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The Oak Ridge Trail with Middlebury Trail Enthusiasts

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As the summer draws to a close and the days get cooler, my runs tend to get longer and longer in anticipation of a few Fall marathons, or other longer races which depend on a full summer’s training. I have been wanting to knock off a big chunk of the Oak Ridge Trail for some time this summer, and I found some good running partners for this endeavor through a new Meetup, called “Middlebury Trail Enthusiasts“.  For those of you are not familiar with this group of runners and trail seekers, it began just this summer.  For the time being, most of the group runs have been in town, after work (5:45), leaving from the Marble Works on Tuesdays, and some Thursdays.  While I have been a regular participant on these after work runs, which usually proceed at a pace amenable to conversation,  this was the first time I had joined in one of the longer group runs.  So, at 8 am on a beautiful Saturday morning, I joined up with Heather, the group founder, and John, the organizer of the local race, the Moosalamoo Ultra”  for a run up the ridge.  We started at the parking lot on Rt 125, between East Middlebury and Ripton, and headed up the trail.  One sign of good conversation is that you miss trail signs, so I guess we got off to a good start by missing a well marked right turn, where the Oak Ridge Trail veered off of the Old Town Road, an abandoned road which serves as the northern terminus of the nearly 20 mile long Oak Ridge Trail.  After about a quarter of a mile of running in increasingly higher grass, we realized our error, and backtracked to the incredibly obvious correct turn, and from this point we had no further routefinding difficulties!

I had done this section of trail once before, as a point to point run, after being dropped off at a significantly higher altitude, the turnoff for the Voter Brook Overlook on the Goshen-Ripton Road.  Running the same trail in the opposite direction added an additional 500 ft or so of climbing!  The trail angles up the north side of Mount Moosalamoo, rarely becoming steep, over the course of over 6 miles.  At one point, pretty high up, I grabbed a shot of my running partners as they attempted to escape me.

Oak Ridge Runners

Oak Ridge Runners

Shortly after this point, I parted company with my running friends, as they were looking for a longer run than I today – they continued along the ridge toward the now near Moosalamoo summit, and I chose to descend on the Moosalamoo Trail to the Moosalamoo Campground, and return to my car by country roads.  The descent was much easier than the ascent to this point – the Moosalamoo Trail gets much heavier foot travel than the longer Oak Ridge Trail.  Some recent local new articles had alluded to trail maintenance on this trails, to make them more accessible to mountain bikers as well, but other than a few cut up trees which had fallen over the trail, it looked like this plan was not fully underway yet!

I reached to Moosalamoo Campground, at around mile 9 in the run, and was surprised to see that, even on Labor Day weekend, this primitive campground only had two groups of campers staked out for the last holiday of summer.  At this point, I knew my return would be by road, but the Goshen-Ripton Road is about as quiet as a road can get- in my 4 miles or so on this road, returning to 125, I saw only 3 cars.  I also made mental notes of other trailheads to be explored in future postings, most notably the Wilkinson Trails across the road and to the west of the Widow’s Clearing parking lot.  In one sunny section, I also noted some of the last daisies of summer, clinging to the side of the road.

Last Daisies of Summer

Last Daisies of Summer

 

 

Rejoining Rt 125, I passed through Ripton, and realized that while I had passed through the village countless times by car, and by bicycle, the only time I had actually been on foot in the village was racing in the Ripton Ridge Run back in the 80s when it started and finished at the old Ripton School!  I also took a moment to enjoy the whimsy of the reproduction of the old sign for road tolls on this route, posted in the yard of the Chipman Inn.  Do you think they accepted Easy Pass?

No Easy Pass allowed

No Easy Pass allowed

The last mile of the run was the most unnerving – the run through the twisty turny section of 125 below Ripton. The shoulders here were less than ample, and I took care not to run on the side of the road on the inside of the many blind corners where cars tended to cut it a little close! I did indeed survive this short section without a scratch, to return to my car in time to get home for lunch. Overall, this was a pretty long run for me, covering almost 16 miles, with about 1500 ft of climbing on the trail sections.

