Chandler Ridge trail was like.  Nonetheless, on a cool, low humidity August afternoon, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to explore it.  This ended up being a very good decision.

kayak view of the ridge

The run started from the usual place – the Falls of Lana parking lot, just past Branbury State Park. The bad news was that this run started with about 15 minutes of unrelenting steepness on the forest service road heading up to Silver Lake. The good news was that this was by far the steepest climbing on the run.  When I reached Silver Lake, I headed to the right over the dam, and followed the trail heading along the west shore of the lake, apprehensive about the trail conditions, but was in for a pleasant surprise.  Unlike previous runs here, the trail had clearly seen some recent attention, and was now altogether enjoyable for running.  Very early on, the source of this trail maintenance was quite clear – the VYCC (Vermont Youth Conservation Corps) had received some stimulus money to do some badly needed trail maintenance in this popular backcountry destination.  Now that’s what I call putting tax dollars to good use!

Good Use of our Stimulous Dollars!

After about a half mile on the Silver Lake trail, I came upon the well marked right turn up to the Chandler Ridge Trail. This trail had also seen some recent improvements, so over most of the next 4 miles, the footing was excellent, making for great, albeit slow running. The best thing about this trail from the runner’s perspective is that it is constructed with lots of gentle switchbacks to get up and down the steeper sections – a rarity in northeastern trails, but great for running! After only a few hundred yards of gentle climbing, I reached the top of the ridge, and over the next few miles I was treated to intermittent views through the thin hardwood forest to the west over Lake Dunmore, and to the east over Silver Lake – in one short section, I could even see both lakes simultaneously. This would make for an amazing late fall run as well – the views will certainly open up spectacularly after the leaves fall.

Lake Dunmore Through the Trees

Eventually the trail started its descent while veering to the left, as expected from my map. There was one point of some confusion, where the recent trail renovations and lack of signs made my next move less than totally clear, but since I knew I had to stay left to find my way to the Leicester Hollow Trail, that strategy got me there. I found myself on the heavily used Minnie Baker Trail, down a short steep trail to get to the stream flowing through the hollow. At this point, I was about a mile east of the Lake Dunmore Road, and according to my memory, I had a long gradual ascent back up to the campground on the east shore of Silver Lake. It immediately became obvious that my memory of this section of trail was clearly out of date! I had remembered the old Leicester Hollow Trail, which was an abandoned road heading up from Forestdale to the site of the old hotel which used to grace Silver Lake, but what I had forgotten was that the flash floods of 2008 had decimated this trail, and the next mile or so reflected this. While the VYCC folks have partially repaired this stretch of trail, there were still plenty of sections which were essentially rock hopping in stream beds, making for pleasant walking, but the footing wasn’t good enough for much in the way of running.  After about a mile of this, I got above the washed out stretch, and the trail reverted to that of my memory – long, straight, and gradually uphill  through a tunnel of heavy forest.  I did come across one sight which piqued my curiousity however – in one small area there was a partial clearing, with the obvious indicator of its former inhabitants – a small, ancient apple orchard.  An 1871 map of Leicester, available online, showed that this homesite was owned by Mrs. F. Glynn.  Does anyone know anything about her life at what must have been a very remote place to live?  If you are interested in seeing the details of this map, you can download it and view it in Microsoft Office Picture Manager, which allows you to magnify it easily.  Also, there is a treasure trove of old Vermont maps at its source, http://www.old-maps.com/.

http://www.old-maps.com/vt_overlays_downloads/vt_overlays_addisonCo/LCS_FINALS_50_DPI/LCS_1871_Beers_50.jpg

The rest of the run was pretty straightforward – I stayed on the Leicester Hollow Trail until it came along the east side of Silver Lake, past the newly refurbished outhouses by the campground, and on down the dirt road where the adventure actually started. A few last comments on the name “Chandler Ridge”: While looking up information on the abandoned homesite, I also came across a lot of information on the old Silver Lake Hotel, which stood at the north end of the lake – it was built in the late 1800′s by a missionary from Montreal by the name of Frank Chandler, who also constructed the Leicester Hollow road. Also, according to some sources, including Google Earth, the Chandler Ridge is actually the ridge to the east of Silver Lake, not the ridge separating Silver Lake and Lake Dunmore where the Chandler Ridge Trail runs. Finally, I would like to express thanks to the kids in the VYCC for the the backbreaking work they have performed to rehabilitate some great old trails, and to our federal government for supporting their work – trails or tea party? Guess which I prefer!

Overall this was really an epic route to run – it covered 12 miles, and while the overall altitude difference between the low and high points was not that severe, there were very few truly flat sections on this run – much of the gentle up and down nature of this trail is kind of lost in the natural error from the GPS signal. This run took me about 2 and a half hours with just a few stops for picture taking and water along the way.

Google Earth of the route, looking west