Tag Archives: Fall Foliage

Old Dudes’ run to the Sugar Hill Reservoir

The Sugar Hill Reservoir, a man-made lake held in place by a large, earthen flood control dam, has been one of my favorite destinations since I began this blog 11 years ago. In fact, one of my earliest postings from 2009 had this lovely highcountry lake as its centerpiece, as well as numerous other postings over the years. There are two primary ways to get to this lake – the easy way, and the hard way. The hard way, of course, with about 500 ft of climbing, is the path of the trailrunner. The easy way is simply to drive there; access can be achieved by driving towards Goshen on the Ripton-Goshen Rd, and taking the left turn up a well-maintained forest service road heading to the left. This easy access has made the lake popular with fishermen and kayakers, as well as the hikers and runners who usually come at it from other directions.

I first learned that something was up at this reservoir earlier this summer. I was driving home from another nearby run by Silver Lake, and noticed that a good chunk of the Ripton-Goshen Road was being torn up, and it looked like they were putting in buried cable at the edge of the road. Asking around, a “reputable source” (OK – one of the old guys I run with, who joined me on this run) told me that they were bringing electricity to the Goshen Dam holding back Silver Lake, so that in times of flood, the sluice gates could be opened and shut remotely. I am sure this brings comfort to the people who live downstream! A little later in the summer, while helping out at one of the feed stations for the Moosalamoo Ultra, I noticed that cars with roof kayaks were driving past us on their way to the reservoir, only to see them departing past us again on the way out a few minutes later. At this point, I learned that much of the water had been drained while they repairs. I am were performing some dam repairs, also glad I couldn’t see the disappointment on the no doubt surprised kayakers as they drove away. The same semi-reputable source told me later in the day that the water level had been dropped 17 feet!

Of course, my curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to see what the place looked like missing most of its water. I know I could have driven to it, but that seemed like cheating! Also, my recovery from past medical challenges had proceeded to the point where the run up to the reservoir, or at least a run/walk, seemed like a reasonable goal. Sending out feelers to running friends, the only takers I found were two of my best running partners. What makes them among my best? They are among the few people I can find to run with who are my age or older! So, on a crisp fall day, we met up at the Brooks Road parking lot (Brooks Rd is the dirt road on your right, about a half mile past Breadloaf, and the parking lot is about a quarter mile in) for a run up to the reservoir. In addition to the opportunity to spend some time with old friends on a beautiful run, we also wondered if we might be able to walk out to the island in the middle of the lake, with the water so low.

Most of this run is on Brooks Road – it is a modestly maintained Forest Service road which slow moving non-4WD cars seem to do fine on, but car traffic is so rare that it might as well be a trail run. Starting up the long climb, one of my friends reminded me that the way to do this was “start slow, then taper” and we followed his sage advice. This also gave us a great opportunity to actually talk, rather than gasping for breath. And we did talk…..while conversation inevitably finds its way to 30-year old PR’s (runners’ slang for “I used to be fast”) most of our conversation revolved around recent running and outdoor adventures, and that is a good thing. After all, with two 60-somethings and one 70-something, there is still a lot of adventure to be had, and shared. Yeah – we had some good tales to tell.

After about 2.4 miles, and 500 ft of climbing, we reached the point where the snowmobile trail heading on a short rise to the right, followed by a half mile downhill, brought us to the shores of the reservoir.

View from the Goshen Dam

To be honest, the lake didn’t look half bad! It was plain to see that it would be disappointing to a paddler hoping to explore a larger lake, but it was still an attractive place. We continued around the shore on the far side, walking rather than running, given the sketchy footing – after all this part used to be under water! We eventually realized that our goal of walking to the island, while keeping our feet relatively dry, was not going to be achieved, at least from this side. A rather broad stream, probably a feeder to the lake, was cutting off our path, and since none of us came prepared for swimming, or at least slogging, we decided to forgo the “island expedition”.

View towards the island

We also took a quick look at the new modernized “remote control” sluice gate. We were underwhelmed – there seems to have been a ton of work going on for many months, and this was the only element of the dam that seemed changed!

