Tag Archives: Middlebury College

In The Heights

Still in recovery mode from a long race over Memorial Day weekend, I opted for a very short run on the much traveled “Red Kelly Trail”, the trail which circles the Middlebury College Championship Golf course, also known as “Augusta National‘s Little Brother”.  Well, we aren’t exactly having Georgia weather of late, but you get the picture.  I have talked about the sights on this trail on numerous occasions, most recently on a longer run incorporating the Red Kelly Trail about two years ago.  Not a lot has changed since then, except for the fact that the section of the trail across the west ridge (or alongside the 10th fairway for those who know the course) has been rerouted away from the course and onto its own separate trail, where runners are more protected from errant tee shots.  If even a small fraction of the golfers are as miserable with their drivers as I have been, this re-route will probably save lives!

So, I departed the Middlebury College athletic facilities on South Main St. and got onto the Kelly Trail directly behind the all-weather “Kohn” Athletic Field.  Yes, everything on the campus is indeed named after someone!  After completing most of the trail in the clockwise direction, as I neared the end of the trail, I crossed South Main St. (aka Rt 30) and did the short descent on the Class of 97 Trail.  After about a half mile or so on this pleasant little stretch of single track trail, I came to the point where it emerged from the forest into the more open fields below.  Rather than continue on at this point, I elected to return, originally planning to retrace my steps back to Rt. 30.  However, a few minutes into my return, I noticed an unmarked herd path heading uphill to my left, unceremoniously marked by the presence of a large tractor tire seemingly abandoned in the woods.  Ascending this trail, it became apparent almost immediately where I was – the backyard of the mansion known as “The Heights” or  “The Thaddeus Chapman House”.  Many years ago, a member of the family which owns this property showed me around the interior of this large old home, and while it has not been regularly inhabited due to the high cost of heating it in the winter, it’s interior has been well maintained as a sort of museum to life in the late 1800′s.  Searching for more information about this grand old house, I contacted my colleague, architechtural historian, Prof. Glenn Andres.  From him, I learned that the house was built in 1870 by the owner of the Starr Mill, one Caleb Ticknor.  The house was acquired by Chapman in 1875, who subsequently had it renovated in 1887 by architect Clinton Smith (the reknowned architect of the better known Shard Villa) into its current elaborate (that is as close as I can come to the real architectural terms like “Queen Anne” and “Italianate”) form

Despite my one previous foray onto this palatial property, I had never actually explored the grounds.  Not seeing any “No Trespassing” signs from my point of entry, I decided to explore the grounds a bit on foot.  One of the first sights I noted was the bermed amphitheater built into the back  yard.  Oral tradition holds (that is my fancy way of saying Glenn heard it, but can’t confirm)  that these terraces were once the basis of elaborate gardens, while other oral traditions (a few generations of Middlebury College students) confirm that these terraces hold a long tradition as a college student trysting site in warmer weather.

Heights Amphitheater

Heights Amphitheater

Further up the hill from this, on the East Side of the main house, is a small childrens’ play house. Peering in through the window, I could discern child-size furniture indicating its use in its heyday.

Play House

Play House

 

Finally, leaving the property through the front driveway gave a nice vantage point to enjoy a good look at the main house.

 

The Heights

The Heights

The driveway brought me back to Rt 30, pretty much just across the street from the College field house, making this a short (slightly less than 3 miles!) but interesting run. Since the last section of this run is on private property, should you choose to explore The Heights, please be respectful of this well-maintained gem. Although it is usually not inhabited, this registered historic site is in no way a derelict property!   If any reader has anything more recent to add to my bare bones story of this property, I would love to hear it!

