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Up the North Branch Trail

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Two summers ago, I had the pleasure of competing in the inaugural version of The Moosalamoo Ultra, and while I will not be running the full 36 mile version of it this year, I thought I would piece together a significantly shorter run which included at least a few segments from this far more grueling course. I also wanted to piece together bits of trails in such a way that I had never run that particular combination before, so I chose a route starting from the Falls of Lana trailhead, just south of Branbury State Park, ascending to the Goshen-Ripton Road on the North Branch Trail and the Voter Brook Overlook road, and descending on a mix of snowmobile trails and unmarked trails.  It has not gone unnoticed by myself and others, that the frequency of bear sightings in the Moosalamoo area has been on the rise.  Bear sightings on the trail are a true treat, as long as the bear chooses the appropriate response – that of running away.  So, I have decided that the key to a good bear sighting is to run quietly, and wear garish clothing to scare the bear away once contact is made.  With this in mind, I purchased a brand new Ben and Jerry’s tie dye t-shirt – do you think this will scare away a startled bear?  And yes, I looked into this idea, and bears are not colorblind,  although I would not have wanted to be the person holding picture books with hidden numbers in front of hungry bears….

bear-proof shirt

Bear-repellent

I set up the now routine climb on the Silver Lake service road, but instead of taking the heavily traveled sharp right hairpin turn at the half mile point, I went straight as if I was planning on ascending to the Rattlesnake Cliffs. After a few hundred yards on this trail, I came to the open meadow where the North Branch Trail bears (pun intended) right. This small sunny oasis in what is mostly a pretty heavily forested section was full of mid-summer wildflowers. I was particularly fond of the small, daisy-like flowers which flanked the path on shoulder-height stalks.  Does anyone know what this wildflower is called?

not quite daisies

Not Quite Daisies

At this point, my run joined a section of the route from the Moosalamoo Ultra. This trail junction is where the first feed station, reached after the early-race ascent and descent of Mt. Moosalamoo, around mile 8, and is the lowest altitude point of the race. From here, over the next two miles or so, there is a steady climb along the banks of the North Branch of the Sucker Brook, a rather attractive little stream. Most of this single-track trail has good footing, although there are a few sections with wet rocks necessitating some care in one’s footing, and a few short steep scrambly sections.

babbling brook

Babbling Brook

This trail passes by a few opportunities to get onto easier terrain, as it more or less parallels the rough road connecting the Goshen-Ripton Road to the Voter Brook Overlook. As the weather went from dreary to drizzly to pouring rain, I chose to remain in the relative shelter of the forest rather than the easier travel of the road. This section of the North Branch trail eventually does cross the dirt road, and continue through the woods until it reaches the Moosalamoo Campground, where one must finally continue to climb on the road to get to the Goshen Ripton Road.  At this point, the Ultra crosses the road, for a long series of loops up and around the Sugar Hill Reservoir, but on my much shorter run I turned right on the road, and continued for a little over a mile until I came to a well marked snowmobile trail veering to the right.  At this point, I rejoined the Ultra route, and this road crossing is the site of another feed station, at around the 21 mile point.  The next two miles are pure running pleasure – gradually downhill, double track running, with only a few muddy patches.  In fact, when I ran this section of the Ultra two summers ago, this stretch got me in trouble – I felt so good that I neglected to take in fluids, and paid dearly for my dehydration a few miles later!  No such problem on this run today however, and the falling rain kept me quite cool.  There are a few trail junctions where one should follow the signs for the snowmobile trail system, although some of the other trails crisscrossing my course look like they are worthy of exploration someday.  After about two miles on the snowmobile trail, and a short, steep climb, the trail came to the service road connecting the small Sucker Brook Reservoir to the Silver Lake access road.  In keeping with my plan to duplicate the Ultra trails, I took the sharp right descent, leading me to the “shores” of the Sucker Brook Reservoir.  I put the word “shores” in with quotes, as it seems that there isn’t much water this summer in the reservoir, which exists for flood control, and to control the waterflow heading through the penstock down the the hydroelectric plant at Lake Dunmore.  So, I am afraid this small lake is nothing more than a mudpit this summer.

