A blog for runners in and about Addison County, VT
October 22nd, 2017 at 7:01 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

This  weekend provided some more unnaturally warm fall afternoons, and I was thinking about a good place to run.  While the leaves in the big mountains are falling quickly, there is still a lot of foliage left in the Champlain Valley, so the day called for a run up one of my favorites, Snake Mountain, the long ridge running north and south, just to the west of Middlebury.  A few years ago, a Middlebury student, “Greg K.”  who read of my interest in Snake Mt. from this blog, sent me a map including the major and minor trails on Snake.  This map, included below, can be enlarged by clicking on it in most browsers.  I was particularly interested in exploring a minor trail, which appeared to run along the south ridge of the mountain, and seemed to have at least one overlook.  All the better for a busy day, when the main summit could have hundreds of hikers over the course of the day.

Greg K’s Snake Mountain Map

Setting off from the popular West Side parking lot, I saw a young couple I could commiserate with – they had two young children, one in a backpack, and the other hiking, and both were crying. I joked with them how I used to bribe my daughters with Tootsie Pops at the summit, and they joked about their Gummi Bears, as I wished them good luck and started off the run. The first section of the run went through young hardwood forest with a lot of birches and their yellow leaves, with small amounts of sun filtering through the thinning canopy.

Birches in the Hardwood Forest

After about 10 minutes of gradual uphill running, I came to the first T in the trail, and took the obvious left turn for the steepest section of climbing until the trail bore right, arriving at the trail junction about halfway up the mountain. At this point, most of the hikers go left, following the old summit carriage road. Going straight would have brought me down to the lesser used parking lot on the east side of the mountain. The trail I was looking for, the weakest of the three was the right turn which I knew would bring me to the overlook on the southeastern flanks of the mountain.  I was a little bit wary about taking a less frequently used trail during the fall, when the trail would be covered with leaves.  I knew from experience, back in the days when I was working on my Adirondack 46’ers credentials (#5439!) that fainter herd paths, easy to follow during the summer months, are often obscured and more challenging after the leave fall.  The first short section was easy to follow however, as it was wide, and got enough traffic to keep the path partially cleared.   After about .3 miles, I got to the lookout, and had to to myself.  Here, a very curious thing happened – I stopped to take this picture for the blog:

Views from Snake Mountain, Southern Overlook

 

and as I was taking the picture, I felt what I assumed was a bug on my leg. I didn’t worry too much about it, assuming that I had just attracted a random cluster fly, and knew that there weren’t too many nasty biting insects out and about at this time of the year. As I was focusing the camera, I felt another little tickle, and then another…and starting to get concerned I snapped the picture and looked down – to see my shirt and legs crawling with ladybugs! I casually brushed them off, and as I did, more and more of them seemed to find me attractive – at one point I probably had 20 or 30 of them alighting on me! I have no idea what they found so attractive, and they weren’t bothersome, so I took a picture of a few of my visitors on my shin and decided to let them have their view to themselves!

Ladybugs on my Shin

Heading south beyond this viewpoint, the trail got fainter and more difficult to follow, as I suspected it would. I was not worried about finding my way back should the trail start to get erased by the leaves, as the topography of the mountain is pretty simple, and running along the southwest ridge, there were short intermittent views through the thin forest cover. But, to be honest, I have gotten myself in a little bit of trouble in the past in the mountains due to a simple fact – I don’t really like simply retracing my steps if there is another possible way back. Sometimes that other way back isn’t as easy to find as one might guess….

Thin Forest Cover on the South Rim.

Sure enough after a little more than a mile on this ridge trail, which only showed occasional signs of recent use, like the easy to read indentation on logs across the trail where mountain bikers’ chain rings have dug in, the now very faint trail turned left, away from the edge of the mountain, and headed inward. After a short distance, the inevitable happened….the trail disappeared! I could have retraced my steps, but instead started bushwhacking towards some clearings I saw in the distance…and sure enough, here was a trail….but wait, it started turning around in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. Puzzled for a moment, I decided to bushwhack my way back north again, and in a few minutes, I found another faint trail, and briefly thought that I had found my original trail, and would soon be back along the west rim of the mountain – after all, trails always look different when you are running the other way, right? I knew I was heading north, or at least was pretty sure of this, but as I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the mountain top ridge, I realized I had an entirely different trail, which sure enough, after about a third of a mile, also disappeared. At this point, I could see that the ridge that I had initially followed was a few hundred yards off to my west, and much higher than I was, so I continued to bushwhack north, or what I thought was north and was beginning to wonder if anyone had ever been there before, when I saw an old steel cable laying on the forest floor, still, with no obvious trail in sight!