Finally – it would be great to see some new faces at Middlebury Trail Enthusiast events – check it out!

Oak Ridge Ascent, Road Return

Oak Ridge Ascent, Road Return

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

A Circuituous Solistice Sauntering

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

On Saturday, the longest day of the year, I set out to explore a “loose end” which I discovered about a year ago.  Last spring, right around Easter Sunday , I set out to explore Forest Service Rt. 92, and after a lengthy climb, found myself in too much snow to continue further, and vowed (to myself) to return.  During this previous run, I achieved the ridge line of the north shoulder of Mt Moosalamoo, and noted that the trail followed the ridge line to the south, towards the Moosalamoo summit.  At the time, I had concluded (incorrectly as we will see!) that this trail found its way to the actual summit, and I planned this new run around this assumption.  So, I set out for what I assumed would be an hour to hour and a half-long run, and made the mistake of not bringing any water, despite the fact that I was heading into an area where the key connection was not on any map, and, in retrospect, suspect.  You can’t die of thirst in the mountains of Vermont, right?

So, I drove to the trailhead for Forest Servine Road 92, found on the Ripton-Goshen Road about a mile in from Rt 125 just past Ripton on the way to the top of Middlebury Gap.  Look for a National Forest Service sign on your right, and if you pass Camp Silver Towers, you have gone too far.  I found a good place to park about a third of a mile up this narrow but passable dirt road.  At the start of the run, I followed my previous run, relentlessly, but runably uphill.  A few options occur for runners, and at the first trail split, I headed left, opting for what is labeled as 92 over 92A by the signs (although not by the Moosalamoo region map, which labels them oppositely!), and at the next trail split, I bore right, on the more uphill course, rather than taking the left on the more traveled pathway leading to the Wilkinson Trail network, which will be the object of a future posting.  Once again, I reached the first height of land, after about 2 miles and 700 ft of climbing, and this time, bore left (south) on this continuing double track abandoned road.  The climb to this point was pretty straightforward, other than the nasty stinging nettles which popped up from time to time, and seem all too common on the trails in the Moosalamoo Wilderness.  About half way up, I also crossed the Oak Ridge Trail, which I suspected would be part of my planned descent, once I made my connection to it near the summit.

At this point, the run got a little more……interesting.  As expected, the now totally unmarked trail veered south, taking a diagonal along the west face of Moosalamoo, and after what did not seem like that long a distance, and was probably not much more than a mile, headed to the left downhill.  At this point, I assumed that I had not yet come close to the summit of Moosalamoo, and the abandoned logging road was descending back down the east face of Moosalamoo towards the Oak Ridge Trail, or the Wilkinson Trail, very close to my parked car.  The first choice on the descent occured when my trail came to a T, and I chose the left branch, once again assuming that I was making a tight circle back in the direction of my car- note – all the high altitude turns have been left turns – this is supposed to make an easy circle, right?  Shortly after this left turn I came to another fork, the left one uphill, the right one downhill.  After briefly exploring the uphill fork, I did the obvious, and continued down.  I noticed shortly that the trail started to take on a more maintained look – trees across the trail had been cut back, and the waterbars arising from trail maintenance were observed.  Had I somehow found my way onto the Oak Ridge Trail for the fast return?  My hopes were dashed when I read the following sign alongside the trail:

Keewaydin Sign

Dagnabbit!