Sucker Brook Mudpit

Sucker Brook Mudpit

My run then followed the Ultra route, following the road below the earthen dam and joining the broad swath of clearing alongside the buried pipeline connecting the reservoir to Silver Lake. When I ran the Ultra, this section had been recently brush-hogged, making for easier running, but at this point, the grass here is very high, concealing some challenging footing below, on a steeply leaning embankment without an obvious path of least resistance to the runner. I have found that staying high, on the runner’s left makes for the easiest passage on a fairly challenging piece of running for the next mile or so. After a while, it flattens out, and while there seem to be a few different trails here, they all end up at the same place, connecting to the Silver Lake Access Road. When you reach the Silver Lake Beach, this is where another feed station is located at around mile 26 in the Ultra, and the race continues with the exhausting loop up over the Chandler Ridge and around Silver Lake before returning to the Blueberry Hill Inn and the finish line. At this point, I was very wet and had run enough, so simply descended on the service road to my car and the completion of the run.

Now, I’ll bet my readers were guessing that there would be a bear sighting in this run. Sorry to disappoint you – I guess my t-shirt worked too well! This ended up as a 9.5 mile run, with about a thousand feet of climbing. I also learned that my new t-shirt needed to be washed, as it had leached blue dye all over my torso!

google earth of the run

Clockwise, from trailhead at the lower left

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

Last Run Before Spring

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The title of this post, “Last Run Before Spring”, might have you scratching your head over chronology.  While long delayed this year, the full foliage on the trees in the Middlebury area certainly indicate that the few short weeks we know of as spring are most assuredly here.  So a confession here – I did this run a few weeks ago, in mid-May, while the trees were still quite bare, and it has just taken me a while to post it.  Nonetheless, it is a good run, so I thought it quite worthy of posting – better late than never!

Regular readers by now know that the Silver Lake and its surroundings make up one of my favorite running destinations, and this post represents a new variation on that theme.  At the core of this run, is the very first post I made to this blog, the ascent from the Sucker Brook Trailhead, past Silver Lake, to the Goshen Trailhead, and back.  On this particular run, I chose to extend it beyond this central loop, in the name of checking out some new terrain, as well as visiting an old favorite location for great views.

This run, on a warm weekend late afternoon, was undertaken to be one of my last real runs before tapering my training prior to the Vermont City Marathon at the end of May (note – I actually completed the marathon by the time I got to this post – I am not going to write it up for the blog, but it went well!), so I wanted to stretch it out to the 8-9 mile range.  So, I set off up the 4WD road (yes – it is closed to motor vehicles) from the Silver Lake/Sucker Brook Trailhead just south of Branbury State Park, and chugged my way up past Silver Lake up the the trailhead above the lake at the end of a rarely traveled dirt Silver Lake Road, which emanates from Goshen, as a right turn from the Goshen Ripton Road, a mile or so south of the Blueberry Hill Inn.

When I reached this road, I realized that it provided an opportunity to add some mileage, so I continued on past the hikers’ parking lot and trailhead, which I knew would descend me back to my parked car, 800+ vertical feet below.  So, I continued on this road, which while open to vehicles, is so lightly traveled that it feels almost like a trail.  At this time of the year, before any of the trees had leaves, there were great views towards the the main ridge of the Green Mountains, while views towards Silver Lake and the west were obscured by the modest ridge.  At a few locations, I noted primitive roads heading up the eastern flanking ridge, but abandoned them when I realized they were driveways up to “off the grid” homes and camps, and I wanted to respect their owners’ privacy.  After a little over a mile on this road, I could see Hogback Mountain, and Romance Mountain, the two peaks behind the Blueberry Hill Inn, and thought it would be fun to link to that trail system on this run, but due to the lateness of the afternoon and impending sunset, I decided to turn around at one particularly impressive glacial erratic on my right.

On my return, gazing into the forest for sights which would soon be hidden by the foliage, I noticed a series of PVC pipes stuck in the ground, 20-50 yards from the dirt road.  I have come across pipes like this, even further from the road on past explorations.  Does anyone know why these are here, or what their purpose is?

