Tag Archives: Ripton

Fathers’ Day Moosamaloop

Sunday of course, was the Y-chromosome version of the two “family holidays”, namely, Fathers’ Day.  So, after enjoying a pile of blueberry pancakes in bed (lovingly prepared by my daughter), complete with maple syrup which dripped off my fork and onto my t-shirt, followed by a few chores, I chose to spend part of the day on my own adventure before a planned evening of activities back with the Trailrunner family.  For this weekend’s run, I chose a loop over the top of Mount Moosalamoo, including one section of trail I had never previously explored.  To get to the trailhead,  I drove up Rt. 125 towards the Snow Bowl, but took the right turn onto the Ripton-Goshen Road a short distance past beautiful downtown Ripton.  A few miles down this well maintained dirt road, I took the right turn onto the road leading to the Moosalamoo Forest Service Campground.  A few short weeks ago, I did a run from this same parking lot, but instead of the first bits of Spring greenery, I was treated to full summer foliage, replete with the first glimpses of roadside daisies, my favorite flower.

Arriving in the parking lot immediately before the campground loop I could see that the weather was getting a little bit gloomier, but short of an immediate downpour, I saw no reason not to enjoy the run!  The first third of a mile or so meandered through the woods behind the campground, and joined an old lumber road for a short (and well marked) turn to the right, followed almost immediately by a left turn with a short steep descent down to the North Branch stream crossing bridge, the low point of the run.

Stream Crossing

Stream Crossing

From this point on, it was a relentless, but rarely steep uphill run for the better part of the next two miles.This particular climb features prominently in The Moosalamoo Ultra, a MUCH longer trail run which I featured in this blog last year. The trail angled along the side of Mt. Moosalamoo for most of the way, and the low ground cover combined with the mature hardwood forest accentuated the sloped appearance.

Sidehill Running

Sidehill Running

At the two mile mark, the road splits, with the right turn constituting the long descent of the Oak Ridge Trail, and the left turn heading towards the Moosalamoo Summit.  About a quarter mile from the summit, my head turned ever-so-slightly and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a large and rather bold creature who burst out of the trees and over the grass, edging its way towards me. Holy mother of god! What is it? No, the words that were being screamed inside the crowded confines of my busy mind were not ones I would chose to print. So much for peace and quiet, right? Anyway, I turned and strained my eyes (I leave my glasses behind on runs) to confirm the status and stature of the intruder. A squirrel? A stray dog? Nope! It was a fully grown bear, coming rapidly towards me. I have seen bears a handful of times in my life, but this one did not turn and run away as all the others had – it was coming right at me.

Anyway! I wanted to just watch her (I am guessing it was a she/sow guarding cubs), and even briefly reached for my camera until I realized she was coming at me, fast! I made a noise and waved my arms on purpose to see what would happen. Death wish? I don’t think so. She stopped maybe 10 yards away and probably not interested in eating me. Right? As she reared on her hind legs, I figured it was time to get out of there, so I backed off slowly, facing the bear, shouting and waving my arms, and when I disappeared over a ridge a minute later, I resumed my run, admittedly at a much faster pace.

Reaching the first of the twin peaks a few minutes later, I warned a family out for an afternoon hike to make plenty of noise on their descent. I offered an alternate route which bypassed the bear-infested trail, but they decided, probably correctly, that they would be more likely to come to harm getting lost in the woods than they would meeting up with a bear. I haven’t heard of any missing or eaten persons, so I presume they got out just fine. In addition to a few minutes of good conversation, I came across another treat – there, lying in the trail, was a live Luna Moth! I had never seen one of these graceful behemoths of the insect world before, and didn’t even know that they were native to Vermont! Entymologists claim that they are actually pretty common, so I wonder why they are so shy?

