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Tentative Trail Traipsing after the Terrible Tempest

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I, like pretty much everyone else, has been hearing of all the damage inflicted by the recent visit of Tropical Storm Irene.  Eager to get back up to the mountains, but unsure of the current condition of the roads, I drove up Rt 125 on Saturday to take a look at my favorite trailheads.   I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the road was fully passable at least all the way to the top of Middlebury Gap.  I could also see a caravan of large dump trucks heading over the gap to patch up the connection to our isolated neighbors in Hancock and chose not to explore beyond the summit so that I didn’t hinder the road repair efforts.  Not knowing what to expect on this run, I decided that my first few runs post-Irene should probably be on more straightforward terrain – I also decided to stick to “out and back” runs in case one of my circular routes had some new impediments courtesy of the storm.

With these stipulations in mind, I started this run from my favorite local trailhead on Brooks Road, just below the Snow Bowl on Rt.125.  Reading the trailhead kiosk, I noted the following bulletin – nobody should have been surprised by the arrival of this storm!

Warning Notice

 

I also noted that the Forest Service gate across the road was shut, prohibiting cars on this primitive road, indicating that it had seen some damage. I started up the road, wondering what I would find. Despite the road closing, I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the road – there was only one significant washout, which a motor vehicle could get around in a pinch, and a modest number of fallen trees, many of which had already been cleared already! It may well take a few months for this road to be fully repaired, but lets face it, the road crews have a lot more important things to do for a long, long time.

Brooks Road washout

After climbing up hill for about 2.4 miles, I took the side trail to the right towards the Sugar Hill Reservoir, wondering how this lake with its large earthen dam had fared. I was relieved to see that it appeared untouched, at least from the side of my approach. There was no sign of any water having flowed over its spillway, and more importantly, no apparent evidence of any weakening to my untrained eye.

Intact Goshen Dam

In fact, there was even one particularly promising sight – there were more Monarch butterflies in the meadows alongside the reservoir than I have seen in one place at one time in many years. Although the Monarch population is still officially in decline, their numbers appear to be increasing in Addison County this summer – I hadn’t seen a Monarch in years, and there were at least a dozen up in this meadow!

Monarch Butterfly in Repose

At this point, I doubled back to the Brooks Road, and continued my run to its terminus, where it joins in with the Blueberry Hill ski trails. My next concern was the bridge over the Sucker Brook, which had just been put in place after the August 2008 floods. Fortunately, this new bridge seemed to make it through Irene with no difficulties at all!  Relieved by what I saw on this run, I reversed my car, and ran the 3.5 mile descent to my waiting car, making this an 8.5 mile run with about 800 accumulated feet of climbing- I will hopefully be checking out some rougher trails for my next posting.

Intact bridge over Sucker Brook

 

Altitude Profile

Google Earth of the Route

Goshen Gallop, v. 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Once again, on Saturday afternoon it was time for the popular local trailrunning race, The Goshen Gallop!  The good news was that this year’s relatively dry conditions would make for good footing onwhat were more typically muddy trails.  The bad news was that Saturday was HOT!  The temperatures were probably hovering around 80 at the start of the race, but this, combined with a lot of climbing, didn’t bode well for any personal bests from this middle-aged runner.  So, I donned one of my oldest t-shirts from this race, and drove up to the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen.  My Goshen Gallop t-shirts make up some of the oldest surviving t-shirts in my collection – I first ran this run race in 1989, when it was held in September, rather than its now customary mid-July running.  My first Gallop was a memorable race – the remnants of Hurricane Hugo had just passed through the northeast, rendering the usual trail course impassably wet – given the typical mud on this race course, I can’t begin to imagine what the trail conditions must have been like!  So, the race was forced to the dirt roads of Goshen.  Since then, however, the race has been held on the same course on the Blueberry Hill ski trails on every year that I have run the race.