Old Steel Cable

Finally, surveying the woods around me, I spied something that looked like some switchbacks heading up the ridge to my left, which I followed – and this was clearly another little used trail, which brought me back to the original trail, a short distance from the viewpoint. Whew! Once again, one of my shortcuts ended up taking about 5 times as long as the original route. Some of my hiking friends will certainly appreciate that observation, as this was far from the first time that one of my shortcuts hasn’t worked out that well. Back at the original viewpoint, there was a young couple there – swatting away at the persistent ladybugs. After a few short comments, I headed on, until I finally got back to the main summit trail. A short way further, I passed the young family from the parking lot, presumably munching on Gummi Bears, until I got to the summit. As expected, the summit was very busy, and I heard some people talking about the concrete slab, and saying how it was the result of an old hotel. I resisted the temptation to correct them – I have been trying to find out about this slab, and it seems that the only printed source mentioning it – the 5th edition of “50 Hikes in Vermont” said it was the aborted home building project of a young man who died in a car crash in Europe at some point in the 20th Century, which matches the story I heard from a few other old-timers. One version of the story says that he was a race car driver, who died in a race in Europe. I knew, however, that the old summit hotel was actually back in the woods – a modest stone foundation all that remains. One of my old-timer friends told me that the hotel, while in ruins, was still standing in the early 1960’s until it’s wood was burned during the winters by snowmobilers seeking fuel for their bonfires.

Summit Hotel Foundation

At this point, I had covered more terrain on Snake Mountain than I had ever incorporated in one run or hike, so instead of descending the main trail, I took the right turn to the other viewpoint near the summit. This set of cliffs is less well known, as it is closed for much of the summer to allow nesting peregrine falcons to have their privacy. Right behind the overlook, there is a small, mucky pond full of cattails, called “Red Rock Pond” on some maps. Another piece of old-timer trivia – this pond was once the swimming hole for the guests at the summit hotel. If you look carefully, you can see that it has a man-made berm around it, now breached, which once held a far more appealing body of deeper water.

The descent from here is much steeper than the main trail, making it less appealing for running, although you can tell that it is really a trail, as opposed to the carriage road origins of the main trail. Finally, it rejoined the main trail, and I descended further until I got to the final right turn, which I decided not to take, instead opting to go straight, along what I suspect was the original course of the summit carriage road, following it first through a short stretch of forest, then wild meadows, and finally farmers fields before joining Mountain Rd. Extension, with its very limited parking, and ran the last mile or so on roads, enjoying the views of the hay rolls, with the Adirondacks in the distance.

Country Roads

This ended up as a nice 8 mile run, with some delays due to poor routefinding and bushwhacking! I will revisit some of this next summer, after the leaves are pushed off through use. I guess this is my way of warning you from following some of the GPS track for this one – I am sure I could not!

Google Earth Projection of trails on Snake Mountain

Altitude Profile


August 25th, 2017 at 3:12 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

I recently had the opportunity to be in Washington D.C. for the American Chemical Society meeting, so I, of course, brought along my running shoes.  Now, Washington D.C. in August isn’t on most peoples’ list of favorite running destinations – let’s face it, it is kind of obvious why most politicians leave town this time of year.  That said, it was already an 80/80 morning (80 degrees, 80 percent humidity), even as early as 7 am when I set out for a Saturday morning run on my first full day in town.  I was staying at a hotel just a few blocks away from The White House, which was unoccupied at the time, so I decided to run through the park in MacPherson Square until I reached the sometimes home of our CEO-in-chief.  There is usually a  crowd of tourists and protesters in front of this famous landmark, and even, of late, the recently famous Trump Chicken, but this early in the morning, there was only a poultry, I mean paltry smattering of runners and early bird tourists.  And it is always a cool sight – I mean it IS the freakin’ White House!

The White House

One of the sad observations about some of our most treasured landmarks in our capitol, apparent over the last decade’s visits, has been the increasingly large security perimeter around everything, as illustrated by this photo. One can no longer go up to the wrought iron fence on Pennsylvania Avenue to get a picture lacking the obstruction – alas, our security needs now have an additional buffer zone, complete with conspicuously placed security guards. And don’t even think about getting anywhere near the South Lawn on the opposite side. Such are our times…..

After skirting the wide periphery around The White House, I next headed towards another famous landmark, the Washington Monument. By this point I realized that, other than security guards, the only folks outside were runners, and the homeless. As I passed one particular vantage point near the obelisk, still closed for repairs, I couldn’t help but notice one particular homeless person asleep, alongside his shopping cart of belongings, but with a small American flag (hard to see from the photo) on top of it all. This seemed to me as an interesting summary of the state of our nation – our pride in our flag and our monuments, juxtaposed with poverty and wealth. At first, I hoped to get a little closer, but decided to set aside my visions of a more photojournalistic shot, and instead chose not to do anything to wake the fellow’s slumber.