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Moving from the first summit, to the second summit which actually has better views, and after a short steep descent, I came to the trail which would complete my loop, the left turn onto the Keewaydin Trail. This trail, appearing on most of the maps of the region, is one which I had never hiked or run on previously, but looked like a convenient means of returning to my car in a loop run, rather than a simple “out and back” on the same trail. While the Keewaydin trail was very well marked, it had the wear more characteristic of a herd path or hunter’s trail, rather than a maintained trail. In some places, the trail was covered in soft spongy moss – a sure sign that it is almost never traveled on! While it was fine for hiking, as long as you don’t mind wet feet, it was very slow going from my runner’s perspective. Nonetheless, it is always fun going through new terrain. After about 2 miles of descent, I came to the road connecting the Moosalamoo campground with the Voter Brook overlook, and took a left turn for the easy run down the dirt road, returning to my car in what was now a drizzly afternoon. A few soggy campers huddled around smoky fires, but the campground was mostly empty.

This loop would make for a fun half day hike for most hikers, and took considerably less than that as a trail run, although the Keewaydin Trail section wasn’t great for runners. The run was only about 5 and a half miles, but did have close to 1200 vertical feet of climbing and descent. This was definitely one of the most exciting runs I have been on in a long time!

Google Earth of the run, which began in the lower right hand corner

Google Earth of the run, which began in the lower right hand corner

Moosamaloop altitude profile

Altitude profile

 

Belated Easter Eggs on Moosalamoo

The advent of early spring and the diminution in the aches and pains of various “old man” injuries inspired me to hit the trails up in the mountains.  Last fall, I parked my car at the Spirit in Nature trailhead on the Goshen-Ripton Road, and after turning right onto Hale Brook Road, explored Forest Service Road 92A which split off to the right and wandered up into the mountainside before fading into a rarely used track. Near the start of this road was another road, bearing left where 92A bore right,  heading in a similar direction, known by the unique and original name “Forest Service 92″.  So, on a cool (high 30′s) but marvelously sunny Saturday afternoon, I decided to explore this track.

The lower reaches of the route, which was really a dirt road, were rather icy due to compaction by the occasional vehicle over the winter, but I was able to get good footing in the corn snow at the periphery of the road.  I took a left at the junction of 92 and 92A, with rapid fire blasts of a too close for comfort gun enthusiast as my only concern.  A paint can was probably having a very bad day!  There was another trail junction a little further up, with the left turn leading to the Wilkinson Trails, and my planned right turn continuing its climb.    Once I was past the short section of dirt road and onto the grassy forest service road, the footing improved, alternating between soft granular snow and bare grass.  A short way up this, I was treated to the site of the Goshen Brook as it babbled its way down the mountainside.

goshen brook

Goshen Brook

 

Soon after passing this trail junction, I met one of my readers, Lynn from East Middlebury, and her 3 hiking partners (one human, two canine) as they were on the way down the mountain.  After sharing our amazement at the underutilization of many of the trails in the area, we parted company as we continued in opposite directions.  Given that Easter Sunday was last weekend, I thought it would be fun to place a plastic Easter Egg somewhere in semi-plain site on the outside chance that runners esploring this run might have fun keeping their eyes open for it.  So, if you are interested, there is a plastic Easter Egg, placed a week late, in the crook of a very curious looking tree right alongside the trail.  If you ever find the egg on a hike or run up there, please leave a comment on the blog!  The “tree” where I placed it was actually two trees, one birch, and the other (oh heck – all these years in Vermont and I am terrible at naming tree species!) is a different species, but these two trees clearly found their futures interwoven many decades ago.  The photograph of the hidden egg is not up to my usual standards, but I only had time to click off one picture before the demise of my camera batteries.  Happy Hunting!

Egg

Hidden Easter Egg

 

As I got higher and higher up the hillside, the trail became more consistently snow covered, but never impassably so.  I suspect that in a week’s time, concerns over snow will be moot, however.  At about the two mile mark, the trail crested in a saddle, with the trail turning south, and partially obscured views to the west towards the Champlain Valley.  I could see through the trees that the trail was getting ready for some more serious climbing into deeper snow, so it seemed like a good point to turn around and trot back to my car.  Consultation with my Moosalamoo Region map when I returned home reinforced what I had assumed – that I was about two miles north of the Moosalamoo summit.  What I did not realize prior to this run was that the trail I was running on would lead directly to the summit!  I am planning on returning to the ridge in the summer, as I suspect that it will be a gorgeous stretch of trail along the Moosalamoo Ridge.