The race started off heading south on the Goshen-Ripton road for about a half mile, before making a sharp left turn into the trail system.  As the trail switchbacked up the side of Hogback Mt., I had the opportunity to chat with another runner named Andy, who I recognized from previous races.  As it turned out, he had actually taken a chemistry course from me in my first year or second year of teaching, roughly 25 years ago. I had no memory of his enrollment in any of my courses, but he was adamant, and I know from experience that when I meet up with former students, they ALWAYS remember how they did in chemistry.  The race crested the hillside of Hogback Mountain as we ran past perplexed wild blueberry pickers ( the berries were wild, the pickers probably not), and pausing for a quick sip of water at the first water station, Andy pulled ahead never to be seen again until the finish line.  After the short descent to the water station, climbing resumed as the trail angled back towards the inn.  About a half mile before the 5 km mark where the race returned to the inn there was a very overheated dog lying there panting alongside the trail, looking like it was in trouble.  Apparently, the dog had decided to try and run the race, and had overdone it by this point.  Many of the runners alerted the workers at the half way point, so we all went on assuming that the dog would be tended to.

About half of the runners stopped at this point, planning on only running the 5 km race, making this an excellent introduction to the pleasures of trail racing for neophytes.  The rest of us took the sharp right turn, temporarily bypassing the tempting swimming hole, and headed immediately up the steepest climb of the run.  At this point, the heat was starting to get to me, so I had to do a few short sections walking, but I took comfort in the observation that I was not the only middle-the-pack runner in the same state.  The trail climbed steadily to the 6 km point, where it did a series of gentle ups and downs for the next km or so, before a pleasant descent on the Steward trail until it joined a the forest service road connecting the Sugar Hill Reservoir with the Goshen-Ripton road.  The race headed towards the latter destination, and finished with about a mile on this dirt road before ascending one last road climb up the the by now very welcome finish line in front of the inn.  There was no personal best to be had on this day, but it was fun as always, especially after a lot of water, for drinking, as well as swimming – the aforementioned swimming hole behind the inn beckoned!  I was also relieved to see that the running dog was being administered to, and was recovering.

Cooling off in the swimming hole

While this race was originally advertised as a 10 km race, then as a 10.2 km race, my GPS measured it at 10.6 km. This was fine, as nobody in their right mind would expect to run anywhere near their normal 10 km pace on a trail race like this, with all of its climbing, descents, and summer heat. The excellent post-race picnic meal, prepared by the inn’s kitchen finished off a great afternoon.

Google Earth of the Race Course, from the west

Altitude Profile of the Race

 

PS: After I posted this race description, I found another racer had posted her insights on the race. These can be viewed at: http://www.dirtinyourskirt.com/2011/07/moosalamoo-goshen-gallop-post-race.html

An Equally Grand Moosalamoo Traverse

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Given the myriad of routes through the Moosalamoo region, and the great running weather, I thought it would be fun to try yet another long run bisecting this region and concluding at the Falls of Lana trailhead.  My two lab assistants, Jack and Tyler, were also eager to explore some new terrain, so we decided to do another run involving a car shuttle.  The original plan was to commence the run from the Robert Frost trailhead off of Route 125, but upon our arrival, we noted barriers across the trailhead announced that it was closed to the public due to the ongoing road construction.  While signs of this type don’t necessarily dissuade me from exploration, the fact that the entrance was zealously guarded by Officer Obie of the elite “Hunter North” private law enforcement corp (complete with lights blazing on his vehicle in an example of comic overkill)  provided enough inducement for me to change our plans.  Is it just me, or does it seem that they are not really trying to fix Rt 125?  This road project seems to be turning into an ever-widening exercise in dust generation on dry days, and mudpie baking on rainy days.  I am beginning to suspect that at the end of the summer, they are going to announce that the whole thing is a big joke, and that there will be no new pavement, just the usual bumpy road.

The above rant aside, the unanticipated change in course led us back to the same trailhead as many of this summer’s runs – the Brooks Rd. Parking lot.  The first few miles of this point-to-point run coincide with the first segments of the run described in the Widow’s Clearing run, described earlier this summer.  In brief, we started up the Brooks Rd. (just past Breadloaf on Rt. 125) at an easy pace until we reached the right hand turn at about 2.5 miles heading to the Sugar Hill Reservoir in another half mile.  The crest of this side trail got us over the high point of this run, after about 500 ft of ascent.  While there were plenty of ups and downs after this point, the predominate direction was definitely down.