Google Earth projection of the run

Google Earth projection of the run

Stick Season on the TAM

While most residents of northern New England mention mud season as the most challenging time of the year to live here, the almost equally bleak month of November, less well-known as “stick season” also has it’s challenges.  It has the same bare trees and overcast sky, but never quite brings out the worst in us like mud season.  Perhaps we are all still feeling good after a great fall foliage season, and are anticipating the excitement of the first snows of the season?  Perhaps it is because…well…it just isn’t as muddy, and the trails are arguably at their best for running, with soft leaves underfoot, and great views through the surrounding forest?  In any case, I got together with two other local runners, Josh and Ben, early on a Saturday morning to do the grand loop around Middlebury, our own beloved TAM.  Bits and pieces of this convenient and scenic gem have been the frequent subject of blog posts, but it has been a few years since I last described a complete circumnavigation of the village, and that was much earlier in the fall, prior to the peak of foliage season.  We met up shortly before sunrise at the parking lot by Batelle/Means Woods on Quarry Road (at about 3 o’clock on the loop shown in the Google Earth projection included below), just east of town, and I convinced my running partners that we should take the loop counterclockwise to put the most challenging part of the run, the 300+ foot ascent of Chipman Hill, early in the run.  We also had the additional benefit of catching a great sunrise over the mountains from the east side of Middlebury’s downtown summit!  While most of the leaves were long gone from the limbs of the deciduous trees on the flanks of the hill, I was touched by the stubbornness with which a few trees clung to their leaves and to life when other sources of warmth and the ephemeral beauty of autumn was fading.

Chipman Hill Sunrise

Chipman Hill Sunrise

Continuing on down the west side of Chipman Hill, we wove through the village streets for a few minutes before heading north through Wright Park, and the longest contiguous section of trail not intercepted by roads. When we reached the northern suspension bridge crossing over Otter Creek, instead of taking the section of the TAM heading due west, we decided instead to take the last short loop to the north, heading into the gorge, and adding a mile or two of extra running to our proposed loop. The thick green moss alongside one particular section of trail led for Josh to christen this short passage “The Shire”. After a short section along the creek, the trail started its gradual loop back to the west, and then the south, emerging back into a meadow just to the west of Morgan Horse Farm Rd, where I managed to grab a quick photo of my fellow runners before they disappeared in the distance, forcing me to pick the pace after grabbing a photo, if I wanted to stay with them.  That, and they also waited for me!

Runners in the Meadow

Runners in the Meadow

Crossing over Morgan Horse Farm Road, and veering south through another meadow and pond, we briefly considered leaving the TAM to seek out the entrance to the nearby Weybridge Cave on Cave Road, but decided against it on this day, as all of us confessed to having seeked out the cave’s entrance in the past, and all had failed. Someday we have to invite a runner who knows where exactly it is to show us. Any takers? Eventually, our counterclockwise circumnavigation brought us to the most civilized section of trail, the part circling the Middlebury College Championship Golf Course, where the TAM also serves as the running course for the college cross country races. The morning was getting a little later at this point, and we started to see other runners and walkers out for their Saturday morning strolls. The last few miles brought us back to the Batelle Woods, where I let my partners for almost 3 hours pull ahead, and I took a shot which I think exemplifies November running – grey skies, the trail softened by falling leaves, and of course, muddy sneakers.

Sneaker-level view

Sneaker-level view

As we returned to the parking lot where my car was, we high fived on a good long (almost 18 miles!) training run, we commented on how fast the time flew by. This almost 3 hour run seemed rather timeless due to the good company, and fun terrain. As my fellow (much younger) runners headed home, on foot, I sat my tired butt down in my car, and made a beeline to Middlebury Bagel where I treated myself to a cup of coffee…..and the most sugar- encrusted donut left on their shelves.

Google Earth of the Run

Google Earth of the Run

Altitude Profile of TAM run

Altitude Profile of TAM run

Built Invitations

(photo via https://www.facebook.com/middartmuseum) I associate the physicality of Vito Acconci’s work to that of a premier danseur.  He is the Nijinsky of built forms, aware of the elasticity of every wall, and how far he can bend a concept—an incredible flexibility—before … Continue reading

Tormondsen Race Trail at Rikert

The Rikert Ski Touring Area at Breadloaf remained pretty much unchanged over the course of my first quarter century in Addison County.  Sure, there were a few minor trail reroutes, and a few less-used trails disappeared as several more remote trails appeared on the trail map over the years, but it was very much a timeless place.  Even the interior warming hut and ski rental shop had not undergone any renovations in anyone’s memory.  Two summers ago, those who hold the purse strings realized that this wonderful resource, really a local institution, was in severe need of some modernization if it was to stand a chance of ever breaking even financially.  So, in the words of one of the employees there, the college went “all in”, fixing up the interior, and more importantly, adding snowmaking and rerouting the racing trail.  The new racing trail was named after the Tormondsen family, who presumably donated some of the funds needed for these renovations (knowing how things work at colleges!).  This family has clearly been quite generous, since the Great Hall in Bicentennial Hall was also named after this family – so “Thanks Folks!”

