I had about an hour to kill while one of my daughters had a music lesson in Bristol, so I thought I would document a fun, albeit steep trail run in Bristol, VT. Just north of town is an obvious ridge sometimes refered to as “Deer Leap”. Due to time limitations, I could only get as high as an overlook with western views of the town and Adirondacks, which appears to be about 3/4 up the mountain. Even though the run described does not reach a summit, it does include a 900 ft climb over the course of a 3.5 mile round trip route. On another day, I hope to have the time to continue on the the actual Deer Leap cliff overlook from the true summit, with views to the gorge to the south. As a rule of thumb for this blog, if a trail run requires a significant amount of hiking, rather than running, I have a hard time calling it a trail run. My confession here is that I did have a few short stretches where I was reduced to fast hiking for 20 or 30 yards on steep sections, but I have also done this run without resorting to this in the past, so I have no qualms calling this a trail run. I hope that my conditioning allows me to do this as a pure trail run in a few weeks.
Start this one on the Bristol village green, and head north on the aptly named North St. Go right on Garfield St. This short street takes you to Mountain St. You will notice that my track shows me taking a detour to the left and returning. This is unnecessary, of course, as it is merely a record of my temporary confusion. In any case, go right on Mountain St., followed shortly by a left turn onto Mountain Terrace. Are we starting to see a pattern in the street names? At the end of Mountain Terrace is a green gate, warning you not to park there. I chose not to test their resolve on this issue.
Pass through the gate to begin the ascent in earnest, up a logging road which makes a diagonal ascent along the south side of the mountain. After a short distance, another 4WD track diverges on the left. Make note of it, as it will be part of the descent route. Shortly after this point I enjoyed catching up with a small flock of wild turkies crossing in front of me. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough with my camera to catch them for this entry. Stay straight, until the logging road makes a turn to the left, heading through a large logged clearing. Follow the trail back through the forest for another quarter mile, at which point you will see a well beaten trail veering steeply uphill to the right. From here it is a little less than a half mile to the overlook on the toughest stretch of the run. While this is a heavily used trail, there are some loose stones, roots, and in wet weather, slippery rocks. To your left, some open slabs with outstanding views will open up!
After a breather enjoying the view, take a more direct descent, following the trail, crossing over the original logging road until joining another dirt road which takes you eventually past the gate and back towards town. On this run, when reaching Mountain St., I went left, rejoining Main St., bypassing the temptation offered by the microbrews at the Bobcat Grille, returning to my parked car by the village green.
This run is a little on the short side, measuring in at a little over 3 miles with 400 feet of climbing, but can tied in with other stretches of road or trail (some of which I will probably write up before the summer is done) to make for longer loops. I happened across this trail while mountain biking years ago, and some subsequent logging activity has made it a little too technical for my modest mountain biking skills. Other than a few short sections of tiptoeing around deep quagmires, it does make for a scenic little run.
Start this one at the Oak Ridge trail head, about a mile uphill from the East Middlebury bridge on Rt 125. Run downhill a few hundred yards before making the left turn on Upper Plains Road, a heavily shaded dirt road. If you look carefully to both sides you will see many trails in various states of wear. Most of these have been cut by ATV’ers, and some can be fun to explore by bike or on foot, but not today. After about a mile on this quiet lane, you will see a steel gate on your left. Run around this gate and take a series of switchbacks on the 4wd road, which is not particularly steep. About a half mile later, you will emerge into the gem of this trail, a large hillside field which I call the “Secret Meadow”. As you can see from the picture below, it has great Adirondack Views, wildflower, and a small pond. Take a second and enjoy!
Although this meadow and the surrounding land do not appear to be posted, I believe this is private property, as I once met the owner while passing through a few years ago. He did not mind my passing through at the time. I did notice a small backhoe at the edge of the meadow on this run, however, which leads me to wonder if the owner might be developing the land for building. Until then, I will continue to enjoy this quiet and scenic spot.
Continue, following the now faint 4wd track around the far right side of the meadow until it heads into the woods at the back of the meadow and becomes very easy to follow. The trail now heads into a heavily wooded, lushly vegetated canyon for a short while. Moose tracks are usually easy to see in the muck at the edge of the small seasonal pond to your left, and bear scat is often apparent on the trail, although I have never seen either here “in the flesh”. This is also a small waterfall descending from the steep hillside on your right.
The trail gets a little rougher now, and you have to be careful to stay on the major path due to crisscrossing logging paths which are now mostly overgrown. After passing through one major logging clearing, the trail descends to the well-maintained Oak Ridge trail. This run concludes with an easy left turn descent, bringing you back to your car in the parking lot. Apologies for the incomplete GPS track on this section of the run. I paused it for a second while I tied my shoe, and neglected to start it up again, leaving out close to a half mile of trail. In any case, if you get lost here, you probably don’t belong in the woods anyways, but I will try to get it right next time I run this course.
Probably just about every trailrunner in Middlebury knows and enjoys the Trail Around Middlebury, or “TAM”. It circumnavigates the village of MIddlebury, going through a mix of fields and forests, doing a remarkably good job of avoiding populated areas. I am told its complete circumference is about 16 miles, making for a very long trail run, but most of us will want to break it down into smaller segments. A map of the entire trail can be found at http://www.maltvt.org/_data/n_0001/resources/live/TAM-MAP2008.pdf. This is a great map, but can take a while to load, as it is over 20 MB!