Sugar Hill Reservoir

Taking the sharp right turn onto the Blueberry Hill ski trail, still following the Widow’s Clearing route through the forest led to the point where this route branched off from previous runs.  About 1.25 miles after passing the shores of the reservoir, take the left split in the trail heading towards the gated road – a right turn here would continue the Widow’s Clearing run.  This left turn leads promptly to the Ripton-Goshen road, where a left turn is quickly followed by a right turn onto the well-signed forest service road heading towards the Moosalamoo campground.  The next segment of the run, while not challenging, is somewhat less pleasant than it could be due to the road construction of large crushed stone, which necessitated careful attention to ones feet to avoid loose stone, and the foot-bruising effect of an ill-placed footfall.  In other words, it is fine for motor vehicles (which we saw none of), but not quite as good for runners.  Nonetheless, this segment was worth the effort, as it led after a mile and a half to the glorious view at the Voter Brook Overlook.  This viewpoint peeks through a break in the mountains out towards the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks.

Voter Brook Overlook

Backtracking from this point, we reversed our steps for about a mile until we came to the point where the North Branch Trail crossed the road, and turned right into the forest.  Enroute to this trail, we also crossed paths with the Keewaydin Trail, but since our Moosalamoo Region Forest Service Map showed the trail in a totally different location, we were unwilling to take it.  As it turned out, the Keewaydin Trail and North Branch trail met up along the route, so either is a fine choice.  The North Branch Trail led gradually downhill, and was easy to follow.  Some sections were fine for running, but a few short sections required careful foot placement to avoid falls on slippery rocks and stream crossings.  Nonetheless, this was an aesthetically pleasing section of forest running.

The North Branch Trail eventually wound its way down to the Rattlesnake Cliffs Trail,where a left turn brought us shortly to the Sucker Brook stream crossing.  A well constructed footbridge over the stream at this point was washed away in one of the massive storms which plagued Addison County during the summer of 2008, necessitating a little rock-hopping to get across the stream.  This was followed by about a half mile on the Silver Lake trail, returning us to our cached car at the Falls of Lana trailhead, just outside of Branbury State Park.  My GPS showed a run of 9.8 miles at this point, so a few hundred yards extra on the road brought this up to an even 10 miles.  Overall,  while this run was shorter than the route of the previous posting, it took about the same length of time due to the greater technical challenge of running on these trails.  It is also a more scenically pleasing route, however, due to the great views of the Sugar Hill Reservoir and from the Voter Brook overlook.

Altitude Profile

The Grand Moosalamoo Traverse

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, the region which encompasses many of the runs on this blog, is one of the wonderfully underutilized outdoor resources in the northeast.   This region, roughly delineated by Rt. 125 (the Middlebury Gap road) to the north, the main ridge of the Green Mountains to the east, Goshen and Brandon to the south, and Lake Dunmore to the west, provides a treasure trove of places to explore right at our doorstep in Addison County.  While it lacks the alpine terrain and rugged mountain scenery of the Adirondacks or even the higher peaks along the Long Trail, its smaller rolling peaks, and numerous lakes and meadows, forests and streams could provide a lifetime of outdoor recreation for most people.  In other words, with its less drastic,  comfortably scenic terrain,  it is an ideal place for trail running!

I have been eyeing my maps recently, looking for interesting “point-to-point” runs which might make for good runs with friends to share the driving at each end.   A free, detailed, and USUALLY (note foreshadowing) accurate map of the Moosalamoo Region is available, free of charge, at the Middlebury office of the Green Mountain National Forest, just south of town on Rt. 7.   I had some suckers, I mean fellow runners lined up to work out a car shuttle and accompany me on one of these runs, in the persons of a few of our summer research students at Bicentennial Hall.  Actually, since these guys are on the varsity cross country running, I had my work cut out for me.  Fortunately, I sort of knew the way, they did not,  and I refused to part company with my map.

