One of my posts, almost 5 years ago, involved a run up the Abbey Pond Trail. Much to my surprise, this has proven to be the most frequently accessed post on this blog, speaking to the popularity of the Abbey Pond Trail. This trail, the closest and most convenient trailhead leading into the National Forest for Middlebury runners and hikers, was one I had always wanted to explore, but hadn’t gotten to in my then roughly 25 years living in this community. After running it, I found that it was a more challenging run than I expected, and that there were some sections where the footing was too much “rock hopping” and not enough trail to maintain any sort of running pace. It was also a very pretty trail. I had heard that in the last few years, some trail maintenance had been performed, and thought I would check it out on a beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon, shortly after the college graduation.
To access the trailhead, head east from town on Quarry Road, and take a left, north, on Rt 116. In less than a mile, a trailhead sign leading onto a dirt road will be on your right, and take this turn, following trailhead signs for about a half mile to the small parking lot at the end of the road. From this point, the trail is very easy to follow, and well marked all the way to its conclusion at the pond. The trail starts out pretty easily, going from flat to modest incline until you cross a bridge, leading over a brook, where the outlet stream from Abbey Pond, far uphill at this point, cascades down a steep defile in the rocks, creating a waterfall both above and below the bridge.
Abbey Pond Trail Waterfall
Continuing past the waterfall on increasingly steep trail, I noticed a steep embankment to my left, and I did a quick scramble up this to see where it led. I should not have been surprised to see that it brought me to the brink of one of the many gravel pits operated by the Carrara Concrete Company up against the west face of the Green Mt escarpment in Addison County. I have always assumed that the sandy soil of this geography, atypical for Addison County which is largely clay, was the result of its being the former beachfront property on Lake Champlain as its waters receded following the last ice age, although I have not confirmed this with my Geology Dept. colleagues. One thing about this vista had me scratching my head however – I can’t for the life of me figure out why they would park a few old school buses in their gravel pit!
Gravel Pit View
After this point, the trail veers more aggressively uphill, first on the north side of the stream, then crossing over to the south side. When I described this portion of the trail a few years back, I confessed that I had to take a breather, and slow down to a walk for a while due to its relentless climb. This time around, I didn’t find that necessary, so I guess I am a stronger runner, and I know I have lost about 20 pounds since then, making the hills even easier. Isaac Newton was right – F = ma.
After the steep section of the climb, the rumored trail improvements came to sight. My memory of this section was of a lot of rock hopping on a badly eroded trail, where I had the sneaky suspicion that the water flowing between the rocks was part of the stream beginning at the outlet of the lake. Even though it was pretty close to flat, the footing was really to precarious to do anything resembling running. Now, the trail has been re-routed off to the side on slightly higher ground and for the time being at least is very nice single-track running. Looking into the origins of the new section of trail, I discovered something about its history. During the summer of 2013 the local section of the Green Mountain Club performed this badly needed maintenance in memory of a father and son, David and Levi Duclos, who passed away prematurely in 2004 and 2012, respectively. Both of them passed away while enjoying the outdoors.
After about a mile of pretty flat terrain on the recently re-routed trail, I got to the shores of this modest little pond in the mountains. The peak in the background here is Robert Frost Mountain, the subject of another of my postings. Several years ago, I came across an older map which showed a trail connection between Abbey Pond and the trails leading up to Robert Frost Mountain, so I explored around the lakeshore to see if I could discern any trails beyond the pond, but within a few hundred yards, the modest herd path diminished and disappeared into the swamps, and I was not wearing attire appropriate for bushwhacking. It was also getting late in the afternoon, and I suspected that the evening insect attack would begin soon, so I took a picture of the pond from a less commonly viewed perspective, and backtracked to the maintained trail.
Abbey Pond and swamp
There were a few small tufts of various wildflowers alongside the shores as well, and I spied one that I had never noticed before – it had rather large hanging bulbs about an inch across, and I am including a picture in case someone could identify them for me.
Returning to my car was far easier, as is almost always the case. The run covered about 4 and a half miles, with an ascent and descent of about 1000 vertical feet. Five years ago, I rated this path “pretty for hiking, not really very good for running” but with the trail improvements of a few years ago it has become much more runable. I suspect I will be running it more often in the future, due to it’s convenience to town, and the fact that I suspect that it will be a cool place to run on hot mid-summer afternoons due to the fact that the most challenging part of the climb is in a shady defile in the mountains, cooled by the adjacent stream.
Altitude Profile of Abbey Pond
Google Earth projection of Abbey Pond Trail