A blog for runners in and about Addison County, VT
September 22nd, 2013 at 9:52 pm
Posted by Jeff in Running

One of my all-time favorite short trail runs is the popular dash up to the summit of Snake Mountain, with its panoramic views to of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the west.  Each September, I also like to present an easily accessible run for the benefit of Middlebury College freshman who might be looking for nearby runs or hikes that can be  reached quickly from campus.  While this trailhead requires (for most people) a short drive, there are enough snazzy SUV’s on campus (and we aren’t talking 10-year old Dodge pickup trucks -go Lexus!) that opportunities for transportation are not hard to come by.  I have blogged runs up this mountain a few times in the past.  From the well known western route, I have described the run under both midsummer conditions, as well as during Mud Season.  I have also described the lesser known trail ascending Snake Mountain from the east side.  Nonetheless, there were still some trails on this well trammeled mountain which I have not described, or even explored, and so I thought it would be fun to make them part of a new entry.

possible one room schoolhouse

An old schoolhouse near Snake Mt.?

Rather than describe in detail the driving route to the trailhead, I will refer my readers to a previous posting with detailed instructions on how to get there.  Setting off from the parking lot, and shortly before heading up the mountain trail, I noticed that the old building across from the end of Wilmarth Road at the trailhead had been repainted a bright red, and with this new paint job, it looked a lot like an old one-room schoolhouse.  I have never thought of this abandoned building in this regard, but now I wonder if it may be an old schoolhouse. Does anyone know of the original purpose of this building?

The first section of the run involves a straightforward run up the broad trail, which was dry on this run, but can be a pretty major quagmire in the spring. As this section of the trail ended, it reached a “T”in the trail. It is pretty obvious to that a left turn takes you up towards the summit, but I have always wondered where I would end up if I were to take the right fork? Maybe on the way down? Staying on the obvious trail, through a series of switchbacks gets you to the main summit after about 2 miles. Many visiters to this summit have been under the impression that the large concrete slab at the summit is left over from the former small summit hotel which operated around the turn of the 20th century. This slab is actually of more recent origin, although I don’t know the exact decade in which it was built. It apparently is the result of someone’s aborted attempt to build a home on the summit, and the real foundations of the hotel can be found not far from this viewpoint in the woods.

Paper Mill in the distance

Paper Mill in the distance

Most hikers and runners don’t come up here for the history, however.  They come up here for the spectacular views.  Even though the day of this run was pretty cloudy, the views were still excellent – I could easily make out the smoke from the Ticonderoga Paper Mill, about 15 miles away.

Unlike my previously blogged runs on this small summit, I decided to take a different route on the way down.  So, on this run, I took the first obvious right turn on the descent, and in a few short minutes arrived at the other, less frequently visited vista.  During some summers, this other viewpoint has been closed due to peregrine falcon nesting, but apparently there wasn’t a nesting pair there this last summer.  This “South Summit” (OK – stretching the Everest analogy here a little bit too much?) also has another curious feature.  Directly behind the rock where most hikers enjoy the view, there is what appears to be a small marshy pond.  What most people don’t know is that this is actually a man-made pond which was created to provide swimming opportunities for the guests of the long gone summit hotel!  It’s anthropogenic origins are more obvious if you notice the man-made earthen berm along the east side of the pond.  I might also add that this pond, now rather shallow and mucky, shows no sign of whatever appeal it might once have had to summit visitors!

pond remnant

Summit Swimming Hole

 

 

Continuing on, the descent from this summit takes you down a trail which is steeper and narrower than the ascending trail, and eventually returns you to the main trail. At this point, you can simply retrace your steps to complete a 4 mile run, but as alluded to earlier in the posting, I decided to explore the continuation of the summit trail which goes straight, where most hikers and runners turn right. Not having the slightest idea where I might turn up, I headed down this trail, which eventually brought me into a lovely meadow, and shortly thereafter, to the side of the road known as Mountain Street Extension, where I took a right turn, followed about a half mile later by another right turn which returned me to my car, adding an additional mile to the run. The five mile run, combined with nearly a thousand feet of ascent and descent makes for a fun, and pretty intense mountain run.  But remember, like a lot of fun challenges, it is only hard the first time!

google earth of the route

google earth of the Snake Mountain route.

 

Snake Mountain Altitude Profile

Altitude and Mileage

 


2 Responses to “A Snake Mountain Variation”

  1. 1
    Howlindawgs Said: @7:31 pm 

    I took the new TAM extension to the Weybridge trail of Snake Mtn a few days ago. I got a late start so it was twilight by the time I reached the trailhead. But I had a headlamp and trekking poles and I’d run all the way from the south end of Middlebury so by golly I was going to run up Snake Mountain. The climb itself I didn’t find too bad, not much harder than Chipman Hill (and without the seriously steep portion towards the top! Even in the dark the plateau on the top had a fantastic view. I past this marshy pond-y area on the way up but it was maybe halfway up so I don’t think it was the summit pond. Then, I turned around to go back the way I came. I’d encountered some hikers with headlamps on the way up as they were descending. I found it rather odd that I hadn’t seen them again as I came down at a decent speed (for a rocky trail at night). I was thinking hmm, why I hadn’t crossed the two little streams yet? Then I came out in a parking lot— in Addison! OOPS. I had to use my Google Maps on my phone to get from Mountain Road to Snake Mountain Road by way of tranquil Mtn Road Ext and Forest Road. It was actually a very nice run in the dark. Finally I resumed my planned loop back via Lemon Fair road. Needless to say I ended up doing over 35 miles and was wicked thirsty as I ran out of water! I’d love to run this in daylight someday. Is there signage guiding you towards Addison or Weybridge? I found trekking poles to be awesome when running on steep or gnarly trails. Do you use them at all? I can do a little more rock hopping and less rock picking (and faceplants) with them.

  2. 2
    Jeff Said: @10:47 am 

    Sounds like an epic, if not fully anticipated run! I have only gone 35 miles once in my life, and was hurting for months afterwards. To the best of my knowledge, Snake doesn’t really have any signage other than right at the two most popular trailheads. And I can see how one might miss the non-obvious descent to the Weybridge side in the dark. Complicating things further, there are a whole bunch of lesser known, and less used trails all over the mountain if you explore a little. For example, I just learned of a trail which heads south from roughly the same point where the Weybridge descent diverges. Apparently, this trail does an “out and back lollipop” with a nice view point along the way, and will be the goal of my next exploration on Snake. Also, for the record, Snake has about double the vertical of Chipman, with about 900 ft of vertical climb, as opposed to only about 400 for Chipman Hill.

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