America the Beautiful

Turning the corner, I ran by the fountain at the end of the reflecting pools, erected to honor all 50 states and all the American territories. I was amused to note that one of the marble pillars had the name of The Phillipines inscribed – kind of a funny twist on the phrase “etched in stone”. Running alongside the reflecting pool, I quickly reached the Lincoln Memorial. This inspirational site is usually crawling with tourists, but at this hour, it was wonderfully quiet and uncrowded. It also provided the best hill climbing in central DC!

Hill Climb!

From here, I returned to the Washington Monument on the other side of the reflecting pools, before returning to my hotel. It was a rather uncomfortable morning for running, but I decided to take a short side run into the nearby Embassy District, in search of one of my favorite DC monuments. Wandering through this part of town when I was last in DC, 5 years ago, I stumbled upon one of the more curious statues, found in front of the Kazahkstan Embassy, and I was pleased that after only a few wrong turns, I was able to relocate it. After a quick online search, I found that this statue, known as “The Golden Warrior” is a smaller replica of a famous statue in Almaty, Kazahkstan. Legend has it that if you touch the original statue, only once, it will enrich your life with happiness and prosperity. Whew! On my previous discovery of this statue, I only touched it once, and this time, I neglected to do so, so I guess I am set!

Viva Kazahkstan!

Finally, returning to my hotel room after an interesting and reflective 5.5 mile run, I cleaned up, and headed off to my chemical activities.

Google Earth of DC run


August 11th, 2017 at 8:57 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

By now, readers of this blog have probably read lots of posts in which I sing the praises of the Blueberry Hill Trails, but I can’t help but wonder how many have ever heard of Blueberry Lake?  I make frequent forays onto the trails in the Mad River Valley while visiting family, and had recently learned of the presence of some well maintained mountain bike trails commencing on the shores of this small lake.  Where the heck is Blueberry Lake?  It is a bit off the beaten path, on the plateau above the Mad River, below the Roxbury Mountains, at the south end of the Mad River Valley.  To get to it, heck…..just look up Plunkton Road on Google Maps!

I parked my car at the obvious parking lot on west shore of the lake, and enjoyed the view. The lake itself is modest, but sits below the mountains, and while my favorite summer wildflower, the humble daisy, is long gone from everywhere except for apparently, my yard, the fields around the lake were filled with the bright yellow of Goldenrod, punctuated by Black-Eyed Susans.  Despite the claims of my favorite dwarf, Sneezy, Goldenrod is not a significant allergen, although I am dreading the soon-to-come Ragweed season!

Blueberry Lake

The trailhead itself was well-signed and across the street from the parking lot. So, I started running! From the start, I could see that this was a well-manicured trail that was clearly someone’s labor of love. I haven’t mountain biked much in the last few years, but I can’t wait to come back with my bike! The trail was well packed, and almost miraculously devoid of roots through its duration. A short distance onto the trail, I saw a right turn onto a trail called “Leonard’s Loop” and recognized instantly that it was honoring Leonard Robinson, an aged local icon whose extended family has long roots in this part of the Valley. I had met him briefly on a few occasions while skiing at the Blueberry Lake ski touring area a few miles away, and he always struck me as a classic old-school Vermonter. I knew that Blueberry Lake was man-made, but in writing up this blog posting learned that Leonard himself built the lake from a swampy area 35 years ago. A fascinating article on the origins and short history of the lake are posted elsewhere, and makes for a good read!

I started off the run, by staying to the right, which corresponded to the smaller, northern route.  This led through a scenic mountain meadow, with great views of the Roxbury range.  I also crossed paths with a few mountain bikers, and since they were on the downhill, stepped aside and let them enjoy their descents – after all it really is their trail.

Meadow Views

This loop ran its course in about a mile, and I followed the very ample trail signs onto the more extensive southern loops after a short descent and stream crossing. Curiously, the difference in altitude between the lowest and highest points is only about 200 ft, but it seemed like I was always climbing or descending on gentle grades – excellent running terrain! I did a “figure-8” on the southern loops, and pretty much found myself in the forest the whole way. Since this was clearly well-designed mountain biking terrain, the trails seemed to have endless switchbacks – as a result I didn’t cover much terrain, but the running was gentle and pleasant.

switchbacks

Looking at the GPS trace of my run, it might lead one to think that this is a complicated trail system. It isn’t, actually, and the trails are very well marked with ample signs, although some of them are lacking in the “you are here” notifications which might help a confused biker or runner! Completing the loop, I returned to my car to complete a 5.2 mile run – a nice way to finish a perfect August afternoon. On the way home, I drove by a field I have passed countless times, and noticed this year, that it was filled with sunflowers – a great sight to end the day.