Mystery PVC

Mystery PVC

 

After contemplating the mystery of the pipes, I continued back to the Silver Lake trailhead, and descended the short trail down to the lakeside on the Leicester Hollow Trail, where I took the right turn back towards the campground and the small beach at the north end of this gem of a lake. Rather than simply follow the trail which I had previously ascended back to my car, I chose one last variation, and instead took the short trail down below the Silver Lake Dam, and followed the penstock (that is the fancy word for “big fat pipe”) back towards the power line, where I ascended its trail to catch the early evening views and impending sunset over Lake Dunmore.  In a month or so, the lake will be busy with summer vacationers and boaters, but on this quiet spring evening, there was only one boat traversing what must be an otherwise silent lake.  I had hoped that the lone raptor in the skies would land nearby to get his picture taken, or at least hover nearby, but my presence led it to seek out a quieter eyrie.

sunset views

Dunmore Sunset from Lenny’s Lookout

On my descent from this lookout, I took another obvious left turn which returned me to the main trail up from the lower parking lot, where I came across what must be a fairly recently placed sign, where the over look was referred to as “Lenny’s Lookout”. This is the first time that I have heard this name applied, so I am also curious as to the origins of this name. Who exactly is Lenny, and why is the lookout named after him? A google search shed no light on this question, although it did lead to some beautiful photography from another hiker who has posted their pictures of this location.

 

Lenny's Lookout Signpost

Lenny’s Lookout Signpost

From this point, it was an easy skip down the trail to my car, making this a slightly less than 9 mile run, with about 1100 vertical feet of ascent and descent. Bring on the summer!

 

Google Earth of the Run

Google Earth of the Run

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

Easter Weekend on the Chandler Ridge

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

While it doesn’t seem that long ago that I made my last post, I was kind of surprised when I realized it had been a month and a half.  This is always the hardest time of the year to come up with interesting runs, worthy of description on a trail running blog.  The trails are usually a crusty, icy mess, and the snow has receded to the point where skiing is no longer an option.  So, I was forced to the roads (or worse still, to the treadmill), and frankly, I don’t feel any need to bother writing about our intermittently muddy or icy roads in March.  After last week’s “Late April Fool” snowstorm, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get back to the trails!  However, a few slightly warmer days, and some Saturday afternoon sun on the day before Easter brought hope of a real spring, and set me out in search of a good long run.  While significant mud was a given, I was more concerned that I might find ice and snow at higher altitudes, especially in shady hollows, so I headed to one of my favorite lower altitude starting points, the Falls of Lana trailhead just south of Branbury State Park on the Lake Dunmore Road (Rt 53).  Enroute to the trailhead, I was amazed how fast the ice on Lake Dunmore had melted – six weeks ago, the ice was two feet thick, and trucks were driving on the ice, but now, there was not an ice floe to be seen.

I started up the steep climb to Silver Lake on the heavily used trail (really a 4WD road) which starts on Rt 53, and even at the lower sections, there were a few icy patches remaining on the trail, but most of the route was open, and not even that muddy.  As I neared Silver Lake, I met up with my colleagues Molly and AJ, along with Molly’s kids out for a Sunday afternoon hike, and after exchanging pleasantries, continued up to Silver Lake, reaching it after about a mile and a half.  At first glance, Silver Lake also appeared to be free of ice.  I headed right over the dam, and followed the lakeside trail for about a half mile, at which point the trail climbing to the Chandler Ridge, the scenic ridge separating Silver Lake from Lake Dunmore, diverged to the right.  I did notice, however, that the last sheets of ice were clinging to the shady south shoreline.

 

Last Ice Floes of WInter on Silver Lake

Last Ice Floes of WInter on Silver Lake

The Chandler Ridge Trail has been upgraded over the last few years to be rideable by mountain bikers, although it would probably too technical for my riding skills. On the other hand, this level of maintenance is perfect for runners who want to run true “single track” paths, without significant technical challenges to the runner. The climbs and descents are built into gently undulating switchbacks, and the trail designers did a great job of seeking the path of least resistance by weaving its way between the east and west side of the ridge. The leaves which had accumulated since last autumn did briefly obscure the trail in a few places, but every time I stopped and scratch my head, wondering whether or not I was still on the trail, a quick survey of the surroundings quickly made one of the blue blazes marking the trail apparent, and guided me on my way. Early spring is a great time to run this trail, which as hoped, was completely free of snow or ice, as the bare trees allow for views which are superior to those in the summer, when the leaves on the trees obscure most views. I stopped for a moment to take a shot of the southern end of Lake Dunmore, and as I took the shot, I noticed the remains of a charred tree, the which probably bore the brunt of a lightning strike at some time in the not-too-distant past.

