Tag Archives: Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing on Hogback Mountain

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I wanted to get off the track and treadmill, and into the mountains. So, I decided to go to one of my favorite places, the trails around the Blueberry Hill Inn for snowshoeing. I pulled my car into the ski touring area parking lot, across the street from the Inn, and was surprised at how quiet things looked. I have skied here countless times in the past, but it had been a few years since my last trip here in the winter. Over the last few years, the ski operation has scaled back its operations – in part due to some lost trail bridges which have proven costly to replace. So, what was once a “full service” ski touring area, with groomed trails is now aimed at people who are happy to break track, or follow the tracks set by the person in front of them. It’s OK – it is still beautiful. After paying the nominal trail donation, I crossed the street and followed the well skied trail behind the Inn.

The Blueberry Hill Inn in winter

My destination for the day, Hogback Mountain, is the hill just to the right of the inn’s roof line in the photo above. I set out on the trail paralleling the road, roughly following the path of the Goshen Gallop, a summer trail race which I run most years, which proceeds on the adjacent road. After about a half mile, I took a sharp left turn, now on a short climb, until I reached the next trail, where I took a right, and began the traverse on the lower slopes of Hogback Mt. In some sections of these trails, the snowshoes were rather unnecessary – the ground had been well enough packed by previous hikers, skiers, and showshoers, that I could have easily hiked it in normal boots. However, there were some softer sections, where I would have undoubtedly postholed, so I was glad that I had my snowshoes. On this brilliant sunny day, I looked up and admired the perfect azure blue sky overhead – more typical of the Rockies than northern New England.

Blue Skies

After about a mile and a half, I reached my destination – the open slopes of Hogback Mountain, with one of the best views around. In the winter, you can’t really tell why these meadows are so open, affording such spectacular vistas. These are the same wild blueberry meadows that give the inn and ski touring area its name, and if you come at just the right time in mid-late July, you will have the company of many wild blueberry pickers.

Hogback Mountain Vista

After soaking up the afternoon sun for a few minutes, I retraced my steps back to the inn taking a slightly more direct route, making for a roughly 3 mile trip, with only modest climbs. I stepped into the touring center, and enjoyed a bowl of their delicious vegetable soup, made available on weekends for a modest fee, as I looked around the room. I noticed many signs which used to be out on the trail system. Apparently, after spending many years working to have the nearby forests protected as the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, Tony, the owner of the Inn, had to remove these signs as part of federal wilderness rules. A small price to pay, but someday, I will have to ask him about the stories behind each of them.

Retired Trail Signs

Finally – as I was leaving the touring center, I stopped to read some of the permanent posters talking about various aspects of the Moosalamoo Recreation Area, signs which I had passed by countless times over the years, and apparently had never stopped to read. One of them alluded to the presence of an abandoned downhill ski area in the Moosalamoo Region, something I had never known. So, I turned and asked the young man at the desk, and he wasn’t sure where it was, although he suspected that it might be the slopes of Hogback that I had just been on. When I returned home, I went to one of my favorite web sites, NELSAP.org, where NELSAP is an acronym for the New England Lost Ski Area Project, and found that there indeed had been a commercial ski area just a few miles away, which operated in the 1940’s and 50’s under the name Pine Mountain. Even more curiously, the owners apparently spent some funds reviving it in the early 2000’s for private use, complete with a 600 ft rope tow, lights for night skiing, a groomer, and snow making! I have no idea what its current status is, but I look forward to going back and checking it out.

Hogback Mountain Snowshoeing on Google Earth
Altitude Profile (not too bad!)

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