 

Green Mountain Sunflowers

Google Earth of the run

Altitude Profile


August 7th, 2017 at 1:47 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

This past weekend, while many of my friends were keeping themselves amused at a muddy little event known as the Moosalamoo Ultra, I took it upon myself to spend some time away, visiting some family members, and enjoying another mix of earth and water – the mixture of sand and water commonly found on the beach.  In this case, I was staying at the Jersey Shore.  You might thing that there is no trail running on the shore, and strictly speaking, you would be right.  But, just like I decided last summer that I could define my own age groups for races (And from that point on, my age group, which is arbitrary anyways, became myself and anyone older than me), I have now decided that I can call any path I take a trail, so I might as well define my trail as that which was scenic and convenient – the Ocean City boardwalk.  Yeah – I didn’t think I would have to worry about bears or poison plants, let alone mud bogs, but I was just making the best of what I had to work with!

So, I set off on my not-so-adventurous adventure run on a humid morning.  I had hoped that the day would be at its coolest first thing in the morning, but I soon discovered that the early morning was probably the most humid time of the day, and there were few breezes to cool off by.  I guess I know the mountains better than I know the oceans?  After a few short zigzags on town streets, I found myself on the actual boardwalk.  And yes, the running was flat!  As is the case in most ocean resort communities, the homes facing the beach and ocean were among the largest, fanciest, and undoubtedly (to use what I suspect is a real estate buzzword)  “exclusive”.  Hey- I can’t stay in them, but my sweaty middle-aged body can block their otherwise pristine ocean view.

Luxury Homes on the Boardwalk

After a mile or so running through the high rent district, I reached the more heavily used stretch of boardwalk which fits most vacationers’ expectation for a Jersey Shore boardwalk. The next two miles were replete with fudge stores, tchotchke shops, and enough tshirts to outfit everyone on the beach twice over. It also made for great people-watching, even in the early morning. In addition to runners of all shapes, speeds and sizes, there were lots of cyclists out for early morning rides on their beach cruisers, and couples of all ages on bicycles built for two. At one point, I had fun trying to race against a 6-person pedal vehicle – they won until they got bored. Turning around at the north end of the boardwalk, where I could see the remnants of the once thriving city of Atlantic City a few miles further up the coast, I mostly retraced my steps.

Boardwalk Honkytonk

Beach Bum Van

As I neared my base of operations, I left the easy footing of the boardwalk for my real reason for being there – the beach itself and the water. As it was low tide, and the beach had been recently packed by the groomers, the running was easier than expected. Since there were only a handful of people on the beach this early, I could see my footprints in the sand, and also smiled when I came across the occasional heart with initials drawn in the wet sand, perhaps left behind by lovers out for a morning walk with more privacy than one could have in the heat of the day.

Tracks in the Sand

When all was said and done, I ended up covering about 6 miles, and since it was the shoreline, the biggest hill I had to climb was the short set of steps up to the boardwalk! Now that I am home, I will be returning to writing about trails in our corner of Vermont, but it was fun to run and write about a very different sort of running experience.

Google Earth trace of the run


July 17th, 2017 at 10:36 am
Posted by Jeff in Running

The Start/Finish with Hogback in the Background

 

As my recovery from shoulder surgery continues, it was time to take on the next touchpoint in the process – my first race since my injury. Having been warned by my physical therapist to lay off the really long workouts and races for a while, 10K seemed like about the right distance to begin my comeback. What better place to being my comeback than my long-time favorite race, the Goshen Gallop? I also knew that I was still far from the condition that I was in pre-injury, so any visions of glory and podium finishes were clearly out of the question – it was really a question of whether I could even finish this run over challenging terrain feeling good.   Part of my getting psyched for a race involves listening to the right music as I drive to the starting line.  As I punched in various songs on my iPhone, I remembered a song which a friend suggested for the same purpose about 5 years ago, when I was preparing to run a marathon after a long layoff, knowing that I was not in shape for it.  So, I drove up to the race, with Flor-ida blasting from the speakers of my Beetle, trying to will my body to do its best.