Dunmore Views

Dunmore Views

A short while later along the ridge I had an even bigger treat – literally – a black bear sighting! As I came around one corner, I came face to face (OK this particular bear wasn’t showing me his face, as that was buried in a tree stump, probably rooting around for bugs or other such delectables. As soon as he saw me, he made the right decision and ran away, unlike what happened in my lucky bear sighting last summer, when the bear ran at me instead of away. Of course, this time, with my fortune, the bear ran down the trail, exactly where I was planning to go. So, I gave the bear a decent head start before continuing my route and then continued my run, sporadically breaking out into a very loud and raucous impromptu song which I will simply name “Here I come bear!”. Don’t bother looking for it on Itunes.

The rest of the run along the Chandler Ridge was a lovely, steady run through the hardwood forest. I also noticed a decent view to the southeast in the direction of Brandon Gap, a view which I had never noticed previously from this trail. Eventually, the trail ended at a “T” when it hit the much broader Minnie Baker trail, and here I took a right, descending down to Rt.53. Shortly before I reached the road, and when it was in sight, a snowmobile trail veered to the right, and I decided to follow it, in order to extend my time on the trails. Mistake! The run, which had not been too bad by Vermont Mud Season standards up to this point, turned into a total sneaker-sucking quagmire. Fortunately this was a short trail segment, and I quickly joined the road for the much easier last few miles back to my parked car. I did notice, however, that there was an unlooked-for talisman of Sunday’s holiday in the name of a road, which I had never noticed before. Happy Easter everyone!

jelly bean

Happy Easter!

 

At the completion of my run, my GPS watche showed that this was a slightly over 11 mile run – not bad for early spring! However, when I tried to download the complete track from the run, I was dismayed to find that I had some sort of malfunction, and thus I have no complete track to offer. I have blogged the first half of this run previously, so I can share that this route included a slightly less than 1000 vertical foot climb. Hopefully, at some point I will have the chance to repeat this route, and will have a GPS track to share.

Easter Weekend on the Chandler Ridge

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

While it doesn’t seem that long ago that I made my last post, I was kind of surprised when I realized it had been a month and a half.  This is always the hardest time of the year to come up with interesting runs, worthy of description on a trail running blog.  The trails are usually a crusty, icy mess, and the snow has receded to the point where skiing is no longer an option.  So, I was forced to the roads (or worse still, to the treadmill), and frankly, I don’t feel any need to bother writing about our intermittently muddy or icy roads in March.  After last week’s “Late April Fool” snowstorm, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get back to the trails!  However, a few slightly warmer days, and some Saturday afternoon sun on the day before Easter brought hope of a real spring, and set me out in search of a good long run.  While significant mud was a given, I was more concerned that I might find ice and snow at higher altitudes, especially in shady hollows, so I headed to one of my favorite lower altitude starting points, the Falls of Lana trailhead just south of Branbury State Park on the Lake Dunmore Road (Rt 53).  En route to the trailhead, I was amazed how fast the ice on Lake Dunmore had melted – six weeks ago, the ice was two feet thick, and trucks were driving on the ice, but now, there was not an ice floe to be seen.

I started up the steep climb to Silver Lake on the heavily used trail (really a 4WD road, although not open to motor vehicles) which starts on Rt 53, and even at the lower sections, there were a few icy patches remaining on the trail, but most of the route was open, and not even that muddy.  As I neared Silver Lake, I met up with my colleagues Molly and AJ, along with Molly’s kids out for a Sunday afternoon hike, and after exchanging pleasantries, continued up to Silver Lake, reaching it after about a mile and a half.  At first glance, Silver Lake also appeared to be free of ice.  I headed right over the dam, and followed the lakeside trail for about a half mile, at which point the trail climbing to the Chandler Ridge, the scenic ridge separating Silver Lake from Lake Dunmore, diverged to the right.  I did notice, however, that the last sheets of ice were clinging to the shady south shoreline of this higher elevation lake.

 

Last Ice Floes of WInter on Silver Lake

Last Ice Floes of WInter on Silver Lake

The Chandler Ridge Trail has been upgraded over the last few years to be rideable by mountain bikers, although it would probably too technical for my riding skills. On the other hand, this level of maintenance is perfect for runners who want to run true “single track” paths, without significant technical challenges to the runner. The climbs and descents are built into gently undulating switchbacks, and the trail designers did a great job of seeking the path of least resistance by weaving its way between the east and west side of the ridge. The leaves which had accumulated since last autumn did briefly obscure the trail in a few places, but every time I stopped and scratch my head, wondering whether or not I was still on the trail, a quick survey of the surroundings quickly made one of the blue blazes marking the trail apparent, and guided me on my way. Early spring is a great time to run this trail, which as hoped, was completely free of snow or ice, as the bare trees allow for views which are superior to those in the summer, when the leaves on the trees obscure most views. I stopped for a moment to take a shot of the southern end of Lake Dunmore, and as I took the shot, I noticed the remains of a charred tree, the which probably bore the brunt of a lightning strike at some time in the not-too-distant past.