Returning to my car by the same route, this ended up as a 4.25 mile round trip run, with 800 ft of climbing.

Google Earth of the run, looking west

Google Earth of the run, looking west

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

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

 

Snowshoeing Snowmobile Superhighways

It has been a few months since my last posting due to a myriad of injuries – nothing serious, but just the aches and pains that flare up with  increasing regularity in middle age. So here it is, a relatively warm, sunny Saturday in early January, with the best snow cover in two years, and neither skiing nor running seeming like a good idea. So, it appeared like a good opportunity to add in a post dealing not with running, the primary focus of the blog, or cross country skiing, which usually keeps me busy over the winter, but with the slower, gentler pursuit of snowshoeing, at least until my body gives me the green light on the more vigorous activities.

I also decided to take it easy by doing this snowshoeing on the gentle passage of well-packed snowmobile trails, maintained by the VAST organization for snowmobilers, but open to skiers, hikers and snowshoe enthusiasts in the winter.  One short stretch of trail had been piquing my interest for some time.  I first discovered the winter trailhead accessing the Ripton end (as opposed to the Breadloaf/Rikert end) of Forest Service Road 59 about two winters ago, and described a short run on this snowy, well-packed route heading towards the Rikert Ski Touring Area.  A quick look at some snowmobile trail maps indicated that it is also possible to follow this trail, traveling in the opposite direction, up over the summit of Robert Frost Mountain from the east, and descend to Middlebury International Airport.  I wrote about the trail connection between the airport and the summit of Robert Frost Mt. as well a few years ago.  Today seemed like a good day to reconnoitre this route for a future longer run or ski.

The trailhead can be accessed by driving up to Ripton, taking a left turn onto Lincoln Rd in front of the Ripton General Store, followed by a right turn onto Robbins Crossroad, and a left onto Natural Turnpike.  Then, just follow Natural Turnpike until its seasonal terminus to park your vehicle.  Strapping on my snowshoes over my Bean boots, I set off, taking a left up a short hill, following the well marked snowmobile trail, which paralleled and occasionally intercepted the dirt road on several occasions, before finally crossing to the left and heading into the woods.  From this point on, most of the scenery was as expected with the well-packed ribbon of the trail ambling through the hardwood forest.  Subtle signs of the Green Mountain National Forest’s logging use were apparent.  While clear cutting does not appear to be as prevalent as it once was, heading through one stand of uniform small-circumference hardwoods and a total lack of ground cover shrubs indicated that this area had been selectively lumbered fairly recently.

Winter Trails

White Trails

 

One of the great pleasures of exploring these high-altitude forests is coming across large open meadows alongside streams, typically the result of beaver activity.  This trip brought me past at least 3 or 4 of these.  After almost two miles on the trail, which I learned from VAST trail signs was Trail 7A, I came to a hillside where, looking west, I could see the wooded summit of Robert Frost Mountain a few miles away, indicating that I was indeed heading in the correct direction, facilitating a run to come in the future!

Robert Frost Mt view

Robert Frost Mt. Vista

 

Shortly after this, I could tell by the way the snow was packed that the trail was no longer groomed by and for the snowmobilers – although there was still ample snow on the ground, a snowplow had clearly come through, probably as part of more recent logging operations.  Sure enough, a short distance later, I came across a clearing full of logging equipment, and the logging vehicle shown below really looked like a very serious ATV!