The old racing trail, which was 7.5 km long (10 km if the section on the Battell Loop was added) was very narrow, and had several very tight turns which forced racers to check their speed, or at least know the course well in order to ski it their fastest.  The nature of the trail made it such that it was very difficult for skiers to pass each other when skate skiing, and since this technique has been a part of ski racing for about 30 years, it made sense to find a way to widen the trails.  Finally, while we all love seasons with great snow, there have been many years where Ripton has been pretty much snow-repellent – like last season!  I seem to remember hearing that there was one group of nordic racers in the late 80′s who never had a chance to race on their home course over their four years at Middlebury.  The addition of snowmaking to a significant section of trail not only keeps the area open for carnival races, but may turn our little local area into a ski touring area with greater regional appeal.

After the recent January thaw, and a week of howling cold weather, this weekend brought a few inches of fresh snow, and Sunday turned beautifully warm (if 20 degree weather is “warm”!) and sunny.  Snowcapped Breadloaf Mountain in the background gave the scene “pinch me is this real?” beauty.

Breadloaf Mountain from Rikert Ski Touring Area

Breadloaf Mountain from Rikert Ski Touring Area

The new race trail, listed as 5 km, is a little shorter than the old trail, but this makes sense given the economics of setting up the permanent plumbing required to supply its outer reaches with snowmaking.  Some of the new trail uses segments of previously existing trail, much of it is set on new trails created during the summer of 2011.  The course has a similar layout, with one shorter loop in the Myrhe’s Cabin side, and a longer loop on the Craig’s Hill side of ski touring area.  While the Tormondsen Family Trail does not have as much altitude gain as the old trail due to its shorter length, it doesn’t have any flat sections either, so it will definitely challenge competitors.  The trail is well marked from the beginning and, in addition to greater breadth, can also be distinguished by the snowmaking pipes which follow the course.

DSC_0063 Also, the unmistakeable pattern of trees covered with ice and snow on their side facing the trail, which can only be accomplished by snow guns, was apparent in many places.

tormondsen tree While older racers may bemoan the loss of the technical challenge of the old “S-turns” or the long hard climb up “Craig’s Hill”, the current and future generations of racers will have a blast on the wide, banked, fast turns which characterize the new course.    When I thought I had finished the trail, I looked at my GPS, and realized that I had not yet covered the full 5 km, and realized that the races usually start with a big loop of two in the open fields for the benefit of spectators, so I threw in one loop around the field at the end, and brought the distance up to about where it should be.  Conservatively, there is about 400 feet of climbing on this course, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that the longer races will loop around it as many as 4 times!

We  have the opportunity to see the first Winter Carnival race held on this new trail next weekend (Feb 15, 16), and the NCAA championship races in early March.  Come on up and check it out!

tormondsen trail google earth

altitude Tormondsen

 

Dear Freshmen:

Dear Freshmen Runners and Aspiring Runners:

As a member of the Middlebury College Faculty, I would like to welcome you to campus.  In this first month of the new year, I have had several conversations with your fellow freshmen, and when the topic of running comes up, I inevitably get asked “Where are good places to run”.  And while the real answer is “almost any direction from campus”, I thought I would share a moderate (slightly less than 5 miles, with no serious climbs) trail loop which passes by many interesting sights without really getting that far from campus.  In other words, it is a good way to start your trail running in Middlebury.  This route is also very easy to follow (except for maybe one section for the navigationally challenged) and has a few good bailout points if you aren’t quite up for runs this long.