This run’s goal was to run a complete traverse of the Moosalamoo region, without actually climbing Mt. Moosalamoo itself, for obvious reasons.  With this in mind, we started in the far Northeast corner of the region at the now familiar Brooks Road trailhead, right below the Snow Bowl, a short distance from Rt. 125.  The first few miles of this run follow the route described a few months ago in the posting entitled “A Tale of Two Weekends.”  As a result, almost all of the climbing was done in the first three and a half miles of the run, the ascent of Brooks Road.  From the start, my two young trail running acolytes were chomping at the bit to dash up the first ascent, but I reminded them at I was more or less the same age as their fathers, so they relented.  I also reminded them that it was my car awaiting us at Lake Dunmore, and I had the key.   Smart Kids!  The weather at the start was cool and partly cloudy, ideal for running, but as we proceeded up the dirt road, the rain began, and gradually increased in intensity.  By the time we reached the terminus of the Brooks Road, it was an all-out downpour.

Running in the rain

Heading back into the woods for true trailrunning, we turned right onto the Sucker Brook Trail for a few miles of gradual descent through the Blueberry Hill nordic ski trails.  This run would be more or less running parallel with the Sucker Brook over its duration, and we would run closely alongside it again at the run’s completion.  When the trail emerged from the woods onto the Sugar Hill Reservoir access road, instead of turning right to return to the start, we bore left downhill until we reached to Ripton-Goshen road.

At this point, we were heading into terrain where I had never traveled, so I was depending on my trusty Moosalamoo Region map for guidance.  Despite the fact that it was now quite soggy, it was still legible.  The map indicated that a trail leading towards our desired destination should be found immediately across the road, but we quickly realized that it was passable, but far more overgrown than we had anticipated.  It appeared to be more or less unused, since the previous editing of my trusted map!  Rather than loose face with my more fleet-footed young friends, I realized that a right turn on the Ripton-Goshen road should lead us to another VAST snowmobile trail, which in turn should get us to Lake Dunmore.  This time, my directions fortunately proved more accurate, and the desired trail appeared on cue after about a quarter mile.  A left turn on this well-marked VAST trail wound through some of the least traveled sections of the route, and after a few miles concluding with a very steep, but short climb, joined up with the dirt road connecting Silver Lake with Goshen, part of the first Silver Lake route described on this blog last summer.

While all of us were starting to tire a little at this point, the sun broke through for what promised to be a brilliant sunset, so rather than merely descend on this dirt road to our waiting car, we threw in one last short climb, taking a left turn until we reached to Goshen parking lot for Silver Lake, where we finally began the final descent.  The trail down to the Leicester Hollow trail was a little bit slippery from the rain, but taking it easy made for a safe trip.  A right turn on the Leicester Hollow trail, followed by a short stretch along the shores of Silver Lake and a final descent down to the Falls of Lana parking lot could have finished a great run.  As we ran alongside the Sucker Brook once again, we noticed the setting sun shining through the trees over the top of the Falls lookout, so we had to stop and enjoy the view.

Sunset over Lake Dunmore

After soaking up the early evening sun, we finally completed the run.  This ended up being one of the longest runs to date on this blog, measuring in at slightly more than 11 miles, with about a thousand feet of climbing, offset by an even greater amount of descent.  Needless to say, I am eyeing my map (a new copy, after all, it is free!) for other good point-to-point runs to report on later this summer.  The Google Earth/GPS track of this run really shows off the breadth of terrain covered, from the Snow Bowl in the Northeast corner, past several major bodies of water, to its conclusion near the shores of Lake Dunmore.

Altitude Profile

The Widow’s Clearing

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

This week’s post begins at what is by now, a fairly common trailhead for my runs, the Brooks Road parking lot.  This trailhead, a mile or so downhill from the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, has been the starting point for several of my blogged runs over the last year, most recently a post entitled “A Tale of Two Weekends.  Nonetheless, there are many opportunities for unique runs emanating from this National Forest entry point, so I keep coming back to check out new variations.  I have skied this route quite a few times over the years, but have only done limited exploring of most of this route during the summer months, so much of the scenery looked very different from the images in my memory.

The start of this run, however, treads on familiar turf.  I suspected (correctly) that some of the terrain would be a little rougher later on in the run,  so I chose to complete the lion’s share of the climbing on the easy running surface of Brooks Rd., including the entirety of the “up and back” route described last summer in the Sugar Hill Reservoir post.  The straightforward start to this run involved running up Brooks Rd. for 2.5 miles until joining the righthand side trail leading to the reservoir at the three mile mark.  Entering the clearing below the reservoir dam, I noted a sign which was clearly aimed at runners who were far more fleet footed than I!