Underwhelming repairs

We made note of the fact that the little piece of tree-covered land formerly known as “the island” might be more accessible from the other side of the lake, and commented that it might be fun to come back at some point before winter to test that premise. From this point, we retraced our steps, starting off with the short, steep climb away from the lake, and the long easy descent back to our cars, the conversation made all the easier by going downhill (that is, the terrain went downhill, not the conversation). We ended up spending a little over 7 miles on our feet, mostly running, but with a little walking. This constituted my longest run in over a year, so it felt really good!

Google Earth of the Run
Sugar Hill Reservoir When Full
Altitude Profile

Happy 100th Post!

On a cool mid-October day, I realized that it had been a few weeks since my last blog posting, so I thought about some good possible runs, and went online to perform a little cleanup to this blog.  Then I realized that this was going to be my 100th posting!  Should I come up with something particularly epic, or maybe even a little bit dangerous? Nahhhhh…. Instead, I decided to retrace the steps of the same run that I did for my very first posting, way back in June 2009.  So, here goes – my inaugural run for “The Middlebury Trailrunner”, the run from the Falls of Lana/Silver Lake trailhead, up past Silver Lake to the Goshen Trailhead on the hillside above the lake, and back.  I have done more runs from this trailhead than from any other starting point, but had not written up a new posting on this identical route, although I have run it countless times.  Whilethis is probably not a recommended for for running neophytes, it is an appropriate, adventurous run for folks for whom road 10K’s are “about right”, but want to start exploring more adventurous terrain.  This particular route has some significant hill climbing, but is primarily on double track forest service roads (only open to maintenance vehicles), so it is a great place for decent runners to start exploring trails.  Kind of like me, 5 years ago.

A lot has changed in the last 5 years, at least as far as my running goes. When I first blogged this run, I thought of this as a pretty adventurous route, between the significant climbing, and its backcountry feel in a very scenic part of Addison County.  Regular readers will note that while I do continue to weave in runs of moderate length, my longer runs have gotten…well….longer!  I have also become more adventurous in my choice of new routes, with my attitude to new routes evolving from “Gee, I would like to know where that trail goes, so I can give it a try”, to “I bet that trail goes somewhere new, let me check my map”, to “OK – there is a path I have never noticed before, here goes!”.  Adventure follows!  Trailrunning has also rejuvenated my running, as I have found that I can go out on longer runs with greatly diminished frequency of injuries.   This is key for middle-aged athletes, as every ache and pain becomes an excuse to not run, and a gradual acquiescence to the inevitability of old age – prematurely.  Trail running puts one in the situation where every footfall is unique, and that fact, combined with its slower pace, minimizes the repetitive use injuries so common in distance runners.  The other wonderful discovery I have made is that a steady diet of trail running on challenging terrain, with a longer runs every few weeks, is great preparation for marathon running, an empowering aspect of running which I had given up on for close to 20 years due to frequent annoying injuries.

Now – on to the run!  When I first blogged this run 5 years ago, it was an early summer run in June of 2009, and the run reflected that season.  This time?  Mid-October, while still lovely, at least this year, is the very end of fall foliage, and the summer resort around Lake Dunmore is mostly shut down for the season.  The Kampersville Squirrel?  Still there, but she somehow looks a little creepier on a grey day.  As I drove around the shoreline towards Branbury State Park, I also noticed a lot of “For Sale” signs in front of lakeside homes.  I suppose their owners wanted one last summer on its shores before starting the process of turning over their summer haven to new owners?  I also noticed that, at least on this blustery Sunday afternoon, that there were no cars or beachgoers along the shoreline of the state park.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Falls of Lana trailhead, just south of Branbury, was pretty close to full.  I guess trailrunners and hikers are a hardier sort than beach folks?  Apparently, although I suspect some Maine coast beachcombers would beg to differ, or even those who brave the Atlantic coasts further south in the off-season.