This run starts out the back door of the fitness center – yup – that great place where you can work out on all the cool exercise contraptions your tuition dollars can buy (or our generous alums can buy for you – and a sincere THANKS).  My advice is to save the ellipticals and treadmills for the cold of winter, and enjoy the out of doors for now.  Head out the back door, and run just to the right of the high tech artificial turf field, and veer into the woods on the left – there are usually a few soccer goals stashed here, so the trail entry should be easy to find.  The first, and tamest part of the run is on the trail which runs around the outskirts of our very own golf course, and soon joins into the the Trail around Middlebury (aka “The TAM”), a 16 mile trail which runs through the forests and meadows at the outskirts of town.  The golf course trail is pretty easy, with no major impediments to its many runners and walkers.  In fact, it is the course used my our college cross country running teams at their home races.  Some other insights on this trail, albeit from the counterclockwise direction, can be found in a blog post from a few years ago entitled “Trailrunning 101“.

After about a mile, you pass the first noteworthy place.  You can’t help but notice it, as it smells…well it smells like rotting food scraps…which is what it is.  At the most odiferous point on the run, off to your left stands the mountain of compost generated by the college.  Not long after this, a fairly substantial climb rises above you, and as you near the top, you will notice a lone gravestone off to your right.  Until the last few months, this grave was partially hidden in a small grove of trees, but recent course renovations have brought it more prominently into the open.  Take a second and read the inscription.  In a rather macabre turn of events, the poor gentleman interred beneath it survived both the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War, to die when a tree fell on him.  And trees were really big back then! Local historian Robert Keren has been doing some sleuthing into the history of this gentleman, William Douglas, and his fate, and has posted some of his findings in the Middlebury College Magazine Blog.

Dead William

Continue across the ridgeline onto the new section of trail which enables runners to stay pretty well out of the range of some of the errant tee shots from the 10th hole, before emerging into the open, passing by a large white house on your left called “Hadley House”, rumored to be the sight of wild trustee parties.  A short run along the old golf course entrance road brings you to Route 30, where you need to cross to continue the run.  If you are out of gas at this point, it is a short downhill trot to the athletic facilities for a nice two mile run.  However, if you cross the road, there is some more challenging trail running to be found.  At the far side of Rt. 30 you will find the entrance to the segment of the TAM known as the “Class of 97 Trail”, honoring a deceased member of that class who passed away in a tragic car crash while allegedly intoxicated.

Class of 97 Trailhead

The much tighter, rootier, and frequently muddier descent from the ridgeline will challenge you to watch your footwork, but soon emerges into an open field, where a left turn will lead to a long loop through the farm fields which make up some of the great views to the west of the campus. This is the only section of the trail where one might get a little off track, but if you count out EXACTLY 478 steps (just kidding just follow the main trail around the periphery of the fields, behind the farmhouse) until you cross College St. and follow the dirt road to the organic garden on a peaceful hillock. I was fortunate to pass through when some of the last sunflowers of the season were still in bloom.

Organic Garden Flower

By now, if you are starting to feel a little tired, you are in the home stretch! Take the dirt road back through the fields towards campus, enjoying the views of “Hadley/Lang/Milliken/Ross/Laforce”, dorms which were known as “The New Dorms” for about 30 years (and used to be covered with what sure looked like bathroom tile), and the hulking shape of Bicentennial Hall, which was christened “The Death Star” by students at its opening 12 years ago. The solar panels are a relatively new addition to the fields, and they reflected the blue of the sky quite nicely, don’t you think?

Solar Panels in Blue Sky

Cross back over college street, and catch the sidewalk which skirts the side of the “Mods”. The Mods, short for Modular Homes, were set up over 10 years ago as temporary housing, but not surprisingly, they proved so popular with students that we seem to have made them a permanent part of the housing options on campus. Follow this sidewalk to the top of the hill, and cut through the graveyard before finishing the run back at the fitness center. The last cool sight to point out, if you have the time to look, is the gravestone of an Egyptian mummy buried in the otherwise Christian cemetery. Some hints on how to find this particular stone were given in a previous post on this blog entitled “Run Like and Egyptian“.