Speed Warning

Rather than returning to my car by the same route, I chose to lengthen the run by delving deeper into the National Forest and trying out a loop run.  Immediately after entering the dam clearing, take the trail veering downhill sharply to the right.  At this point, the run seemed much more committed than other runs in the area, leaving me with the impression that I was heading into remote wilderness, despite the fact that civilized roads are never far away.  The next 4 miles or so are on trails which are well-skied upon in the winter, but rarely travelled in the summer months, so there are some sections which are (surprise surprise) very muddy and/or slightly overgrown, but never difficult to follow.  In order to find your way back to the parking lot, the simplest instruction is ALWAYS STAY RIGHT at each obvious trail junction.  Since much of this trail parallels the Ripton-Goshen Road a “wrong turn” to the left will probably deposit you pretty quickly on this obvious dirt road, but you can be back on route by reversing your course for a few minutes.  Finally, this segment of the  route also coincides with The Catamount Trail, the state-long ski trail, so the unique Catamount Trail markers can be followed as well.  This stretch of the Catamount Trail eventually joins up with the Widow’s Clearing Trail at a well marked intersection.

Catamount Trail joins Widow's Clearing Trail

From this point on until the end of the run, the trail through mature hardwood forest following the Widow’s Clearing Trail.  There is one last tricky intersection, a sharp turn climbing to the right which I would have overlooked if it wasn’t pretty well marked.  About a half mile from the end of this loop I passed by large hillside clearing, which was clearly the remnants of a former homestead, as indicated by the ancient apple orchard at its edge.  A small sign referring to this site as the Widow’s Clearing was also nailed into a trailside tree.  A descent on well traveled trail returned me to the parking lot to complete this 7.6 mile loop.

Google Earth of the run

Between numerous signs labeling the Widows Clearing trail, the Widow’s Clearing trailhead, and the Widow’s Clearing itself, upon my return to my vehicle, I began to wonder, who was the eponymous widow?  I was not able to find any information on my own, so I emailed my favorite expert on local history, Jan at the Sheldon Museum.  She was not familiar with this mysterious widow, but she did some research, and eventually connected me with William J. Powers, Jr. of Lake Dunmore and Rutland.  All of the following information comes from Bill and is the result of his unpublished research on the topic.  This is just a brief synopsis of a much larger body of his work.  Bill has also authored a history book on another of my favorite  running destinations, Silver Lake, and those who are interested in learning more about the history of the lake and its surroundings can purchase his book at the Sheldon Museum.

As it turns out, the widow of interest was one Lucina (Billings) Chatfield, 1818-1897.  While Lucina was born in Tunbridge, she married Alonzo Chatfield in Middlebury in 1838.  They moved up to his home in Ripton, and in 1859 they started farming the plot of land which we now call the Widow’s Clearing. Local records indicate that their farm was rather poor, even by Ripton hill farm standards.  When this site became known as “Widow’s Clearing” is not in the information which I have at my disposal, but it is clear that Lucina was not widowed immediately – she was abandoned by her husband!  In 1855 Alonzo left her and their four children, and moved to Michigan where he lived the rest of his life with his second wife.  Accounts from that time also indicated that Lucina was not openly distraught about this.  Whether this was stoicism on her part, or a case of “good riddance”, we can only speculate.  She owned and operated the farm until 1882, in later years with her son Parsons and his family, although it is not clear if she actually lived there all those years.  It must have been a challenging hardscrabble existence for Lucina and her family, as an 1871 map of Ripton shows “Mrs. Chatfield’s farm” as the most remote, and probably highest altitude farm in Ripton.  Nonetheless, local records also show that by this time, the farm was more successful than it had been during the years of her marriage.  In 1882, Lucina, Parsons, and his family relocated to Middlebury, and there is no record of anyone living at the clearing after that time.  The widow passed away in East Bethel, VT in 1897 at the age of 79, and was buried in the Galvin Cemetery in Ripton alongside her parents.  Kind of an interesting little story of the challenges of mountain life in Vermont!