Upon seeing this sign, I realized that all of my assumptions as to where the heck I was, were wrong! DAGNABBIT! The fact that I was in the Keewaydin network meant that I had found myself on the opposite side of the mountain from my car, on the west side over looking Lake Dunmore!  To complicate matters, I was not particularly knowledgeable of the Camp Keewaydin trail network, as it is separate from the Forest Service trails, privately maintained, and not shown on any publicly available trail maps.  Now, I knew I had two options – I could look for descending trails, find my way to the shores of Lake Dunmore, admit defeat, and find a telephone to call for a ride home (cell phones don’t work there, and I hadn’t brought mine anyways!), or find trail connections which would bring me to the summit, at which point I knew of several longer descents which would bring me home.  At first, I considered the short easy option- the descent into Camp Keewaydin on the shores of Lake Dunmore.  But, did I really want to emerge from the woods, covered in mud, and stumble into a kids’ campfire looking like Yeti?  Worse still, what if I stumbled into the archery range to meet up with the 10 year old sons of the most powerful and wealthy men and women in the country, when they were armed with bows, and aching to prove their manhood?  Nope – back up the mountain it was!  Of course, the question was how, other than just “go up”?  The trail names I came across, as part of the private system were unfamiliar to me – the Cub Trail?  the Cliff Trail?  Finally, I came to a trail name which I recognized – “The Keewaydin Trail”.  I knew this trail would bring me close to the summit of Moosalamoo, and offered a descent back to the east side of the mountain, admittedly at some distance from my car.  So – back up the mountain I went!  I eventually found myself at the trail’s end, about a half mile from the summit, and chose to find my way to the top, since I figured by this time that I had earned it.

The only structure at the summit was one that had never caught my attention in the past – there is white “pod” which looks about the size of a comfortable porta-potty here, and in the past, I had assumed that this is exactly what it was.  However, on this run, I decided to check it out, since it was connected to solar power panel.  Wow – some kind of deluxe backcountry outhouse?  Checking it out further, I noted that it had a locked door, which pretty much meant that it was either the most prestigious summit portapotty in the country, or perhaps it served some other purpose – anybody know purpose this structure serves?

Not a Portapotty

Not a Portapotty

I was, however, rewarded for my efforts with a stunning late afternoon view of the main ridge of the Green Mountains to the east. I would bet that the long flat summit to the left of this shot is of Breadloaf Mountain.

Moosalamoo Summit View

Moosalamoo Summit View

Retracing my steps back to the continuance of the Keewaydin Trail, which I knew would get me home, a minute or two off the summit I came across a young, fit, spirited, but obviously confused family who asked “Are we almost to Silver Lake”?  I pointed out to them, that they had climbed far beyond the Silver Lake trailhead, and were in the process of turning a 2.5 mile hike into an 8 miler, if they were coming up from Branbury State park, which of course, they were. I made sure that they knew their way back down, let them know that they could find their way home by retracing their hike, and assumed that they would be fine, although very tired upon their return. The descent on the Keewaydin trai was very slow, as I knew it would be based on my past experiences. This is not my favorite running trail, but it is usually easy to follow, and I knew it would get me home. This trail ended when it met the gravel road leading to the Voter Brook Overlook, and when I reached this, I took a left turn for the short descent, and longer climb up to the Ripton-Goshen Trail. By this point, I was getting very thirsty, having neglected to bring any water under the assumption that I was doing a much shorter run, and by this point, I had been out for the better part of two hours – fortunately it was a cool, comfortably evening!  I took a left on the main road, and had a pretty easy final few miles of higher tempo running on the dirt road, only interrupted by a great view back towards the Moosalamoo summit.  While I was wary of bears on this run, given the increasing frequency of bear encounters in this area, I could see that some hunters had been clearly frustrated by their inability to find any of these critters – the bear depicted on the sign at this clearing had clearly born the brunt of the shotgun blasts of a few rather frustrated woodsmen!

View of Moosalamoo from the Ripton-Goshen road

View of Moosalamoo from the Ripton-Goshen road

Returning to my car, this ended up being a 10.5 mile run. Normally, this would not be a big deal, if it was not for the fact that this run included over 2200 vertical feet of climb and descent, much of it on rough, slow trails, so this entire run required almost 2 and a half hours! Also, this would be a difficult run to describe in full detail for duplicating until I become more familiar with the trail network on the west side of Moosalamoo. I have got to lay my hands on a map depicting the Camp Keewaydin trails!

A note of explanation on the Google Earth projection of this run – I have turned it 90 degrees, so that top of the page is west, rather than north, to better depict the run.  I began the run in the lower right hand corner, and ran this loop in a counterclockwise fashion.

google earth of the run

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