Well – I hope you like this almost 5 mile run, and use it to find inspiration for other runs in the area. And have a great seven…I mean four year here!

Cordially,

The Middlebury Trailrunner

Google Earth of the route

 

Going all the way on the TAM

Every trail runner in town knows the Trail around Middlebury, aka “The TAM” well – it is our town’s gem, and a popular place to enjoy trail runs of a variety of lengths and challenge.  One of the major fundraisers for the TAM has been the TAM Team Trek, an annual fall event in which walkers, mountain bikers, and yes, a few runners cover all or part of the trail for a modest entry fee.  Many of the participants also line up sponsors, adding to the fund raising for this great cause. So, this gorgeous Sunday morning seemed like a great day to join in….and go for a run.

Arriving at the event registration on a pleasant Sunday morning, there seemed to be a lot more participants than I had noted the last time I ran as part of this event, 3 years ago.  The big question at the start was, should I proceed in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction?  A counterclockwise run meant running some of the more technical terrain earlier in the run, with the challenging climb of Chipman Hill looming at the end of the long run, while a clockwise run would get the only tough climb out of the way first, but might leave me tripping over roots and sliding though mud at the end.  I decided on the counterclockwise run, and got the best of both – the previous evening’s heavy rain had left quite a lot of mud on the trail, and I managed two face-plant muddy falls in the first few miles, on the northern loop of the TAM which looped over the Belden Dam footbridge, before turning south at the point where it crossed Morgan Horse Farm Road.  The first leg of this run was described in greater detail in my “Belden Dam on the TAM” posting.

Footbridge over the Belden Dam

The second loop of this trail, from Weybridge Street to the college has also been covered before, albeit in the opposite direction, on a post entitled “Muddy Meadows and Poison Parsnips“.  This posting, which I made over a year ago is actually the most heavily read posting in this blog by far.  While this stretch of the trail is very nice, I suspect that the high number of hits on this posting is due to the high level of interest in the poison parsnip, a recent invader of our fields.

Despite the above comments about mud difficulties, running on muddy trails really is a lot of fun. There were three sections of the trail, where the trail split, with one direction designated as a drier route, and the other the “wet route” – guess which one I took, as a matter of principle?  At his trail sign in the fields near the College organic garden, I went right of course.

Decisions, decisions.......

 

After a short climb up from the fields to the west of the college, I arrived at the Ralph Myhre Golf Course and its spectacular views of the Green Mountains.  Fortunately the nice people running the snack shop there didn’t mind when a very muddy runner came in off the trail to refill his water bottles for the second half of his run.

Up to this point there were quite a few participants in the TAM trek over this first leg – it was early and the day, and a lot of hikers and runners were out enjoying themselves.  However, from the golf course until the completion of the run, things were pretty quiet – apparently most of the participants were focusing on other sections of trail, or had done enough!  The trail then looped around the golf course, crossed South St. and the southern suspension bridge over Otter Creek.  Looping through the fields around Middlebury Union Middle School, led me back into the woods.  This next section of trail was previously chronicled in one of my first postings, “TAM, Means, and Batelle Woods“.

 

The last leg of the day’s run was the long anticipated run up and over Chipman Hill to the finish line.  By this point, I had been out for about two and a half hours, and there really wasn’t much left in my legs, so I ended up walking up some of the steeper portions of the trail.  After cresting the summit, it was downhill all the way, however, to the Marble Works, where the Trek organizers were starting to put things away and call it a day.  I, on the other hand, had one more task – a much anticipated chocolate milk shake from Sama’s!

The GPS track showed that this run was as long as it felt – 16.25 miles in total, making it my longest run since I began authoring this blog in 2009.  Other than the final climb over Chipman Hill, however, the run was not particularly hilly by Vermont standards.  Time to give the legs a few days to recover!

Google Earth of TAM

Middlebury College David S. Stone ‘74 Tree House Fund

Do you have a great idea that would benefit Middlebury students, the environment, and/or the community? Apply to the Middlebury College David S. Stone ‘74 Tree House Fund! What is it? · Up to $2000 total is available this year to fund one or several creative student projects that benefit Middlebury students, the environment, or [...]