This segment of the TAM goes through three of the named forests preserves in town, the Murdock Preserve, the Battell Woods, and the Means Woods. Starting at the college fieldhouse, head out the back door, across the track stadium, and cross over South St. Take the dirt road which heads behind the baseball diamond, cross the railroad tracks until you get to the suspension bridge over Otter Creek. You can add challenge to this run by getting a few of your friends to run the bridge with you, with your steps out of sync. Try it and you will see what I mean! Take a sharp right at the bridge, staying on the trail between the creek and the fence. Circle around the ballfield until you get to Creek Rd., where you take a left, and a right back into the field a few seconds later. The next field used to be an empty meadow, but now the trail weaves between some of the homes which have recently been built here. Take a right turn on Middle Rd., which you follow until you get to the Middlebury Union Middle School. Run behind the building until you get to the crushed stone path heading into the Murdock Woods in the back. There are several trails you can take here, making the run longer or shorter, but I usually take the shortest version, following the signs that lead you to Rt. 7. When you reach Rt. 7 at around 2 miles, take a left turn and look for an opening to get across the road without becoming road kill.
Reenter the meadow across the road, where the trail runs along the edge of the Batelle Woods. The aroma of the adjacent field is great after it is freshly mowed, but not so nice if the manure spreader is at work. After about a quarter mile along the meadow, the trail makes a well marked left turn into the woods. The Batelle woods are crisscrossed with numerous trails, but the course of the TAM is generally well marked and the obvious major trail, although other paths are worth checking out when you get the chance. When you get to Quarry Rd., head right for about 50 yards, cross over, and enter the Means Woods at the gate. The TAM follows and old dirt road for about a half mile before it takes a left turn downhill on a well-marked path, eventually joining Washington St. Extension, where the rest of the loop is on village roads. Go left on Washington St. Extension, and follow it back to Main St, which will eventually take you back to the fieldhouse.
The measured length of this route is 5.6 miles, but it can be easily stretched out over 6 with a few different twists and turns on the trails.
For my first post, I am sharing one of my all time favorites. This one has it all – hills (800-900 vertical feet of climbing and descent, but hey – who is counting!), cool shady trails, and lots of water for swimming and drinking. It is about 5.5 miles, but takes longer than you would think due to the pretty substantial climb.
This one does require a short drive from Middlebury, however. Head south of town on Rt. 7 (about 7 or 8 miles) until you get to Rt. 53, also known as Lake Dunmore Rd. Take a left here, and stay on this road until you come to a fork, where you take the left fork, which will take you along the east shore of Lake Dunmore. You will know you are going the right way, when you pass the legendary Kampersville Squirrel. I haven’t decided yet if she is cute or creepy. Also note the ice cream stand on your right for after the run.
The Kampersville Squirrel
Drive around the lake for a few more miles, bypassing Branbury State Park, until you get to a large, paved parking lot on your left about a quarter mile past the park entrance. This parking lot has a bit of a reputation for car break-ins, but if you are there on a warm summer day, it will be busy enough to keep the thieves at bay. I have been doing this run for years, and have never had any problems in that regard. Now the fun starts!
You will notice a rough path heading into the woods from this parking lot, and you can start on that, or alternatively run about 50 yards back towards Branbury and see a dirt road on your right, heading up the hill. The two starts merge very quickly on a dirt road which begins with a few steep switchbacks to get your heart pounding pretty quickly. In a few minutes, the dirt road levels off, and you run under a conduit which pipes runoff from Silver Lake, still far above you, down to a small hydroelectric plant below. As you re-enter the woods, you will see Sucker Brook, which plummets down the cliffs to your left to form The Falls of Lana. You don’t get a great view of the falls from above, but they are worth checking out from below after your run. The trail hugs the side of the hill following the course of Sucker Brook for a short while, lulling you into complacency until the obvious hairpin turn to the right gets the serious climbing started again. There is a maintained outhouse at this hairpin, in case you are bashful about such things. For the next mile or so, the trail twists and turns up the hillside with only a few breaks for the next mile, reaching the Silver Lake Dam at about 1.5 miles. Since this is a busy trail, you will probably pass walkers, who inevitably make comments about how hard core you must be to be doing this to yourself. At this point, you can stay on the dirt road or take side paths along the side of the lake for a short while. Silver Lake is a true gem – a gorgeous undeveloped lake with a modest number of hike-in campsites, and a small sandy beach.
Staying on the dirt road, the climbing kicks in again up a few steep sections, before a sharp right turn, at which point you have completed most of the climbing. The dirt road has a few ups and downs over the next half mile, until you come to a gate across the road, and another parking lot on the other side. Take a right here, through the parking lot, where you will see the trail heading back down to the lake. Descend about a half mile, watching your footing so you don’t trip over roots until you join the Leicester Hollow trail, where you take a right, bringing you quickly back to the Silver Lake campsites. If you look to your left, you will see a hand-pump well which supplies fresh, safe drinking water to campers and thirsty runners! This trail eventually rejoins the same dirt road which you grunted up a few minutes earlier, and you can descend back to the lot where your now hot car awaits you for the drive home.
Although this may sound perverse, this is a run which is one of my favorites when I feel the need to work out, and the day is on the hot side. Most of the run is very shady, and the sections near Sucker Brook and Silver Lake always feel cooler somehow. If you feel like you are getting overheated, both Silver Lake and Dunmore are there to cool off in.
I have been accumulating great trail runs in Middlebury, Vermont and the rest of Addison County over the years, and thought this would be a good way to share them. Most of my runs are in the 4-10 mile range, and tend to be on the hilly side. I was also fortunate enough to obtain a Garmin wrist GPS, which will allow me to map out the runs, showing altitude and pace. Please try not to laugh too hard at the pace – remember, I am a middle-aged guy. I also possess a heart rate monitor to go with my toy, but nobody needs to see how near to death I am on some of the climbs.
I am looking forward to feedback, as well as suggestions on new runs, or variations on old favorites.