Logging Vehicle

Monster Truck (for logging)

 

I could see from my Garmin GPS that I had been hiking about 2 and a third miles, so it seemed like a good time to turn around and retrace my steps back to my waiting vehicle for about a 4.5 mile trip.  Some winter hikers and skiers are reticent to travel on snowmobiling trails, but I have always found the snowmobile enthusiasts courteous, and surprisingly rare!  Over the course of the roughly hour and a half I was on their trails, I only saw two small parties of snowmobilers, and one other hiker.  Not bad for one of the most beautiful Saturday afternoons of the year!

Google Earth Snowshoe

Google Earth of the route

 

 

altitude profile snowshoe

Altitude Profile

 

Hello Dalai

After getting my double dose of the Dalai Lama on Friday and Saturday, and taking his message of interdenominational cooperation to heart, I thought I might go for a short run on the “Spirit in Nature” trails up in Ripton.  For those of you who may not be familiar with this small trailed area, you can get to it by taking a right turn on the Goshen-Ripton Road shortly after passing through “downtown” Ripton, and the well-marked trailhead and parking area can be found on your left in less than a mile.  This quiet woodsy area clearly takes its inspiration from the much better known Robert Frost Trail, found nearby on Rt 125, but instead of having a gentle walk accented by Frost poems, the signs carry short spiritual readings from many different religious traditions, with each trail having its own denomination.  In keeping with the theme of the day, I began my run on the Buddhist path, and one of the signs carried the following thoughts:

Thoughts from the Buddhist Trail

 

Despite its appeal, the Buddhist path was far too short to qualify as a decent trail run, and knowing that there were many more trails in this area worthy of exploration, I sought to make a longer run in this very pretty and contemplative place.  Curiously, some hikers assume that trailrunners like me must be missing something as we pass by at our faster paces.  In some ways, they are correct – one’s brain can only absorb so much information per second, and when traveling through the forest more quickly, some information is missed.  On the other side – my brain seems much more actively engaged in the world around me when running, especially on trails, so some of my most contemplative thought actually does transpire when I am moving along faster than the average walker.  So, and easy run through this area wasn’t as sacrilegious as it first sounded.

For those who aren’t as experienced with the trails, there is a challenge to hiking during the fall, which becomes apparent while trying to follow infrequently used paths such as these.  Narrow paths can be easily obscured by fallen leaves!  So, after a while, I felt like I was running in ” a maze of twisty little passages, all alike” (For any old computer geeks out there, I am paying homage to the ancient text-based computer game from the late 70′s called “Zork“).  As a result, I found myself back at the trailhead far sooner than expected, and sought out another nearby, more easily followed trail to explore.

There are many rarely traveled forest service roads emanating from the Goshen-Ripton Road, so I thought I might explore one which began not far from the Spirit in Nature trails.  Heading south a little further, I turned right on Forest Service 92, and after about a quarter mile, ducked under the gate to take the right turn onto Forest Service 92A, an even less travelled road.  This 4WD road angled up the side of a hill alongside a stream, and crossed over the Oak Ridge Trail, which I had run earlier in the summer during a descent from Mount Moosalamoo. Despite the rapidly thinning foliage, this section of trail was in many ways more scenic that I envision it would have been midsummer.  The foliage which might normally form an umbrella over the trail had thinned to the point where I could actually make out some rather pleasant views of the nearby mountaintops.  The sun filtered through the last of the orange leaves made this a pleasant jog up a remote country lane.

Forest Service Road 92A

After about a mile of climbing, I passed by the first of two nicely kept camps, and continuing past the second camp, the road got narrower and rougher, eventually turning into a true trail, before disappearing altogether, indicating that it was time for me to turn around, descend, and return to my car. Near the top of my climb, I came across this near perfect clustering of shelf fungus.

Tree Fungus

After an easy descent, I returned to my parked car after a little more than 4 miles running, with about 500 ft of vertical climbing. I have a hunch that on my next run, I will be running through bare trees, but the upcoming stick season does have one advantage – the views open up when the leaves are down.