Dunmore Views

Dunmore Views

A short while later along the ridge I had an even bigger treat – literally – a black bear sighting! As I came around one corner, I came face to face with a bear. OK this particular bear wasn’t showing me his face, as that was buried in a tree stump, probably rooting around for bugs or other such delectables, so “face to bearbutt” would be a more suitable description of the encounter. As soon as he saw me, he made the right decision and ran away, unlike what happened in my lucky bear sighting last summer, when the bear ran at me instead of away. Of course, this time, with my fortune, the bear ran down the trail, exactly where I was planning to go. So, I gave the bear a decent head start before continuing my route and then continued my run, sporadically breaking out into a very loud and raucous impromptu song which I will simply name “Here I come bear!”. Don’t bother looking for it on Itunes.

The rest of the run along the Chandler Ridge was a lovely, steady run through the hardwood forest. I also noticed a decent view to the southeast in the direction of Brandon Gap, a view which I had never noticed previously from this trail. Eventually, the trail ended at a “T” when it hit the much broader Minnie Baker trail, and here I took a right, descending down to Rt.53. Shortly before I reached the road, and when it was in sight, a snowmobile trail veered to the right, and I decided to follow it, in order to extend my time on the trails. Mistake! The run, which had not been too bad by Vermont Mud Season standards up to this point, turned into a total sneaker-sucking quagmire. Fortunately this was a short trail segment, and I quickly joined the road for the much easier last few miles back to my parked car. I did notice, however, that there was an unlooked-for talisman of Sunday’s holiday in the name of a road, which I had never noticed before. Happy Easter everyone!

jelly bean

Happy Easter!

 

At the completion of my run, my GPS watch showed that this was a slightly over 11 mile run – not bad for early spring! However, when I tried to download the complete track from the run, I was dismayed to find that I had some sort of malfunction, and thus I have no complete track to offer. I have blogged the first half of this run previously, so I can share that this route included a slightly less than 1000 vertical foot climb. Hopefully, at some point I will have the chance to repeat this route, and will have a GPS track to share.

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

 

Penstocks to Power

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

For this run, I am returning to one of my favorite destinations, Silver Lake, the pristine pond perched on the hillside about a mile and a half above Lake Dunmore.  I have noticed, and blogged about some sections of the pipeline connecting Silver Lake to the small hydroelectric plant just south of Branbury State Park.  So, I thought it would be fun to follow this pipeline from start to finish, and this required that I start the run at the smaller unmarked parking lot just past the small bridge immediately south of Branbury Park, rather than the usual Falls of Lana parking lot.  Beginning in this lot, I immediately headed towards the clearing where the pipeline completes its journey down from Silver Lake, and scrambled, rather than ran on the unmarked but easy to follow footpath which ascends alongside the pipeline.  While the terrain really wasn’t good for true running, this ascent, rather than the more heavily traveled double track path most frequently used, had the advantage of an excellent view of the longest cascade in the tiered series of drops constituting the Falls of Lana. The area around the falls is a very cliffy, ledgy area with numerous opportunities for injury, so I found it interesting that of all the viewpoints, this was the only one with fencing to protect errant runners. 

Falls of Lana behind safety fencing

Falls of Lana behind safety fencing

Shortly after this overprotective fencing, I joined the main trail, where I had the option of bushwacking up the steep hill, literally following the pipeline in what would be a steep scramble, or actually following the normal trail and rejoining the pipeline further up the hill where it ran a more runnable course. I chose the latter, and ran up the main Silver Lake trail for about a mile until I reached the point where a major trail broke off to the right, meeting up with the pipeline at the point where the tall venting tower easily seen from below juts out from the mountainside. Here, reading the signage, I learned a new word – “penstock” apparently what I had been calling a pipeline is also known by this noun as well! I also noted, the sign warning of dire consequences for walking on the penstock, right alongside a ladder used for…..climbing on the pentock!