I have written up  the Goshen Gallop at Blueberry Hill a few times over the years since I began this blog. most recently in 2011, although I run it most years it seems.   As is the case with most races, entry comes with a t-shirt, having run this race many times, I have a LOT of Gallop t-shirts.  I have made a habit of digging deep into the collection and pulling out a really old race t-shirt to wear on race day, and for this one, I managed to dig up the oldest shirt I have, from the first time I ran this race in 1989, and put it on.  Yeah, it is getting a little threadbare, and it features the name of the race’s sponsor “The Brandon Savings Bank” quite prominently on the back.  Of course, this bank no longer exists, so we’re talking old!  A short time before the race, I headed down the road for a short warm-up jog, and returned just as Tony, the owner and innkeeper of the Blueberry Hill Inn was on the PA system giving the pre-race pep-talk.  As soon as he saw me coming up the road, he announced “And here’s Jeff with the oldest race shirt in existence..” (or something of the sort – at least he didn’t announce me as the oldest runner in existence, right?)

One of the great things about being a regular at a race like this is the camaraderie between the participants – many of the the folks there were people that I run with regularly, some were folks that I know as local runners, and a few are folks I seem to only chat with once a year at this race.  It all makes for good conversation before, during, and after the race.  One of the not-so-good things about the race this year, or at least one of the things which make it interesting, has been the excessive rainfall this summer, which I knew would lead to a very muddy course.  I was not disappointed!  As the race was ready to start, it was a typical sunny summer afternoon, and not too hot given that it was up in the mountains, but there was an ominous cloud to the south.  A few of us wondered out loud as we stood at the starting line, waiting for the race to start, if the rains would come before the race was over.

The race starts off on the Goshen-Ripton road, on a slight downhill, leading most of the adrenaline-charged runners to start off at way too fast a clip. Then, the first slow, relentless climbing climbing begins, before a sharp left turn back into the woods to begin the more challenging climb up to blueberry meadows on the flanks of Hogback Mountain.  In true Goshen Gallop form, we, the runners, were greeted by a country fiddler at the high point of this section.  On a posting a few weeks ago, I reported that there weren’t any wild blueberries up there anymore, but I am happy to report that I was very wrong in this.  The hillside was full of pickers, who probably wondered why all the people were in such a hurry today.  I did not bring my camera with me during the race, but a race photographer took some lovely shots as the runners crested this section and posted them on the Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center Facebook page.

After a short descent down to the forest service road and a water stop, the climbing began again, and headed into the woods at around a mile and a half, beginning the second major climb of the race on forest trails.   Already, I was beginning to seriously feel my lack of conditioning, and even slowed down to a walk for a few seconds, atypical for me this early in a race.  But – the idea was to finish and feel good, so I listened to my aching legs before picking up the pace again for the plunge down to the halfway point behind the Inn and the second water stop.  At this point, the 5K races went left to finish their race, and the 10K racers took a right turn up the longest hill of the race.  I was hoping that a lot of those around me were so exhausted that they would call it a day at this point, but alas, they were on the mission to complete the longer race, and blew by me on the next ascent.

At this point, the skies started to get ominously darker, and my running got even slower.  At the 6K mark we reached my favorite section of the course – the infamous mud bogs on the trail!  Now THIS is trail running…..I must confess that I am disappointed on drier years when this short section is dry and fast.  At the 7 km point, I was past most of the mud, and finally got to enjoy the last long descent down to the forest service roads.  After a few moments of drizzle, the sky opened up with the long-threatened downpour, which conveniently washed off most the mud from my legs and shoes.  The last mile in, on the Goshen-Ripton road is usually my least favorite part of the race, as it can be sunny and hot, and the numerous “false summits” on the road trick you into thinking you are about to hit the finish line, only to see another hill in front of you.  The cold, driving rain was a refreshing contrast however.  Chugging up what I realized was the final hill on the course, I looked down at my watch, not at all surprised to see my slowest time ever for this race, but hey, I finished, and it was fun as always.  And – there was even an ambulance at the finish line in case my confidence was misplaced.

Once the downpour subsided, the post race party and feed began, and was delicious as always, made even better by the company of a few friends who are rather accomplished home brewers.  This party is held in a small meadow of domestic blueberries, which didn’t seem to be ripe quite yet, and of course the feast is only complete after the dessert of blueberry cobbler and ice cream.

Not quite ripe blueberries

 

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t win my age group, so I couldn’t bring home my prize, a box of chocolate chip cookies, but fortunately I came up lucky, not once, but twice, in the post-race raffle bringing home two bags of really good coffee. Sometimes karma works for you! I was looking for a way to get a picture of my mangy old t-shirt without doing a typical selfie pose, so I chose this reflection in my car window before driving home, satisfied with my first race in far too long.