Finally, Bill’s research also uncovered a picture of the view from the Widow’s Clearing, circa 1870.  The wide open land stands in sharp contrast to the fully recovered forest of modern times. This photo is included with his permission.

A Tale of Two Weekends

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Two weekends ago, I had a great run in the mountains with the intention of writing it up for this blog.  While out on the run,  I discovered much to my dismay that the batteries in my camera were dead, negating the opportunity for including a few photos.  Adding further to my technological woes, my other primary gadget, the GPS watch with which I map out the run, had apparently hiccup’ed at one point in the run, indicating a 500 vertical ft drop and climb in a section of the trail which I knew to be quite flat.  I could have attempted to take on the challenge of creating an appropriate mental picture of the run with just the power of my words, but instead chose the easy way out, namely re-running the route with my technological crutches in better working order.  This did, however, present a perfect opportunity to see the same trails from two very different perspectives, given significant differences in weather, trail conditions, and my own physical state.  Thus, this description will not only describe the route, but also illustrate the differences which can occur over the course of just one week, especially one week in Vermont’s unpredictable April weather.

This run starts at one of my favorite trailheads, the Brooks Rd. parking area, which can be accessed by a short drive up Rt 125 above East Middlebury.  Brooks Rd. is the dirt road heading right shortly after passing the Breadloaf Campus, before the final ascent to the Snow Bowl, and the large parking area is found about a quarter mile down the road.  During the winter and spring, this parking lot is the end of the road, but when things dry out in the summer and fall, the full road is open to vehicular traffic, although I don’t remember ever seeing a vehicle on it!  This trailhead is also featured on my previous posts entitled “Brooks Road” (creative, I know) and “Sugar Hill Reservoir“.

Week One:  It usually takes me a few months of training each spring to start trying runs longer than 5 or 6 miles, but the continuing gorgeous weather this year encouraged me to put my middle-aged runner’s mantra of “long and slow” to an earlier than usual test.  A cool but sunny Sunday afternoon tempted me to try a longer run which had been on my “to do” list for some time, connecting several sections of trail which I had previously skied or run in segments, but had never linked together in a route with a potentially fun loop around the Sugar Hill reservoir.  Upon my arrival at the trailhead, I could see that the weather had beckoned others to enjoy the outdoors as well – this often quite empty lot had a surprising number of parked cars, indicating that my day’s inspiration had not been unique.  I started off the run very slowly, not really knowing how my body would respond to the anticipated mileage and climb.  The plan for the first 3.7 miles of the run matched the route described in my Brooks Rd. ski tour – a straightforward uphill run on a dirt road culminating at the road’s terminus.  The stiffness in my legs made the first 1.5 miles consisting of the lion’s share of the climbing a little tougher than usual.  It was great to see others, including walkers, fishermen, and even a family heading out for an overnight on the Long Trail, enjoying the day as well.  Another family of wild turkeys crossed the road in front of me, and disappeared quickly into the woods as I trudged by.  Note the trail merging from the right at the 2.4 mile mark – this is where the loop portion of the run rejoins the dirt road in a few miles.  Upon reaching the end of the dirt road, I couldn’t help but reminisce on how much snow there was up here less than two months ago while crossing the footbridge over Sucker Brook.  Sucker Brook cascades down from the main Green Mt. ridge at this point, and continues its descent joining, and then providing the outlet for the Sugar Hill reservoir, and continuing on until its final rush over the Falls of Lana before reaching its outlet at Lake Dunmore in Salisbury. At this point, almost all of the climbing on the route had been completed, which was fortunate, as my legs were starting to tighten up, and I had quite a few more miles to go.

No more snow

No more Snow!

Week Two:  A few long runs over the last week got many of the winter’s kinks out of my legs, so I was looking forward to testing them with a more challenging workout.  Pulling into the empty parking lot, I could see that the day’s blustery, unseasonably cold weather had given me complete solitude for the day’s run.  Looking up towards the mountains in the distance, it was easy to make out the snow line from the previous evening’s precipitation, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my planned run would take me high enough for some running on snow-covered paths.  My legs felt as loose as I had hoped they would – at least this would prove a strong workout, even if the weather was far poorer than the week before.  Reaching the end of Brooks Rd., I was somewhat relieved to see that the 750 feet of altitude gain over the course of the climb had not quite brought me up to the snow zone, although I could see the rather distinct demarcation line between earlier snow and rain occurring only a few hundred vertical feet above where I was standing.

