Tag Archives: Rattlesnake Cliffs

Rattlesnake Cliffs

Here it was, the last Sunday of my summer vacation, on a spectacular, cool, clear Sunday afternoon. I knew I had some class prep to get ready, but I also knew that if I didn’t get out for at least a short run, I would be kicking myself. So, I headed for one of my favorite trailheads, the Falls of Lana trail just south of Branbury State Park, and decided to try and run up to the prominent cliffs behind the state park, known as “Rattlesnake Point” or “Rattlesnake Cliffs“.

The name of this prominent landmark undoubtedly brings up rather scary connotations for some hikers – I mean who wants to climb a cliff named after a poisonous snake? Curious as to the presence or absence of these reputedly dangerous vipers, I contacted Jim Andrews of Salisbury, and herpetologist extraordinaire, and asked him “Are there really rattlesnakes up there?” His response was, as follows:

“…that is a definite historic site with solid documentation of collection of rattlesnakes for snake oil by local families. However, we have no proof that rattlesnakes continue to exist in that area. It has been many decades since anyone has provided solid evidence of rattlesnakes there. That said, there have been a few reports over the last few decades from people who believe they have seen rattlesnakes in that area, but none of them took photos, or even described the snake well enough to confirm the sighting.”

There you go – I think it is safe to say that you can hike or run on the Rattlesnake Cliffs without your snakebite kit!

Comforted by this information,  I headed up the hill on the Silver Lake Trail, as I have done countless times on my runs up to equally well-visited Silver Lake, but at the switchback to the right after about a half mile, instead of following the main trail, keep going straight, taking the bridge across Sucker Brook, following the Rattlesnake Trail.  This trail climbs pretty steadily, but fortunately, never particularly steeply.  A lot of mountain trails, particularly on the Long Trail, or in the Adirondacks get either too rocky or too steep for running, but this trail was runable, at least to me, for about 90% of it’s length.

After climbing about 2 miles, a left turn to the actual cliffs comes up, and is easily recognizable by a warning sign, warning hikers and runners to stay away from the cliffs from April until the end of July while the peregrine falcons nest.  But, since it is September, the coast is clear, and I finished my ascent heading straight on the trail to the west facing cliffs overlooking Lake Dunmore.

Lake Dunmore View

Lake Dunmore View

I hung out at this overlook for a few minutes, chatting with a couple from North Carolina, before following a weak herd path to the viewpoint facing south towards Silver Lake and the southern end of Lake Dunmore – another stunning late summer view. In the picture below, Silver Lake is the small body of water in the left center of the photo, while Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake are on the right.  On the way back towards the Rattlesnake Trail, I met up with the North Carolina folks – apparently they had tried to follow me on the unmarked path I had followed, and had gotten a little bit lost before backtracking and reaching this place on more established trails!

Silver Lake View

Silver Lake View

The descent was fast and fun – since the trail makes a broad switchback on the south side of the mountain, it rarely gets too steep to run on the descent. Returning to my car, I saw that this was “only” a little over 4.5 miles, but with a 1200 ft vertical climb, and a great way to end the summer.

Google Earth projection of the Rattlesnake Cliff run

Google Earth projection of the Rattlesnake Cliff run

Altitude Profile Rattlesnake Cliffs

Altitude Profile Rattlesnake Cliffs

A Spring Look from Voter Brook

Early spring trail running is a pleasure.  Spring fever on the first semi-warm days always inspires me to get out and explore the nearby forest trails.  Additionally, before the summer foliage sets in, one can see deeper into the woods, and get a much richer feel for the surrounding topology.  Little scenic nuggets which would otherwise go unnoticed appear with a surprising clarity.   On the other hand, one must also be sensitive to the need to stay off of heavily used trails during “mud season”.  The Green Mountain National Forest recommends staying off of high elevation trails, especially the heavily used Long Trail, until after Memorial Day.  They don’t do this out of misguided attention to our muddy boots and running shoes, but due to the excessive erosion and inadvertent trail widening which can happen from hikers and runner stepping around the large mud wallows.  With these concerns in mind, I chose to go for a run which my previous experience told me was lightly trodden, and rather rocky rather than soft and muddy.

With these concerns in mind, I decided to go for a run from the Moosalamoo Campground parking lot.  This Green Mountain National Forest campground, found on the Ripton-Goshen road is pretty well deserted even in the middle of the summer, but the road leading into it was open and driveable.  Parking at the campground, I simply ran down the remainder of the dirt road in the direction of the Voter Brook Overlook.  I was immediately impressed by the handiwork of quite a few eager beavers, whose numerous ponds and mounds of sticks, most of which I had never noticed before, were apparent due to the unobstructed views.

beaver activity

Beaver Lodge

After a mile and a quarter of easy going on the road, I reached the Voter Brook Overlook. This little known gem provides excellent views to the Champlain Valley to the west, and towards the popular hiking destination, the Rattlesnake Cliffs above and to the right.

rattlesnake cliffs

Rattlesnake Cliffs

 

 

After this point, I headed deeper into the woods for some more adventurous running. A short descending trail heads down from the overlook, and meets up with the North Branch trail shortly. I had run this trail previously, under very different circumstances in mid August last year in the course of a very different running experience, but I could see that this spring there was still significant winter blowdown in the trail which slowed my progress in a few places, and made me appreciate the trail crews who maintain the Moosalamoo region trails during the summer months.  After about a mile on this trail, I took a left turn onto the Keewaydin Trail, which led to the only truly muddy section of the run before climbing back up to the road.  After a short section on the road, I took a left turn onto a trail lacking a forest service sign, only labeled by a small Blueberry Hill Ski Area trail sign bearing the number “43″.  This trail eventually looped back to the Moosalamoo campground, and a short run around this brought me almost back to my car.  A few yards from my car, I came to a the even smaller loop in the campground, which was set up as a small nature loop for the families staying there in the summer months when it is officially open.   I got a little bit of a kick out of the signs pretty much labeling every tree along the way!

DSC_0104

A nice Ash

 

 

Returning to my car at this point, my GPS recorded this as a 4.25 mile run with some modest ups and downs, but no serious climbs, at least by Vermont standards. This general vicinity has a lot of nice hiking and running trails, but the forest service map of this little corner of the Moosalamoo Wilderness is pretty out of date and inaccurate as to where trails come and go. That said, it is all great, so just go explore!

Google earth of keewaydin trail