Dire Penstock Warnings

Dire Penstock Warnings

From this point on, I had the opportunity to follow the penstock/pipeline across more level terrain, and in fact, the running was easiest right across the top of it, as long as I was careful not to trip over the bulges where segments of pipeline were jointed together. Much of this section was flanked by ferns, until I reached a point where the brush had been recently cleared. This portion of the run concluded at the base of the Silver Lake dam, Yes, Silver Lake, like Lake Dunmore, is a naturally occurring lake which has been enhanced in size and utility through the use of damming. Unlike Lake Dunmore, which was enlarged for recreational use, Silver Lake has more practical purposes – hydroelectric power and flood control!

Climbing to the top of the Silver Lake Dam, I followed the easy  lakeshore path, until reaching the small beach, before taking the spur trail heading to the hike-in campground alongside this very scenic lake.  At a small footbridge over a sluiceway, the second, less well known segment of this hydroelectric project becomes apparent.  I was also surprised to see that this sluiceway, for the first time in my memory, was devoid of water.  My suspicion was that with the incessant  rains of the last month, water was being withheld or diverted to keep water levels in Silver Lake and/or Lake Dunmore at safe levels.

Dry Sluiceway above Silver lake

 

 

I tried to follow the side of this sluiceway, but the footing at it’s edge was not quite secure enough, so I doubled back and found a small trail which brought me back to the main Silver Lake trail/dirt road, and followed it up the hill for a few yards, reaching the point where the sluiceway submerged beneath the road from my right, and at this point I noted a small building to my left whose function was undoubtedly connected to this segment of the pipeline. I turned back into the woods at this point, mostly running along the high berm covering the pipeline, although in some sections, it seemed to submerge, rendering the trail more level. The running through here was very nice for about a mile, but the trail disappeared into the semi-open hillside eventually. I followed the cleared section paralleling Sucker Brook, but for this short stretch it was once again more of a bushwhack than a trail run, but this rough section only went on for about a quarter of a mile, when it joined a maintained dirt road which climbed up the hill in front of me. This wound its way up the hill to the little known body of water known as the Sucker Brook reservoir, not to be confused with the much larger Sugar Hill reservoir, which confusingly, is the further upstream source of Sucker Brook – got that? The Sucker Brook reservoir, which feeds this highest section of pipeline, and in turn, Silver Lake, has been more of a stagnant swamp than a pond in all of my previous visits, but the recent rains have swollen this body of water to the point that it was actually a rather pleasant place! The light rain on its surface, and the early summer daisies (my favorite wildflower!) starting to wilt as the midsummer Black-Eyed Susans came into bloom made for an attractive shoreline.

Sucker Brook Reservoir

Sucker Brook Reservoir

Continuing across the earthen dam forming this reservoir, I came to a surprise – a sign, in the middle of nowhere, telling the history of this dinky little pond! A fun fact – this small body of water was created in 1917, and at the time was the highest altitude earthen dam east of the Mississippi. Who knew? Especially since most outdoorspeople don’t even know it exists!

The run continued up a steep incline for a few hundred yards, until it joined the Silver Lake trail, and at this time, I decided I’d had enough of pipeline traipsing, so I took the easy way back to my car by taking the path of least resistance down to the Falls of Lana parking lot, and from there a short quarter mile run to the minor parking lot where my car was stowed. Overall, this was indeed a rather pleasant run, with a few short bushwacking or scrambling sections, a healthy dose of mud, and about 700-800 feet of climbing and descent in its 5.75 miles.

Google Earth of the Run

Google Earth of the Run

 

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

 

The Moosalamoo Ultra

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Over the last year or so, I have become increasingly interested in taking on longer, more challenging runs.  After reading the book “Born to Run” by Christoper McDougall, I was fascinated by the world of the elite ultrarunners – they are a very quirky and adventurous bunch who find ways to push their bodies to physical extremes.  As I was learning more about ultramarathon racing, I stumbled across the podcast entitled  “Running Stupid”.  This podcast, published every few weeks by a 40-something, self proclaimed “back of the pack” (that’s the nice way of saying “slow”), overweight, but joyously funny ultrarunner named “Coach Ken” regularly describes the challenges, successes and failures of an average Joe runner, and provides a window on the world of the more elite runners from his perspective.  In short, reading this book, and listening to these podcasts had me hooked – I had to try an ultramarathon.