Week One:   The run continued for a few yards beyond the end of the road, joining the Sucker Brook Trail in the Blueberry Hill ski touring area.  A left turn here would bring you to the Long Trail, and eventually north to Middlebury Gap over Worth Mountain, but the lead in my legs necessitated taking the right turn, descending.  The expected April mud was apparent, and in a few short sections it could not be avoided, but to my (pleasant) surprise, most of the trail was relatively dry with good footing.  Sucker Brook is intermittently visible to the right, first at pretty much the same altitude as the trail, and eventually well below down a steep embankment.  Passing several groups of hikers, and staying on the downhill trail at every trail junction gets you to the forest service road connecting the Goshen-Ripton road with the Goshen Dam and the reservoir.  The last quarter mile or so of the trail corresponds to the route of the “Goshen Gallop“, but instead of turning left on the dirt road to complete the aforementioned race, take the right turn on the short uphill to get to the next landmark on this route, the reservoir.  A few cars and trucks motored by, presumably bringing fisherman and other outdoor enthusiasts to and from this popular spring fishing hole.  A short descent brought me around the corner to an odd looking forest service gate, and out into the open area featuring reservoir views.  From the vantage of the Goshen Dam, I could see numerous groups of people fishing around the shoreline and enjoying the bright sun which made the day feel warmer than the temperature indicated.

Week Two:  As I turned the corner onto the Sucker Brook trail descent, the increasingly cloudy skies finally began release the anticipated precipitation.  Over the course of the next two miles or so, the trail alternated between quagmire and open stream, as the weather alternated between drizzle, heavy rain, and freezing rain.  The right turn onto the Goshen dam road allowed for faster running with the improved footing, and there was no need to worry about oncoming traffic – nobody else in their right mind was out today.  The short fast descent to the oddly shaped gate blocking vehicular traffic but not runners made the reasons for this gate more apparent.  The gate was designed with a “crook” to allow passage, and I would guess that it was placed here for the benefit of mountain bikers, who might not have a chance to respond to a more typical gate design as they came hauling around the corner on this short steep descent.  The same crook which allowed my easy passage was also just the right width for a cyclist, and this design probably has saved quite a few mountain bikers from bone-jarring and painfully sudden stops.

Mountain Biker-Friendly Gate

Mountain Biker-Friendly Gate

By this point the descending clouds were obscuring the surrounding peaks, and as the rain gained intensity, the lone fisherman in sight appeared to abandon his  sentinel’s post on a small rocky outcropping and head back to his pickup truck.

Lakeside Solitude

Lakeside Solitude

Week One:  After crossing the dam, the trail headed into the woods along the far shore of the reservoir, making a series of short and steep climbs.   By this point, the length and challenge of the run had taken a lot out of me, and my running was reduced to fast walking by the crest of the final hill.  Fortunately, the last 2.5 miles were all downhill, but the cramping in my legs forced a slow descent.  A sharp left turn back onto Brooks Road brought me back to my parked car, with my GPS registering this as an 8.8 mile run – not bad for April, but I could tell my legs would be the source of some regret for this run that evening and the next day.

Week Two:  Bearing right on the trail after crossing the dam, the muddy ascent along the far shore passed more quickly than expected – I was pretty wet, and eager to complete this otherwise scenic run run under less than ideal conditions.  I couldn’t help but notice a very deep set of tracks in the mud, but my modest tracking skills combined with the ill-defined tracks made it difficult to tell whether they were created by the passage of an earlier horseback rider, or a moose, as both are common here.  The tracks eventually left the trail and headed into the forest, making it more obvious which of these animals had generated them!  As I took the left turn onto Brooks Rd., the rain turned to snow, and left me looking like a snowman for a few minutes until the last of the run’s precipitation ceased.  I enjoyed picking up the pace a little bit on this descent, and when I reached my car, I easily threw in a lap around the parking lot to make this run an even 9 miles.

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Google Earth projection of Sugar Hill reservoir loop

Google Earth projection of Sugar Hill reservoir loop