Google Earth of Spirit in Nature and FS 92A

Altitude Profile for the Run

Still Thinking of Ski Season

The last few months have constituted my longest hiatus from blogging since beginning The Middlebury Trailrunner.  I ended taking off some time from running (and hence, blogging) due to the inevitable post- marathon letdown in training, followed by hunting season (the worst time of the year for trail runners!),  followed by a particularly busy end of the semester, and some minor injuries.  Finally, on a clear February Saturday afternoon, the time was right for my first trail run in far too long.  At the time of my last posting, long ago in October, a dusting of early season snow began to get me thinking of what I hoped would be a great cross country ski season.  Well, I am still waiting – this is the time of the year for cross-country skiing, and I have yet to ski.  Since, to the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t any place in Addison County with enough snow for cross- country skiing, I thought I might take advantage of the thin snow cover with an “out of season” trail run.

The Robert Frost Trail on Rt.125 in Ripton is a well known and much loved footpath for easy family walks in the mountains.  It is also very short, with a total length of about a mile,  and by itself a little too short for a decent run.  Far fewer people have ventured on to the trails beyond, over and around the hill sometimes referred to as “Water Tower Hill”.  I have always found this name somewhat confusing, as the series of trails a few miles further to the west on the other side of the Ripton-Goshen Road are also called the Water Tower Trails.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no water tower to be found at either of these locales – so if anyone knows the history of these names, and the saga of the lost water tower – I would love to hear about it!  In any case, a run extended beyond the confines of the Robert Frost Trail, around the Water Tower Hill, seemed like a good route for this midwinter run. A great map of this area is available from the ranger station just south of Middlebury on Rt.7.

I expected the first sections of the run to be the easiest, given the flat, well trodden terrain.  This ended up not being quite the case – the more heavily traveled sections were essentially blue ice hidden under a thin veneer of fresh snow.  Fortunately, my winter running shoes, aka “studded snow tires for runners” did a good job of keeping me upright, but I had to chose my footing carefully.  It had been a while since my last run here - two summers ago, I was surprised to find the bridge over the river weaving through this area had been washed out, necessitating a little bit of unexpected wading!  I knew there had been some construction over the summer, and was curious to see the new bridge.  The original bridge had been a pretty, rustic structure, where my children and I had enjoyed playing “Pooh Sticks” on some of their first walks in the woods.  Looking around the web, I found a picture of this structure!

Original Bridge, courtesy of http://www.travbuddy.com/photos/reviews/11306

The new bridge, in contrast, while still wooden, has a much more utilitarian look about it. At first glance, it also looked almost ridiculously over built (it might double as a railroad trestle!), until I realized that it was constructed to be accessible to those confined to wheelchairs, who might otherwise have few opportunities for the quiet of the woods.

New Robert Frost Trail Bridge

Immediately across the bridge, the combination of uneven footing, hillside trails, and blue ice led to a few moments of panic and emergency tree hugging to remain upright, but as the trail flattened out the footing improved, the rest of the run proved quite pleasant. Deeper in the woods, the main trail bears sharply to the left, and the connector to Water Tower Hill went straight up the hill. This trail also had no footprints in the snow, indicating I was the first person in some time to venture in this direction. Soon afterwards, this trail joined the Crosswalk Trail (all trails are very well signed here!) which I took to its conclusion before descending on Sundown. An easy descent eventually wound behind some of the buildings at Camp Silver Towers and crossed through a beaver meadow with great views of Breadloaf Mountain.

Beaver Pond with a View

A few moments later, I reached the Ripton-Goshen Road, and reversed course, this time staying on Sundown and circling around the west side of Water Tower Hill. This section included a nice 500 ft climb, modest for a trail run, but my best climb in some time! A left turn onto Trepidation, followed by a short descent on Northstar brought me back to the Robert Frost Trail connector. The run was finished with a run through a blueberry meadow (a great place to be in July!) with more great views of the Green Mts.

meadow views

Recrossing the new bridge, and a few hundred yards more on the trail brought me back to my car. The whole loop added up to about 4.6 miles with two climbs totally about 700 ft. Hopefully, the next post will be more seasonably appropriate – on skis!

Google Earth of the Run

Altitude Profile