I am not going to spend a lot of time describing the details of the route – it is pretty easy to follow.  Run up the forest service road departing from the Lake Road a hundred yards or so south of the parking lot, and follow its switchbacks all the way to Silver Lake, at about a mile and a half, and continue up the hill above Silver Lake on this road until you reach the Goshen trailhead , at which point you follow the trail descending back to Silver Lake, reaching the lakeside Leicester Hollow Trail, where you take a right turn.  After slightly less than a half mile on this trail, take the left turn, following the campground sign pointing to the picnic area, which will bring you to the Silver Lake “beach” and then back to the original road on which you initially climbed, where you complete your descent back to your waiting car, for about a 5.6 mile run, with about 800 feet of climbing and descent.

That said, since I have run this trail countless times, but never at this specific time of the year (past-peak foliage, segueing into stick season), I made a point to look for  things I had never noted before. So, for the rest of this posting, I will share these bits of minutiae.  So – here goes!

1.  A little over a mile into the run, if you look to your left through the trees, you will notice what looks like a small body of water to your left.  I had always called this “Moose Pond” in my mind, but had never done the very short bushwack to actually stand at its shores.  I associated it with moose, as I had envisioned it as a great place to see a moose someday.  I finally took a few moments to actually step onto its shore, and while moose sightings continue to evade me when I am running, I realized that my name was a misnomer:  This is a rather substantial beaver pond!  If you look at the picture carefully, you will see the beaver hut in the middle of the pond.  There is also a rather substantial beaver dam, just to the right of the frame of this photo.

Beavermoose Pond

Beavermoose Pond

2.  When you get to the shores of Silver Lake, you will notice a campsite for a campground host to your left.  Over the last few years, there was an elderly gentleman who filled this role, and while I stopped to chat with him a few times, I never inquired as to his name.  He was not there this summer, and for most of the summer, the campground host camp site was empty. I hope he is in good health?  That said, I had always romanticized he notion of spending a summer in the forest, away from the comforts of home.  On this run, I took the time to look around the empty site, and found its dirty little secret – it has electrical power.  Set me up in the campground, and let me rock tunes on my portable electronic devices!

3.  Much of the road ascent during the summer has a tunnel-like feel.  The overhanging foliage blocks most views, and keeps the road more or less permanently in the shade.  On this run, with most of the trees bereft of leaves at the higher elevations, rather expansive views opened up!

4.  As I approached the Goshen parking lot at the end of my ascent, I noticed an old wooden sign, with the number 9 painted on it.  Does anyone have any idea what this means?  It was not one of the blue signs with yellow numbers, which the Blueberry Hill Ski Touring Center uses to mark its trails.  Nor was it one of the far more polished numerical signs which grace the shores of Silver Lake, which I assume accompany a pamphlet which I have never seen, probably with a name like “Groovy Trees of Silver Lake”.  Maybe the Number 9 was referring to one of my favorite summer microbrews?  I doubt it!

Number 9

Number 9

5.  There are a few well placed marble blocks on the shoreline of Silver Lake.  I have never noticed these before, and I can only assume that these remain from the old Silver Lake Hotel.  If you would like to learn more about this long gone hotel, you should purchase “Leicester Vermont’s Silver Lake — Beyond the Myths” By William Powers.  You can find it on Amazon, or at the Sheldon Museum!

Marble Steps

Marble Steps

I am going to finish with a few observations I have made associated with management of this blog, as I have learned a few interesting things about how the internet really works through the use of WordPress (the software I use for this blog) analytics.

1.  About 90% of the information transferred on the web is total spam.  We are all familiar with the junk mail that fills our inboxes, but the amount that assaults this blog, in an attempt to post links leading to god knows where when clicked, blows my mind.  I probably see 10,000 spam messages for every real reader response.  Fortunately, the brilliant software which the WordPress programmers have added to the blogging software is ruthlessly efficient at blocking this, so it only takes me a few moments each week to delete, and it never clogs up the blog comments.  For some reason, spam touting the wonders of Luis Vuitton handbags, and Adam and Eve sex toys seem to be the worst offenders.  I have also noticed that every time I mention my Garmin GPS watch, I get inundated with Garmin spam for a week or two.  Yes, the web is dominated by spam bots!

