Tag Archives: Hogback Mountain

Snowshoeing on Hogback Mountain

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I wanted to get off the track and treadmill, and into the mountains. So, I decided to go to one of my favorite places, the trails around the Blueberry Hill Inn for snowshoeing. I pulled my car into the ski touring area parking lot, across the street from the Inn, and was surprised at how quiet things looked. I have skied here countless times in the past, but it had been a few years since my last trip here in the winter. Over the last few years, the ski operation has scaled back its operations – in part due to some lost trail bridges which have proven costly to replace. So, what was once a “full service” ski touring area, with groomed trails is now aimed at people who are happy to break track, or follow the tracks set by the person in front of them. It’s OK – it is still beautiful. After paying the nominal trail donation, I crossed the street and followed the well skied trail behind the Inn.

The Blueberry Hill Inn in winter

My destination for the day, Hogback Mountain, is the hill just to the right of the inn’s roof line in the photo above. I set out on the trail paralleling the road, roughly following the path of the Goshen Gallop, a summer trail race which I run most years, which proceeds on the adjacent road. After about a half mile, I took a sharp left turn, now on a short climb, until I reached the next trail, where I took a right, and began the traverse on the lower slopes of Hogback Mt. In some sections of these trails, the snowshoes were rather unnecessary – the ground had been well enough packed by previous hikers, skiers, and showshoers, that I could have easily hiked it in normal boots. However, there were some softer sections, where I would have undoubtedly postholed, so I was glad that I had my snowshoes. On this brilliant sunny day, I looked up and admired the perfect azure blue sky overhead – more typical of the Rockies than northern New England.

Blue Skies

After about a mile and a half, I reached my destination – the open slopes of Hogback Mountain, with one of the best views around. In the winter, you can’t really tell why these meadows are so open, affording such spectacular vistas. These are the same wild blueberry meadows that give the inn and ski touring area its name, and if you come at just the right time in mid-late July, you will have the company of many wild blueberry pickers.

Hogback Mountain Vista

After soaking up the afternoon sun for a few minutes, I retraced my steps back to the inn taking a slightly more direct route, making for a roughly 3 mile trip, with only modest climbs. I stepped into the touring center, and enjoyed a bowl of their delicious vegetable soup, made available on weekends for a modest fee, as I looked around the room. I noticed many signs which used to be out on the trail system. Apparently, after spending many years working to have the nearby forests protected as the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, Tony, the owner of the Inn, had to remove these signs as part of federal wilderness rules. A small price to pay, but someday, I will have to ask him about the stories behind each of them.

Retired Trail Signs

Finally – as I was leaving the touring center, I stopped to read some of the permanent posters talking about various aspects of the Moosalamoo Recreation Area, signs which I had passed by countless times over the years, and apparently had never stopped to read. One of them alluded to the presence of an abandoned downhill ski area in the Moosalamoo Region, something I had never known. So, I turned and asked the young man at the desk, and he wasn’t sure where it was, although he suspected that it might be the slopes of Hogback that I had just been on. When I returned home, I went to one of my favorite web sites, NELSAP.org, where NELSAP is an acronym for the New England Lost Ski Area Project, and found that there indeed had been a commercial ski area just a few miles away, which operated in the 1940’s and 50’s under the name Pine Mountain. Even more curiously, the owners apparently spent some funds reviving it in the early 2000’s for private use, complete with a 600 ft rope tow, lights for night skiing, a groomer, and snow making! I have no idea what its current status is, but I look forward to going back and checking it out.

Hogback Mountain Snowshoeing on Google Earth
Altitude Profile (not too bad!)

I Like Meatloaf

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