There was a problem with this dream, this check box on my bucket list – running long races requires a LOT of training.  My life is pretty busy, and I knew from past experiences that my body almost always breaks down if I attempted to train for long or ultralong events.  Over the last year, however, I discovered that I could do, and enjoy regular road marathons with far less training than is usually prescribed, as long as I got in one very long run (at least two hours) every week, and as a result was successful in completing and actually enjoying two marathons in the last year.  Could this same regimen work for an ultramarathon?  Could I finish?  Could I feel good enough that I actually enjoy the race?  Ultramarathons typically range from 50 km road races (about 31 miles) to 100 miles on road or trails, or even more.  I knew I had better look for one on the short side, for obvious reasons.

A few months ago, I noticed an announcement for the “Moosalamoo Ultra a 36-mile race to be held on the trail network of the Moosalamoo region on August 18.  This seemed like a great one to try – readers of this blog will know that I am quite familiar with the trails here, and it had the added convenience of being close to home.   In fact, looking at the race course, I had previously run almost all of the trails on the course at some point or another, and I described the course as “four or five great runs – all in one day!”  The race was being organized by John Izzo, a Salisbury resident and avid local runner, with the Blueberry Hill Inn as its base of operations and start/finish area.

So, I lined up at 8 am on Saturday with about 100 other runners, about half of whom were doing the still very challenging 14 mile version of the race.  Usually, in this blog, I go into a fair amount of detail on the route, but this particularly elaborate course pretty much defies a detailed description.  I am going to include a Google Earth projection as I usually do, and also make a link to the course map.  John clearly put a lot of thought into mapping out a great piece of running which covered pretty much every corner of the Moosalamoo region, with some very challenging climbs (the first loop up and over Mt Moosalamoo), an out and back section in the first half of the race, so that runners could have a feel for where they stood in the pack, some very muddy sections (yes, there is plenty of mud out there, even in this dry summer), and some particularly drop dead gorgeous sections of trail (the Chandler Ridge/Leicester Hollow loop comes to mind).  The course was also well supported with volunteers, many of whom were John’s family, at aid stations throughout the course.

In any case, as a first time ultrarunner, I brought the following with me on the course:

  1.  A 20-ounce water bottle that fit a waist belt.  Hydration, of course, is the single most important concern in a long, midsummer race.  With aid stations typically 3-5 miles apart, I usually tried to make sure that my water bottle was empty as I entered an aid station.  The one time I neglected my hydration, I paid dearly for it – the terrain between the aid station at mile 21 (on the Goshen Ripton Road) and mile 25 (Silver Lake), was almost entirely easy downhill, so I neglected to drink enough.  When I hit the next aid station, I topped off my water bottle without any extra drinking, and as a result ran out of water on the next segment – the arduous 5 miles on the Chandler Ridge.  I got rather severely dehydrated there, even feeling for a short while like I was not entirely in control of myself, so I took it slow, and took a much longer than usual break at the next aid station where I made rehydration a top priority.  Also, the two women (one of whom I found out later was John the organizer’s wife) had actually hiked in a mile carrying all the food that morning, so they deserved to have someone stop and chat for a while!
  2. Food – In almost all long workouts and races, I depend on the nasty, slimy, but wonderously rejuvenating little packets of Gu as my main source of sustenance.  I always ingest one packet after every hour of running, so I went through 9 Gu packets over the duration of the race.  Yup, I WAS out there a very long time – you do the math!  I am no longer feeling the love for the “Espresso Love” flavor!  The aid stations were supplied with lots of other calorie rich treats as well, and I found myself drawn to foods which otherwise would have made a typical 10 year old boy happy at lunchtime – PB+J sandwiches and potato chips.  I always eat PB+J when I go on day hikes, but had no idea potato chips would taste so good in the middle of a very long exhausting day.  I must have eaten a few bags worth.  In retrospect, it makes sense that a body would crave the chips – they provide a lot of calories (a typical ultrarunner probably goes through 5 or 6 thousand calories), and have a ton of salt to help that replaced through sweating.  I had one of the volunteers take the following picture at the last aid station on the shores of Silver Lake at mile 33, as I prepared to inhale a massive fistful of chips to power me to the finish line.  I also brought along some granola bars and these did not work very well!  While they are appropriately caloric, they are also very dry, so eating them required stopping long enough to catch my breath so I didn’t cough and choke.  They were also reduced to crumbs very early in the race making them even harder to eat.  Nope – granola bars are off the list!