Reflective Selfie

Google Earth of the Race

Altitude Profile


June 24th, 2017 at 10:12 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

OK – how is that for a random name for a running blog entry? What on earth could a love of meatloaf have to do with a fun trail run?  Read on, and you will see the origins of this seemingly non sequitor blog entry title! A few days ago, John, the “Chief Moose” announced an opportunity for a guided run on the last 7-10 miles of the Moosalamoo Ultra, a local 36 mile race in its sixth year.  Last year, due to conversations with the Forest Service, John, who is also the race organizer (and an accomplished “slightly above” middle-aged ultra runner himself) was required to reroute the original ultra course, which I ran a few years ago, to some new trails.  I was looking for a good weekend run as I slowly ramp up my mileage post-surgery, and this sounded like it would be a fun group run. Most of my group runs are with mere 10K-marathon runners, and in my current condition the running pace of my cadre of relative sprinters can be daunting.  I suspected that a group of ultra runners – runners who understand what it takes to run 8-10 hours or more – would be a good match for my current limitations over more casual distances.

The group met up at the Blueberry Hill Inn for this saturday run.  The previous 24 hours had been characterized by incessant downpours, but the high humidity had broken an hour or two before the run, giving us a cool sunny afternoon for the run.  We also suspected that the trails would be very muddy, and we would not be disappointed.  Looking up from the parking lot, we saw the day’s goal – Romance Mt, touted as the highest point with groomed cross country skiing trails in the east.  In fact, several years ago, I described a route very close to what we were doing today as a cross country ski tour, and I remembered that we were facing a challenging climb.

Romance Mt. from Blueberry Hill

 

 

We started off on the trail behind the Inn for a short distance before angling up the side of the hill, before reaching the best view of the day, or almost any day for that matter, the view of the Green Mountains from the side of Hogback Mt. In previous years, this has been the prime blueberry picking spot that gave the Blueberry Hill Inn its name, but apparently a controlled burn was carried out a few years ago, so I suspect there will be slim pickings for a few more years until the berries grow back.

Group Picture on Hogback

After a short descent from Hogback, we joined the dirt road, and followed it uphill to the crux of the day’s run, the steep mile ascent up the taller Romance Mt. This is a very steep trail, climbing close to 1000 vertical feet over the ascent. It was also frightening to realize that most of my fellow runners today would be facing this steep climb at Mile 31 of the Ultra in early August. Good Luck folks! At this point, the trail went from kind of wet to very muddy. Not a few puddles here or there- not a “get the soles of your sneakers dirty” muddy. This standing water and mud was incessantly over the ankles for almost the rest of the day’s run, and frequently threatened to rip my shoes off my feet. But hey – it’s trail running, so what’s a little extra adventure, right?

Just a little mud here!

After the steepest part of the descent, which should be much more passable in August, we came up to the big decision point. To the left, was a sign saying “7” and to the right one said “10”. I have become more accustomed to taking the shorter route, or shorter race more and more frequently as I mature, but still, it rankles me to take the shorter distance. Here is where the meatloaf analogy comes in: I like meatloaf, but when there is a longer route available, especially on a nice running day, taking the shorter route is kind of like going to a really classy restaurant, and ordering meatloaf. Sure, it tastes really good, but shouldn’t I be ordering the New York Strip? A few of the group started to mention some interest in the longer route, the New York Strip option, and I was tempted… but I was just warned yesterday by my physical therapist to not push too hard, too soon, so I chose the shorter route. So it was a good day for meatloaf!

Decisions, decisions…….

The rest of the group also decided to go for the shorter route as well today, so we enjoyed the long gradual descent down the Sucker Brook Trail before taking one last short climb up Stewart. The trail leveled off for most of the last mile before one final descent to the back of the Inn. After a round of high fives, we got together for one final group photo, showing off our muddy feet. The foot at 6 o’clock is mine, and those brown socks were white at the start of the run!

Trailrunner feet

At the end of the run, this was about 7.5 miles – my longest run since my injury, and it felt great. I also got to meet a fun bunch of runners with a great sense of comaraderie who are in training to accomplish some really amazing things this summer. I am going to stick to shorter races for now.

Looking east, from Blueberry Hill Inn

Google Earth of the run.


Altitude Profile


June 15th, 2017 at 9:21 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

A little more than 6 months ago, December 7th, 2016 – a date that will live in infamy – The Middlebury Trailrunner suddenly, and lacking in any sense of deliberation found himself attacked by the ground forces of the steep road incline of Frog Hollow…..The Middlebury Trailrunner was at peace with himself and the cold dark night, and was in pleasant conversation with his fellow runners, looking forward to a beer at the conclusion of this run.……It will be recorded that while the distance from where this middle-aged runner deliberately pulled himself up off the pavement and walked it in to a stool at American Flatbread was just a few hundred yards, the aforementioned fall required many months to recover from. The attack on his body by the forces of pavement caused severe shoulder damage……

You may have noticed that it has been some time since my last posting. As luck would have it, an evening run on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, ended with a fall on an ice patch. This in turn, led to rotator cuff surgery and put me out of action as a runner for the better part of 6 months. The above paragraph was my attempt to channel FDR’s famous speech, twisted to introduce my story. In any case, as my recovery continues, I am starting to hit the trails again, and hopefully resume my posts on a more regular basis.

