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October Pleasures

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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.

View to the west

View to the west

 

 

 

Views to the east

View 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.

The Shores of Silver Lake

The Shores of Silver 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!

Privy Follies

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!

google earth v2

Google Earth of the run

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

 

A Midsummer Evening on Mount Moosalamoo

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Over the last few summers, I have blogged quite a few running  routes through the Moosalamoo region, but somehow never managed to work in a run over the region’s eponymous peak, Mt. Moosalamoo itself.  So why the sudden urge to actually ascend this rather gentle peak?  First of all, I love the way the name rolls off your tongue – is it possible to say the word “Moosalamoo” without smiling?  I didn’t think so!  Secondly, looking at the Forest Service map of the area, I realized that I could…so why not?  In the course of my hiking, I had climbed Moosalamoo from the Lake Dunmore (west) side – the summit can be easily reached by hiking another mile or two past the popular Rattlesnake Cliffs lookouts.  This route takes a different approach, from the East side on the Goshen – Ripton Road.

Looking to try a point-to-point run, I had my daughter deposit me at Moosalamoo Campground Road, where it meets the Goshen-Ripton Road at about 5 in the afternoon on a sunny, but not too hot afternoon.  After a short time on this dirt road, I took the Mount Moosalamoo Trail heading off to the right immediately before entering the campground area.  You will know you are on the right trail, as it is pretty well labeled!  This trail zigzags behind the campground for a few minutes, before reaching an old dirt road.  At this point, take a right turn for about 50-100 yards before the well marked left turn descending down to a wooden footbridge over a small stream.  At this point, the serious climbing begins!  The Moosalamoo Trail angles along the northeast flank of Moosalamoo before reaching the Oak Ridge Trail, an easy half mile or so from the summit.  Taking this left turn brought me to the “true summit” of Moosalamoo, which has only limited views through the trees. I knew from previous hikes that the slightly lower, southern summit, has some decent cleared overlooks, but since I had a pretty long run planned in the opposite direction I chose to forego this diversion and save my legs for a lot more miles planned in the opposite direction.  It is easy to find the true summit however, as like everything else in this run, it is well labelled!

The Well Labelled Moosalamoo Summit

Retracing my steps back to the trail junction, I set off on a very wild stretch of trail, the rarely traveled connection between Moosalamoo and Rt. 125 on the Oak Ridge Trail. The good news – this trail is well marked (What in the blue blazes! They are everywhere!) and almost entirely downhill. This did make for a very challenging trail however – it is very narrow, and in many places pretty rough going since not many footpads of hikers, let alone trail runners have beaten down this trail.  So, while the terrain itself was not particularly severe, the true single track nature of the trail made this slower going than one (that one being me) might expect. I really felt that I was out there, by myself on this one.  Passing by a few high altitude puddles which looked like ideal moose wallows, and even noticing some fresh bear poop got me so nervous that every Hyperactive squirrel in the woods made my heart beat faster!  Nonetheless, this was a gorgeous stretch of forest.  Most of the run was through mature hardwood forest, with the relatively little ground cover.  In quite a few sections I felt that there would be excellent views to the north in the fall.  I will have to come back and report on this.

With the slower than expected pace, and the late start, the forest started to get pretty dark, even though sunset was still some time away.  The sun got to be too low in the sky to permeate the forest, leading me to run cautiously, especially at the lower elevations, rather than attempt to shave a few minutes off my time.

Somewhat suddenly, after what seemed like an eternity of downhill running, the trail broke out into the diminishing sun, as the narrow single track trail joined the Old Town Road. This “Road” is only used by motorized vehicles for logging operations at present, and has never borne vehicular traffic in my 25 years in Addison County, but its level of development and the fact that the power lines leading up to Ripton following this route seem to indicate that it was once a real road. Does anybody know anything about the past use of this road? Did it always run parallel to Rt 125, or did Rt 125 supplant it at some point? Finally, reaching this broad easy former road did allow me to stretch my legs out a little and really run, however, without worrying about tripping over stumps and rocks, and it brought me after about a mile and a half of easy descending to Rt 125, where I caught the now setting sun, before descending into East Middlebury, ending the run at the playground parking lot on Schoolhouse Hill Road.

Roadside Sunset

This long and challenging run ended up at about 11 miles in length, with 1000 feet of climbing, and 2000 feet of descent, most of it at a slow jogging pace.

Google Earth of the run

Altitude Profile

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

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.

Altitude Profile