More Chips at mile 33

  1. Camera.  I am writing a blog, so it made sense to bring it.
  2. Music.  I frequently run with an iPod, but never listen to it during a race – half the fun of racing is having conversations with people you meet along the way, and wearing an iPod tells other racers and organizers that you don’t want to communicate.  That said, given the paucity of runners and length of the course, I knew that there would be long stretches of solo running, perhaps many hours in duration, and musical motivation might keep me going better.  So, I put together the “jbr mix” (Jeff B running)  and brought it with me.  I ended up never listening to the music however – I had pretty steady company for the first two thirds of the race, and by the last third of the race, I was so depleted that I felt like I needed to pay full attention to my feet, my surroundings, and my general well-being in order to finish the race safely.
  3. Electrolytes.  I always drink Gatorade during long races, and since the organizers were only providing water, I purchased some powdered Gatorade, and filled about a half dozen plastic bags with just enough for the 20 ounces of water in my bottle at refills.  I used most of it, although by the end I was really sick of the stuff, and got my electrolytes from the aforementioned chips and from some salt tablets I had brought with me, and popped once in a while.

At Mile 1

 

The race itself seemed to have 3 distinct phases – the first third, including the run up and down Moosalamoo had the most challenging terrain, and I had other competitors in sight nearly the whole way, since the short race (14 mile) and long race (36+ mile) runners were all together.  This part went by pretty quickly.  Curiously, one of the few sections of trail that I had never been on before here was the “dimple” between the two summits of Moosalamoo, and this was the only time I got off course – I probably wasted about a half mile and 5 minutes getting my bearings back there.  I also saw two gentlemen hiking carrying what looked to be 100 pound bags of sand without the benefits of a backpack.  At first I was mystified, but then I recognized one of the two as someone training for another local ultra-endurance test – the even more masochistic “Death Race”.  Although this event had already taken place earlier this summer – perhaps they were training for next year already?

Moosalamoo Summit Views

 

The second third had what was probably the gentlest terrain in the race, and it was here that I met and ran with a few far more experienced ultramarathoners who kept me company, and answered my stupid questions.  We ran together for a few hours, and they did a very good job of mixing in running and walking so that we could maintain appropriate pacing for finishing.  Thanks Josh and Grant from NH!  I also knew that in the “long run” I would not be able to keep pace with these two experienced ultrarunners who were 25 years my junior.

 

The last third of the race ended up being, not surprisingly, the hardest part.  As well it should – prior to this race, I had never run longer than 4 and half hours, and I went into the last dozen miles already on my feet for over 6 hours.  I also bonked for a while due to dehydration, and the technical running on the Chandler Ridge also sucked a lot of the remaining life from my legs.  Curiously, at around 4:30 in the afternoon when I was coming up Leicester Hollow – I had one final surprise burst of energy, and was able to muster some real running for about a half hour.  I am not sure where this came from, but maybe my loved ones were thinking of me and sending some positive vibes my way right then!  However, other than this too brief reprieve, the last 12 miles were walked – I tried in vain to get my legs to turn over quickly enough to muster a slow jog across the finish line, but they couldn’t respond.  With one mile to go, even my GPS and camera were rebelling.  My watch proclaimed that it was “Low on Batteries”, and when I went to take a picture of this “No kidding” moment, my camera had a hard time opening its iris! Nonetheless, I did finish, and I wasn’t in dead last place (although closer to last than first!)

Well, Duh

 

What did I take from this race?  First of all – my modest training regimen is enough for a road marathon, but it really isn’t sufficient for a trail ultra.  I did finish, but I need to put more miles into my legs in training to keep a longer race like this fully enjoyable.  No surprise there!

 

I would also like to thank John Izzo and his extended family (as well as other volunteers) for the great job they did putting together this new race.  I would also like to thank Tony and the crew at Blueberry Hill for use of their facilities as a base of operation and start/ finish line.  I think the rest of my blogged runs this summer will be much shorter…..

Finally, my GPS measured the course slightly longer than advertised, at 37.5 miles (although about a half mile was spent off course) or about 60 km.  I agree with the estimation of about 3000 vertical feet of climbing and descent.

Google Earth Projection of The Moosalamoo Ultra

Moosalamoo Ultra altitude profile