Given that it is almost exactly 6 months since my injury, and my runs are still of modest distance, I decided to describe one of the easier trail runs in town, the section of the TAM going around the golf course. This is a run which lots of people run, not necessarily noticing much. For instance, there is the often-seen gravestone at the 11th tee – but how many people actually stop to read it? The story of the poor gentleman interred here has been described elsewhere, but in a nutshell, William Douglas survived the French and Indian War as well as the Revolutionary war, and died when he got home when a tree fell on him. Sometimes life sucks, huh?

11th tee Gravestone

Continuing further, shortly after emerging by the 10th tee, I enjoyed the sight of a modest bed of flowers, with the Green Mts forming the backdrop. These look a lot like the Phlox that grow in my garden (no thanks to me), but mine bloom in August rather than June. Am I correct in my identification of this pretty little flower patch?

Phlox Patch

I was still feeling good when I hit Rt 30, just uphill from the Fitness Center, so I decided to continue this short run on the Class of 97 trail. Heading back into the woods, I came across a curious sign, which I knew was leftover from last year, warning runners of the resident attack birds. And yes, on one occasion last summer, I indeed felt the wrath of the avian kamikaze. I wonder if he/she will be back this summer?

Kamikaze Bird Warning

Entering into the fields just west of campus, I turned right, past the parking lot which until recently was the site of the college apartments known as “the mods” and followed the paved walkways up to campus, finishing with the shortcut through the town cemetery. I took a short detour past the famous mummy stone before finishing at the Fitness Center. This was a very short run for me, only 3 miles, but it feels good to be back on the trails. Here’s to more healing!

Google Earth of the Route


December 4th, 2016 at 8:18 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

It’s been a while since I last posted to this blog – a very busy fall, and a nagging injury which kept me to shorter runs have diminished my ability to blog new runs. And of course, over the last few weeks, the woods have been full of hunters for deer rifle season. I have nothing against hunters – in fact, they are in most ways, the natural allies of trail runners and hikers, as they do a lot of lobbying to maintain public access to private lands. That said, I have had a few scary situations in the woods over hunting season, and as a result I am more than happy to let them have their few short weeks in the late autumn.

That said, as my leg injury recovered, I was eager to get out for a longer run. One of the great things about this time of the year in Vermont, is that there are no tourists around at all (and who can blame them – stick season is one of the low points of the year), and as a result, the roads serving summer tourism are pretty empty. So, country roads in pretty places, which might be busy during the summer, become good places to duplicate at least some of the pleasures of trail running. One of my favorite runs in the deep of winter, when many of the trails are difficult to access on foot, is the loop road around Lake Dunmore. This is a 10 mile loop on mostly paved road, but with the leaves long gone from the trees, it offers many more vistas of the lake itself than can be seen from the road during the summer.

I met up with a bunch of running friends on Sunday afternoon, meeting up at the Waterhouses Marina (with its ample parking) and we set off on a leisurely run around the lake during peak stick season.  The marina, which always seems so busy during our far-too-short Vermont summers was empty, and most of the gear was stashed away for the soon to come snows.

Waterhouses Marina

Waterhouses Marina

We headed south, taking the left turn skirting the less developed southwest shore of the lake, before taking the next left turn onto Rogers Road, past the south shore of the much smaller Fern Lake, before turning back north along VT 53. As a rule, I avoid running on roads which are busy enough to warrant a double yellow line down the middle, but only a handful of cars passed us as our run continued. On our left a series of short access roads led to some of the summer homes that line the lake. Some of these names are descriptive, such as Isthmus Road, which crosses the narrow ridge between Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake. Some are generic, with names like “Indian Trail”. And then there are some, which are probably some sort of inside joke or Easter Egg, such as the private road shown in the picture above, which I snapped as my friends sped off into the distance.

Curious Road Sign

Curious Road Sign

As we got approached the Silver Lake Trail, we made the decision on the spot to add a few hilly miles to the run, with the 3 mile round trip to the shores of this higher altitude lake. While being respectful of hunters, I realized we hadn’t heard a shot all afternoon – not prime time for bagging a buck, so we decided to go for it. As we got higher and higher, we saw slowing increasing snow, but still nowhere nearly enough to impede our running. As expected, the lake level was low, due to the dry summer and the fall drawdown in preparation for spring thaws in a few months.