2.  One of my very first posts, describing a run I did in Bristol entitled “Things to do in Bristol when you are bored” seems to get a lot of hits due to people Googling the terms “bored in Bristol”.  For the life of me, I cannot figure out why almost every day, one or two people somewhere in the world google “bored in Bristol” and end up on my blog. I have googled these terms, and seen nothing of note.  I wondered at one point if my mischievous teenage daughter was messing with me, but she claims innocence.

When I first posted this run, I also mentioned the ready availability of creemees and other frozen treats at the Kampersville Deli.  Alas, this summer attraction is also closed for the season, but its whiteboard price list is still inviting.  I wonder if the price list will still be there in the spring?

No more ice cream :(

No more ice cream :(

So now, I have to ask my readers (both of you?)- Do you know of any good treasure troves for trail traversing which I (we) might explore at some point? I have a few good ideas of new places in the vicinity to explore, but am always looking for some new suggestions. Feel free to respond with any of your inspirations!

Cheers, and hope to see you at post #200


Google Earth projection

Google Earth projection

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile

October Pleasures

On a beautiful October Sunday, during peak foliage season, it was a great day to enjoy my first trail run in a few weeks.  October has been a fun month!  Not only has my birthday recently passed, but I also ran my fastest marathon in 22 years (fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon) a few days before said birthday, and have found that my recovery was easy enough to continue my running without a long layoff!  Chatting with fellow middle aged runners, especially those who have stayed fit for all or most of their adult lives, it seems that I am not unique in my ability to run long distances without the excessive training regimens usually associated with marathon running.  I guess our old bodies have learned how to go the distance?  In any case, I just wanted to get out and enjoy the color, the scenery, and the fresh air on this run, so I returned to an old favorite, the Silver Lake trail, with a few variations.  October is all pleasure!

The trailhead for this run is at one of the most popular trailheads in Addison County, the Falls of Lana trailhead just past Branbury State Park on VT Rt. 53.  Fall foliage weekends are typically among the busiest days of the year on Vermont trails, and this day was no exception – the usually overly generous parking lot was nearly full, and there were even some cars parked on the apron of the road.  Nonetheless, I found a corner in the lot where my rustbucket vehicle would fit, and started up the Silver Lake Trail.  As expected, I passed numerous parties heading up and down the trail – and who could blame them?  Nonetheless, at one of the short trails connecting the Penstock (fancy speak for “pipeline”) trail, I veered to the right connecting this in order to avoid the other hikers on the main trail.  Realistically, the trail wasn’t that crowded – it was nothing like the conga line seen hiking up to, say, Tuckerman’s Ravine in the spring, but given the option to run away from others, I chose it.  I also enjoyed the softer ground, and the sounds of the longer end-of-the-season grass rubbing against my leg as I ran.  After a short distance on the Penstock trail, I took a right turn up to the Lake Dunmore overlook, a short ascent under the power lines.  The view here was great in both directions – west, out over Lake Dunmore, as well as back towards the main ridge of the Green Mountains back to the east.

View to the west

View to the west




Views to the east

View to the east

After soaking up the views from this vantage, I returned to the Silver Lake Dam, and took a right turn over the dam to return to my old nemesis, the Chandler Ridge Trail. The Chandler Ridge Trail runs along the hills separating Silver Lake from Lake Dunmore down below, although some topo maps apply this name to the ridge to the immediate west of Silver Lake. Semantics aside, I refer to this trail as my nemesis due to challenges I had running it during an ultramarathon last year, which left me fighting a hip injury for many months. I have also wondered how the views would be from this scenic wooded ridge during the foliage season, so I gave in to my curiosity. I was hoping that enough leaves would have fallen to open up the views towards each of the flanking lakes, but the mixed deciduous/coniferous forests, combined with the still intact colorful leaves left most of the views partially obscured, but shrouded in color.  After heading about a mile south, I turned around and retraced my path back to the shores of Silver Lake, and followed its shores to the right, and spent a few minutes enjoying the late afternoon sun dancing on the water of this back country lake.