Early Winter at Silver Lake

Early Winter at Silver Lake

Descending back to Rt 53, we enjoyed the now brilliant sunshine, as the clouds from the start of the run had apparently melted away. I enjoyed a quiet moment, looking at some cottages reflecting in the still water from the Kampersville Beach, before completing my run with a left turn down the homestretch of the West Shore Road.

North Cove Dunmore Reflections

North Cove Dunmore Reflections

As I finished the run, I checked my old faithful Garmin GPS watch which registered at just over 13 miles for this Sunday afternoon jaunt. I usually post the GPS trace on Google Earth when I do these posts, but this time, as I got home to sync up my watch, it no longer turned on, and I realized that its 9 year life-span had come to an end. So – no more GPS traces until I get its replacement. Good thing it is the Christmas season!


September 14th, 2016 at 9:13 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Dunmore View

Lake Dunmore View

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

Silver Lake View

Silver Lake View

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

Google Earth projection of the Rattlesnake Cliff run

Google Earth projection of the Rattlesnake Cliff run

Altitude Profile Rattlesnake Cliffs

Altitude Profile Rattlesnake Cliffs


September 5th, 2016 at 8:27 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

On the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, seeing the weather report which called for perfect weather on Monday, I was trying to decide to do on Labor Day. Should I go hiking, or should I go for a run? Then I realized that a run in the Adirondacks would sate both wishes, and late Sunday night posted a message to the local runners’ Facebook group, seeing if anyone else was interested, and found out that my running friend Dean was also interested.  Our goal?  It was Labor Day, so I decided it was time to go big or go home – we decided to go for a run up Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak in NY, a 14-mile round trip with 3200+ feet of vertical climbing to its 5344′ summit on rugged Adirondack trails.

We left Vermont early in the morning, arriving at the Adirondack Loj (no, I did not misspell it) trailheads, just outside of Lake Placid (site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics) at around 8 am after about a 1:45 drive from Middlebury.  We wanted an early start, fearful that the parking lot might fill early on a perfect Labor Day, but were pleasantly surprised to see that the lot had plenty of parking spaces.

I am not going to describe the details of “which trail and turn to take” – after all Mt Marcy is one of the most heavily hiked peaks in the northeast, and the trail is so well marked that only an idiot could take the wrong trail.  Oh wait – the first time I attempted Marcy 30 years ago, I took a wrong trail and ended up on the summit of Algonquin.  In any case…..the first 2 miles or so were pretty easy, barely climbing on trail which was really amenable to to running, before bringing us to the site formerly known as the Marcy Dam.  I used the word “formerly” because there was a log dam there, which created a very scenic lake mirroring the local mountains, but it was badly damaged by Hurricane Irene.  While it is still a lovely location, the lake is now more of a muddy fen.

Mt Colden and former Marcy Dam Lake

Mt Colden and former Marcy Dam Lake

It seems that most Adirondack runs have three phases – the approach, which is usually the best for pure running, then the transition, which is partially runnable, followed by fast hiking as the steeper rockier sections near the summit are covered. This run was no exception – not long after passing “Marcy Notdam” the trail started to get a little bit rougher as it got steeper and rockier. The running at this point, becomes more like a mix of parcour-like hopping, skipping and shuffling, which isn’t nearly as graceful-looking as it sounds, especially when practiced by two guys in the their 50’s.  One of the more scenic spots in the “skipping section” was a clearing where a small stream goes over a cliff, called Indian Falls, which gives great views of Mt. Algongquin, the second highest peak of the ‘Dacks.

Indian Falls

Indian Falls

The last section of the run was the steeper terrain, approaching the bald, above timber line summit. It was pretty much impossible to run terrain of this sort, although there was one short section, high on the mountain, near the summit.graced by nice raised platforms. Excited by the possibility for a few decent yards of running, I made my best parcour leap onto the platform, snagged my toe and did a complete faceplant. After a few stunned moments, realizing that my suddenly aching jaw was NOT broken, I got up and made it to the summit. I have been to the summit of Marcy a few times, and this was the first time I haven’t found the need to put on some sort of jacket – once again, perfect weather, with seemingly infinite views in all directions.

Mt Marcy Summit Views

Mt Marcy Summit Views

After enjoying the summit for a few minutes and chatting with the few hikers who were actually at the summit this early in the morning, we turned and ran back for a tiring but uneventful return. I have found that on the most challenging terrain the descending time is comparable to the climbing time, and this was no exception – about 2 and 1/2 hours each way, or about half the time that most hikers take.

I have included the google earth projection of the run, as always. The route heads south from the Adirondack Loj, but I re-oriented the map to make it look cooler.

Google Earth of the Run

Google Earth of the Run

Altitude Profile Mt Marcy run

Altitude Profile Mt Marcy run