The Shores of Silver Lake

The Shores of Silver Lake

Circling through the campground before descending on the main trail back to my waiting car, I noticed the following sign of the times on one of the usually well-maintained remote privies. Needless to say, I didn’t check out the TP situation!

Privy Follies

Returning to my car, with the parking lot thinning out as the afternoon turned to early evening, this made for a roughly 6 mile run, with about 750 feet of vertical ascent and descent. While this probably also marks my last trail run before the leaves are gone, it reinforced my sense that yes, October is a great month for running, birthdays, and pleasure!

google earth v2

Google Earth of the run

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile


Hello Dalai

After getting my double dose of the Dalai Lama on Friday and Saturday, and taking his message of interdenominational cooperation to heart, I thought I might go for a short run on the “Spirit in Nature” trails up in Ripton.  For those of you who may not be familiar with this small trailed area, you can get to it by taking a right turn on the Goshen-Ripton Road shortly after passing through “downtown” Ripton, and the well-marked trailhead and parking area can be found on your left in less than a mile.  This quiet woodsy area clearly takes its inspiration from the much better known Robert Frost Trail, found nearby on Rt 125, but instead of having a gentle walk accented by Frost poems, the signs carry short spiritual readings from many different religious traditions, with each trail having its own denomination.  In keeping with the theme of the day, I began my run on the Buddhist path, and one of the signs carried the following thoughts:

Thoughts from the Buddhist Trail


Despite its appeal, the Buddhist path was far too short to qualify as a decent trail run, and knowing that there were many more trails in this area worthy of exploration, I sought to make a longer run in this very pretty and contemplative place.  Curiously, some hikers assume that trailrunners like me must be missing something as we pass by at our faster paces.  In some ways, they are correct – one’s brain can only absorb so much information per second, and when traveling through the forest more quickly, some information is missed.  On the other side – my brain seems much more actively engaged in the world around me when running, especially on trails, so some of my most contemplative thought actually does transpire when I am moving along faster than the average walker.  So, and easy run through this area wasn’t as sacrilegious as it first sounded.

For those who aren’t as experienced with the trails, there is a challenge to hiking during the fall, which becomes apparent while trying to follow infrequently used paths such as these.  Narrow paths can be easily obscured by fallen leaves!  So, after a while, I felt like I was running in ” a maze of twisty little passages, all alike” (For any old computer geeks out there, I am paying homage to the ancient text-based computer game from the late 70′s called “Zork“).  As a result, I found myself back at the trailhead far sooner than expected, and sought out another nearby, more easily followed trail to explore.

There are many rarely traveled forest service roads emanating from the Goshen-Ripton Road, so I thought I might explore one which began not far from the Spirit in Nature trails.  Heading south a little further, I turned right on Forest Service 92, and after about a quarter mile, ducked under the gate to take the right turn onto Forest Service 92A, an even less travelled road.  This 4WD road angled up the side of a hill alongside a stream, and crossed over the Oak Ridge Trail, which I had run earlier in the summer during a descent from Mount Moosalamoo. Despite the rapidly thinning foliage, this section of trail was in many ways more scenic that I envision it would have been midsummer.  The foliage which might normally form an umbrella over the trail had thinned to the point where I could actually make out some rather pleasant views of the nearby mountaintops.  The sun filtered through the last of the orange leaves made this a pleasant jog up a remote country lane.

Forest Service Road 92A

After about a mile of climbing, I passed by the first of two nicely kept camps, and continuing past the second camp, the road got narrower and rougher, eventually turning into a true trail, before disappearing altogether, indicating that it was time for me to turn around, descend, and return to my car. Near the top of my climb, I came across this near perfect clustering of shelf fungus.

Tree Fungus

After an easy descent, I returned to my parked car after a little more than 4 miles running, with about 500 ft of vertical climbing. I have a hunch that on my next run, I will be running through bare trees, but the upcoming stick season does have one advantage – the views open up when the leaves are down.

Google Earth of Spirit in Nature and FS 92A

Altitude Profile for the Run